Wednesday, January 18, 2012

White Out / Black Out


As I write this, storms blanket the American Pacific Northwest and Western Canada. It’s a virtual white out across the Left side of the continent and the people who live there have a “snow day”.

I love snow days. When I was a kid it was a day off school where you could head out to toboggan or build snow men. Or you could just hole up in front of the TV or catch up on comic books.

Snow days were our best chance to be left to our own devices and our own creativity.

As an adult, they’ve become the days when I know meetings will be cancelled, I’m less likely to be interrupted and I can maybe spend a little more time researching online to enhance a current project.

But I can’t do the latter very easily today because most of the websites which might assist my creative research aren’t available.

Google, Reddit, Wikipedia, WordPress and several hundred other branded sites are on strike today as they participate in an internet blackout to protest SOPA and PIPA, two American bills designed to place control of the internet in the hands of large (mostly American) media conglomerates.

PIPA (the Protect IP Act) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) are legislation that will criminalize many of those using the internet with laws written by politicians trying to please deep-pocketed copyright holders.

And if these bills are passed, your inability to find the information you need online today will become the way it is everyday  -- along with seeing people being fined and jailed for doing nothing more than telling you where you can find some of what you’re looking for.

This is not about stopping online piracy or protecting jobs. It’s about forcing you to give Hollywood more of your money and making some creative endeavours against the law. Laws which reverse our current “innocent until proven guilty” way of justice.

SOPA and PIPA are designed to protect broken business models and discourage innovation. They are the Hollywood studios best hope of remaining the controlling gate-keepers of our culture.

But they are something even more troubling. They are a way for how Hollywood does business to subvert the way our governments do business.

Much has been written about the concept of “Hollywood Accounting”, the way it screws honest, hard-working people and even operates counter to laws designed to guarantee equality of employment.

In just the last year, a group of Hollywood studios were forced to admit to Ageism, that they had actively prevented screenwriters over the age of 40 from being contracted to write scripts.

The first class-action suit against the practice earned WGA writers over 40 a $90 Million settlement. Two more suits totalling $120 Million in settlement payments are in process.

Other class actions are forming to penalize the same studios for discriminatory hiring practices against women and minorities.

Are these really the kind of people politicians want to admit to befriending the next time they have to get re-elected?

And if they are, maybe those same politicians need to understand just how friendship operates at the studio level in Hollywood.

Last year, Harvey Weinstein, recognized as Hollywood’s new “God” at Sunday’s Golden Globes, attempted to purchase his old company, Miramax, back from the Disney Corporation.

He still owned a share of many of the Miramax titles he’d produced with Disney and Disney was looking to offload the imprimatur.

But in doing his due diligence, Weinstein discovered discrepancies in the earnings reports of several of those titles. Disney eventually rejected his bid. But they ended up paying him more than $75 Million in previously unreported income.

These guys can’t even be honest with one of their own.

That’s something every politician accepting not only their donations but their arguments for how or why a law should be written need to seriously consider.

For more on why SOPA and PIPA need to be stopped, please take 15 minutes to listen to one of the most internet savvy people in the world – Clay Shirky…


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Has "Coming To America" made any money yet? From the wiki article "Hollywood Accounting":

"Art Buchwald received a settlement after his lawsuit Buchwald v. Paramount over Paramount's use of Hollywood accounting.

The court found Paramount's actions "unconscionable", noting that it was impossible to believe that a movie (1988's Eddie Murphy comedy Coming to America) which grossed US$350 million failed to make a profit, especially since the actual production costs were less than a tenth of that.

Paramount settled for an undisclosed sum, rather than have its accounting methods closely scrutinized."

I guess the politicians that the entertainment industry has purchased want us to believe that these self-same paragons of virtue should be the ones who put a price on copyright.