As last week’s arrest of Megaupload owner Kim Dotcom emphasized, the main character in the SOPA/PIPA debate is the foreign thief.  He’s everywhere—robbing Americans of their creativity, jobs, and money.  Worse, he’s enjoying himself.  As the Chamber of Commerce put it:  “The criminals behind these sites are laughing all the way to the bank, stealing the best of American creativity and innovation at the expense of our jobs and consumers.”

[Strictly speaking, the top five pirated films of the year were Fast Five, The Hangover II, Thor, Source Code, and I am Number Four.  It’s not a ‘best of’ list, exactly, but that’s a different story.] Continue reading “Meganomics”

Same Old Song

The current SOPA/Protect IP debate has many antecedents and will probably have many sequels.  The underlying positions haven’t changed much, and probably won’t in the future.  To illustrate, let’s play a game with this mystery quote:

Several of these analyses of alleged harm to the recording industry… were presented and debated during hearings on copyright…  At each hearing, X  presented the results of the most recent analysis done for the recording industry by his firm… [As] in his earlier testimonies, he stated that continued [copying] had grave implications for the viability of the recording industry. Noting that recording-industry releases were down by almost half since ****, and that industry employment had declined…  X stated that further growth in [copying] would cause further decline in these industry indicators.

So who is X and what is the timeframe? Continue reading “Same Old Song”

Bad Dog

via Crashmaster007 on FlickrWell, McGruff the Crime Dog has been dusted off for the fight against piracy, as part of a new  Department of Justice-led campaign that Nate Anderson accurately calls “Reefer Madness for the digital age.”  Our work on organized crime is getting some renewed attention in this context.  Rather than rehash the  argument or send you to the full report, here are some greatest hits:

  • Does Crime Pay?  All the best excerpts on organized crime from the report in 15 pages.
  • And finally, Sunset Boulevard Terrorists, in which we consider some real terrorist linkages to the movie and DVD trade–the legal one.


The Copy Culture Survey: Infringement and Enforcement in the US


The U.S. House of Representatives is now debating the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)—the counterpart to the Senate’s PROTECT IP Act.  If passed, the bill will expand criminal penalties for copyright infringement and give the government (and private parties) new powers to block access to websites accused of facilitating infringement.

The bill is the latest in a series of efforts to strengthen copyright enforcement online. Earlier this year, Internet Service Providers and the film and record industries reached an agreement to expand the private policing of online infringement.  Search engines, social networking platforms, cloud storage providers, universities, and other institutions face growing pressure to monitor and filter Internet activity.

This research note is an effort to bring American public opinion to bear on this vital conversation. The note excerpts a forthcoming survey-based study called Copy Culture in the U.S. and Germany. Drawing on results from the U.S. portion of the survey, it explores what Americans do with digital media, what they want to do, and how they reconcile their attitudes and values with different policies and proposals to enforce copyright online. Continue reading “The Copy Culture Survey: Infringement and Enforcement in the US”

The War Between the States (to Subsidize Hollywood), Part 4: Tower Heist Heist

A mini update: A.O. Scott has a nice review of Tower Heist in which he comments on the fake populism of a bunch of extremely rich guys standing to make a fortune by producing a movie about a bunch of blue collar guys scheming to steal $20 million from a Bernie Madoff stand-in.  And he’s right to note further that the $20 million is chump change in this league.

But unfortunately this isn’t just about symbolism.  Let’s put some numbers on it.

  • Tower Heist cost an estimated $85 million to make.
  • Ben Stiller was paid $15 million.
  • Eddie Murphy was paid $7.5 million.

New York City and state tax payers contributed $10 million, via (overlapping) tax credits.

To pick a totally random example for some perspective, New York City schools just laid off 777 staff, including 438 teacher’s aides.

Ben Stiller is a New Yorker by birth and is involved in a bunch of charitable causes–including  rebuilding Haiti and saving the dolphins.  I wonder how he feels about this? Continue reading “The War Between the States (to Subsidize Hollywood), Part 4: Tower Heist Heist”

The War Between the States (to Subsidize Hollywood), Part 3: The Revenge of Swamp Shark

I know you want to hear about Swamp Shark, but let’s stay highbrow for a minute. I promise a shocking revelation if you make it to the end.

A couple months ago I was leaving the wonderful State Theater in Traverse City after seeing Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. And I was thinking, yes, Malick is a national treasure, but Brad Pitt is beginning to make a decent case for that too! His filmography is full of strong performances in good and/or ambitious movies–at least from the mid-1990s on. He has been in relatively few turkeys and a number of great films. And he’s now producing ambitious movies like The Tree of Life and the upcoming Twelve Years a Slave (and some zombie apocalypse thing).  He has also done a lot of charity work and taken on post-Katrina New Orleans as a personal cause.   All told, it’s not a bad answer to the question of what to do with fame and fortune.

So far so good.  But…. Continue reading “The War Between the States (to Subsidize Hollywood), Part 3: The Revenge of Swamp Shark”

The War Between the States (to Subsidize Hollywood), Part Two: Wisconsin’s Public Enemies

Expanding on the last post about the growth of US state subsidies for film production, this awesome 2009 powerpoint presentation from the Wisconsin Department of Commerce did not get the attention it deserved!  Here are some highlights:

The Wisconsin tax credit program for films went into effect in 2008. The Johnny Depp film Public Enemies was one of the first beneficiaries. Continue reading “The War Between the States (to Subsidize Hollywood), Part Two: Wisconsin’s Public Enemies”