by Mike Masnick
Tue, Nov 22nd 2011 3:20am
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Nov 3rd 2011 11:01am
Warner Bros., Right After Announcing Record Profits, Pleads Poverty In Asking People To Support 'Grassroots' Campaign For E-PARASITE Act
from the that's-chutzpah dept
In July, we informed you about the creation of and Warner Bros.’ involvement with Creative America, a grassroots coalition uniting the entertainment community and others against one of the biggest threats we face as an industry: content theft. Thank you to those of you who have already joined and supported Creative America. This is an important first step, but there’s still more we can do.I dunno. WB, if you've just made $822 million in profits alone, perhaps you could donate some of that to residuals? Ha Ha, who am I kidding? Movie studios never pay residuals. Remember, this is Warner Bros. And part of the reason it was so profitable this quarter was the latest Harry Potter movie. But last year, we got to analyze the accounting on an earlier Harry Potter movie, showing how Warner Bros. played with the numbers to take a movie that brought in $938 million and still let Warner Bros. claim a $167 million "loss," through highly questionable accounting, designed almost entirely to avoid paying royalties. The trick, of course, is to set up each movie as its own "corporation" that has to pay the parent studio "fees" for certain "services." You keep ratcheting up those fees, and the studio makes a ton, but the "company" that is the movie can always claim a loss to avoid paying royalties.
Thieves in the U.S. and abroad continue to make millions of dollars off our work, talents and creativity. For instance, “The Big Bang Theory” is one of the most popular targets of digital content thieves, with more than 600,000 illegal digital downloads thus far in 2011. Meanwhile, “The Hangover Part II” was illegally downloaded some 700,000 times in the first five months since its theatrical release.
Content theft doesn’t just affect a single show or film or even studio. It affects residual benefits, pension funds and health plans as well as jobs that our industry supports—whether directly or in ancillary markets and businesses. Therefore, it’s in all of our interests to stand behind Creative America.
Honestly, if you know anything about the numbers, you'd know that Warner Bros. is a much larger threat to residuals and other things like health plans and jobs, than any file sharing by some kids who'd never pay to see the movie anyway. SOPA/E-PARASITE isn't going to help people in the business get paid. Execs, sure. But not everyone else. Not by a long shot.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Oct 21st 2011 12:06pm
from the don't-make-me-laugh dept
If you dig into the website to figure out who's really behind it, it claims that it's a "grassroots organization," but fails to name a single creative individual who was behind putting the group together. Instead, it lists out the following companies and organizations who really put the site together (amusingly, they even block you from cutting and pasting this part, so I just retyped it -- meaning I circumvented their DRM... come at me, entertainment industry):
CBS Corporation, NBC Universal, the Screen Actors Guild, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, Viacom, the Walt Disney Company and Warner Bros. EntertainmentWell, well. That's not a grassroots effort, folks. Now, the site also includes various unions, including the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the Directors Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild and IATSE (stage hands, etc.). But these are the old school, out of touch unions that who have done little to nothing to help their members adapt to the times (often doing the opposite). Do we see any of the actually creative folks who have embraced new technologies, new methods of distribution and new business models? Nope.
In the meantime, how can the website seriously claim that it's a grassroots effort when it has every single major Hollywood Studio behind it. Do they think that people are stupid? And should we remind people that these are the same studios who have all sorts of scammy tricks for "Hollywood accounting" to make sure even the most successful films are never seen as profitable, allowing them to avoid paying royalties to the actual creative folks.
Next, if you dig into the website, they have a "send a letter to your elected officials" thing. And the real evidence that it's not a real grassroots effort? Just like other faux grassroots efforts, those agreeing to send the letter have no option to edit the letter. When groups like Demand Progress and EFF let you send letters about PROTECT IP, they let you edit them to your liking -- trusting people to express themselves.
But, this "Creative America" apparently does not trust its own members to be creative. The letter is 100% locked down. You can only send their text. Honestly, if a group supposedly representing creators won't even let its own members express themselves freely, you know that it's not actually about protecting "creative" America.
This is not a grassroots effort. This is not about protecting "Creative America." This is about protecting a few megacorporations who are scared of new innovations, afraid of their dwindling monopoly rents, and trying to force the rest of the world to go back to the way things used to be.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jun 22nd 2010 9:53am
from the begin-astroturfing-now... dept
So, it looks like the industry is going to plan B: which is going back to trying to ram through legislation that will require ISPs to take the draconian step of protecting one industry's broken business model. And to get this going, it looks like the industry has set up a neat little set of astroturfing groups and "consumer" campaigns that try to hide the specifics, but clearly are designed to get similar three strikes legislation (similar to the Digital Economy Act in the UK) put in place in the US.
The letter starts out by making it sound like a populist sort of deal:
I've received hundreds of e-mails enthusiastically reacting to my "call to action" at the National Association of Recording Merchandisers convention last month. The music business is facing huge challenges from piracy and theft. Never before in American history has an entire industry been so decimated by illegal behavior. Yet the government has not responded in a meaningful way to help us address this crisis. My call to action is for all of us to become more aggressive in lobbying our government, more outspoken in drawing attention to the problems caused by piracy and more actively engaged. We cannot win this fight alone.Note the choice of language. "Hundreds of emails" is his way of suggesting that there's a groundswell of public support. But, for what kind of "call to action"? Ah, the one where we ask the government to protect Universal Music's business model. Amusingly enough, at last year's NARM, I gave a presentation on all sorts of ways that the industry could thrive through adopting new business models. I was told that two RIAA members specifically asked the conference not to let me speak, and while I do not believe anyone from Universal Music attended my speech, they did have incredibly scantily clad models standing outside the door inviting people to go to a party. Perhaps instead of partying and lobbying the government, you could have looked at what's actually working, instead of complaining that nothing will work.
Governments outside the U.S. are legislating, regulating and playing a prominent role in discussions with ISPs (Internet Service Providers). Sales have dramatically improved in these countries. How is it that the U.S. - with the most successful music community in the world - is not keeping up with places like South Korea, France, the UK and New Zealand?And here we go. Note that the four countries named all put in place forms of "three strikes" legislation recently to kick file sharers off the internet based on accusations, not convictions. By naming those four countries, the letter is implicitly calling for support for three strikes legislation requiring ISPs to try to prop up Universal's failing business model.
As I said in my speech, I hope that the industry can negotiate a voluntary deal with the ISPs. We need our government representatives to encourage this. But whether or not we reach a deal with the ISPs, our government needs to know that we've got a piracy problem and we need real solutions. To accomplish this, our government needs to hear from all of us, so they know that their constituents are out here. Join me in calling on our elected officials to fight piracy. Please help by forwarding this email to your colleagues, friends- everyone who loves music. And consider enlisting your entire company to help in this fight. Then by clicking on the link below a message will be sent to your representatives in Washington. Help us launch a viral campaign to cut off access to the online sites that are used to steal our music, our property and our jobs. In only takes a second but it can make a tremendous impact.And here we go. The call to make this into a "viral" campaign. Well, let's look at the details. While Universal uses some nasty "spy on your clickthrough" HTML attempts to hide the actual sites it's sending you to, it's not difficult to figure out more details on this campaign. The first place they want you to go is to a website for MusicRightsNow.org, which automatically forwards you to a Facebook page. Facebook page? Why that looks all grassrootsy and made by "the people" right? Not a recording industry front at all! It even includes a neat little inclusive manifesto claiming to represent everyone:
"Music rights now" is a community of individuals who believe music has value and is worthy of protection from online theft. We are songwriters, artists, musicians, recording studio engineers, managers, retailers, record company employees, publishers, performing rights organization employees, music producers, truck drivers, lawyers, stylists, music video directors, laborers, photographers, graphic designers, DJs, radio employees, music fans -- and countless others' who have joined together to fight for the survival of artistry and the music industry.Except, of course, infringement is not "theft" and a grassroots group of folks getting together to "fight for the survival of artistry and the music industry" don't get the CEO of Universal Music to announce their coming out party. As for the "survival of artistry and the music industry," as we were just pointing out, both are doing fantastic. More music is being created and consumed than ever before. More money is being spent and made on the music industry than ever before. In fact, it really seems like the only people who are suffering happen to work at a few companies that have refused to adapt with the times... like the major record labels. So, can we cancel this campaign? It looks like the actual music industry is doing great.
But, let's explore further.
So who's actually behind "Music Rights Now"? Well, the Facebook breadcrumbs lead to Music United -- a long term recording industry front group that was mocked mercilessly nearly a decade ago, for its incredibly lame attempts to "speak the language of kids today" to teach them that file sharing is bad. It doesn't look like things have improved much. The front page points to a widely debunked study (which it refers to as "credible") claiming that file sharing has cost $12.5 billion dollars to the US economy and has killed 70,000 jobs. Then there's this fun bit of misleading propaganda:
The unauthorized reproduction and distribution of copyrighted music is JUST AS ILLEGAL AS SHOPLIFTING A CD. Sharing music on peer-to-peer networks like Ares, BitTorrent, Gnutella, Limewire, and Morpheus is against the law. The rules are very simple. Unless you own the copyright, it's not yours to distribute.A bit out of date there on the list of file sharing networks, of course. Also, "just as illegal" is a bit misleading. Both are, in fact, illegal, but under very, very different laws. But the key point is that they're wrong. Making a blanket statement that "sharing music on peer-to-peer networks... is against the law," is flat out wrong. It would be news to all of the musicians we know who encourage their work be shared online. The web page also claims that "Digital theft is killing the music business." Again, the evidence we just pointed to yesterday shows that music is doing better than ever.
Of course, in the fine print, we get the list of who's behind this. It includes all the usual suspects: the RIAA, the NMPA, ASCAP, SESAC, SoundExchange, the SGA, A2IM, BMI, AFTRA and a variety of other smaller organizations that represent labels and publishers. Consumer groups? Nope. Of course not. This is not, after all, a consumer driven effort. It's just designed to look like one.
Either way, it seems clear that the industry is realizing that ISPs aren't going to agree to kick people offline based on accusations, so it's kicking off a well-coordinated campaign to get the government to help, and pressure it to put in place the same sort of overly draconian protectionist measures that don't actually help musicians or the music industry -- but clearly try to prop up the failed and dying business model of a few middlemen. Not surprisingly, this seems well-timed to go with the expected release this week of the report from the White House's IP Enforcement Coordinator (IP Czar), Victoria Espinel.... How much do people want to bet her report also fits in with propping up those businesses?
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jun 16th 2010 2:08pm
from the surprise-surprise dept
The copyright lobby, almost certainly led by the Canadian Recording Industry Association, has launched a major astroturf campaign in which it hopes to enlist company employees to register their support for Bill C-32 and to criticize articles or comments that take issue with elements of the proposed legislation. The effort, which even includes paid placement of headlines on Bourque.com, is still shrouded in some secrecy. A member list, which featured many record company executives, has now disappeared from public view. Requests to identify who is behind the site have been stonewalled thus far, with both ACTRA and AFM Canada explicitly stating they are not part of the site (this is no surprise since most creator groups have been critical of C-32).I especially like how after someone noticed that all its "members" were execs at big record labels, the membership list disappeared.
The heart of the site (which requires full registration) is a daily action item page that encourages users to "make a difference, everyday." Today's list of 10 items is a mix of suggested tweets, blog comments, and newspaper article feedback. Each items includes instructions for what should be done and quick link to the target site. For example, users are asked to respond on Twitter to re-tweets of an op-ed by Dalhousie law professor Graham Reynolds. The suggested response is "As an employee in entertainment, this Bill will protect your livelihood" or "The discussion around DRMs is largely fear mongering." Other suggested twitter activity includes twittering in support of James Moore and his comment that the Chamber of Commerce represents the best interests of consumers or to start following MPs on Twitter (in the hope they will follow back and later see astroturfed tweets).
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Apr 28th 2008 11:30am
If You're Going To Put Up Fake Grassroots Videos On YouTube, Shouldn't You At Least Pretend To Be Real People?
from the just-a-thought dept