Deadline Hollywood has the story of the MPAA sending out a list of key "talking points" to the two major presidential candidates
, though we've heard that the same letter is being distributed to folks in Congress as well. It's the expected fluff and bogus info, but since these talking points will undoubtedly get parroted by clueless politicians, we might as well take a moment to cut through some of the clutter and point out where the MPAA is being deceitful, dishonest or just marginally misleading.
The television and film industry is an important economic pillar of the US economy – and a major private sector employer. Film and TV production takes place in all 50 states across the country.
The American film and television industry is a massive contributor to the US economy, generating $42.1 billion in wages from direct industry jobs and distributing $37.4 billion in payments to nearly 278,000 businesses around the country in 2010. Making movies takes more than just stars – it takes a vast number of hardworking creators and makers whose work takes place behind the camera and beyond. In fact, the entertainment industry is a major private-sector employer, supporting 2.1 million jobs across the country in 2010. These jobs exist in every state, and boast average salaries 32% higher than the national average.
Whether or not the TV and film industry is an "important" economic pillar depends on how you define "important." But let's grant the premise, and then ask: what does that have to do with the government or copyright? Answer? It doesn't.
As for the specific numbers, it's worth noting that the TV and film business has been growing massively over the past decade
-- even though (as the MPAA constantly reminds us) copyright has been getting less and less respect, and infringement has been spreading. An organization based in reality recognizes that perhaps the weakening of copyright laws is not a "problem" in such a situation. As for the specific numbers, those are complete bunk. 2.1 million jobs? No. The Congressional Research Service looked into the movie industry and found a grand total of 374,000 employees
in 2010 -- which is a number that the MPAA tries to hide by pretending that all sorts of ancillary jobs, such as flowershops and laundromats that service film crews while shooting, count in this calculation.
Free expression and free speech are cornerstones of the entertainment industry.
Copyright law, which is enshrined in our constitution, protects those who create everything from books to movies, from songs to software. Copyright is not censorship. Rather, it incentivizes innovation and creativity; the Supreme Court has called copyright the “engine of free expression.” Free speech is vital to creators and innovators, and the movie business wouldn’t exist without freedom of speech and expression. In fact, the motion picture industry has fought aggressively for freedom of speech on behalf of its storytellers for over a hundred years.
An intellectually honest person admits that copyright has two conflicting impacts: it may encourage some increase in production by providing a limited monopoly, but it can also prevent expression. The real question is which side you think outweighs the other. But the MPAA document simply refuses to admit that copyright can be used for censorship, despite the fact that its own members are quite familiar
with using copyright to take down legititimate content. The MPAA's extremist position here is clearly bogus on its face. Copyright can absolutely
be used to censor. To claim that the two things are mutually exclusive means you're either lying or clueless.
As for the MPAA fighting for free speech, how about its close involvement with ICE and the DOJ in censoring websites? So far, ICE and the DOJ have had to admit that they totally screwed up two of those seizures, censoring blogs and forums for over a year -- and we fully expect to see ICE and the DOJ have to admit a few more, similar mistakes. However, one thing that ICE has also stated? That these seizures came about thanks to its close working relationship with the MPAA. In fact, the very first time ICE seized domains, it made the announcement from Disney's headquarters
. Imagine if the federal government seized a news blog... and did so from the offices of the NY Times. People would point out that this doesn't seem right, but the feds have been able to get away with this blatant crony protectionism.
If the MPAA can't admit that it's been involved in blatant censorship, then it has little recognition of its own abuse of the law.
The motion picture and television industry is an industry of innovators.
Our companies embrace and harness the rapid development of technology. From IMAX to 3-D to shooting films at 48 frames per second, movie studios are on the cutting edge of entertainment technology. They are relentlessly innovating to bring audiences not only the latest in moviemaking, but also a seamless content experience that allows them to watch the shows and movies they love where and how they want. Hulu, HBO Go, Vudu, Crackle, UltraViolet, Epix, MUBI, Netflix, Amazon – and that just scratches the surface.
We've already addressed this one at length. Offering something
is not the same thing as offering what people want. Furthermore, the MPAA had to be dragged kicking and screaming to accept some of these offerings, and not because of the foresight of the movie industry, but because the tech innovators it now wants to shackle kept pushing and prodding until Hollywood came around. Netflix and Amazon came much more from the tech industry than Hollywood. Hulu may have come out of Hollywood, but it gave the team (with a tech background) pretty free rein in building out the service... and the second it started taking off, Hollywood sought to kill it
. To present these as signs of innovation is like saying that I "innovated" in the food business because I ate a Korean taco. Having a tangential relationship with those who actually innovate is not innovation itself. And when Hollywood then seeks to kill off said innovation, it shows how they really view the world.
The entertainment community supports an internet that works for everyone.
It is critical to the entertainment community that we protect the free flow of information on the internet while also protecting the rights of artists and creators. The internet must be a place for investment, innovation and creativity – that’s critical not just for our industry, but for intellectual property-intensive industries around the world. In April, the U.S. Department of Commerce released a report that found that intellectual property-intensive industries – including film and television -- support at least 40 million jobs and contribute more than $5 trillion dollars to U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). That’s 34.8 percent of US GDP. Simply put, protecting American creativity from theft is critical the U.S. economy – and so is protecting the freedom to express creativity online.
Creators must have the freedom to innovate online, and they must also be secure in their ability to benefit from their creations. Copyright protection is critical to ensuring that. We can protect creative works while ensuring that the Internet works for everyone.
First of all, the infamous Commerce Department "study" was quickly proven to be complete bunk. The whole "IP intensive industries" metric is a joke -- highlighted by the fact that the report showed the number one employer in the "IP intensive industries" was... grocery stores
. The report just lumped together copyright, patents and trademarks, and most of the "jobs" and GDP being talked about are in "trademark" intensive industries -- a definition is so stupidly broad as to include every single person who works at a grocery store. Yet under MPAA propaganda, the teen who checked you out when you bought your groceries is a symbol of why they need a new SOPA bill.
Second, any time someone says they want an internet that "works for everyone," what they really mean is that they're relying on a business model that has been disrupted by the internet, and the only way to make things fair is to break the internet where it challenges their old and obsolete way of doing business. The market decides what "works for everyone." Not the government. If the MPAA can't keep up, get out of the way and let real innovators step in.
The film and television industry has become one of this country’s most important and most consistent exports.
The movies and TV shows made here in the U.S. tell stories that resonate with people around the globe, and as a result, the film and television industry has become one of this country’s most important and most consistent exports. The entertainment industry boasted a positive services trade surplus of $11.9 billion in 2010, or 7% of the total U.S. private sector trade surplus in services. Maintaining that positive balance of trade is crucial to the continued growth of the U.S. entertainment industry and an important pillar of our national economy. Trade agreements such as the Trans Pacific Partnership and the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement aim to protect the hard work of American creators and makers around the world, while including important safeguards to protect the free flow of information on the internet.
I agree that the US makes films and TV shows that resonate around the world -- and then seeks to make it impossible to view them elsewhere thanks to ridiculous regional restrictions, release windows and DRM. Furthermore, the problem that the MPAA faces around the world won't be solved by ACTA or TPP. As has been studied in great detail
, the international issues the industry faces are almost entirely business model issues, not enforcement issues. Yet, the industry refuses to even contemplate that this might be the case, preferring to support scorched earth campaigns for things like ACTA and TPP.
I recognize that this is how the MPAA has worked for half a century or so. It produces propaganda for politicians, and then tells them to write treaties and laws that support the propaganda. But, really, rolling out the same bogus and debunked stats that have long since been disproved, seems bizarre. It's as if the MPAA is so stuck in this rut of "we lie, you do what we say" that it can't get out of it. I'd love to see an MPAA that is willing to engage on issues, but instead we get one whose only mode of doing business is to lie consistently.