Tag Archives: piracy

Mediatrocities #10– Free Media: The Manifesto of The Underground Multiplex


Legendary Lew

by Legendary Lew

Joseph R. Lewis and I were very proud to give a presentation titled “Free Media: Mending Arts When All is Broke” Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at Chicago Filmmakers.

Around 90 people attended to listen to Joe and I discuss the history of how The Underground Multiplex got started and some of the basic ideas that keep this


Joseph R. Lewis

organization going. This is an age where there’s very little money going around for the arts, so it’s imperative that artists learn a new paradigm by which they can have works created, published and distributed. It may seem daunting to be responsible for all these aspects but it can be done and we’ll tell you how to approach it.

Give a listen:

Internet Hater Chris Dodd Wants Technology to Help Boost Sagging Theater Attendance


by Legendary Lew

Variety reports that last year, attendance for the 18-24 year-old age bracket in movie theaters dropped like a stone. It’s serious because, you know, everyone else is dead and will never benefit from films aimed toward them:

The number of frequent moviegoers in the all-important 18-24 age group plunged an unprecedented 21% in 2013, according to MPAA annual statistics released Tuesday at Cinemacon, while attendance in the 12-17 age bracket also saw a precipitous drop off, falling almost 15%.

Frequent filmgoers from 12-24 are likely spending much of their previous moviegoing time watching a variety of other screens.

Well, heavens to Betsy, whatever shall a bloated, non-innovative, money-wasting, inefficient, money-gouging, hypocritical corporate entity do?!

I know! Call in MPAA head Chris Dodd to give the industry a pep talk:

“We need to keep exploring fresh ways of leveraging our new technology to drive traffic to your theaters,” Dodd insisted during his keynote address delivered Tuesday at CinemaCon in Las Vegas.

“We can embrace technology, and use it to complement our offerings,” Dodd added.

I practically shat blood laughing so hard when reading these statements. This is the same Chris Dodd that backed the SOPA and PIPA legislations–so much so that he extorted the White House to try and have its support. SOPA and PIPA would have destroyed the internet as we know it with opposition to the legislation coming from internet companies that regularly help Hollywood promote its films. The public response to Dodd and SOPA/PIPA supporters was a whole lot of this.

It’s also the same Chris Dodd that supported the arrest of Kim Dotcom, only to have the case against him implode over embarrassing allegations, not the least of which was Dotcom’s assertion that he was ready to start a legally-created IPO with MegaUpload. (Dotcom’s new company, Mega, has since created an IPO in New Zealand)

Now, Dodd wants to urge the industry to use technology, i.e the internet, to boost theater tix sales.  Never mind that he tried to explode it a couple of years ago and will, no doubt, try again, unless Dodd has some other new type of technology he wants to introduce to the world.  Oh wait, I forgot, Hollywood doesn’t have one.

Next time Chris Dodd gives a speech, I suggest this type of formal attire.



Is Warner Brothers Getting Wise with Piracy?

Warner Bros logo WB logoTorrentFreak is reporting on interesting developments within the Hollywood studios currently treating piracy as nothing short of sacrificing newborns in Satanic rituals. It seems some within the bureaucracy are starting to realize that piracy is reflecting audience demand and can be used as a measurable indicator .

Warner Brothers’ anti-piracy exec David Kaplan:

“Generally speaking, we view piracy as a proxy of consumer demand…Accordingly, enforcement related efforts are balanced with looking at ways to adjust or develop business models to take advantage of that demand by offering fans what they are looking for when they are looking for it.”

This falls in line with a recent study indicating that a crackdown on piracy has some slight effect on blockbusters but is much more hurtful on independent features that have little chance at big screens anyway and that file sharers actually purchase media and attend events.

If the big studios were smart, they would take this knowledge and cater directly to the audiences they want to appear for certain features as they  localize events  in independent theaters.  Sundance does a bit of that already with stars making personal appearances with their films at special screenings.

This would, however, assume a respect for a moviegoer’s choice, and the studios are ill-equipped for that idea. When you have to travel 30+ miles to see a movie you want to see in a theater, you don’t have that choice. If studios learn to distribute their PR budgets among movies more evenly and come up with better ideas for filling the seats, they’ll diminish piracy.

Viral Pro-Hollywood Oscars Tribute Video Shut Down by Disney Because Stupid Pill Overdose

DisneyDooDooSend out for a documentary crew, because you just can’t make up this shit. Nelson Carvajal, a Chicago editor/blogger/filmmaker decided to spend some time a couple of months ago, creating a montage that honored the Best Picture winners before this year’s Oscars telecast. It not only went viral, but gained some good press for a job well done.

Leave it to Disney to step in and ruin it all. Claiming a copyright infringement, the studio that gave the world this has now forced Carvajal’s video off Vimeo. His was a video that praised Hollywood, followed fair use rules, and one that could spark  interest in viewers  to…oh, I dunno, perhaps seek out those movies. Heaven  forbid, that could even lead to DVD sales. Isn’t this the studios’ point of forcing the removal of videos in the first place?



Mitt Romney Quickly Dumps Stock of Chinese Online Company Accused of Piracy

From BuzzFeed comes the news that, until recently, Mitt Romney should have been talking like a pirate on Sept. 19:

Mitt Romney’s recently released tax returns show the governor recently sold off investments in the Chinese online-video company Youku, a Chinese version of YouTube. The site was launched in 2006 and quickly became a haven for downloading illegal American content. The site has been trying to repair its image as a piracy portal since lawsuits have caused them to remove unauthorized content”

Oops!  Looks like it’s another Mittstake. He’s going to need a ledger to keep track of them all. Anyone out there in his 1% donor clan with Excel experience?

Do you think he sneaked out of Kim Dotcom’s mansion just before the MPAA Chris Dodd authorities invaded?

As expected, he then accused the Obama Administration of catering to Chinese pirates:

“Did you know they even have an Apple store?” Romney said at a rally. “It’s a fake Apple store; they sell counterfeit Apple products. This is wrong. We’re gonna crack down on China when they manipulate their currency, when they steal our goods, when they don’t protect our intellectual property. We’re gonna make sure that China understands we mean business.”

I’m guessing he means their business.


Copyright Chaos: Pirate Bay Co-Founder Arrested as Troma Entertainment Releases a Library of Films for Free

If you want proof of the current fucked up state of copyright enforcement, you needn’t look further than a couple of headlines from the past week.

Pirate Bay co-founder, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, was arrested in Cambodia with the reporting from Murdoch-owned assrag The Wall Street Journal using words like “mastermind” and “notorious” to send the boogeyman shivers down your spine. The actual crime that Warg committed, of course, is helping develop a platform on which individuals can share files and get the word out about movies and music that you may never otherwise hear about.  That’s why super rich ABBA founder Bjorn Ulvaeus can be pissed off about sharing files while struggling indie musicians depend on it for exposure.  And since the CEO of Universal Music just admitted that he doesn’t create art, that puts Bjorn, creator of soulless music in the company of a soulless music exec. Won’t help you much in the court of public opinion, guys.

Meanwhile, Troma, a film company in existence for over 3 decades, announced it has released 150 films on YouTube for free, including their signature flick The Toxic Avenger. Can you imagine a major Hollywood studio announcing they would release hundreds of classic movies online for free?

Or can you imagine them forcing Congress to pass a law allowing movie copyrights to be held for “death+70 years” and chase after people who could actually help those movies gain new audiences?


Probably the Dumbest, Most Pathetic Anti-Piracy Case to Date: British Glam Rock Band “The Sweet” Sues Used CD Seller

The Sweet, back in the hit-making days

Louis C.K. is an example of an entertainer who understands the power of using the internet to boost your career, help your fans and eventually help others in the process. When his very successful indie comedy experiment was finished and he gave away half of what he made, he also invested in some good will. Those who never have heard Louis C.K. before (myself being one) may now be inclined to do so simply because of his great gesture.

Andy Scott, a surviving guitarist for the British glam rock band The Sweet (“Hell Raiser,” “Ballroom Blitz,” “Teenage Rampage”), may perhaps be the polar opposite. His dogged five-year pursuit of a man, who sold one legally purchased CD, is probably going to be known as one of the most dick-headed anti-piracy legal moves ever.

Austrian resident Dietmar Huber decided to sell his CD of The Sweet’s “The Legend Lives On” to a buyer for €1 (one Euro). Scott then slapped him with a bill for €2,000, claiming the CD was not original and was burned off the internet.

Huber was later able to prove that, yes indeed, the CD he sold was original, but Scott not only persisted, he upped the claim to €36,000 (almost $45,000).

Huber fought the charges brought by Scott and his lawyer, Wolfgang Maier, all the way to Austria’s highest court.

The judge threw the book at Scott and his lawyer, ruling that they pay Huber  £50,000 (almost €62,000) for hassling him for 5 years. Maier’s statement after the ruling had some unintentional hilarity:

“The end result according to the final court of appeal is that copyright and intellectual property protection in Austria is far short of what it should be.”

Have Scott and Maier ever heard of Ebay, Gemm or independent record shops? Does Scott realize that younger fans turning up at any of his concerts now have probably either downloaded The Sweet songs online or purchased used albums/CDs of theirs? Have they now considered that people may no longer buy music by The Sweet either because they are afraid of getting sued if they ever want to sell their copies, or because they think The Sweet doesn’t deserve support for being such assholes?

It’s long been established in courts that you can resell original items you’ve legally purchased. I don’t know whether Scott should be hated because he chased after one fan for 5 years of legal wrangling over this shit, or pitied because he teamed with a rainbow-chasing lawyer to drag himself and a former top ten band through the PR mud. Either way it makes for an example of how not to react in the wave of copyright reassessment.

Anti-Piracy Advocate Compares Piracy to Homophobia

And I’ll bet he’s a PIRATE, too!

Timothy Geigner at TechDirt spotted a guest post by filmmaker David Newhoff on the blog The Copyright Alliance that displays before your very eyes the disconnect between file sharing advocates and opponents.

Amazingly, Newhoff treads into the waters of a civil rights issue (gay marriage) and somehow wants to make comparisons with piracy, an issue of economics and artistic expression.

The craftiest of gay-marriage opponents will argue that legalizing these unions infringes on their rights to be Christian in America, which is tantamount to undermining religious freedom. Yes, anyone with two working brain cells can recognize that this isn’t sound reasoning so much as thinly veiled bigotry. Same-sex marriage can only be a threat to religious freedom if we agree that the zealot’s belief that homosexuality is a sin should implicitly influence our legal definition of marriage. There is no way to cut through this logical Gordian Knot without concluding that all marriage would have to be religious (and ultimately Christian) in order to be legal in the U.S. And that would violate the definition I believe most of us apply to religious freedom.

Similarly, the copyright-threatens-speech proposal uses the illusion of reverse discrimination to suggest that when the producer exercises his copyright, this somehow infringes on the consumer’s desire to reuse or “share” the work as he sees fit, which amounts to a “chilling effect” on speech. Like the same-sex marriage thing, this argument glosses over personal bias to foster a logical leap to a shaky conclusion. Copyright only threatens speech if we agree that the consumer’s right to reuse is more important than the producer’s right to treat his work as property.

Geigner adeptly skewers Newhoff’s perceptions of what the pursuit of happiness in The Declaration of Independence means for copyright holders.

However, as someone openly gay and in favor of file sharing I find Newhoff’s comparisons deeply offensive. The anti-piracy forces of the RIAA, MPAA and others have consistently lied about how much money they lose due to piracy. This perceived loss is due to business decisions the recording and movie industries should have made a long time ago when it became clear that an entire generation of entertainment fans would be downloading files, instead of buying CDs and DVDs, as the main mode of acquiring new music and movies. Studies have shown, however, that those industries are still making profits and, indeed, benefit from piracy. If the mega industries are making profits but cutting productions (where I assume, Mr. Newhoff, you’ll be making most of your money), that’s a business/labor issue, not a rights issue.

Newhoff will have to explain to me how his freedom of speech and pursuit of happiness arguments allowing him to make money from his film productions bear any relevance to being allowed to simply live freely. After the hate talk of Jeff Sangl’s church, Ron Baity and Charles Worley, who’s ready to pull the switch on gays and lesbians, Newhoff’s claims look particularly lame.

Do you seriously think that if I click “share file” that I’m exactly the same as those who would send gays to the Nazi gas chambers, force gay men to be chemically castrated or simply pummel gays to death?

I don’t know where your personal history has taken you, David Newhoff. But mine includes chapters such as death threats made before the very first march for gay rights in Rochester, NY back in 1987. As part of a group helping organize that march, I had to deal with rocks, eggs and other debris thrown at us. People shouted out names. A pick-up truck containing guys wielding baseball bats parked across the street from our starting point. One of those guys wore a shirt with the phrase “I Hate Fags” printed on it. The coup de grace of disgrace was a man who brought his two knee-high children over to scream “Biblical” accusations at us. The children were wide-eyed and terrified. I’ll never forget that traumatic incident of child abuse.

File sharing has no comparison whatsoever to any of this. To even suggest that it does is insulting to anyone who genuinely cares about human freedom.

Lew Ojeda

Do Hollywood Studios Realize They Have a Working Relationship with Torrent Sites?

TorrentFreak reports today of the daily takedown efforts of sites like isoHunt, KickAss Torrents and Extratorrent.

Despite painting these sites as lawless bastards bent on destroying the entertainment industry, these sites and others apparently follow through on DMCA takedown requests, sometimes numbering thousands monthly. That is, of course, if the studios bother to even make the requests in the first place.

BitSnoop complied with over 360,000 takedown requests since December.  ExtraTorrent drops about 3000 links monthly. KickAss almost tripled the number of takedowns since January. And isoHunt, many times, surprises those requesting takedowns with responses within 5 business days.

But studios want these companies wiped out? Really? Seems like they’re doing the work Hollywood wants done without breaking into homes and seizing legal files. Silly execs.


Hollywood Studios Too Dumb to Use the DMCA Enforcement They Sought in Congress

Almost twelve years after the Digital Millennium Copyright Act  (DMCA) was passed into law and signed by President Clinton on October 28, 1998, Hollywood studios are running around with their hair on fire yelling for stupid legislation like SOPA, PIPA, ACTA, CISPA and the like. Trouble is, in many cases they’ve apparently not been properly using the enforcement provisions of the law they fought for and were given.

What’s more, some eagle-eyed researching by people like Julian Sanchez uncovers that some of the studios only got “serious” about enforcing the law around the time that SOPA was being pushed in Congress. Why? Quite possibly, it was a ploy to make it seem like copyright infringement was so rampant that SOPA/PIPA were necessities.

But for the Hollywood studios trying to perpetuate a lie, a tool like Google’s Transparency Report can be their worst enemy. Research on file takedowns found that the requests from studios spiked during the times the MPAA really pushed for the SOPA/PIPA  legislation.  Lionsgate, which existed for as long as DMCA has, didn’t even get around to its first takedown request until  November 15, 2011, during the very week SOPA was being deliberated in Congress. Twentieth Century Fox didn’t use the Google takedown request system until January 30 of this year. And before the debate on SOPA, Paramount pictures requested a takedown via Google exactly once. In response, Sanchez tweeted this great line:

How about before you break the Internet, you try USING THE F***ING TOOLS YOU ALREADY HAVE.

I would agree, however, someone may have to teach them how. You see, Enigmax at Torrentfreak found that the studios have been undermining their own marketing departments by stupidly demanding unnecessary takedowns of their own promos from approved sites like IMDB, Apple, Hulu and Crackle. Among the movies hit: Wrath of the Titans and Happy Feet 2, both of which could have used the extra publicity.

The studios better get around to properly using the DCMA before they screw up totally and get sued by film producers for negligence. Seriously.