by Mike Masnick
Fri, Apr 27th 2012 4:00am
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Feb 1st 2012 1:08pm
from the grassroots! dept
This is also the group that was caught copying an anti-SOPA activism letter, and using the exact same words as if it was written by themselves (I guess they're fine with plagiarism). It's also been caught using funny math to pump up its tiny number of supporters.
In December, we joked that CreativeAmerica had resorted to buying support, after it released a big (and expensive) advertising campaign all over TV and on some big screens in Times Square. Not exactly a "grass roots" operation.
Either way, it appears the group has gone more direct now: to the point that it's literally paying people for signatures. I've received very credible evidence, that a consulting firm hired by CreativeAmerica is now offering to pay people to get signatures on CreativeAmerica's petition. The following email was forwarded to me, with some details redacted to protect privacy:
the organization I am doing work for is Creative America, which is a grassroots organization that is working to stop foreign rogue websites from illegally distributing American content such as books, music, films, etc.... These specific websites costs the U.S. and the 2.2 million middle class industry workers $5.5 billion in wages and hundreds of thousands of jobs. Your job would be just collecting signatures from whoever is interested in signing up for updates. A newsletter may come once a month and anyone can unsubscribe if they don’t want it. We don’t care if they do; all I care about is getting initial signups.This raises even more questions about the already anemic number of people supporting CreativeAmerica and its pro-SOPA, pro-PIPA, MPAA-driven agenda. As the email makes clear, they're willing to pay as many people as possible to get signatures to make the group look larger than it is. That's pretty crazy. I think we can be pretty sure that the millions of people who spoke out against SOPA/PIPA did so without someone paying them $1 per call or email.
The hours are flexible and we will pay you $1/signature, so if you collect 100 signatures a week, we would pay you $100/week. We will also pay for you to go to local film festivals in the area (SXSW, Austin Film Festival, etc.). We are also taking as many people as possible, so if you have some friends who are interested in doing it we can take them as well. Let me know your thoughts....
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jan 25th 2012 11:28am
Hollywood Astroturf Group Releases Ad Saying It Needs SOPA To Shut Down Megaupload... Five Days After Megaupload Is Shut Down
from the you-guys-make-me-laugh dept
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...
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jan 23rd 2012 5:41am
from the joe-grassroots? dept
Well, it seems they knew they were missing out on one key ingredient to prove just how "grassroots" they were... so they went over the law enforcement side of things, snapping up one Chris Ortman from Homeland Security. Yes, the same Homeland Security responsible for abusing copyright laws to illegally seize and censor websites for over a year under no legal basis.
Yes, that's right folks, the group that is pretending to be grassroots, but is really an astroturf organization -- which has bent over backwards to insist that SOPA/PIPA were not about censorship at all -- has hired someone from the very US government agency that has been using similar copyright laws to seize and censor websites. Perhaps his nickname is "grassroots"?
And the group wonders why actual artists aren't buying what they're selling. Perhaps rather than staffing it with former studio execs, MPAA lackeys and law enforcement censors... why not try actual content creators next time? Oh, perhaps it's because lots of actual content creators know that SOPA/PIPA are bad ideas.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jan 12th 2012 12:52pm
from the private-right-of-action? dept
But that's not the case, said Craig Hoffman, a Creative America spokesman. He said Creative America did not copy Public Knowledge's email but was just encouraging supporters to get in touch with their senators, a common strategy.Either Hoffman didn't understand what happened or he's being purposely misleading (neither of which makes CreativeAmerica look very competent). No one is complaining about them sending out an email urging supporters to contact Senators. What they're complaining about is that the text is almost identical, and uses the same three bullet points that folks at Public Knowledge admit they "over-edited" internally, including a long discussion that turned what had formerly been a paragraph into three separate bullet points.
"It's a standard organizing technique," Hoffman said.
But, ironically, Creative America's insistence that it didn't copy the email demonstrates one of the many problems with SOPA and PIPA. It's that reasonable people might disagree over whether or not something is infringing. I'm pretty damn sure that CreativeAmerica copied PK's email. But they say they didn't. Now, under SOPA/PIPA, with its "shoot first, admit you shot the wrong dead guy later" approach to censorship... that would be a problem for CreativeAmerica. Isn't it a better situation when you guarantee that everyone gets to make their case before we cut sites off...
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Dec 8th 2011 4:07pm
Entertainment Industry Still Can't Get Grassroots Support For SOPA/PIPA, Resorts To Trying To Buy Support
from the buying-support-is-all-they-know dept
The major Hollywood Studios do the same... and they get 161 new supporters over an entire month. It's kinda pitiful, but it really shows how little the public supports Hollywood in this campaign to censor the internet.
Either way, it appears that Hollywood is now trying to do what it does best: buy support. Since its efforts to just rally the troops directly has failed miserably, it's kicking off a big ad campaign, buying TV commercial spots on both broadcast and cable TV. The commercial itself is incredibly misleading and repeats a bunch of the standard myths:
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Nov 29th 2011 10:28am
NBC Universal Threatens Partners That They Need To Sign 'Grassroots' Support Of SOPA/PIPA Or It Might Have To Drop Them
from the this-is-getting-sad dept
Either way, it seemed somewhat amusing to discover that some of the top execs at NBC Universal have been threatening all NBC Universal suppliers to sign the letter that CreativeAmerica put together or NBC might no longer be able to do business with them:
We are writing to ask you for help on an issue that is one our top business priorities – content theft on the Internet, which is a major threat to the strength of our business. Our major guilds and unions are joining us in the fight to keep our businesses strong so that the tidal wave of content theft does not kill jobs. But if the current trend continues, it’s not too strong to say that this threat could adversely affect our business relationship with you.Grassroots effort? When NBC Universal's General Counsel, Rick Cotton -- who famously once claimed that piracy was destroying the lowly corn farmer, since people who watch pirated movies don't eat popcorn (or something) -- is threatening suppliers who don't sign on? That's not grassroots. That's just insane. Now, it's true that Cotton wrote this carefully such that you can read it to suggest it means that if this law doesn't pass, NBC Universal's business will be in so much trouble that it has to shut down or cut off deals with suppliers. But it seems pretty clear that the obvious implication is: sign this or we may no longer do business with you.
But, given that "the big guns" at NBC Universal are pushing all their suppliers to directly sign (or else!) the letter found at CreativeAmerica's site, you might think that a lot more people would have signed on. Especially over the last month, with SOPA making so much news. So we went and checked.
That gives us 161 new signatures (actually 160.666666 etc -- which makes me wonder what happened to that extra third of a person). 161. In a month.
Meanwhile, a real grassroots campaign turned out one million emails to Congress and 87,834 calls in one day. It should be clear at this point that the public clearly does not support SOPA/PIPA, and no amount of "faking it" is driving any public support.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Nov 28th 2011 11:48am
from the hitting-the-big-time dept
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Nov 23rd 2011 9:58am
from the these-are-the-sites-they-use dept
The Tumblr involvement is really amazing too. The company decided to hack together their phone call system in just a day or two, and then were able to deliver such a massive phone campaign to Congress. 87,834 actual phone calls in the course of a day, reaching 3.6 per second at some points. 1,293 hours spent talking. And Tumblr users alerted others as well:
Supporters of SOPA/PIPA like to claim that the public is behind them. Actual data suggests otherwise, but it got me wondering why people were so much more willing to speak out on this issue -- on a topic that rarely gets this kind of vocal grassroots support. Sure, people like the internet sites they use -- Tumblr, Reddit, FourSquare, Kickstater, and various other sites that spoke out against the bill. But, people also like music and movies from the big entertainment industry players. So why are they not buying the message from old Hollywood that they need SOPA/PIPA?
Part of it, I think, has to do with simple reality. People can look at the details of these bills and recognize why they're so bad, and go way beyond their stated purpose. But a larger issue, it seems, is the changing way in which companies interact with people these days. The big Hollywood studios and major record labels have spent the past decade treating their fans as if they were criminals. The assumption, at every turn, was that these people had the worst of intentions and only wanted to rip them off (despite plenty of evidence to the contrary). Thus, they focused on making life worse for users, with lots of collateral damage. Things like DRM and suing kids.
On the flip side, internet companies recognize that their users are everything. They build communities, they connect and they give those community members a voice -- rather than just assuming the relationship is one way (and only exists after you give them money). This is what Brad Burnham meant recently when talking about the "trust" that built the internet.
In some ways, it's just the other side of the coin of our discussions on the difference between gatekeepers and enablers. People tolerate gatekeepers grudgingly, because they're necessary, but often cruel. However they love enablers, because they allow them to do things that simply weren't possible otherwise... and let them retain control in doing so. That's much more powerful than people realize -- and it doesn't seem that the old line entertainment industry or many elected officials recognize that yet.
In fact, many in both of those camps are betting (heavily) that last week's outpouring of public opposition was a fluke, and not sustainable. I would take the other side on this bet. Last week's awakening of the internet was done on the fly with very little advanced planning and still turned out massive numbers. Beyond Tumblr setting up its phone system in about a day, much of the entire American Censorship Day effort was produced in just a little over a week by what's basically a brand new organization almost no one has heard of, Fight for the Future. Imagine what they, and others, can do with more time to plan and build on this initial success.
There's no doubt that the backers of this bill are outspending the opposition on lobbying by about 10x. And, as we know, money tends to speak in DC. But... all the campaign contributions in the world won't get you re-elected if the public won't vote for you. And the uprising here threatens to make SOPA/PIPA into an election issue, and the results above suggest that those who underestimate the public's dislike of any plan to censor the internet, even for the sake of copyright, may do so at their own peril.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Nov 22nd 2011 3:20am
from the sign-up-now dept