by Mike Masnick
Wed, Dec 26th 2012 10:54am
by Tim Cushing
Fri, Oct 26th 2012 2:39pm
Warner Brothers And Redbox Sign New Deal: Rental Blackout Window Cut From Ridiculous 56 Days To Equally Ridiculous 28 Days
from the 'half-as-stupid'-isn't-the-same-as-'twice-as-smart' dept
This couldn't have made WB too happy, what with Redbox exercising the right of First Sale to bypass the studio's window and let itself in the front door. As for those looking to rent new releases while they were still new, Warner Brothers basically told them to shove off, and go look elsewhere for their entertainment. Having cut off a source of income and given more than a few potential customers a reason to check out alternate sources, the studio finally decided to renegotiate.
Here's how it all works out for Redbox (and by extension, the customers):
For titles with street dates between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2014, the studio will grant Redbox the rights to offer Warner Bros. theatrical titles on Blu-ray Disc and DVD 28 days after their retail release dates.Apparently, a stupid window is slightly less stupid when it's half the size it previously was. (But more stupidly, it's exactly where the window sat previously, before Warner decided not enough people were buying during the rental shutout). What Warner refuses to understand is that people want to rent movies when they logically should be available (i.e., day and date with the DVD release), rather than at some arbitrary point in the future. Warner is still willing to trade rentals for sales, even if it means giving up some rentals for file sharing. But the stupidity of the deal gets worse:
In addition, Redbox announced plans to join the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE) and has agreed to promote UltraViolet through a program of mutually agreed-upon promotions and marketing tactics designed to help retail customers discover UltraViolet.On top of being forced to humor Warner's ignorant windowing, Redbox is now being made to play nice with the studio's too-little-too-late digital "offering." It's a bad deal all around, but the press release ignores all reality to paint a gloriously rose-tinted future for all involved.
The arrangement will improve the economics for both Warner Bros. and Redbox while ensuring consistent availability of Warner Bros. titles for the consumer.Really? Judging from past experience, it seems more likely that Warner will continue to cripple the rental service by adding ridiculous agreements and stipulations while slowly killing off the everything anyone liked about it. There's nothing about this equation that "improves economics." Warner opens itself up to more piracy by setting up arbitrary windows and consumers looking for the latest Warner releases still have 28 days to kill before they become "consistently available."
Here's some more rah-rah, go team doublespeak from Warner Bros.
"We are pleased to once again have a direct relationship with Redbox, providing their consumers access to our movies," said Ron Sanders, president, Warner Home Video. "In addition, we look forward to working together on other key initiatives such as UltraViolet and creating promotional opportunities to offer consumers great content when and where they want it."Translation: We are pleased that we have prevented Redbox from simply purchasing our movies from a third party and renting them out during our arbitrary blackout periods. In addition, we look forward to pushing our clunky digital services and creating restrictive "opportunities" to offer consumers great content when and where we say they can have it.
by Tim Cushing
Tue, Jul 31st 2012 12:26pm
from the there-is-no-evil;-only-bad-influences dept
Two editorials have been added to the mix, pointing the finger at violent movies in general, and even more peculiarly, at Warner Brothers Studios itself. Michael Cieply's editorial for the New York Times never comes out and states explicitly that Warner Brothers is responsible for the Aurora shooter's actions, but its opening anecdote seems to think that such a connection should be made.
For decades Warner’s films have frequently put the studio in the middle of a perpetual and unresolved debate over violence in the cinema and in real life. That debate has been revived after the deadly shootings last Friday in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater at an opening night showing of “The Dark Knight Rises,” from Warner.It's quite a stretch to contend that an unreleased movie somehow "acknowledges" the "link" between movie violence and actual violence. Unless James Holmes was part of the "Gangster Squad" crew, this is simply unfortunate timing, much like the terrorism scenes that caused several films to be delayed following the 9/11 attacks.
While the box-office success of “Dark Knight” seems assured — the opening weekend produced $160 million in North American sales — Warner executives have decided to delay the planned Sept. 7 release of another film, “Gangster Squad,” according to a person who was briefed on the studio’s plans on Tuesday and spoke anonymously because the change has not been officially announced. The film is a hard-edged cinematic portrayal of the police war on mobsters in mid-20th-century Los Angeles.
Trailers for the movie, which showed gunmen firing into a movie theater, were pulled after the shooting last week. Executives have further debated whether to go so far as to reshoot portions of “Gangster Squad,” according to published reports. Warner executives declined through a spokeswoman to discuss their plan or the studio’s posture in general toward screen violence.
To go forward with “Gangster Squad” as is might trigger revulsion at scenes that seem to recall the movie-theater slaughter in Colorado. But to change it substantially or delay it for long (no new date has been set) might seem to acknowledge an otherwise debatable link between movie violence and real events, breathing life into a discussion that is perhaps more familiar at Warner than at any of Hollywood’s major studios.
Branching out from this dubious start, Cieply retells the story of Warner Brothers' fascination with violent movies, stopping to discuss copycat rapists/killers "inspired" by "A Clockwork Orange," "Natural Born Killers" spawning imitation acts of violence and a few others before winding up at "The Matrix," tenuously tied to defendants trying to cop an insanity plea by claiming they were trying to "escape from the matrix."
A few "copycat killers" may emerge for the Aurora shooting or from the movies themselves, an unpreventable byproduct of evil people with limited imagination. In many cases, the copycat aspect is simply a convenient scapegoat for the killers to use themselves: "The devil made me do it."
After this history lesson, Cieply just lets himself out the back door without drawing any real conclusion:
Three decades earlier, however, a Newsweek writer, in a review that derided the “lethal ugliness” of “Dirty Harry,” also registered the futility of worrying about the bad effects of a movie. Good-hearted pictures, the magazine reasoned, rarely seemed to do much good. “There is little chance that this right-wing fantasy will change things where decades of humanist films have failed,” the review said.True enough. If positive, non-violent films aren't resulting in copycat altruism, it's just as likely that even the most dark-hearted film won't have much of an impact.
Peter Bogdanovich, director of "The Last Picture Show" and "Paper Moon," has an op-ed of sorts as well over at The Hollywood Reporter laying the blame for the Aurora shooting at the feet of violent films. Bogdanovich probably has a more relevant take on the shootings considering his film, "Targets," ends with a sniper attack at a drive-in, as well as having lived through a very violent experience when Dorothy Stratten was killed by her estranged husband.
Unfortunately, this piece (credited with "As told to Gregg Kilday) isn't it. He sounds completely dismayed and genuinely angered by the shooting, but emotional reactions rarely make for the best logical arguments.
Violence on the screen has increased tenfold. It's almost pornographic. In fact, it is pornographic. Video games are violent, too. It's all out of control. I can see where it would drive somebody crazy.Orson Welles make a good, if inadvertent point: compared to the actual violence that was used for entertainment in the past, today's movie violence is a very pale imitation. And the level of violence in major motion pictures is nothing compared to the violence displayed in theaters elsewhere in the world. If movie violence were truly driving people to this sort of behavior, one would expect Japan and Korea to be epicenters of mass killing. What Cieply lists (and Bogdanovich echoes) is truly kids' stuff compared to the imagery conjured up by Takashi Miike and Park Chan-Wook.
I'm in the minority, but I don't like comic book movies. They're not my cup of tea. What happened to pictures like How Green Was My Valley or even From Here to Eternity? They're not making those kind of movies anymore. They are either making tentpole pictures based on comic books or specialty pictures that you pray someone will go see.
The fact that these tentpole movies are all violent comic book movies doesn't speak well for our society.
Today, there' a general numbing of the audience. There's too much murder and killing. You make people insensitive by showing it all the time. The body count in pictures is huge. It numbs the audience into thinking it's not so terrible. Back in the '70s, I asked Orson Welles what he thought was happening to pictures, and he said, "We're brutalizing the audience. We're going to end up like the Roman circus, live at the Coliseum." The respect for human life seems to be eroding.
The problem with all of these theories is that the variables are common to the entirety of the US population. If these are all creating killers, we should be suffering from an epidemic of violence rather than dealing with isolated tragedies. And the issue with violent movies is nothing new either. Concern about the level of violence and portrayal of villains and anti-heroes goes all the way to the Hays Code. Read this stipulation from the Code and see if you don't find that echoed by the implicit statements in Cieply's and Bodanovich's editorials:
Theft, robbery, safe-cracking, and dynamiting of trains, mines, buildings, etc. (having in mind the effect which a too-detailed description of these may have upon the moron)These editorials argue that homogenization or repression (or at least a return to the "good old days") is preferable to the current cinema's taste for violence in light of the Aurora shooting. The deplorable actions of a single individual somehow makes the case that the general public should be denied access to portrayals of violence, because "there but for the grace of God, go..." well, not these authors anyway, but certainly everyone else. Whether its movies, video games or music, the "answer" to violent tragedies is always the same: the public cannot be trusted with questionable material. This sort of punditry is the worst kind. It willingly throws personal responsibility out the window in favor of mass scale condescension.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jul 24th 2012 11:20am
from the um,-really,-now? dept
This certainly seems like a frivolous lawsuit. Going after Warner Bros.? For what? That's likely to get laughed out of court. This seems like a clear case of a "Steve Dallas lawsuit," named for the famous Bloom County comic strip in which lawyer Steve Dallas gets beat up by Sean Penn after trying to take a photograph of the star. He then explains why the proper target of a lawsuit is not Sean Penn, but the "Nikolta Camera" company, because "a major corporation with gobs of liquid cash ... was criminally negligent in not putting stickers on their camera which read, 'warning: physical injury may result from photographing psychopathic Hollywood hotheads."
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jul 18th 2012 4:17pm
Holy Conflict Of Interest! Tell Congress That The Public Good Is More Important Than Their Chance To Cameo In Batman
from the check-it-out dept
Update: By the way, we're hearing that the MPAA hosted a "special screening" of the new Batman movie for members of Congress and their staff. Now, that would normally run afoul of gift giving guidelines... but they worked around that by spending the first 15 minutes "educating members and staff on important issues" (take a guess what those might be).
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Mar 26th 2012 12:26pm
Kim Dotcom Fires Back: Raises Questions About US's Evidence, Shows Studios Were Eager To Work With Megaupload
from the the-court-of-public-opinion dept
Kim Dotcom is continuing to make his case publicly, sharing a bunch of details of why he's confident that he'll win and why the US Government's case is wrong. In particular, he takes aim at the claims that he's guilty of direct infringement for uploading and sharing some songs. He claims that the government misses the fact that he uploaded songs he owned, but he never actually shared them publicly:
“A link distributed on December 3, 2006 by defendant DOTCOM links to a musical recording by U.S. recording artist ’50 Cent’. A single click on the link accesses a Megaupload.com download page that allows any Internet user to download a copy of the file from a computer server that is controlled by the Mega Conspiracy,” the indictment reads.That raises questions about whether or not you can upload your own music for private use -- but given things like Google's Music locker and Amazon's music locker, it seems that lots of companies let you do something quite similar. That said, I would imagine the government's response is just the fact that such a system lets you offer up "private links" means that it's a form of distribution. However, it does make the government's case a little trickier.
Dotcom told TorrentFreak that the file in question wasn’t infringing at all. He explained that he actually bought that song legally, and that he uploaded the file in private to test a new upload feature. He quickly picked a random file from his computer, which turned out to be this song.
“The link to the song was sent using the private link-email-feature of Megaupload to our CTO with the file description ‘test’. I was merely testing the new upload feature,” Dotcom said.
“The URL to this song had zero downloads. This was a ‘private link’ and it has never been published,” he added.
Separately, Dotcom reveals that the large movie studios, who were the key source pushing for the indictment in the first place, were eager to work with Megaupload and the company had relationships with many of those companies. There are full emails there, including Disney offering up an alternative agreement to Mega's terms of service, and Warner Bros. asking for easier ways to upload its content (and talking about being able to share key movie content). The WB email is pretty damning:
Hello Megavideo,This is, certainly reminiscent of the revelation that while Viacom was freaking out over YouTube and suing, its marketing people were uploading tons of clips, and that Viacom was so confused that it actually sued YouTube over clips it had uploaded itself.
My name is Joshua from the Warner Bros. Advanced Digital Services department. I would like to know if your site can take a Media RSS feed for our syndications. We would like to upload our content all at once instead of one video at a time.
Thank you for your time and funny content,
Joshua D. Carver
All that said, I still think that Kim Dotcom's decision to fight this in the press is a huge mistake. Even though he makes it out like he's fighting the MPAA -- and I'm sure they were absolutely behind much of this -- he's really fighting the US Attorneys, a part of the Justice Department, and they don't deal well with things like this. They can be incredibly vindictive and are focused solely on winning the case, not on what the public thinks. They'll use everything Dotcom says publicly and turn it against him.
Along those lines, for all the parallels discussed to the YouTube case, or even the Hotfile case, it's important to recognize the key difference. Those cases were civil cases between two private parties, where the end results could be injunctions or monetary awards over copyright infringement charges. Megaupload's founders are facing criminal conspiracy charges, which are an entirely different ballgame. Yes, the conspiracy charges are based on copyright infringement, but arguing solely about the copyright infringement part misses the main thrust of the government's case. The conspiracy charge is why they can do something ridiculous like claiming the lack of a search engine is evidence of a crime (even if having a search engine is evidence of inducement). Having all of this rest on the "conspiracy" charge means that the rules in this case are different, and the evidence just needs to show conspiracy -- not necessarily focus on the infringement aspects.
I think that Dotcom and his lawyers absolutely should be making these points in court to show that the conspiracy angle falls down when you scratch beneath the surface. Furthermore, they should probably be making the case that, at best, this should have involved a civil copyright lawsuit. But fighting a criminal conspiracy charge as if it's the same thing as a civil copyright infringement dispute is a mistake, and it's one that federal prosecutors will jump on and exploit strongly. Dotcom is right to point out that there's a serious conflict of interest in the fact that Neil MacBride, the former anti-piracy boss for the Business Software Alliance, is leading the case against him -- but arguing that right now isn't going to do him any favors. MacBride is a smart guy, and he'll use all of this against Dotcom.
I think there are a lot of serious issues raised by this case, and I think the government has massively overreached in its indictment. But I do worry (quite a bit) that Dotcom's decision to take his arguments to the press first may backfire and could taint the case, where having strong legal arguments to counter the government's questionable claims are really really important.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Mar 6th 2012 11:24am
from the wow dept
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Feb 14th 2012 10:39am
from the sorta dept
So, here's the problem. Disney (not WB) has decided that it's going to make a movie out of The Wizard of Oz -- which it has titled Oz, the Great and Powerful. And it appears that WB wants to do everything possible to make life hellish for Disney if it moves forward on this plan. The first step? According to Eriq Gardner over at THResq, it was to quietly apply for a trademark on "The Great and Powerful Oz." Note the similarity to what Disney has called its movie. Except, it turns out Disney was sitting pretty... having filed for a trademark on its version of the phrase/title... a week earlier. Thus, Disney has the lead here and WB's application got tossed.
The THResq piece questions if WB was planning to make wider use of trademark to try to prevent things like this from happening, avoiding the fact that the copyrights on the works have long gone into the public domain.
In the past year, Warners has been one of the most aggressive filers of oppositions at the USPTO's Trademark Trial & Appeal Board. Especially over The Wizard of Oz.It goes on to talk about one ongoing case in particular, concerning a company selling wines in Kansas that it's named after aspects of the Wizard of Oz. The company is claiming (correctly) that the book is in the public domain. But WB is claiming it doesn't matter, because public domain only applies to copyright.
For instance, the company has gone after potential merchandise associated with Dorothy of Oz, a $60 million-budgeted animation film scheduled to be released later this year by Summertime Entertainment.
Warners also has attacked registrations on a series of neuroscience books entitled "If I Only Had A Brain," a restaurant called "Wicked 'Wiches Wickedly Delicious Sandwiches," a clothing line known as "Wizard of Azz," Halloween costumes under the brand name "Wicked of Oz," and dozens of other Oz-related marks.
While that case continues, you can bet that WB won't let Disney just go ahead and make this movie without putting up a bigger fight.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Feb 2nd 2012 9:44am
from the good-for-redbox dept
However, after lengthy talks between WB and Redbox this month, the companies couldn't come to an agreement over the new demands from the studio.This could get interesting, because the last time they had this fight, the studios sought to block companies like Walmart from selling to Redbox, and Walmart put in place some restrictions to make it harder for Redbox to do this. I still think Redbox could potentially crowdsource these purchases, and get around any restrictions.
Instead, Redbox has opted to turn to "alternate means" to purchase the films on DVD and Blu-ray it makes available to rent for as low as $1.20 a night through its more than 28,000 kiosks -- and offer them the same day they hit store shelves to buy, according to Redbox senior VP of marketing Gary Cohen.
Either way, it's stories like this that show why the First Sale doctrine is so important. Redbox should be able to buy from alternative sources and then be free to rent those movies. And that's the case due to "first sale" rights -- even if Warner Brothers wants to pretend they don't exist.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jan 31st 2012 1:32pm
from the are-they-that-clueless? dept
Under the companies' previous agreement, users could add discs to their queues even before they went on sale. Warner executives apparently believed that policy made it easier for consumers to wait, confident that the discs would arrive eventually.What's amazing about this policy is that it seems to provide the exact opposite incentives of what WB should want. At least, when they could put it in their queue as a sort of "pre-release" commitment, they knew they'd be getting it soon, and would have less incentive to go out and get it through unauthorized means. But, now, they won't even have that, making it even more likely they seek the movie out via unauthorized means. WB is in complete denial if it thinks this is suddenly going to make people more interested in buying the physical DVDs.
But now when users search for Warner's "A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas," which goes on sale Feb. 7, the Netflix website simply says the movie is not available. Consumers will have wait until March 6 to add the film to their queues and until April 3 to get it in the mail.