Leaked Documents Detail The MPAA's Plans For Sock Puppetry To Mislead People About Richard O'Dwyer

from the nice-try-guys dept

Honestly, the MPAA needs to hire someone who actually understands a modern media strategy -- rather than a media strategy from the last century. It seems like nearly everything they do or say is calculated to piss off the public, rather than convince them of anything reasonable. Every chance they have to say the right thing, they say the wrong thing. Every chance they have to take a step towards making a connection with the public, they go the other way. We've seen how they call their biggest fans criminals. We've seen how they attack the internet. The latest is their Quixotic campaign against Richard O'Dwyer.

TorrentFreak, which lately has been on a streak of finding and publishing leaked info from the legacy entertainment industry, has done it again, publishing the MPAA's talking points document for responding to press inquiries about O'Dwyer, the UK college student that the US government is trying to extradite from the UK for running TVShack.net. They also have the MPAA's plans to find sock puppets to attack O'Dwyer. The two documents are from July 19th, so it's quite recent, and they try to respond to Jimmy Wales' recent involvement in trying to stop the extradition process. As with any good propaganda, the MPAA appears to take comments out of context to twist them against O'Dwyer. For example, it quotes that the site reminded people of how much money they were saving by watching free videos, rather than paying for movies. But nothing in that statement says that the videos they were watching were infringing copies -- just substitutes for going to the theater.

The sock puppet document is the really telling one, in that they admit that that the "overall media coverage has been and will continue to be challenging." Now, when pretty much everyone sides with O'Dwyer and against the MPAA, a normal, sane organization might think that its strategy is (perhaps) a mistake. But the MPAA instead decides to double down by trying to find sock puppets to publish blog posts and editorials about why O'Dwyer is a dirty stinking criminal:
To counter these assertions, the MPAA and its allies need a coordinated effort to focus more on the criminal activity involved in the operation of TVShack and other similar linking sites. Ideally, this would be done through third parties – but finding third parties – especially in the United Kingdom – has been very difficult so far, so the MPAA must be prepared to respond to media requests on the issue and set the record straight to counter the misinformation campaign by our opponents.
The thing is, the only "misinformation campaign" is coming from the MPAA itself, with these talking points and "how can we get stooges to spin this" document. The folks supporting O'Dwyer have no such things. They just speak the truth.

Furthermore, the documents completely ignore the legal arguments that make the O'Dwyer case incredibly questionable. They, of course, highlight the recent surfthechannel.com ruling in the UK to support the argument that O'Dwyer was breaking the law in the UK and the US. But that ignores the many questions raised by that ruling, and the fact that multiple similar cases went the other way or that similar US cases also seem to be going the other way too (though, that last one came out after this document was written).

There are also some laughable claims about how the decision to go after O'Dwyer was made by Homeland Security and ICE. However, as documents in other cases have shown, ICE relied heavily on claims from the RIAA and MPAA, despite little evidence to support those claims.

Separately, the MPAA weakly tries to hit back on the claims about internet freedom by saying that "this case isn't about Internet freedom. It's about a man profiting from theft." Funny, he hasn't been charged with "theft" as far as I can tell. It seems that the MPAA has trouble with ever being truthful -- even when claiming its providing facts to counter misinformation. And, as the Posner ruling recently showed, being a third party site that has embeds of infringing videos isn't infringing itself -- so arguing that O'Dwyer is some sort of master criminal is pretty laughable.

Then there's this:
Copyright law is a tool to protect the work of creators and makers, not censorship
They should try to tell that to some of the many people whom copyright has been used to censor over the years. The fact that copyright was supposed to be a tool to protect creators does not mean it can't be used for censorship. It is, regularly. The two things are hardly mutually exclusive. And, if the MPAA were being honest (ha ha, I know...) it would note that it doesn't represent the interests of creators and makers at all. It represents the studios, who do whatever they can to rip off content creators... while keeping the copyright for themselves. If the MPAA wants to spew bogus "talking points," (and get sock puppets to do so for it) perhaps it should start by figuring out how to defend its regular actions that block artists from getting paid.

In the end, though, this just highlights how incredibly tone deaf the MPAA and its communications staff is to public perception. Attacking Richard O'Dwyer, who has strong public support behind him is not a winning strategy by any means. I'm trying to figure out what the MPAA thinks it's accomplishing here and I'm drawing a blank. The more the MPAA seeks to demonize O'Dwyer, the worse it looks. Even if he is extradited and convicted, all they're doing is creating another hero/martyr, and more people who think the MPAA is an old, out of touch, unwilling-to-adapt monster, locking up college students. At best, I'm thinking the MPAA thinks this will act as an "education campaign" targeted at other sites running forums like O'Dwyer's. But that seems doubtful at best. Similar sites are all over the internet and have been for years. All this effort is doing is helping the MPAA dig its own hole deeper and deeper. It's like a perfect case study in how not to do communications strategy today.

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  1. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
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    Anonymous Coward, 7 Aug 2012 @ 12:30am

    An amazing attempt to create something that just isn't there. Another milestone in Techdirt Yellow journalism!

    "sock puppet". How nice. Perhaps you can use non-journalist hack" next time as your author title, considering it's just about as offensive.

    What the **AAs were looking for is a local voice to be PART of their deal, so that there is some indication that this action is wanted on that level. They aren't looking for a patsy, they are looking for a local voice.

    You can read into it what you like, but there is less here than the copyright / duplication infringement the other day, and you weren't willing to go out on that limb. Why so confident in sticking it to the **AAs, except that you don't like them?

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