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Director Attacks MPAA Piracy Claims 417

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 roXet ( 95005 ) <jasondewitt@c p - t el.net> on Monday May 27, 2002 @11:20AM (#3590793)
    They think that spiderman *suffered* from internet piracy? Jeezy Creezy how many box office records did it break?

    Until a "sure thing" like Spider Man or Attack of the Clones sees *wide spread* piracy on the net and then flops like a Michael Bay crapfest, they have nothing to say. Maybe then they can cry foul, I have no sympathy for a movie's suffering when it was the fastest to hit $100 million (!!!!) *ever*.
  • by NetRanger ( 5584 ) on Monday May 27, 2002 @11:25AM (#3590812) Homepage
    This is exactly what the real problem is. The MPAA wants it both ways: it wants to shove anyone who isn't big and bad enough to pay for their Jaguars out of the way, yet it wants everyone to love them and play exactly by their rules.

    And like the author said: if Spider-Man is losing lots of money to piracy, the box office numbers sure aren't showing it.

    How much longer will we have duped (or more to the point, paid off) Congressmen who let these big IP holders walk all over the rights of the American people to own recording hardware?

    My God, if these people had been around 100 years ago, they would have made the ball point pen illegal since it can be used to copy books.

    I seriously think that this issue will not be solved until there is a Constitutional Amendment that guarantees fair use rights for all media.

  • Vinyl trumps CDs? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kombat ( 93720 ) <kombat@kombat.org> on Monday May 27, 2002 @11:26AM (#3590821) Homepage
    Bad technology sometimes beats out good. Consider the triumph of VHS over Beta, of CDs over vinyl, of the Microsoft operating system over the Mac. In each case, inferior technology triumphed

    What is this washout smoking? Who in their right mind considers CDs an "inferior technology" to vinyl records? I know of a few passionate nostalgics who subjectively prefer the sound of vinyl over CDs, but even they aren't stupid enough to claim that the technology is superior. You can't put data on vinyl. You can't play vinyl in your car, or while you're jogging. With this one, ridiculous comment, the author has lost all credibility with me, and has exposed himself as just another angry outsider who is upset that the Big Boys won't let him play with them.

  • by GnomeKing ( 564248 ) on Monday May 27, 2002 @11:28AM (#3590827)
    ...I cant be the only one who is getting sick of things like this...
    they have virtually no content and give no new angles on a problem that we've known about for weeks - if not months...
    they only appear here because they have been written about in a "proper" newspaper

    Worst of all, this particular article barely touches on facts - it is someones opinion, which appeared in a newspaper
  • War of the worlds (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Daengbo ( 523424 ) <daengbo AT gmail DOT com> on Monday May 27, 2002 @11:31AM (#3590838) Homepage Journal

    From the article "Most of the rights to the book - including all US rights - had long ago fallen into the public domain. Only the British rights appeared to be privately held: by a former rock musician who hoped to turn Wells' story into a travelling stage musical along the lines of Blood Brothers or Fame."

    It is amazing to me that literature as old as War of the Worlds is still unavailable for the public (at least in Britain). I mean, I used to listen to the original radio broadcast on reel-to-reel when I was a kid. The amount of quality work that has been abandoned due to continuously extended copyrights has to be non-quantifiable. Tragedy, because, although he didn't get to make his picture, the large studios bought out the rock-star and are now making it with Tom Cruise. I want to cry.
  • Huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gorf ( 182301 ) on Monday May 27, 2002 @11:33AM (#3590849)

    By Sunday, it's obvious that Correlli has tanked, and that Beckham is a hit. Naturally you yank Corelli from the larger cinema and put Beckham in there. The studios hate this, but can do nothing about it. However, once the new technology is installed, Corelli will be beamed direct to screen one for the duration of its scheduled run, and will play to empty houses.

    Why, exactly? The argument about this that I've always heard is that it's the other way round. With a digital projector, there's no problem with running out of reels; it is technically far easier to copy bits that replicate a reel.

    Of course, DRM may prevent the cinema from doing this, but surely it's acceptable for them to pay more for showing the film to more people, seeing as it's the ticket (and food) price that pays for the film in the first instance?

    And if the cinema has a shortage of digital projectors then that's irrelevant; it's just the case of the new technology maturing and becoming more widespread. Preventing progress because new technology isn't deployed widely enough is no argument at all.

  • From the article (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Theodore Logan ( 139352 ) on Monday May 27, 2002 @11:34AM (#3590851)
    When the MPAA complains that it is losing billions to piracy, my first reaction is, so what? The Hollywood studios are already hugely wealthy

    The MPAA is evil alright, but this is not the kind of objection against war on piracy that anyone will take seriously. You cannot expect any industrial body not to take up a fight when they are losing money just because they are already "hugely wealthy."

    I am all for MPAA-bashing, but I wouldn't expect anyone not already in the know to care about an article the stamps some entity as evil without provding any real arguments why this is so.

  • by SirSlud ( 67381 ) on Monday May 27, 2002 @11:36AM (#3590853) Homepage
    > I would be more inclined to listen to these claims if he wasn't just some hack trying to break into a bigger arena.

    Right, cause the only ones we can trust are the ones who've already attained financial success. It's a sure mark of intelligence, business accumen, ethics, and most importantly of all, righeousness and correctness.

    It's pretty funny - on the one hand you have a huge monopoly that attempts to keep the lid on independant artists' noise level, and on the other hand, you have a generation thats been born and bred not to believe anything unless the production values are high. Talk about your catch-22s.
  • by Slashamatic ( 553801 ) on Monday May 27, 2002 @11:39AM (#3590870)
    We have had a stockmarket crash since last year, well maybe not a real sudden crash but between the dot-bomb of last summer and 9/11, the markets haven't been doing well and people aren't spending money (Retail figures are down). In Europe, the Euro has proved a useful excuse for everyone including the main cinema theatre chains to pump up prices.

    If I produced any non-essential in such an environment, I would expect sales to be somewhat depressed. Sorry guys [mpaa.org], Cinema isn't an essential. Produce a good movie, such as Spidey then we will probably go and see it. Unfortunate the industry distrubutes a lot of rubbish. I say distributes advisedly because some good stuff is produced (even ocassionally inside the studio system). However, it often doesn't get out unless it fits the business model of the season.

    I want more creatives like this guy to stand up and say where the MPAA is getting things wrong when it tries for ever more content protection.

    Some people may have heard about the much trumpeted Spidey raid [theregister.co.uk] in the UK. What was being (expensively) copied onto DVD? The only version I have seen listed would fit into a small part of a CD and as someone else commented who has seen it, the quality was barely worth the effort of watching. Maybe the industry itself has problems with higher quality masters escaping?

    Last point in this ramble, the Gruniad article made the very good point that having a secure digital chain between distributor and projector is a great way of locking other content producers out of the theatre.

  • by sien ( 35268 ) on Monday May 27, 2002 @11:53AM (#3590921) Homepage
    If you look at the simultaneous global relase of AOTC I think you can actually see a reaction to *wide spread* piracy.

    Episode I was released in the US months ahead of the European, Australasian and Asian releases. The result was that a demand was created, and fulfilled, for high quality pirated net copies were available within 24 hours of the initial release. I was in Europe at the time and faced with waiting for 3-4 months for a release and watching a lower quality film, the lower quality easily won out.

    In the European holiday belt from Spain to Greece, pirated videos of Episode I ran all summer before the official relase.

    The film presumably did quite well at the box office regardless, but it is interesting to wonder if the altered release for Episode II was designed in part to combat piracy, and in particular internet piracy.

  • by Saib0t ( 204692 ) <saibot@@@hesperia-mud...org> on Monday May 27, 2002 @12:10PM (#3590969)
    With this one, ridiculous comment, the author has lost all credibility with me

    [Karma burning session]
    Just because I think many people in here keep making statements such as that one, I'll offer you an analogy:
    If you had read Einstein's words at the time he wrote them, you'd see he wrote about a cosmological constant. You'd be the kind of person to yell "Who in their right mind would be stupid enough such a thing as the cosmological constant exists. That Einstein guy lost all credibility to me". And you'd have been very wrong...

    I don't care why the person wrote that, I'll just mentally note that that part of his argument is wrong, but you seemingly see the world in black and white with no shades...

    Because someone says one thing bad/wrong doesn't mean that all things that person say are bad/wrong. Everyone does make mistakes you know, I do, you do too... Don't be so fast at labeling people...

    [/Karma burning session]

  • by YOND R BOY ( 463829 ) on Monday May 27, 2002 @12:16PM (#3590984)
    RMS for attorney general!!! Imagine how the M$ trial would have gone down if George "Oil" Bush and John "I am the worst terrorist of all" Ashcroft hadn't been around. Maybe this is idealistic but picture this one:
    K&R - president and vice prez
    Stevens - sec of state (if he werent dead)
    RMS - attorney general
    Jordan Hubbard - dir. of central intelligence
    Alan Cox - technology special advisor
    *pardon my shameless namedropping*
  • Re:Direct beaming (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Monday May 27, 2002 @12:28PM (#3591029)
    I believe this is the ultimate goal of the studios - the transmit pictures in real time along fibre optic cable / satellite to the movie houses. I don't see cinemas going for this and I don't see where this bandwidth is going to come from.

    More realistically, I expect movies to be downloaded from dvd/cable/satellite and cached on some uber server installed at the cinema. This server can then be programmed to dump out the movie to one or more projectors at the appropriate times through a local network.

    With so many 10+ screen cinemas cropping up, this sort of arrangement is inevitable, even though digital projection still sucks. Give it a few more years and hopefully the resolution will be enough that it will become acceptable.

  • by YOND R BOY ( 463829 ) on Monday May 27, 2002 @12:31PM (#3591041)
    are you a DJ? There is a reason we all use vinyl and its not just for the sound quality. I happen to prefer the feel of vinyl to CD and luckily, all the stuff I spin only comes out on vinyl and not CD. Some of the "purists" as you call them feel that the turntable is a musical instrument and they are turntablists. Saying you are good at CD mixing is like saying you are good at guitar because you can program great guitar parts into your synth. Before you flame me for saying that, I am not saying that people can't be virtuosos with a synth or CD mixing decks. That is a valid form of music and its not my place to say its not... but before you dismiss turntables, realize that there IS a reason 90-something percent of DJs use them, even new DJs who had a choice on what to start out with. Vinyl just has a different feel to it and a different type of control...
  • Re:Sampling rate (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Roundeye ( 16278 ) on Monday May 27, 2002 @12:40PM (#3591070) Homepage
    Nyquist Theorem [google.com].

    Read. Become less ignorant.

  • Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sulli ( 195030 ) on Monday May 27, 2002 @12:46PM (#3591087) Journal
    Staggered releases around the globe are simply, in this day and age, stupid. There is no reason not to release everywhere at once now. If the studios can't handle it, tough shit! The market (legal or illegal) will make up for their errors.
  • by RatFink100 ( 189508 ) on Monday May 27, 2002 @01:15PM (#3591192)
    Cox isn't saying the MPAA is evil, he never uses the word.

    He's merely putting the claims of lost millions in perspective.

    His argument in a nutshell

    - the studios are crying wolf over money lost to piracy
    - they already make millions whilst independent film-makers struggle to get finances to get movies made
    - the measures they want to put in place to counter piracy will hurt the independents even more. In effect they'll be barriers to entry in the market.

    I thought it was a well-written thoughtful article.

  • Re:Good God...... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by swordgeek ( 112599 ) on Monday May 27, 2002 @01:47PM (#3591309) Journal
    Pissed in your _own_ cornflakes this morning?

    Reread the article. Read a few others. The MPAA is agressively attempting to control the upcoming technology in such a way that without the backing of a major studio, a filmmaker won't be able to make films. They're also trying to control all forms of playback technology, so that ultimately no one will be able to watch a movie without the knowledge and consent of their organisation.

    Alex Cox is capable of making movies that sell well enough and have enough of a following to support him, and allow him to make more movies. If the MPAA has their way, this won't be possible.

    That's what is being objected to here. If that's a "Euro-Leftist" attitude, then the US is a pretty damned socialist country.
  • by kadehje ( 107385 ) <erick069@hotmail.com> on Monday May 27, 2002 @01:55PM (#3591342) Homepage
    Here's something really scary that I found in Senator Kerry's (from Mass.) reply to a letter I sent him shortly after the CBDTPA reared its ugly head:

    "I believe that particular attention must be given to the writers, artists, and other creators of copyrighted material whose works are entitled to protection from piracy in the digital age."

    My response to this: these parties already have this protection, and have had it much longer than four years (when the DMCA was enacted). It's called (oh, the irony!) "Copyright Law." It's already ILLEGAL to take that xxAA-produced "artistic work" and offer it up for public distribution on a P2P network, a Web site, a rare record shop, or a street corner.

    The point behind the DMCA, CBDTPA, and other legislation down the pipeline is not to protect "Attack of the Clones" or "Oops! I Did It Again" from "piracy"; the five year jail sentence and $250,000 fine that pre-1998 copyright law provided for this action already is ample punishment for this regard. These laws rather instead attempt to limit the range of works that can be "pirated" (i.e. distributed) to only those with licenses to the "copy protection" technologies. Yes, the BSA, RIAA, and MPAA are trying desperately to prevent the "piracy" (i.e. appearance) of Linux, garage band MP3's, and independent films on the Internet. They don't give a flying fsck whether someone can see Spiderman over a low-quality connection, install Office XP gratis or download recycled Top 40 hits on the Internet; if they really cared about this, thousands of Napster users and Web hosts would have already been convicted of felony charges and be serving the hefty penalties mentioned above.

    Until we can convince people that this battle is not really over licensing the use of content as opposed to licensing to create it, we have no hope of winning the battle to keep laws like the DMCA and CBDTPA out of the U.S. code.

    Unfortunately, Senator Kerry's response to me indicates not only don't they accept our arguments, they appear to not want to hear them. I haven't even heard back from Sen. Kennedy regarding this letter. In November, I will be voting for the first time and making sure that I select anyone else but Kerry's spot for the Mass. Senate seat. Unfortunately, it will be four years before I get a chance to do the same thing to Kennedy.

    One more thing regarding Constitutional Amendments mentioned in the parent post: the one you're looking for is not one regarding fair use rights; it's one where corporations have their right to "contribute to campaigns" legislators removed. All donations must be limited to a set dollar amount and come from an individual's finances. Period. Corruption in government created by campaign contributions has created more substantial problems than the inability (legally) to view DVD's on a Linux box. By far the biggest of these is the lack of integrity in the finance industry. What would be your bigger gripe: being legally harrassed for distributing DeCSS code; or having your entire life savings wiped out by your employer's corrupt management with no recourse or defense against their actions (i.e. Enron), not being given a fair chance to make some of it back (by the less-than-enthusiastic enforcement of anti-discrimination laws including those regarding age discrimination), and knowing (albeit after-the-fact) that the management will be walking away scot-free as a result of the favorable legislation and enforcement policies they (along with bigshots at other Fortune 500 companies) bought in the past 10 years. I certainly think the latter is a bigger injustice, and it's that along with other injustices Mainstream America can deal with that are going to give us a much better chance at getting part of this country back than any cry of "Free Dimitri!"
  • by Gizzmonic ( 412910 ) on Monday May 27, 2002 @02:08PM (#3591384) Homepage Journal
    Was this post a joke? Obviously the divide between "amateur filmmakers" and Hollywood production values is shrinking every day.

    35 mm is prohibitively expensive to shoot on without major $$$ because of development costs. The MPAA doesn't have a monopoly on anything-people just don't look at the alternatives enough. This is a war of ideas that can be won.

  • You can still get Digital Video cameras for a grand...

    And this is what they're really scared s*itless about: loosing control over both distribution and content. Distribution is the cash cow for the MPAA, but control over content is where they really get their power jollies. Ego and hollywood are deeply intertrined, and the idea that some people from East Podunk Nebraska can live their dream, make a film, and make it equally accessibly to the viewing world at large frightens the bajeezus out of them. It simultaniously cuts off their stream of manna and exposes them as the unnecessary, wasteful, anti-creative, soul-sucking culturemongers that they are.

    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.

    I don't know... multiplexes have been getting more and more impersonal for years. I remember when i was a kid there used to be an intermission in a lot of films. It was a lot more like the theater: you talk with people (sometimes *gasp* strangers) about what you're seeing and generally turn your attention from the screen to your fellow human beings.

    This is the total bugaboo of it all. Corporate dominated american consumer culture is built on a platform of unhappiness. The widespread sense of social isolation and inadequacy indisuputably fuel the consumer urge. Ask anyone in advertising. The basic message is alwyas, "there's something wrong with you, and our product can fix it." Now, there's a lot of money standing on all this anomie, and it doesn't like being disturbed. It's been proven: when people connect with eachother in meaningful and fulfilling ways, they perform fewer empty consumerist experiences. And by god we'd better keep people lonely and isolated. What would happen to the economy?

    Hopefully digital projectors will get cheap and easy just like the cameras have: I'll open my own f'ing cinema, with beer and coffee and social functions.

Where there's a will, there's an Inheritance Tax.