Friday, January 20, 2012

SOPA, The MPAA and Chris Dodd

By Hunter  for Daily Kos on Wed Jan 18, 2012

For as long as I can remember, the MPAA (that's Motion Picture Association of America) has labored hard in their effort to be the most universally reviled industry group in the country. They are in stiff competition with the music business, but still manage to hold their own. What makes both these groups special is their ability to treat absolutely everyone like dirt: directors, actors, artists, distributers, consumers, everyone. To hear the MPAA tell it, the entire world revolves around a handful of companies whose content comes to them via magical pixie delivery service, the only talent that exists in the world is Studio Head, and everyone else from actors to consumers to the person playing bass guitar is a filthy, valueless leech only tolerated because slavery is still technically prohibited (for now). My own expectation is that there's something in the water, but in any event, in order to work there you have to be a raging, insufferable asshole with a titanic ego and no apparent skills other than raw parasitism.

Enter former Sen. Chris Dodd.

As Markos already mentioned, the only substantial response from the MPAA to the SOPA/PIPA internet blackout has come in the form of a profoundly pompous statement penned by Chris Dodd, or at least penned by an army of soulless half-humans in an MPAA lab, then signed by Chris Dodd afterwards.

MPAA Chairman Chris Dodd came out swinging Tuesday in the fight over pending Internet anti-piracy legislation calling online web sites and tech companies supporting the “Blackout Day” protest scheduled for Wednesday “irresponsible” and calling their protest action “a disservice to people who rely on them for information” or use their services.

“It is also an abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace today,” said Dodd in a statement. “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.”

Yes, Markos already hit it. But I get to hit it again, under the This is So Stupid It Deserves Constant Mention rule. For starters: the sheer arrogance of the statement. That's not accidental, that is how the entertainment industry trade groups present themselves in nearly every situation. If a Girl Scout goes up to the head of the MPAA, she won't get away again until she hears how her very existence is only allowed because the big corporate studios make it possible, and that the color green is a copyright infringement, and that selling cookies is prohibited because cookies are a form of entertainment and fuck you, little girl, for thinking you could do that without handing over a large cut of the profits.

The sole argument Dodd has here is this, and I'm not kidding: You, internet websites, are engaged in an "abuse of power" by taking down your own websites. Only the MPAA gets to decide when to take down your websites. So shut up.

That's what the whole law is about: giving the largest entertainment companies themselves the right to preemptively shut down any effing website they want, under  unproven claims of "infringement", and leaving it to the poor pisser on the other side to try to prove their innocence in court battles after the fact. And why shouldn't they try for that? We are for the most part there already, after all; Congress has steadily been ceding government authority and mandating court deference to private industries over and over again, so getting it over with and just letting a top handful of companies preemptively decide who they think might be breaking the law, then giving them heightened government-assisted abilities to destroy the "offender" in question before actually having to prove their case—well, that seems like a logical next step, doesn't it? The true genius of it, however, is the added bonus of being able to threaten any internet site that even has a link to the supposed offender, or that allows users to post content that is not properly pre-censored to remove "potential" copyright claims according to whatever guessed criteria these companies later come up with. If the MPAA decides you haven't been taking explicit steps to "confirm" that no users or commenters are posting things it deems naughty, that's it: you're shut down as well. That's the real kicker, the call for preemptive, universal monitoring of all posted internet content. Forget the technical incompetence of the bill; the intent and logic alone is a megacorporate fantasy come to life. Preemptive shutdowns! Seizing assets! A required level of user policing that is objectively impossible for most sites to reasonably meet (including, hilariously, the sites of the MPAA-belonging, SOPA-supporting studios themselves, you unrelenting dipshits), thereby ensuring a rich and unending stream of new criminals!

You can practically hear the condescension dripping from Dodd's statement, the outrage that these silly internet companies are still able to express themselves in any way at all, if that expression comes in a form that might slightly inconvenience Sony, or Disney, or whatever other entertainment mega-corporation wants the power to literally police the entire structure of the internet in the name of their supposed corporate rights.

Oh, I think we're all for reducing piracy. As shown by their unwillingness to just change their flawed and asinine bill already, however, the MPAA, like the music industry, is not quite so narrowly targeted on that. Their more pressing concern has of late been how to continue to squeeze top profits out of a distribution model that increasingly does not need them, and doesn't want them, and which revolves around bleeding content producers and consumers both, and that, in turn, requires tight control over every other possible means of alternate distribution (see: Net Neutrality, the fight over whether or not many of these same companies should be able to charge you a steeper fee if you get your content from "discouraged" sources, i.e. competitors, critics, or anyone else who makes it onto their corporate blacklist).

If it were easier to buy content, people would do more of it (iTunes, etc., has begun to help in this regard for music, but the film and television industries will apparently have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the electronic age). If industry groups did not consistently and absurdly overstep in what they called "infringement," and so had a small bit more credibility in this debate, that would help too. While we're at it we can ponder on the Neverending Copyright Story, the constant battle to ensure that we treat corporate copyrights as infinite entities, more sacrosanct than the original artist-centric version ever was, because once again corporate giants of course deserve stronger protection than individual people. That's just natural.

Net Un-Neutrality, SOPA, PIPA and ever-expanding copyright laws; a ridiculous patent system; ALEC, the MPAA, the Keystone fight; the legal fights over fracking; the mere political existence of Mitt Romney: Every aspect of our current government is predicated on expanding corporate power, and if that power conflicts with deeper American principles than those other principles can piss off. Even while we celebrate the internet bringing concrete benefits to other nations, we seek to limit it at home because some group of lobbyists says that corporate profits demand it. Then we have to listen to those same corporate voices condemn us for having the rotten audacity to even object.

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