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Another Sign of the End Times (yawn)

Law professors talking shit about things they don't know a damn thing about. Oh, wait, that's the normal state of affairs in America these days, isn't it? Anyway, Stanford lawprof Lawrence Lessig is three months late to the party with his discovery that his fellow leeches at Wind Up Records have set our friends at AMV.org up the C&D order, which he sees as the troubling dawn of "the read-only Web", where noone will be allowed to do mashups or AMVs or fanfic or Anything Fun At All. Oh noes! Truly the dark night of fascism has come to Amerikkka!

Talk about making a mountain out of a fscking molehill. It's worth noting that while 3000 AMVs got their links severed, there's no realistic way to keep people from distributing those AMVs on CDs or DVDs, as was done before the C&D order and will no doubt be done after the C&D order. It's also worth noting that no other label has bothered following the example of Wind Up Records, probably because those labels are headed by people who recognize the value of free (if usually crappy, IAW Sturgeon's Law) publicity. I mean, if Linkin Park hasn't sued to get all the unspeakably vile, stupid, and technically inept Linkinball Z and Naruto Park AMVs taken down, isn't that pretty strong support for the notion that Lessig's whole premise is bogus and his essay amounts to crying wolf?

You hear this kind of panicky talk brought up every time somebody gets smacked for downloading a few gigs' worth of MP3s without paying for them or M$FT thinks out loud about preinstalling DRM software as part of Vista (formerly Longhorn), and nobody stops to ask if all this stuff is actually going to happen. Has everyone magically forgotten about the epic PR disaster of Sony's craptastic DRM/rootkit music CDs? Has everyone forgotten that for every magic technobullet Hollywood comes up with, 1337 h4x0rz develop better armor, bullet splitters, remote anti-bullet vaporizing systems, and other baroque countermeasures? In the political realm, the smell of Hollywood money is going to be far less sweet in the neo-Puritan ethical climate where all contributions from just about every form of lobbyist and PAC will be seen as toxic and corrupting. There's an army of Davids out there with a huge installed base of Win2K, WinXP and Mac boxes to play with, and they're paying more attention to this sort of thing than they used to. I'm pretty optimistic about the future, myself. 1984 came and went, and Big Brother is standing in line somewhere in what used to be the USSR waiting for his pension. I don't think his covetous relatives in the NYDCLA axis are going to do much better.

Burn, Hollywood, Burn. (Props to Public Enemy and especially to Chuck D, first prophet of the New Media.)

Originally provoked by Good Morning Silicon Valley.

UPDATE Tim Park of Doki Doki Productions comments in e-mail that he'd rather have Lessig on-side than not. I agree, but the guy's Chicken Little attitude drives me nuts and strikes me as being very likely to alienate people who don't have any personal investment in the issue.

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
chebutykin
Jan. 18th, 2006 08:40 pm (UTC)
Related and interesting:

http://www.cinematical.com/2005/12/28/bubble-to-burst-forth-with-multi-platform-launch/

Article about Soderbegh's new film, Bubble, which will be distributed in theaters, on cable, and on DVD simultaneously. Perhaps ditching the 6-month to 12-month wait for an ownable film format will circumvent some of the piracy that meets new releases? Perhaps it signals the death of the movie theater as we know it? Perhaps nothing will happen at all?
wombat_socho
Jan. 18th, 2006 09:42 pm (UTC)
I think that'll do a lot to let the air out of the piracy. As far as the death of the movie theater, well, people have been predicting that TV would wipe out the movies for years, and we're still waiting, because some stuff - heck, a lot of stuff - looks better on the big screen.

What we might see is more digital feeds to theaters as another way to cut costs both on the production and the distribution side. We might also see a repeal of the laws prohibiting studios from owning theaters, which imao would be a good thing.
chebutykin
Jan. 18th, 2006 10:41 pm (UTC)
Yeah, but the numbers say that the movie theater industry is in big trouble. I don't think it's because of piracy, though... it's just that the cost:profit ratio sucks so badly. Attendance is down, so theaters raise ticket prices to stay open, so attendance goes down further, etc. Bad spiral. It might only take one more needle to break the camel, so to speak.

Not that I think theaters will go away, just that they will become less and less viable as business ventures. The customer base may still be there (because, lord knows, I and most everyone else I know prefer the theater experience), but the current business structure just may not be very viable anymore.

I don't necessarily think having studio theaters is the answer. I think enhancing the theater experience could save the industry. Not just better sound and projection... I mean serving real food and beer, or thinking outside the box for film lineups, or populating theaters with comfy sofas instead of chairs, etc.

As far as I can see, the Alamo Drafthouse chain in Austin ain't hurting. They even have the monetary leeway to not just show current films, but also host film festivals, premiers, and all sorts of cinematic events. They've turned showing movies into the center of a thriving community.

But anyway, back to topic... other than trying to "rescue" the theater industry by giving them first dibs at new releases, I see no reason to not release films simultaneously on DVD and cable.
wombat_socho
Jan. 19th, 2006 12:22 am (UTC)
I don't necessarily think having studio theaters is the answer. I think enhancing the theater experience could save the industry. Not just better sound and projection... I mean serving real food and beer, or thinking outside the box for film lineups...


You mean, like showing movies people actually want to see as opposed to movies that Hollywood thinks we ought to be watching? It's hard to believe that after all these years of critically acclaimed movies that don't do shit at the box office that the studios haven't woken up and realized "Hey...maybe we should make a movie that DOESN'T alienate half its potential audience!" Not everyone wants to see transgressive films that epater le bourgeoisie, especially if they're happy being comfortably bourgie. Judging from the box office returns, most people would rather see movies like Narnia or Harry Potter that they can take the kids to. Not a lot of that coming out of the studios, though. Maybe they ought to quit talking to each other and get back to asking if something will play in Peoria and get boffo box office, even if nobody nominates it for an Oscar.
{/rant]
chebutykin
Jan. 19th, 2006 01:53 am (UTC)
You mean, like showing movies people actually want to see as opposed to movies that Hollywood thinks we ought to be watching?

See, I find it hard to believe that this is exactly what Hollywood is trying its damndest to do. Studio filmmakers are forever chasing their audience, which is exactly why Narnia landed a shitload of financing after the Lord of the Rings films took off. "Hey, people like fantasy movies now! Anyone want to make a fantasy movie?" "How about Narnia? They tap into the Passion of the Christ crowd, too!" "Cool! Here's a zillion dollars."

Nah, studios totally follow the dollar. The fact that there are also "critically acclaimed" movies that are also being put out by the studios is because they're cheaper to make, and they pull bucks out of the wallets of the cineasts in the larger cities. Release a small budget flick with a good script in a few choice screens, and you have a moneymaker. It's not making buhzillions, but it's making a profit.

And the fact that the DVD and cable markets is red hot shows that taste in newer films hasn't flagged... the yen to go to the theater has.
wombat_socho
Jan. 19th, 2006 02:25 am (UTC)
Yeah, but the big money behind Narnia didn't come from the studios, it came from Walt Anschutz, who isn't part of the studio system. True, he worked with Disney, but without him the movie would have languished in preproduction while some crack-addled scriptwriter tried to figure out how to wedge in a hot Aslan sex scene. (Bad Traveller RPG pun intentional.)

Oh, yeah - I thought I saw this article in the Wall Street Journal ("Stupid Hollywood", third item down) but I found a link. In 2004 the 113 G/PG-rated movies grossed $1.3 billion while the 540 R-rated films pulled in $622 million...and only 4 of the top 25 grossing films were R-rated. Top movie among those, of course, was Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ. So if Hollywood is all about the money, they have a really odd way of showing it.

On a somewhat related topic, Serenity appears to have done well enough overseas that with DVD sales, it'll have made money - which I hope means that Universal will pony up for a sequel, and maybe do a decent job of promoting it this time around.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )