SOPA and PIPA are bad. On this, basically the entire web agrees. But not everyone does. Take The Wall Street Journal, for example. And they look like total jackasses as a result. Luckily for them, it’s impossible to look as bad as the Motion Picture Association of America.
I mean, did you read the letter they issued yesterday?
In it, Chris Dodd, who is Chairman and CEO of the MPAA — and a former United States Senator — manages to come across as both condescending and clueless in three glorious paragraphs. It’s worth breaking this bad boy down:
“Only days after the White House and chief sponsors of the legislation responded to the major concern expressed by opponents and then called for all parties to work cooperatively together, …
Translation: The White House is actually on our side here. They’re being critical of the legislation to placate you guys. So feel lucky, shape the fuck up, and come talk to us behind the scenes about doing a deal that will make everyone happy.
… some technology business interests are resorting to stunts that punish their users or turn them into their corporate pawns, rather than coming to the table to find solutions to a problem that all now seem to agree is very real and damaging.
Translation: The public surely sees this “blackout” nonsense as a stunt — a pure marketing gimmick. Just in case they don’t, I’m going to call them “pawns” and use the word “punish”. Now they definitely see who the bad guys are. Again, come to the damn negotiating table.
It is an irresponsible response and a disservice to people who rely on them for information and use their services.
Translation: You’re acting like children. Again, I’m going to make it clear that you’re harming your users.
It is also an abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace today.
Translation: I’m going to not-so-subtly imply “antitrust”, and also imply that perhaps it’s time to switch our government to some form of communism.
It’s a dangerous and troubling development when the platforms that serve as gateways to information intentionally skew the facts to incite their users in order to further their corporate interests.
Translation: Also, collusion. This is totally collusion. And I’m going to imply you guys are liars for good measure. And then I’m going to switch back to implying that your users are total stooges if they follow you. Can we also charge you with inciting an online riot? Maybe. We might try.
A so-called “blackout” is yet another gimmick, albeit a dangerous one, …
Translation: I’m going to belittle your tactic now (“gimmick”), while at the same time bolstering it (“dangerous”). No, I don’t have any clue what I’m saying anymore.
… designed to punish elected and administration officials who are working diligently to protect American jobs from foreign criminals.
Translation: This is all about American jobs, after all. Obviously. That’s the hot button topic in this election year. Also, foreign criminals. People hate those, so I’ll bring them up. This is essentially a really cool episode of 24.
It is our hope that the White House and the Congress will call on those who intend to stage this “blackout” to stop the hyperbole and PR stunts and engage in meaningful efforts to combat piracy.”
The White House totally has our backs. And Congress. You’re fucked. But just in case, I’ll belittle your plan a bit more. Now, get to the negotiating table!
If there’s a worse kind of statement Dodd could have crafted, it’s hard to think of what that could be. The end alone implies that the MPAA may have the clout to force the President and the broader U.S. government to step in, but the fact that the “blackouts” are going on today as planned shows they do not.
The right move here would have been to keep your mouth shut. The MPAA is fighting a PR battle they can’t win. Their best course of action is the lobby the hell out of this stuff behind the scenes and hope that negates the public backlash in the minds of lawmakers. (You can be sure they’re doing that too.)
But Dodd’s bigger problem — one that has plagued the entire MPAA for decades — is that they fundamentally don’t understand technology. And so they turn to fear-mongering. Television was going to kill movies. Videotapes were going to kill movies. DVDs were going to kill movies. Etc, etc, etc.
Now the Internet is going to kill their business. Piracy! Ahhhhh!
The truth is that the Internet, like all the other technologies before it, is a transformative tool that could scale the film industry to new heights (in terms of both popularity and profit). But such an end requires some work and some rethinking.
Namely, because the barriers to entry for distributing and accessing content have been significantly lowered, the prices should be lowered as well. But Hollywood doesn’t like that. Even though they were largely arbitrary to begin with, they have no desire to lower prices. If anything, they’d like to raise them.
But it would work. Remember when VHS tapes were upwards of $100 to buy? Then they started making some priced-to-own and guess what? People started buying them. DVDs were priced to own from the start, but as their prices fell, guess what happened? More and more were sold. In fact, it became the bread and butter of the industry.
The iTunes model for music has proven that people will pay for content. You just have to make it as accessible as possible. That means both price and distribution points.
Instead, Hollywood has lost its collective mind. And its way. They want legislation that will puncture the fabric of the web. It’s insane.
Let’s say that both SOPA and PIPA are passed — does piracy stop? Of course not. It will find a way. No matter what happens, it will always find a way.
The best way to combat piracy is to remove barriers, not to put up new ones.
The only thing that should be censored on the web is Chris Dodd’s awful website. Is that a Microsoft Frontpage template from 1999?