News

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
bob pisano, censorship, coica

Companies:
mpaa



MPAA Boss Defends Censorships With Blatantly False Claims

from the weak dept

A bunch of folks sent over MPAA interim CEO Bob Pisano's incredibly misleading defense of the COICA censorship bill written recently for TheHill.com. It's amazing how many misleading or outright false statements Pisano was able to fit into a single piece but it's a testament to the level to which the MPAA must go through to support its plan for internet censorship:
They're called rogue sites, and they exist for one purpose only: to make a profit using the Internet to distribute the stolen and counterfeited goods and ideas of others.
Lovely misleading way to open the piece. In fact, many of the sites the MPAA has declared as "rogue" are nothing more than online forums. Some of them, yes, do involve people pointing each other to where they might obtain unauthorized copies of movies, but it's overly dramatic (though, hardly Oscar-worthy) to claim that the only purpose they serve is to profit from "the stolen and counterfeited goods and ideas of others." First of all, you can't steal an idea and I'm not sure how one downloads a counterfeit good.
The economic impact of these activities -- millions of lost jobs and dollars -- is profound.
Actually, the economic impact of those activities appears to be profound... but in the other direction. Recent independent research on the impact of weaker copyright laws has shown that it has helped increase the dollars flowing in the industry, not decrease it. Meanwhile, the studies that the MPAA relies on (which it helped finance) have been debunked by the US government itself.
That's why dozens of labor organizations and business groups have come together to support legislation to provide the Justice Department with new enforcement tools to combat this growing menace to the American economy.
The reason why those groups have all come together is because they're looking for the government to protect an obsolete business model. The labor organizations and business groups mentioned all have a rather long history of relying on government protectionism rather than being willing to compete in the free market. So it comes as no surprise that they wish to continue to get greater protectionism rather than face the realities of the marketplace, where they would have to actually innovate to compete.
These sites take many forms, and their operators are located throughout the world. They have in common one characteristic: They materially contribute to, facilitate and/or induce the illegal distribution of both stolen lawful products, such as movies and television programs, as well unlawful ones, such as counterfeit goods, including prescription medications.
Note two neat little (and extremely misleading) tricks by Pisano here. First, he is blaming the sites themselves rather than the users of the sites. It's the entire key to getting COICA approved. Pretend that the users of the site and the site itself are the same thing. It's a lie.

Second, he tosses in the claim about prescription medicines. This is one of the older tricks in the entertainment industry's playbook. When they know their argument is weak when it comes to their content, conflate the issue with fake medicines to make it sound scary. Of course, the issue of fake medicines is entirely different than unauthorized file sharing. Lumping the two together is in ridiculously poor taste and incredibly misleading.
Bipartisan congressional efforts to crack down on these operations are opposed by groups who claim the First Amendment protects the rights of these sites to use the Internet for their illegal practices. But the First Amendment was not intended as a shield for those who steal, irrespective of the means. Theft is theft, whether it occurs in a dark alley or in the ether, and to attempt to distinguish the two is to undermine the most basic tenets of our criminal laws.
There are so many things wrong with this paragraph, and it is so incredibly misleading, that I'm not even sure where to start. Theft may be theft, but copyright infringement is not theft. Pisano could have said that the First Amendment was not intended as a shield for copyright infringement, and he would have been slightly more accurate, but still missing the point. That's because, once again, Pisano is falsely and misleadingly claiming that these sites themselves are infringing on the content. They are not. Users of those sites may be pointing others to places they can go, which could potentially infringe, but that is quite different.

What the First Amendment does protect is speech. The law does already allow takedowns of infringing content. But COICA goes beyond that. Rather than -- as the First Amendment requires -- narrowly tailoring any takedown or injunction to the actual infringing content, it orders the entire site taken down prior to any trial. That's a classic situation of prior restraint, where the specifically infringing content is not specified and narrowly taken down. Instead, it's using a shotgun to try to remove a bandaid.
According to a study by the International Intellectual Property Alliance, in 2007 more than 11.7 million people were employed by copyright industries in the U.S. This amounted to 8.51 percent of the U.S. workforce. In other words, in 2007 these industries added $1.52 trillion to the economy, or 11.05 percent of the GDP.
This is one of the more ridiculous and regularly debunked studies out there. First of all, the IIPA study lumped together all kinds of people, who are not actually creating "intellectual property," and put them all in this big bucket defined as "copyright industries." The false assertion here is that these jobs would not exist but for copyright. That is simply not true. In fact, many of the people and companies included in "the copyright industries" include those like open source software companies, who are (for the most part) not relying on copyright law.

To further debunk these statements, if you took the exact same methodology and looked at what it meant for those industries that rely on exceptions or a lack of copyright laws, you find that they represent a much larger percentage of the US workforce and GDP. In other words, if we are to take the MPAA's claim here that the IIPA's numbers are correct, then it means that we should be doing away with copyright, since the industries that rely on ignoring copyright law are much bigger and contribute more to the economy.
The American intellectual property community creates well-paying jobs, provides and funds pension and healthcare plans and increases tax revenues to cities and towns across the nation. In my industry alone, millions of carpenters, electricians, set designers, caterers, costume designers and others bring home paychecks because of their roles in making movies and television programs.
Again, note the misleading claim. The argument is that without protectionism such jobs would not exist. This is false. Industries that don't rely on copyright create all those same things -- in fact, more, according to the evidence Pisano himself cited. And, the silly appeal about carpenters, electricians, set designers, caterers and costume designers pre-supposes that without this law they are out of work. That's a false claim. Considering that we keep seeing more and more filmmakers thriving while embracing the very sites that the MPAA seeks to shut down, it suggests that those people are not, in fact, at risk from these sites.

Realistically, the only people "at risk" from such sites are those who choose not to adapt. And that's mainly made up of the members of the MPAA.
Rogue websites threaten the heart of our industry and the livelihoods of the people who give it life. These sites do not represent a problem that lies on the far horizon. They are here now, and they are here in volume.
And for those who have embraced them, they represent a huge opportunity.

What's scary is that there are still people, and people in power, who will believe Pisano's blatantly false and misleading claims here and will push forward in favor of government censorship of websites, contrary to the very clear rules of the First Amendment. In the end, it's hard to see how COICA would pass even a rudimentary First Amendment review -- as more and more First Amendment experts are noticing.

It's really quite distressing the level of blatant falsehoods that the MPAA will spew in favor of getting the US to become a regime of censorship.

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  1. icon
    Karl (profile), 18 Nov 2010 @ 6:28pm

    Re:

    Mike posted a video, a roundhouse conference about new media industries, where the moderator (not Mike, not anyone who excuses "piracy") claimed that 75% of the American public downloads files illegally.

    I'd like to see the source for that quote, but on a gut level, it doesn't seem unreasonable.

    "Piracy" is the norm. It is half of what people do on the 'net, whether they know it or not (I'm guessing not). When more citizens break copyright laws than broke Prohibition laws, why do current copyright laws survive?

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