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Director Attacks MPAA Piracy Claims 417

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the stuff-to-think-about dept.
dipfan writes "Alex Cox, the writer/director of cult classic Repo Man and punk movie Sid And Nancy, writes today in The Guardian's media section that the movie industry's real pirates are the Hollywood studios and the MPAA - for squeezing out independents. He rejects the widespread claim that Spider-Man suffered from widespread net piracy, and asks: "Are [the MPAA's] claims of lost billions even credible?" (In a strange coincidence, Cox has another article in the same newspaper today, where he defends using 35mm film rather than digital cameras a la George Lucas, saying digital cinema gives too much power to the distributors and studios because the technology is less portable than 35mm.)"
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Director Attacks MPAA Piracy Claims

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  • by Ubergrendle (531719) on Monday May 27, 2002 @10:27AM (#3590822) Journal
    I agree with his statement...for now. Right now the digital projectors are extremely expensive, and only the largest theatres in the US and Canada can justify the expenditure to install them. However, as time and technology progresses I think that DV is the way to go. This generation's output is vastly superior to something even 2 or 3 years ago. Shows like Enterprise and movies like Dancer in the Dark don't suffer for the technology. The costs of startup are great, but you save a ton in the long haul. I think his concerns stem from the distribution mechanism for DV...the studios fund the theatres, and then become a single point of entry for new releases. Kindof like bands working with Ticketmaster to get the best venues as Ticketmaster has exclusive contracts. Also DV is a bit scary because if the DCMA is ever expanded it's much easier to cripple digital technology with required encryption and protection schemes than analog devices. Not that the encryption schemes would work in the long run, but it would act as yet another barrier to entry for the indie film maker...
  • by Darth Paul (447243) on Monday May 27, 2002 @10:36AM (#3590855)
    In this article [news.com.au], the president of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe "conceded that piracy helped drive the popularity of the original PlayStation console".
    piracy on the PlayStation had delivered some unexpected benefits, providing a "sampling value" similar to listening to music free on a radio station with the possibility of buying it later. "Some people were able to get access to some games that they either didn't know about or weren't sure were worth it," Mr Deering said.

    Furthermore, he gets that one pirated copy != one lost sale.

    ...if people buy something, make a copy of it, and give it to a friend, the friend uses it once and doesn't give it back, that's piracy.

    "Is it piracy? Really? Would that person have bought that? He might have just borrowed it for a day."

    Still, I wouldn't expect Sony to allow copying anytime soon. Or even to rollback their laughingstock copy protection, for that matter. But it's nice to see somebody high profile talking sense once in a while.

  • Re:Vinyl trumps CDs? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SirSlud (67381) on Monday May 27, 2002 @10:46AM (#3590894) Homepage
    Scientists have documentented that your body 'hears' sounds your ears do not, outside of our normal audible frequency range. These hi and lo frequencies interact with your body, thus affecting how you 'hear' the audible frequencies. (Not sure how, but I believe it .. you know how your own voice sounds different than how your friends hear it. Same kinda deal.)

    Anyhow, records, as far as I know, can produce a far wider range of frequencies than the CD, who's 'inaudible' frequencies are lopped off the top and bottom end of a CD's audio data (i'm sure somebody else can provide the actual freq. range.)

    So, if you're searching for the recording that most closely resembles the original recording (including frequencies your ear cannot detect), which some may contend is the sole purpose of a recording, leaving aside such issues as media size and portability, there is a grey area in which you could contend that the CD is the superior medium.

    It's a tenuous claim, I'd say; if anything, most of the above mentionned technologies proved that media quality and experience alone doth not technological-adoption make. He's certainly correct in stating that the technical capabilities of a technology can easily take a second seat to factors such as product awareness, non technical factors (form factor, durability, copyability), and context (such as VHS winning over Beta due to Sony's attempt to keep pronographers from distributing content on Beta).
  • Oh. My. God. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rogerborg (306625) on Monday May 27, 2002 @10:47AM (#3590898) Homepage
    • MPAA executive Fritz Allaway told Bobbie Johnson, "We have seen our future, and it is terrifying." I - like a lot of other independent directors and producers - would like to see the future get much more terrifying for Fritz and his pals; with a radical reform of copyright and patent law, and a curbing of behemoths such as AOL/Time/Warner, News International/Fox and Vivendi/ Universal/UIP.
    • Over the past 20 years I have attended a number of "demonstrations" of digital video technology. Often the video images produced are of outstanding quality. But, in spite of all the speeches, the brochures, the white wine and the canapes, I have never seen a video projection, analogue or digital, which looked like projected film.
      In the case of Attack of the Clones, quality may not matter much since (a) almost all the shots are special effects shots done mainly by computer, and (b) the film is shite.
      But try to imagine Citizen Kane shot on digital video (in colour, naturally), or Amelie, or Moulin Rouge. If its promoters are serious about the quality of their technology, let them put it to the test against the best work of contemporary and classic cinematographers - not against the worst.

    My only regret is that we don't have the medical technology to give me a womb so that I can bear this man's children. I have never read such clear, plain spoken and informed articles about the MPAA agenda in a mainstream forum before. It makes me begin - begin - to hope that it's not too late to turn the tide of distributors controlling the very copyright laws that were originally and explicitely written to limit their ability to screw both creators and consumers. Alen Cox, I salute you.

  • by YOND R BOY (463829) on Monday May 27, 2002 @11:02AM (#3590942)
    Did any of you happen to catch the History Channel special on the Kennedys Sunday night? One of the interviews was with the special assistant to LBJ at the time of the Kennedy assasination - a man named Jack Valenti who coincidentally looks _exactly_ like the evil Jack Valenti. I wonder if this man who once had the highest security clearance in the US government still has any friends/connections in government. Not that it would explain anything...
  • by Comrade Pikachu (467844) on Monday May 27, 2002 @11:17AM (#3590989) Homepage
    He wrote an article [volksmovie.com]. on the future of digital filmmaking a couple of years back, and echoes some of Alex Cox's points regarding quality. Ebert goes on to describe a new film-based technology called "MaxiVision48". It is essentially a process designed by film-makers (not studios) which looks much better than standard film or digital projection at a much lower cost.

    MaxiVision48 can switch on the fly between 24 and 48 frames-per-sec and uses a new film advance mechanism to eliminate jitter. The result is a super clear rock-solid picture. I wonder what became of it.

  • Re:Vinyl trumps CDs? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday May 27, 2002 @11:40AM (#3591068)
    These hi and lo frequencies interact with your body, thus affecting how you 'hear' the audible frequencies. (Not sure how, but I believe it

    This is a debated matter. Somes test indicate it does make a difference, some tests do not.

    you know how your own voice sounds different than how your friends hear it. Same kinda deal

    No, that has nothing to do with frequency response outside of hearing. Your voice occupies a pretty narrow band of frequencies. What it has to do with is that the sound generation unit (your vocal cords) is attached to your body. You hear a good deal of sound that resonates through your skull. Put your head on a speaker sometimes, it'll sound different than sitting in front of it.

    Anyhow, records, as far as I know, can produce a far wider range of frequencies than the CD, who's 'inaudible' frequencies are lopped off the top and bottom end of a CD's audio data (i'm sure somebody else can provide the actual freq. range.)

    Again, no. At the bottom end, CDs are far superior. They can produce frequences straight down to DC. At the high end records do have a theoritical higher end (they can theoritically go as high as the equipment allows) however as a parctical matter, even good turntables rarely outperform CDs. There are practical limits imposed by the turntable electronics.

    So, if you're searching for the recording that most closely resembles the original recording (including frequencies your ear cannot detect

    Fine, if that's your intrest, use Sony Direct Stream Digital. It is, by far, the most accurate represenation of sound to date. CD is not the be all, end all of digital, there are far better solutions out there. Oh, and SDSD fits on a small disc too.

    The real issue with CDs orignally (all digital audio for that matter) had to do with the limitations of the analogue to digital and digital to analogue converters. They suffered from several problems that lead to a very harsh sound. Well times have changed a lot, and new converters have cleared all that up. They still aren't perfect, but they have cleared up the digital harshness and give a very smooth, natural sound.

    A real life example: Dunlavy Audio Labs, makers of reference grade speakers, has a test they do. They record a string quartet to DAT (a digital tape with the same basic specs as CD) in an anechoic room. They then place the quarter in the centre, and flank them with their flagship SC-V speakers. They then have trained listeners come in and try to identify which is the real quartet and which is the reproduction. They cannot do so reliably.

    This is not to say digital sound is perfect, SDSD has shown there is clear improvements ot be made over CD, and there are probably still improvements to be made over that, however CDs long ago eclipsed records in quality.

  • by pommiekiwifruit (570416) on Monday May 27, 2002 @12:08PM (#3591168)
    You can't put data on vinyl

    Ah, children these days, they don't remember the computer magazines of the 1980s that had computer games on free flexidiscs. This was a bit before CDs became popular.

  • Re:Not always true (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wirefarm (18470) <jim@@@mmdc...net> on Monday May 27, 2002 @12:43PM (#3591292) Homepage
    I watched a pirated copy of Episode 1 subtitled in Thai on a VCD from Bangkok well before the official version was in the theaters here in Tokyo, so I guess your second assumption might be more true. (The titling was pretty crappy, too.)

    The studios can't very well release a badly-subtitled movie, or release in English-only first, followed by the subtitled version later.

    Plus, before the internet, it didn't matter - the movies (and all of the hype) just followed a few months behind.

    Living here for a few years, I really have little idea about what movies are playing in the US - when they finally show up at my video store is usually when hear of them - since I'm usually disappointed with the movies, I don't feel particularly deprived.

    Of course, the big movies you do hear about - AOTC, LOTR, Spider-man, but they get pushed through the dubbing/titling process faster, so the lag time is less.

    Cheers,
    Jim in Tokyo
  • by MikeP42 (560259) on Monday May 27, 2002 @01:26PM (#3591439)
    I was in Cannes on Friday, at a panel session organised by Wired mag, on the effects of broadband on the entertainment industry. Wim Wenders made the same points (more thorough writeup at www.59tv.com [59tv.com]). Directors who are not slaves to the machine are starting to point out the obvious - that the status quo doesn't necessarily suit everyone, especially when the MPAA and other organisations like it are using their power and position to artificially maintain the status quo. Digital Cinema, in particular, offers a way to break these bonds and open up distribution - if cinemas can be brave enough to install digital screens, and accept for viewing tapes from people off the street.
  • The big lie. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lonath (249354) on Monday May 27, 2002 @02:59PM (#3591940)
    Let's talk about "THE BIG LIE". The big lie is a lie so big that gets repeated so often that people start to believe it. If you're talking about how piracy won't be stopped by these laws or how the movie companies are making lots of money despite the piracy, you've bought into the big lie.

    The truth: It isn't about piracy. It's about competition.

    These giant companies have had a long run of huge profits because it is so expensive to make a movie or a record. Technology can change that.

    Cheap high-quality digital recording equipment can eventually be made, and massive bandwidth will mean that those things that are recorded can be sent all over at very little cost. It can happen.

    However, if this happens, the movie studios and record companies can lose out, because people might be willing to pay less for good indie things. It could end up like the open-source movement where eventually an entire industry of hobbyists starts making extremely high quality movies and songs. (Although it would also create al ot of crap...also like the OS movement.)

    Therefore, they have to stop the introduction of high-quality recording and editing and distribution equipment (unless it's under their control).

    Fortunately, The same equipment you can use to copy the content of the current regime is the equipment you will eventually be able to use to make cheap high-quality alternatives to the products the current companies.

    That means they can attack their real enemy: "competition" by setting up a straw man: "piracy".

    You might be wondering why they don't just go after the "competition" angle directly and state that they're scared of the possiblity of people making high-quality movies and distributing them without the blessing of the big studios. They're scared that there might be too many choices out there that are good enough that people aren't willing to give money to the mega companies anymore.

    To understand this, you have to ask yourself a question:

    If we eventully live in a world where it is possible for creative people to make and distribute high-quality movies and record cheaply, this technology (hinder/not affect/promote) the progress of the useful arts?

    Pick one of those three. I say it will promote the arts. I admit, although the vast majority of things that get created will be crap, there will be more gems than there would be if the reation and distribution channels were still tightly controlled by the studios and record companies. So, I say

    allowing technologies to come into existence that let people create and distribute high-quality art cheaply will promote the progress of the useful arts.

    That may be an odd way to look at things, but it's actually the only way that counts. You see, there is no moral right of authors or companies to benefit from their works. Copyright only exists to "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts."

    That means taht you can't use copyright to hinder the progress of the useful arts.

    Therefore, you can't use copyright to prevent new technologies that will promote the arts from coming into existence.

    But, as I said before, fortunately for the big media companies, the technology that you could use to make illegal copies of their content is the same technology that could be used to promote the progess of the useful arts by giving cheap easy access to creation tools to more people.

    So, that is the problem: The thing they fear is something that they can't attack directly. They cannot use copyright to hinder the progress of the arts. But, fortunately for them, they can attack the technology for being used to pirate their works and get the same effect without going against the Constitution and the only reason that copyright even exists.

    So, please in your discussions of the various laws and **AA's don't mention piracy anymore and how these laws won't stop it. If you do that, you got suckered into believing THE BIG LIE and you're fighting on their turf.

    Instead focus on the loss of creativity and expression that will occur if they don't allow the technology to exist. The key is to expose the big lie for what it is and repeat the truth enough times so that other people can see through the big lie.

    PS: All they care about is money, so please stop going to the movies/renting/buying movies and CDs and tapes. If you're giving them your money, you're helping them. :)
  • by krmt (91422) <therefrmhere&yahoo,com> on Monday May 27, 2002 @03:32PM (#3592092) Homepage
    And actually Alex has a point...watching a movie in a theatre is way different than watching a movie on a computer monitor, on your TV, or on cable. If the MPAA has that all locked up, we are that much poorer culturally. So even if we win technologically, we lose an unique experience to the multinationals and their slaves in public office.
    This reminds me of an event I was going to go to, but never got the chance. There was an ad in the LA Weekly (free paper with all the latest happenings around town) for a pirate movie. The movie itself was legit, but the way they were showing it was almost like a rave, where they would have a secret location every week, like a parking lot or something, where they would show the film. In order to find out where the location was, you'd call up a phone number listed on their website and then go there at the appointed time.

    It sounded like an interesting idea that would have been fun to go to, but my friend couldn't make it. Still, it was an intriguing way out of the problem you're describing.

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