p2pnet.net news view: - Canada used to be called the Home of the Free. Maybe that’s the way it once was, but it’s certainly not true in this digital 21st century.
Warner Music, EMI, Vivendi Universal and Sony BMG, on the record label side of the fence, and principal Hollywood studios Time Warner, Viacom, Fox, Sony, NBC Universal and Disney, with the Bush administration in lock-step, have totally overpowered Canada’s weak-kneed, weak-minded political leaders.
It’s not merely embarrassing, it’s an international disgrace.
Canada to ban camcording in theatres, says China’s state news agency, Xinhua. Canada moves to curb film piracy, says Agence France-Presse. Canada adopts movie piracy law, states Pravda in Russia. Canada moves to curb film piracy, observes the South Asian Women’s Forum in India.
And “Cabinet ministers to blast video piracy,” says Canada’s Globe and Mail, always ready to step up on behalf of the movie and record industries. It goes on, “In a united show of force, the departments of Industry, Justice and Heritage Canada will hold a press conference on Parliament Hill at noon today supporting ……”
A united show of farce, would be a better way of putting it.
It’s only movies, you say. No big deal. But the federal capitulation to Hollywood represents the thin end of a very big, and very nasty, wedge.
Digital delivery of content
“One of these days somebody’s going to figure out how to make movie downloads work, and now the suspects include Blockbuster and Best Buy,” says the intro to a story in the Wired Blog Network.
It’s discussing the fact it looks like Blockbuster and Best Buy are getting ready to launch their own online movie download sites for “digital delivery of content”.
“Lionsgate mentioned the retailers recently in ticking off the companies the studios has signed agreements with for digital delivery of content,” says the story. “Others include usual suspects Apple, Microsoft and Wal-Mart. Neither Best Buy nor Blockbuster will comment on timing, but figure everyone’s in a hurry to get out there before iTunes and/or Netflix sew up the market.”
The problem isn’t Best Buy, Blockbuster, iTunes or any of the other corporate online ‘stores’. It’s the entertainment cartels themselves. They’re determined to milk their customers dry, bleed them would be a better phrase, and they’ll use their virtual control of world media systems and their unimaginable wealth and unwholesome bought-and-paid-for political connections, to steamroller anything and anybody in their way.
The more the merrier, you might be tempted to think; a number of different online outlets will mean competition, to the ultimate benefit of ‘consumers,’ aka customers. In a free and open market, that’s the way it is, but the entertainment cartels are working night and day, using every resource they have, to gain complete control of how ‘product’ is distributed online, and by whom.
And we’re not talking about a wealth of exciting new material becoming available. We’re talking about generally low quality, formulaic releases aimed at the lowest possible common denominator, and all at carefully predetermined, to put it politely, prices.
The record labels have already established an ipso facto standard of one dollar for each digital music download and Hollywood, too, wants to be able to offer its movies through various stores it supports and supplies at virtually the same prices.
It’s like having a vast international shopping mall with stores selling more or less the same product at more or less the same prices, each outlet trying to make its offerings look different from the others.
The only winner in this black and cynical game is the manufacturer-cum-wholesaler, and the people it’s paying on the side.
It’s called maintaining the status quo.
More than munching popcorn
“That man at the end of the aisle in Canadian movie theaters may be doing more than munching popcorn,” says Reuters. He, “may be a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer looking for movie pirates.”
The Mounties diverting already critically scarce resources to protect purely commercial products, by far the vast majority of which aren’t even made in Canada? Crooks, murderers, burglars and rapists will be very happy to learn about this development.
“Canada introduced legislation on Friday that will make camcording of films in theaters a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. Similar to measures enacted or introduced in the United States, Japan and Mexico, it is meant to clamp down on piracy estimated to cost the movie industry $6 billion worldwide and to cost $225 million in lost consumer spending in Canada.”
The entertainment cartels are infamous for creating statistics on demand, and then getting politicians to parrot the results as though the numbers are accurate.
The studios and labels make bald statements which are never questioned by the mainstream media, which is hardly surprising given most of the major print and electronic outlets are by various means controlled directly or dinirectly by the entertainment cartels themselves.
Individual reporters would no doubt like to be able to report fairly and squarely, but at the end of the day, they’re employees and it’s a very brave person indeed who’s ready to put his or her livelihood on the line, especially when it’s “only movies and music”.
The people who run the newspapers, magazines and television and radio stations often try to claim there’s a distinct demarcation line between the advertising and reporting sections. There may be the appearance of this, but it’s only an appearance. A very substantial part of media revenues come, by one route or another, from the entertainment industry and decisions about what’s acceptable and what’s not are made crystal clear at golf courses or private insider lunches, to be subtly relayed down the line.
Then you win
“In Canada, it had been illegal under the Copyright Act to camcord a movie for commercial use but it was almost impossible to prove people caught making such a recording were doing it for commercial distribution,” says Reuters. “They could also be ejected under trespass legislation but their recordings could not be seized.
“Now, just recording the film will be subject to up to two years in prison and doing it for commercial distribution could face five years.”
Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper, “promised California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that Canada would crack down on piracy,” says Pravda, going on that Canadian heritage minister Bev Oda said the legislation averts a Warner Bros threat to cancel Canadian preview showings.
Wouldn’t that be awful?
“Piracy costs Hollywood six billion US dollars annually, Oda told reporters,” says AFP,” and, “20-25 percent of unauthorized recordings of films distributed globally originate from Canada, she said, citing industry estimates.”
Oda is openly and unashamedly repeating Hollywood statistics, word-for-word, without any pretence of having established them as being factual. “”This bill amends the Criminal Code to directly confront film piracy,” Xinhua has her declaring on behalf of Hollywood.
This appears to be a major triumph for the major movie-makers, but it’s considerably more than that. Immediately alongside the studios are the Big 4 record labels, none of which has a significant presence in Canada, either, but all of which are exerting similar pressure on the same politicians to have Canada’s copyright laws changed. And alongside them are the software cartels, run by the likes of Microsoft, Apple and Adobe.
But for the first time in history, thanks to the Internet, ordinary people are able to do end runs around the formerly all-powerful corporate PR machines which were the sole source of information. It’s a terrifying situation for the international commercial community, but it represents power to the people who are slowly but surely casting off their ignominious roles of ‘consumers’ to again become customers with free choice.
Once upon a time, the maximum was: the customer is always right. That’s becoming true once again because bottom line, since that’s what it’s all about, it doesn’t matter how many shady deals are struck behind closed doors by politicians and cartel bosses, the people wielding the real power are the people with money in their pockets. And that’s you and I. The corporations and politicians can’t survive without us, but we can survive without them.
Thanks to blogs emails, IM, cell phones, email, you name it, we’re better informed than we’ve ever been before, and we’re able to communicate with each other almost instantly, negating heavily spun, vested interest ‘news’ and information.
The Net is opening the doors not only to freedom of speech, but also to freedom of choice.
First they ignore you, said Mahatma Ghandi. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you.
Then you win.
Jon Newton – p2pnet
If your Net access is blocked by government restrictions, try Psiphon from the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk Centre for International Studies. Go here for the official download, here for the p2pnet download, and here for details. And if you’re Chinese and you’re looking for a way to access independent Internet news sources, try Freegate, the DIT program written to help Chinese citizens circumvent web site blocking outside of China. Download it here.
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Tired of being treated like a criminal? They depend on you, not the other way around. Don’t buy their ‘product’. Do bug your local politicians. Use emails, snail-mail, phone calls, faxes, IM, stop them in the street, blog. And if you’re into organizing, organize petitions, organize demonstrations and then turn up on your local political rep’s doorstep, making sure you’ve contacted your local tv/radio station/newspaper in advance. Don’t just complain. Do something!