MPAA Admits to Losing PR War to the ‘Enemies of Copyright’

The MPAA apparently said that the “enemies of copyright have really done a good job at creating the false premise that the interest of copyright holders and the interest of society as a whole are antagonistic” during the World Copyright Summit. The worry is that their pro-copyright advocacy perspective is fading away in the public conscious.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

In an interesting report from IP-Watch where there were a few choice words levelled against those that disagreed with the view-points of the copyright industry. Apparently, Fritz Attaway suggested that it’s false to assume that the rights of the industry and the interest of the public good are at odds. Maybe even giving the suggestion that 10 years of copyright debates is all just a big misunderstandings perpetuated by, using the black and white term, “enemies”.

So, where do these misunderstandings possibly come from anyway? We figured a short list might be in order: destroying Napster and Audio Galaxy and not creating an alternative for the get-go, raiding people’s homes because they uploaded Star Wars (not necessarily leaking it in the first place), hacking the URN hash and polluting FastTrack, hacking The Pirate Bay, having Viacom serve DMCA notices to people posting video’s of people eating in a restaurant on YouTube, suing tens of thousands of average American’s including fining one individual $222,000 for sharing a couple songs, saying that files in a shared directory is copyright infringement in court, saying that evidence is too hard to get and that the industry shouldn’t be burdened to prove their cases in court, suggesting that iPods are little more than little pirate ships, saying in court that even making one back-up copy of a DVD is illegal, lobbying to put in the DMCA, demanding that laws should be in place to prevent any tinkering with DRM including for research purposes, installing rootkits on people’s computers, installing spyware on people’s computers via the MediaMax technology, being outed for being hypocrites for pirating a documentary movie and claiming that it’ll only be in a safe place, tried to bring people a broadcast flag and telling people you can’t record TV shows if the broadcaster doesn’t like it, trying to bi-pass the backfiring of WIPO and the FCC to bring in the broadcast flag anyway, tried to get ISPs to do all the copyright industry’s dirty work, pressured and bullied other countries to implement laws the industry saw fit and using shady lobbying tactics to accomplish this, tried to sell us music that cannot be copied through the internet and on discs, tried to bi-pass the will of the European Union and get countries to pass “three strikes” laws even if artists disagree with it, attempted to price fix music albums, secretly hold negotiations to pass draconian copyright laws that would see people’s physical property effectively stolen on the mere suspicion of copyright infringement through ACTA, demanding that laws be passed that mandates the promotion of legal alternatives, then not providing the kind of deals that would allow legitimate services to flourish with internet groups and businesses like ISPs, alienate an entire generation by labelling their own customers as pirates, likened downloading music on the internet to terrorism, likened internet users who download music online to “bikey gangs”, spread blatantly false information about file-sharing, forcing people to watch anti-piracy ads on movies, suing people who had a recently deceased family member, argue that the industry is for artists, then going to court and demanding that royalty rates should be lower for artists – thus having to pay them less and keeping more money from album revenues, forcing radio broadcasters to pay royalties even if they don’t play music from the copyright industry, suing a lawyer for blogging about court cases related to copyright, and possibly the whole issue of listing countries that hold 70% of the world’s population and labelling some as rogue nations that need to update their copyright laws via the USTR Special 301 report – thus alienating many countries in the first place. Again, a short list of probably simple misunderstandings in the world of PR that have been taken out of context by the “enemies of copyright”.

At the very least, Fritz did have more to say: “We have got to do a better job” at attempting approaches at copyright protection “in a way that we get paid but also that consumers can access our works,” he added.

Perhaps not so noticeable and probably unintentional comment, but there is that whole concept of that this isn’t about creators being paid, much rather, copyright holders being paid which, in the industry, typically wind up being entirely different people. So, the use of the words “our works” could be considered quite appropriate for a number of people.

To his credit, he does say that the industry needs to do more of what they did with sites like Hulu. It’s nice for many to hear the industry talk about constructive things even though authorized websites tend to be vastly outnumbered by the number of unauthorized websites that offer unauthorized content. Attaway also said, “People are going to get it one way or the other. We would like them to pay for it and we need to seek out ways where they can pay for it. But just saying ‘no’ isn’t the answer.”

IP-Watch also features this fascinating excerpt:

Eduardo Bautista, president of the management board of Spanish collective management group, Sociedad General de Autores y Editores, agreed, saying, “We’ve done a lousy job. We should have been fired.”

President of the Consumer Electronics Association, Gary Shapiro, said, ”Recognise that kids today have been so turned off by the RIAA approach to litigation that they’re rejecting everything you say”. He then commented that there are those who think that there’s a big difference between physical property and intellectual property, saying “That’s hurting your case because you’re being rejected by anyone under 25 who is saying, ‘these guys are full of it,’”

So out of all of this discussion, it seemed as though there were a few interesting ideas, but they seem to conclude that the world needs to harmonize and legislate new copyright laws. Obviously, that’s not going to sit well for those who are worried over what ACTA has exposed as what the industry wants the world copyright laws to look like, (i.e. the concept of confiscating laptops and digital media players based on the assumption that copyright infringing files could be suspected of being on there or calling on the world to pass laws that would pave the way toward lawsuits as seen in the United States.

So really, one could argue that nothing has really changed outside of the odd comment that suggests a recognition of criticism. Still, very few people like the idea of a three strikes law – even ISPs are very reluctant to pull their weight behind such laws. Yet, laws like that are being pushed through in a number of countries anyway. The real question is, sure the copyright industry admits that they are losing the PR war, but does the industry really mind what the public thinks of them in the first place?

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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