Australian Press Prints Movie Industry Myths About Piracy Funding Terrorism

from the does-skepticism-exist-down-under? dept

Isn't the press supposed to actually investigate claims handed to them by industry lobbyists? Apparently not. A bunch of folks have sent in the fact that the Sydney Morning Herald has published a totally one-side and unsubstantiated article claiming that "movie pirates fund terrorism." There are just a few problems with this -- including the fact that the so-called evidence for this is weak or non-existent, and the only evidence that is provided comes directly from the movie industry itself, who has every incentive to push this ridiculous story, despite the fact that the movie business continues to have record breaking years at the box office, and attendance is way up this year so far -- despite a massive worldwide recession.

None of that makes it into this article, by two supposedly professional reporters.

Instead, we're told that "piracy" costs the Australian movie industry $233 million per year and "affects at least 50,000 workers." Affects how? That we're not told. As for the $233 million number, that comes from AFACT -- the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft, hardly an unbiased party, though the gullible reporters seem to take its spokesperson's words as gospel that cannot be questioned. About the only thing that said spokesperson, Neil Gane, can show as someone being impacted is that "the people who own the local DVD shop who are having to lay off staff." Uh huh. And the people who own the local CD shop are doing so also -- but it's not because of "piracy" but because of competition. You know who's staffing up, though? Apple stores and video game retailers... Hmmm... Why is it that AFACT doesn't count their job growth in its numbers? I wonder...

Then there's the claim from the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance's director, Simon Whipp, claiming that all this piracy is impacting the least well paid people in the industry: "We're talking about a group of people who earn an average wage of about $15,000 a year." Honestly, all I can think is that (1) why is the industry paying people such crappy wages and (2) they're probably a lot better off in other jobs then, where they might earn a bit more. I don't see that as a problem of piracy. It seems like the movie studios aren't paying those employees enough to keep them in their jobs.

From there, the article moves on to the absolutely ridiculous, promising to "show how movie piracy is being used to fund terrorist groups including Hezbollah and Jemaah Islamiah, responsible for the Bali bombings in 2002." That would, indeed, be quite interesting, but the article fails to even come close. Instead, it talks about a guy in Sydney who camcorded some films and uploaded them to one of many online groups. What the article doesn't mention is that the same films were almost certainly uploaded by numerous other people, and there's a good chance that most of those films pretty quickly had official (non-camcorded) versions leaked online by industry insiders. But, wait, we're supposed to be learning how this one guy's movies are connected to terrorists.

But, we don't. Instead, we find out that the movies he recorded (but no mention as to whether it's specifically his recordings) showed up in Britain, the United States, Mexico, Spain, Malaysia and the Philippines. We're told that the movies are manufactured and sold in the streets. That's great, but it ignores the fact that, thanks to all this "online movie piracy" the whole "counterfeit DVD" business has been going downhill. In fact, if you must connect the sale of counterfeit DVDs to terrorists, then you should be happy for online piracy taking away that market.

Is any of this suggested in the article? Of course not.

But wait, weren't we supposed to be finding the elusive missing link between movie downloading and terrorism? We were following the camcorded movie recorded by the one guy in Sydney, which showed up in other places... but there the trail ends cold. Instead, we're told to just trust the experts. Ganes (quoted earlier) shows up again to claim: "It has been recognised by governments... that there is a link between movie piracy and terrorist funding." Oh really? It has been recognized by whom? Only by a study funded by the MPAA which didn't really talk about online piracy, but about counterfeiting, and which had numerous methodological problems. At least the article admits that the study was funded by the MPAA, but never considers that it may be biased because of this.

The article quotes the authors of the study, claiming: "If you buy pirated DVDs, there is a good chance that at least part of the money will go to organised crime." Of course, organized crime is not the same as terrorists, but does the article mention that? Nope. It wants you to assume they're the same thing. It also doesn't discuss the declining sales of counterfeit DVDs.

But it does jump back to the Philippines, where local actor Eduardo Manzano has the definitive proof of the link to terrorists. It's because he says so! "In this country, we have the triad, and we have terrorist organisations which are being suspected now of using profits derived from DVDs for possible terrorist activities." Then, in dramatic fashion, the reporters discuss a raid on counterfeit DVDs, and from there we're told that the guy who camcorded movies in Sydney didn't get a big enough sentence.

Got it? With some gullible reporters, a lack of fact checking, questionable information, a lack of context, a total dearth of anyone who might question the bogus information put forth in the article, we have an article promising to show the link between piracy and terrorism that does nothing of the sort. Now who's out there complaining again about how these professional reporters need to have special protection since they actually do real investigative reporting?
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Filed Under: australia, journalism, movies, piracy, terrorism
Companies: afact, mpaa

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  1. icon
    :Lobo Santo (profile), 29 Jun 2009 @ 12:24pm

    The real truth...?

    Movie Studios Fund Terrorism!

    (If they did not produce these movies which the 'pirates' [where?] are using to fund terrorism, then, no funds.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jun 2009 @ 12:24pm

    The problem is that "street piracy" is a huge issue, something that generate millions of dollars every year for the pirates. Being a frequent traveller to China and HK, I can tell you without a doubt that there is a huge amount of production of knockoff goods (including movies and music) and very strong resale market.

    The numbers? Who knows? They are all estimates (from every side).

    The truth is this: in any illicit business where there is a ton of money to be made, you will find organized crime. Many terrorist organizations get involved in organized crime as a way to finance their actions. You sort of have to have your head in the sand to think it isn't happening.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    YouAreWrong, 29 Jun 2009 @ 12:26pm

    low paid workers

    The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance's director, Simon Whipp, who represents performers, said movie piracy ripped off some of the lowest-paid workers.

    "It has a significant impact on performers and the film and television industry as a whole," he said. "We're talking about a group of people who earn an average wage of about $15,000 a year."

    If copyright is so great, then why are these guys getting paid so damn little? And if movies are grossing 100 million+ and these guys are getting paid so little, where is all that money going?

    (these are rhetorical questions because these guys are full of shit)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    Ima Fish (profile), 29 Jun 2009 @ 12:27pm

    Yeah, because we all know that the Saudis who are financing Islamic terrorism don't make enough money from oil, so they have to download, burn, and sell Brittany Spears CDs to make ends meet. The poor guys. I almost feel sorry for them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    BullJustin (profile), 29 Jun 2009 @ 12:45pm

    organized crime

    The studios are only mad about organized crime selling counterfeit dvds because it impacts their (dying) cash cow. organized crime has simply recognized the same racket the studios have been using - an artificial scarcity caused by a bottleneck in distribution. Remove that artificial scarcity and there is no profit motive for organized crime or terrorists. Seems like these reporters missed a great opportunity to point out how all the "illegal" downloading has helped fight terrorism and the mob at the same time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    NO!, 29 Jun 2009 @ 12:52pm

    Re: The real truth...?

    >Movie Studios Fund Terrorism!

    Wrong! The Movie studios ARE terror! They are the worse form of organized urban terrorists. Their militant branch the MPAA, and affiliate terror organization the RIAA, have more victims than 911.

    They go after the weak. They terrorize them. Bankrupt them. And then... move on to new targets.

    When will the terrorism stop?

    When we MAKE it stop.

    Viva La Resistance!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), 29 Jun 2009 @ 12:57pm


    "AFACT -- the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft"

    How does one thieve a person or organization's limited monopoly on a product?

    HEEEEY! You stole my monopoly!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    TPBer, 29 Jun 2009 @ 1:05pm

    Who buys dvds?

    Why would anyone even buy a dvd anymore? Just DL to a drive and play off the drive.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jun 2009 @ 2:01pm

    And that's one of the problems-- Australia still exists under a British Coat of Arms.

    Of course, you have to consider the deliverer of such news: Perhaps the largest media owner in the country: one "sir rupert murdoch" (lower case on purpose.) played a part in this.

    It's possible that in his dealings with the US and disgust of his failing MySpace investment, that he's seen and re-developed a British-Friendly ideology regarding property and ownership rights as they are used for economic exploitation.

    I wouldn't be surprised if other British Commonwealths are also asked to tow this misguided line, and asked to do the same.

    Where's Nicolas Sarkozy? He should know this fully.

    Additionally, we should look at putting Hawaii back on the Table. Puerto Rico can take it's place.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jun 2009 @ 2:11pm


    Okay, okay, The last comment was done in sarcasm. I just looked at the Hawaii Flag and noticed it had a British Flag in it. I don't really think Hawaii should be put on the table.

    It was my bad british humor coming out, meant to be delivered in the style of Norton Graham.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jun 2009 @ 2:16pm


    Seriously, check him out. He's hillarious.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Valkor, 29 Jun 2009 @ 2:18pm

    Re: low paid workers

    These guys *AVERAGE* that? They make, what, $7.50 an hour? What's the minimum wage in Australia, anyway?

    Let's try to think of minimum wage jobs affected by piracy:

    DVD cardboard box folders
    DVD shrink wrap machine maintenance workers
    Movie theater floor sweepers... No, theaters are doing fine.
    DVD price sticker attachers

    Anything else?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    Hugh (profile), 29 Jun 2009 @ 2:26pm

    Funding terrorism??

    By this argument, it's better for the country if I download the movies myself rather than buying from some dodgy shop in Chinatown. That way I'm not funding terrorism (unless my ISP kicks into their fund somehow), and I still get the movies I want.

    Maybe AFACT should drop their action against iiNet since people downloading their own content is in the country's interest :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jun 2009 @ 2:38pm

    Re: Re:

    They put the Queen on their money. They're British.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Igor Zevaka, 29 Jun 2009 @ 4:21pm

    It's interesting that the people behind the "piracy funds terrorism" claims want us to leap to conclusion that not buying the pirated item will stop the terrorism. Even assuming that the claims are 100% true are we to believe that terrorism exists solely because it can be funded by counterfit DVDs?

    Surely not, I mean, there are many reasons for terrorism existing in the modern world, and its definitely not because terrorist can find money for it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Sos, 29 Jun 2009 @ 4:45pm

    That SMH article is the worst thing I have ever read.
    If you are going to make a case that piracy of Australian movies fund terrorism you should probably:
    a) Use an Australian movie as an example.
    b) Provide some actual evidence rather than some shit on 6 degrees of seperation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    qyiet (profile), 29 Jun 2009 @ 5:46pm

    Where is the SMH Fail story?

    I thought the competing papers like to point out when their competition screw up good.

    I would think that this is a good opertunity to point out the quality of the journalism going on at the SMH. Hell Mike's done most of their research for them :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    tim, 29 Jun 2009 @ 6:30pm

    oh my god

    hahahahaha reading the 'six degrees of separation' thing actually had me laughing out loud. But you know, the target audience of old farts who believe anything they read in the newspaper is going to lap this up, and because australia is pretty much one big retirement village now, the polititians will have to try to win the old vote, and some ridiculous law is going to get passed.
    I hate polititians.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jun 2009 @ 7:45pm

    Until Copyright is no longer a method used to economically exploit people, it will only be used as a tool to economically exploit people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. icon
    athe (profile), 29 Jun 2009 @ 8:16pm

    But did they find a copy of "Marley & Me" at degree #5? That's the smokin' gun I'm looking for...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Jun 2009 @ 8:36am

    Re: Question

    This just in: a group of pirates just sneaked into the Metallica band's headquarters, broke into their safe, and stole a bunch of copyrights which they promptly hid in their bags. Copyright theft oh noes!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Jun 2009 @ 8:41am

    "Australian Press Finds Connections Between Piracy, Terrorism and Kevin Bacon."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Reality bites, 6 Jul 2014 @ 10:42am

    Ever looked at the quality?

    Even a small child would be outraged at the utter crap they try to sell, they are un-watchable.

    The fact that the movie industry conveniently forget.... why are they always able to seize 100,000's of pirated dvd's... because no one buys them so there are always plenty to seize.

    Just more lies and distortions from those that really do steal from the artists, the Shylock movie distributors.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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