More Crap from the MPAA

Why the broadcast flag should go forward | Perspectives | CNET Dan Glickman, CEO of the MPAA is out this morning with a “perspective” on CNET talking about why the Broadcast Flag is a good thing for you and me and why we should support it’s implementation even though the MPAA has now lost their legal fight to shove this backwards technology down our throat by their lackeys at the FCC.

Glickman says that it’s you and me who will “suffer” by not having the broadcast flag.

His logic runs as follows:

“Our companies want to continue to show their movies and television shows to viewers who don’t or can’t subscribe to cable or satellite systems. But without the broadcast flag, that option will look less and less appealing. In the end, it will be the consumers who suffer the most if the broadcast flag is not mandated for the digital era.”

Oh, yeah, ok Dan, whatever you say guy.

You just don’t get it. You lost. Hollywood lost. You guys had and will continue to have your clock cleaned time and time again. Embrace the future. Learn to share the love. Give up control and move on.

Look, many Americans think the speed limit is a good thing. They like it. When cars come barrelling down my street and my kids are outside playing I think the speed limit is a good thing. When I’m on the vast stretch of lonesome highway between San Francisco and L.A. I think it’s a bad thing. But either way I don’t want some lawmaker trying to mandate that cars made be crippled and have a maximum operating speed of 65 miles per hour. Nor do most Americans. And likewise, I don’t want my technology crippled so that I can’t do whatever the hell I want with it, when, where, and with whomever I choose.

So you go ahead and flaunt your, “if we don’t get our way we’ll take our ball and go home” logic all you want. And I’ll call BS. Hollywood will still make blockbuster movies, big budget TV shows will still go on and actors, directors and artists looking for the flickering fame of the silver screen will be no less motivated.

You and your cronies may have less money to spread around amongst yourselves, but Dan, this is a good thing as you are part of the problem.

And you know what else, your big budget features will on their own become less and less successful and less and less profitable. This is inevitable as long tail economics take over and the very tools that you want to crush become the tools of liberation for new armies of artists and creators who bypass you entirely to bring their creations (and collectively their entertainment will offer you serious competition) to the rest of us.

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  1. Brant Smith says:

    Hi Thomas,

    Brant Smith here…we met at the MCE geek dinner in SF. There’s some important distinctions here that need to be made with anti-MPAA debates such as this. I think we talked about them briefly at that dinner. I thought I’d add my voice to your posting.

    As a consumer, I agree that I want everything to be as cheap — if not free — as possible. The broadcast flag would attempt to stop that (insofar as it stops copying and sharing of things I would otherwise pay for).

    As an indie filmmaker though (, I’m very worried about the very real affect that file-sharing and copying will have on our ability to pay back — much less provide an ROI — for our investors. If I can’t do that, I’m less likely to make more movies. It’s simple business logic. The investors will seek less risky investments elsewhere. Film is risky enough already!

    Now I truly believe there’s a difference between the blockbusters and the little indie films like us, due to the blockbusters’ economies of scale and the pure power of mainstream marketing inertia.

    To wit: I’m not worried about George Lucas putting food on the table (sorry George) if he loses some theater or DVD sales to BitTorrent. Frankly, the same is true for most of TV (until BitTorrent or its decendants are as ubiquitious and easy-to-use as toasters).

    But for a small film like ours, it could really hurt.

    Many point to the music industry as an example of a good precedent of where we’re going with video content (movies, tv shows, etc.) in terms of the effect of file-sharing. It didn’t kill music — in fact many musicians LOVE that their music is available via p2p — so filmmakers have nothing to fear but more success from p2p.

    Not so.

    Here’s where we’re different than music:

    Musicians generally make most of their money (if not all of it) from live performances, not the recordings. Even if the recordings are all given away for free, the artists’ main revenue is not affected. Hence, most musicians want to see their stuff distributed, no matter the route (radio, MTV, Napster, iTunes, etc.).

    Filmmakers make ALL of their money from recordings. Even theatrical (the closest to a “live” performance) is still basically just a big recording and — importantly — is a loss leader anyway. The real money is in home video (DVDs, plus to a lessor degree TV).

    That’s the issue. It’s a real issue. I’m scared shitless that our film will make it quickly onto BitTorrent and we lose 100,000 DVD sales, which means we lose money and investors lose money.

    My next movie and my entire film career: not looking good in that scenario.

    On the other hand, you can simply say that this is all true. Filmmakers (particularly indie producers like me) are going to get screwed by p2p. And there’s nothing we can do about it, since the genie (p2p) is out of the bottle. That the Internet doesn’t have values, with enough value-less people in enough value-less countries, that any “broadcast flag” technology is doomed to failure.

    That’s a practical, real-politik perspective. But probably true.

    But that doesn’t make it right.

    And it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take steps to stop it.

    I mean, the underlying fundemental logic behind “all information should be free” is simply that everything should be free. Peel it all away, and that’s it.

    Granted, I think that would be great (consumer hat back on), but with that perspective, we end up in communism or kleptocracy.

    Both have some fairly large implications for the economic stability of our society, to say the least.

    Well, now that I ended up at the End Of Life As We Know It, I’ll just come back around to say that this issue is far less black-and-white than your post suggests.

    And quickly hand off Society’s Future from here…

    P.S. I have nothing against personal copies for personal use, by the way. That’s where the broadcast flag is ridiculous.

  2. Thomas Hawk says:


    You make some poignant and compelling points. While we’d all like to stick it to the man so to speak, it certainly bears examining how filmmakers like yourself ought best be protected.

    That being said, I’m not sure the answer should be arrived at by crippling technology. This is not a good answer in my opinion.

    Your dilemma is a real one though and I’m not sure where the solution is to be found. Perhaps bottom line is filmmakers will just need to learn to get by on less — a continuation of the struggling artist.

    On the other hand I still do believe that there is money to be made from exhibiting films on large screens in movie theaters and for the indie film maker I do think a coupling with touring and lectures on a film could also be a way to generate additional revenue. And there always will be those who feel compelled to support an artist and voluntarily pay as well as new distribution through pay channels like Brightcove, Akimbo, DaveTV and a host of other internetworks popping up that you are keenly aware of.

    I certainly would rather pay personally to support a filmmaker whom I respected and who needed the money — and especially when I knew that the actual filmmaker was receiving a large portion of the money, not some Hollywood fat cat.

    Still, in the end an artist is about passion and any financial cost or gain aside, great artists will still make great films. I love my photography — and while it may not be great art, I have resigned myself to the fact that I most likely will never be paid enough to survive on it and must do it part time while I work a full time job. Anyone can copy any of my photos from my site and I’m perfectly content with that.

    Yours is an important dilemma though.