Screening for Vengeance

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I am not 100% certain I understand this story, but it seems the Motion Picture Association of America has decided that sending out DVD copies of movies to Academy Award voters results in too many pirated copies of the works showing up. The MPAA's solution is to ban such "screening" media.

But actors and directors note that there is no way Academy voters can see many small-budget films unless it is on a disc. They want the ban reversed.

Like I said, I'm not sure a get all the issues at play because it sure seems like a sure watermarking mechanism for a relative handful of discs could solve things without dooming low-budget films to Oscar obscurity.

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  1. I think that the main issue involved is that even watermarked DVDs will be pirated, and if they’re good enough quality for Academy screeners to watch without irritation, they’re generally nice enough that poor college students will opt to watch them instead of waiting for the full-price rental or purchase.

    The digital movie fight is generally following the same pattern as that of digital music: theft is a real problem that does, in fact, violate property rights, but the industry response runs the serious risk of alienating more diehard fan purchases than it rescues by blocking piracy. In this case, the risk is specifically focused on minor-release films, which may not be seen by who’s-who critics and movie buffs without screening copies — and this is a serious threat to cinematic diversity.

  2. The conspiracy theory is that this is an attempt by the big studios to prevent smaller studios from winning so many Oscars, and that doddering old Jack Valenti went along with it because his mania for stopping “piracy” blinds him to everything else. The theory seems to make sense, however, when you take into account that the ban includes movies already commercially available on DVD (and thus already subject to piracy).

  3. Here’s a solution, individualy code each dvd sent to academy screeners. When pirate copies begin to show up, check the encoded data and track it back to the academy member who received that dvd and deal with hem or her accordingly. It seems to me that if sending copies of movies to Academy members results in widespread piracy the problem is the Academy membership.

  4. Stmack this solution wont work, the watermark can easily be digitaly edited out, the same way the watermark was digitaly edited in.

    The issue, as the MPAA is presenting it, is that movies that are showing up on the interenet must be comming from the DVD sent out to the Acadamy voters.

    This is complete and total bullshit, I would like for Jack to explain to me how exactly the Hulk made it to the ‘net in DIVX format before the movie was released to theaters, before a master pressing of any DVD copy. Easy, the studios ‘released’ a copy of it, so they could then cry wolf over digital piracy.

    The same way Eminems album ‘The Eminem Show’ was released to the ‘net before radios recieved the first single. Of course the RIAA claims someone at a radio station must have released it. Problem is, when the RIAA releases a single from an unreleased album, they don’t send a station a full copy of the album, only the single, or if the station is equiped with the latest technology, the single is just broadcast via satalite in digital format to be loaded to the harddrives that run the stations playlist. You don’t really believe that disk jockeys are still spining disks do you?

    This all in the guise of stoping pirates, not the real pirates mind you, just the 12 year olds trading files over the internet. The REAL pirates will contiune to sell thier wares on street corners in Asia, Times Square and your local flea-markets.

    The RIAA and MPAA are the only organizations in the world afforded an ‘illegal’ excuse for a decline in sales. You know, in this economy where people are losing thier houses and jobs at a rapid rate, the RIAA and MPAA expect that thier sales and revinue not only should remain a constant, but should continue to increase. You know the last time I was pressed between buying 20 bucks worth of groceries for the family and the latest LL Cool J album, of course LL won… (yea right)

    There are alot of forces at work here, none of which the RIAA or MPAA want the customer to know about. All in the guise of protecting the artist, you know, like Don Henley who testified to congress that he hasn’t recieved a dime for ‘hotel california’ sales in over 22 years. Yet I am guilty of taking money out of his pocket because I downloaded the MP3 last week… PULEASE….

  5. haven’t you guys heard of Cap Code or as many refer to it Crap Code. new movies being released have had annoying patterns of dots appearing on the screen. this is suppossed to prevent piracy but it’s just damn irritating!

  6. The movie industry will eventually kill the goose that lays the golden egg. DVDs now account for half of studio profit, and that number will only rise when HD DVD comes out. That is if the studios don’t say, “Oh the picture quality is too high, it would be like giving the masses the an actual master print. We can’t do that it would increase piracy.”

    The reality of course is that pirates have NEVER been interested in quality, killing DVD and HD DVD will kill the studios revenue stream.

    It is truly sad to watch the movie industry travel down the same road as the music industry.

    regards

    Joe

  7. The conspiracy theory is that this is an attempt by the big studios to prevent smaller studios from winning so many Oscars

    Are you claiming that some movie buffs wear tinfoil hats?

  8. The problem is not just that low-budget films will be “doomed to Oscar obscurity.” Arguably, a lot less low-budget, Oscar-type films will be made, because much of their success depends on the box office that comes with nominations.

    As far as I can tell (from my limited sampling of pirated t.v. shows and movies), the quality is awful. True movie lovers will still go see (or rent, or buy) the movie, including those that may have downloaded it. Both the MPAA and the RIAA seem to assume that there is a one-to-one correlation between downloading a file and losing a sale on that title. I really don’t think that’s true.

  9. Both the MPAA and the RIAA seem to assume that there is a one-to-one correlation between downloading a file and losing a sale on that title. I really don’t think that’s true.

    Actually, what’s untrue is your assertion that these organizations maintain a one-to-one correlation between downloads and sales. I’ve never seen, heard or read any of these folks claim such a thing.

    What is true is that copyright infringement is wrong, and copyright holders have exclusive rights to distribute and reproduce their work.

  10. “What is true is that copyright infringement is wrong, and copyright holders have exclusive rights to distribute and reproduce their work.”

    You mean true like the RIAA claiming that a 52x burner was the same as having 52 burners, or that every unique MP3 found on a harddrive is 150,000 dollars in ‘damages’. http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,58340,00.html

    Remember when they sued a princeton college student for 96 billion dollars(http://barillari.org/papers/peng/peng.html), more then the RIAA as a collective has earned in 10 years. (remember, RIAA is only the big 5, Sony, Warner, BMG, Universal, Virgin, and EMI, dont be fooled by the 1200 members they claim on thier website, all of the claimed members are just labels the big 5 own)

    Or True like how the RIAA compensates its artists next to nothing, yet almost mafia like requires them to sign a contract that pays less then a McDonalds employee? http://dir.salon.com/tech/feature/2000/06/14/love/index.htmland then lobbies congress to extend copyright to 75 years after the death?

    Sam I Was, you make a great appologist for a dying industry… maybe you should check facts before posting FUD.

    Copyright is a temporary loan from the public domain. NOT a revenue stream for a corupt industry.

  11. This has to do with ownership. I own the original expressions of ideas that I come up with. Not you, and not the public.

    Yeah, but intellectual property is different from ordinary property. If someone takes your car, they take it away from you: You no longer have use of it. The principle of ownership here is that no one should be allowed to deprive you of the use of your property.

    But if someone merely copies your work, you still have it for yourself as well. You can still make additional copies of the work, perform the work, and prepare adaptations or other derived works. In that case, what possible claim can you have to control someone else’s copy, since your use of yours is still intact?

    Your only claim is that their copying the work prevents you from making money selling your own copies. But the only reason people are willing to pay big bucks for your copies is because they aren’t allowed to make their own copies. This is a somewhat circular argument.

    The main reason we allow creators of intellectual property to control their work is so they can profit from licensing it. Such profit serves as an incentive to create and distribute more intellectual property, which is good for all of us.

    The communitarianism you’re seeing isn’t somebody else’s slippery argument. It’s inherent in the justification for the concept of intellectual property.

  12. Mark, if you take a copy of my IP then yes, I still have my copy. But I have lost the ability to make a profit from your desire to obtain my IP. Theft is theft! I hate the RIAA and their unholy brethren, the MPAA, as much as anyone else does, but that does not make stealing right.

  13. Anonymous whoever-you-are (why not leave a name, PLEASE, to make discussion easier):

    It is “state-granted” only because of the unique, intangible nature of intellectual property. Because I can’t defend my brain’s creations with a gun — as I can my other property — we had to create another way to defend them.

    I did not say copyright itself is a “natural property right.” What is a natural property right is my ownership of my own creations. Copyright is simply the specific mechanism with which I can defend it — much in the way a piece of paper called a “title” is the mechanism with which we defend real property claims.

    Perhaps there are other mechanisms that could work too, or instead. But the fact that the mechanism is designed by the state in no way negates my natural claim to exclusive ownership.

    In fact, it could be argued that a claim to one’s own intellectual creations is more valid than a claim to real estate — which at some point in the past was taken by force. But we don’t have to go there right now.

    Bottom line: My creations are MINE. Not yours. Period.

    If you think that “file-sharing” somebody else’s music is your “right,” then you are a communitarian. Period.

  14. Hey,

    Speaking as a current DJ in Jacksonville, Alabama at 92J (91.9FM http://www.jsu.edu/92j/ ) I can tell you that we very often do get full CDs. Only very very rarely will we receive a CD single, and then, it is just the brand new up and coming bands that don’t actually have enough of their own songs to make a CD yet.

    For example, we’ve had the new CD from Diffuser, “Making the Grade” for quite a while, even before I started at the radio station back in May. Given that the CD is a July release, that is at least a 2 month head start to leak it, if one of the thousands of radio station DJs wanted to…

    -Robert

  15. “Stmack this solution wont work, the watermark can easily be digitaly edited out, the same way the watermark was digitaly edited in.”

    Hmmm. What if you digitally edit OUT something individual to each copy? Who would know? What would you try to add back in?

  16. Sam I Was:

    If you want to keep your creations to yourself to prevent their theft, it is completely permissible for you to do that. You may think the historical concept/grant of copyright is bullshit, but Mr. Anonymous is right on target.

    Whether you agree with it or not, historically the rules of copyright did not support the idea that a person authors a book or a song and then owns it for life (and beyond).

    I agree that a person downloading the latest Britney Spears album from Kazaa is a thief, but the major copyright holders have also been greedy by perverting the entire system of copyright. To my eye, the first copyright law (c. 1790, 14 years, plus 14 year renewal) should be more than adequate to protect authors/artists. The current rule of life plus 70 years is ridiculous. Now copyright protects not only the author, but his children and grandchildren. I’m sure Disney and the other major beneficiaries of copyrights would have already asked for, and received, an extension into perpetuity if they thought the law wouldn’t be declared unconstitutional.

  17. AMEN BROTHER

  18. Reminds me of all those “not for sale” promo copies of LPs I used to see in the cutout bins of record stores. Where there’s a buck to made, good luck stopping it.

  19. Whoops. That last one was me.

  20. “I agree that a person downloading the latest Britney Spears album from Kazaa is a thief, but the major copyright holders have also been greedy by perverting the entire system of copyright. To my eye, the first copyright law (c. 1790, 14 years, plus 14 year renewal) should be more than adequate to protect authors/artists. The current rule of life plus 70 years is ridiculous. Now copyright protects not only the author, but his children and grandchildren.”

    Absolutely. The U.S. Constitution says, “To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for LIMITED TIMES TO AUTHORS AND INVENTORS the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;…” (emphasis added).

    In my mind, even a decade, plus a decade extension, is pushing the limit on “limited times.” And the language definitely does *not* cover the heirs/descendants of the authors and inventors!

  21. Sam,

    I couldn’t possibly agree more.

  22. I think in this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly there’s a small article about this. If I recall correctly from the article, only members of the MPAA are restricted the use of screeners.

    (Valenti should be abandoned anyway.)

  23. Sam I Was, “centuries of human reasoning” in the judiciaries of the entire English-speaking world explicitly reject the identification of copyright with a natural property right. It’s always been a State-granted monopoly privilege, no more, no less. Go look up the Stationer’s Guild and the Statute of Anne sometime.

  24. Thanks for the Priest allusion.

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