CreativeAmerica, the astroturfing group
that pretends it's a "grassroots" operation -- but which is funded by the major Hollywood studios and run by former studio/MPAA execs
-- is amazingly inept at communicating with the public, especially considering these guys are supposed to be communications experts. Remember, this is the same group who, while fighting for stronger laws against copying, flat out copied
the email of anti-SOPA activists, and changed a few words to push their own pro-SOPA message.
Their latest move is even more bizarre. The group is touting its latest slickly produced propaganda film
, insisting that SOPA/PIPA are needed for a variety of reasons -- almost none of which are true. It throws out the bogus claim of jobs being at risk, even though the evidence shows otherwise
. But where it gets totally ridiculous is that the video focuses mostly on Megaupload and Kim Dotcom/Schmitz. The point of focusing on Megaupload? To claim that it can't be reached under existing law
. Seriously. It talks about Megaupload for a while (claiming that it brings in $300 million per year -- which turns out to be 10x the actual number, by the way) and then says:
US law enforcement is only permitted to shut down US-based IP addresses. Overseas sites, like Megaupload and Megavideo, and the Swedish-based Pirate Bay, are out of reach.
Yes. And they're releasing this video five whole days after the US government showed that existing laws actually do
allow them to reach Megaupload and shut it down
. So, um, why do we need these new laws again?
Seriously, the video shows the level of lies that CreativeAmerica and the MPAA will spread to try to pass new, even broader laws. What's stunning is how blatant they are about it, releasing this video even after events from a week ago already proved it wrong.
Furthermore, almost everything else in that sentence is wrong, beyond just the idea that Megaupload was supposedly out of reach of US law enforcement. Current law enforcement can seize US domains
, which are different from IP addresses. And, even more ridiculously, in the video, right before they claim that US law enforcement can't reach foreign sites... they show a clip of TVShack.net -- a UK-based site that the government seized and shut down (and is now trying to extradite its founder, student Richard O'Dwyer).
Why must CreativeAmerica lie? Perhaps because the facts just aren't on its side.
The video has a number of other problems. It relies heavily on Erik Barnett, Deputy Director for ICE, regularly seen in various press releases about ICE's program of illegally censoring websites. It really makes you wonder why a government official is appearing in a video for a lobbying group trying to pass new laws. Perhaps it's not illegal, but it certainly raises serious questions about the cozy relationship between ICE and the MPAA. Barnett has a history of being less than truthful about ICE activities. Last summer, you may remember, he flat out lied
, in claiming that none of the sites seized by ICE were challenging the seizures, when he knew that a bunch of sites
had already brought up challenges.
Now Barnett is claiming that this program of seizing domains without any due process is a huge success because they seized "the nine most popular content theft sites out there." Even ignoring the misuse of the word "theft" (shouldn't law enforcement know how to use the word properly?), this is laughable. I mean, elsewhere in the video, they claim that TPB and Megaupload are the two most popular, but they weren't seized when the video was made. Instead, what ICE seized was a bunch of hip hop blogs (that weren't even that
big), including one that it held for a year before the Justice Department was forced to effectively admit that ICE totally screwed up and the domain had to be returned. Other domains are still being held in this manner as well. The fact that Barnett would flat out lie and pretend that this program of blatant censorship is some sort of big success... in an industry propaganda film, certainly raises some significant questions about ICE and how it's run these days.
The video has some other laughable moments... such as talking to Bruce Leddy, the writer/director of the film Wedding Weekend
(originally called "Sing Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace" or "Shut Up And Sing"), who freaks out over the fact that his movie was available online, and is decrying all of the "losses." A couple problems with this. Wedding Weekend was apparently a terrible movie. The movie made a grand total of $15,998 on its opening weekend on 11 screens, and was out of theaters a week later, grossing a grand total of $20,903. And it wasn't because of infringement. It was because most people thought it was awful. Most of the professional reviews
make it sound pretty bad, using words and phrases like "uneven," "less tolerable," "clunky narration," "one-trait characterizations," "the title is the least of the film's problems,"
etc. User reviews are more harsh. Over at Rotten Tomatoes one user notes
This film is horrible. It has no redeeming features what so ever. I could criticise every single aspect of this film but I can't be bothered, it would be quicker for me to tell you about what is good about it. So here it goes, the only good thing about this film is that it has damaged the careers of everyone who worked on it. Hopefully. Never have I wanted to punch every single person on screen....
Somehow, I get the feeling that its availability online was the least of its problems. I'd be surprised if it actually got that many downloads at all. Meanwhile, we keep hearing stories of smart filmmakers embracing the internet, and giving people reasons to buy (starting with a better quality movie). He claims, "there's no recourse," but that's ridiculous. One only needs to look at the experiences of Louis CK to know that, even if your videos end up on torrent sites, if you handle it properly, you can still cash in
. Leddy's failure to make a good movie and his subsequent failure to put in place a good business model is no excuse for passing a bad law with massive unintended consequences.
Still, this really shows the incredible desperation of the MPAA, though. The astroturf group it has created is really reaching in its efforts to come up with some sort of justification for SOPA/PIPA...