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Friday, April 13, 2012

Hollywood Is Going Down, and It Intends to Take the Internet With It

Posted by on Fri, Apr 13, 2012 at 9:08 AM

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has filed a legal brief in support of a federal lawsuit that would make sites that embed videos just as liable for copyright violations as the third party sites that host them, a legal precedent that I'm pretty confident would end up stripping Slog (and much of the rest of the Internet) of the bulk of the videos that we post for your enjoyment and elucidation every day.

Fucking evil capitalist bastards.

I'm not pro-piracy or anything, but Hollywood's campaign to crush Internet freedom in the service of disincentivizing even the remotest possibility of copyright infringement has the potential to dramatically undermine the First Amendment, if not destroy small, independent websites entirely. During my many years pissing people off over at HA, I always knew that I was just one lawsuit away from losing my house and my retirement account. And not even losing a lawsuit. Just the legal cost of fighting a libel or copyright suit would have been enough to bankrupt me. So knowing that the wrong video embed could potentially cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars would probably lead me to be awfully wary about embedding any videos at all, since I could never be absolutely sure of a video's provenance.

And I'm guessing Tim would make a similar decision here at Slog. How could he not? Under the current regime the copyright holder issues a takedown notice to the offending host site, and poof: the video no longer plays on Slog. Under the MPAA's proposed ruling, the copyright holder could then sue The Stranger (and hundreds of other embedding sites) for damages.

The irony of course is that there is no better tool for marketing Hollywood's wares than a free-flowing Internet. But just like the music industry before it, the MPAA seems intent on criminalizing its customers rather than adjusting its business model to the new media reality.


Comments (28) RSS

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Zebes 1
Entrenched, monied interests fight and scratch and claw to hold onto their comfortable, ass-shaped divot in popular culture rather than go to all the trouble of getting up and finding a new one. Pathetic and damning.
Posted by Zebes on April 13, 2012 at 9:16 AM · Report this
Vince 2
An organised boycott of a sector of the industry- say Blu Ray disks for example, may cause them to reconsider.
Posted by Vince on April 13, 2012 at 9:22 AM · Report this
I'm in favor of a wide open internet and I'm in favor of better enforcement of intellectual property rights. I think it would be great if somebody figured out a way to have both those things.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on April 13, 2012 at 9:25 AM · Report this
If you don't want your crap "stolen" don't put it on the internet.
Posted by suddenlyorcas on April 13, 2012 at 9:27 AM · Report this
Phoebe in Wallingford 5
Well said Goldy.

When music companies find content matches on You Tube videos, they have the right to put an ad on that video instead of submitting a copyright violation. Perhaps the MPAA could settle for a similar model.
Posted by Phoebe in Wallingford on April 13, 2012 at 9:34 AM · Report this
I love that this case arose from the myVidster porn clip hosting site. Porn is a huge part of internet use, but most porn makers themselves operate on a shoestring and got mad myVidster was letting people embed clips from pay sites.
Posted by gloomy gus on April 13, 2012 at 9:35 AM · Report this
It's free goddamn publicity to embed videos. It's how buzz is generated for these crappy 2012 movies. Because it certainly isn't happening through good word of mouth.
Posted by adamsass on April 13, 2012 at 9:37 AM · Report this
MichaelPgh 8
Further proof that there are too many fucking lawyers in the world.
Posted by MichaelPgh on April 13, 2012 at 9:53 AM · Report this

Internet sites treat other people's intellectual property like it's in the public domain. If copyright holders who can afford to stand up to the Internet (the "fucking evil capitalist bastards") don't do it, what chance do smaller copyright holders have.

I'm sick of the argument that embedding videos for no compensation is some kind of service to the copyright holder. Maybe they don't want your compulsory free publicity.

There are plenty of videos that are in the public domain or are properly licensed by the people who own the material. Maybe you should embed one of them and leave copyrighted material alone.

Bottom line is, people don't come to Slog for the videos. They come to Slog for your intellectual property -- your posts and articles. And you post that intellectual property on your website so you can attract readers, and then sell access to those readers to your advertisers. So stop hypocritically accusing people of being capitalists, concentrate on making your own content instead of appropriating content that belongs to other people, and treat other people's intellectual property like you want them to treat yours.
Posted by Adam Hunault on April 13, 2012 at 9:56 AM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 10
Shrinking industries usually turn to regulation and lawsuits to squeeze every last dollar out.

Other than HG what have Hollywood got this year?

Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on April 13, 2012 at 9:56 AM · Report this
This is just ludicrous. You could embed a video that the host actually claims to own the copyright to, and be sued when they lied to you. Not only that you could be sued if you embed a perfectly legal video and someone hacks the host and swaps the video you embedded with one that infringes. Imagine some nefarious person doing this to a post that was made 3 years ago on SLOG. None of the editors would even notice the embed had changed, but MPAA web crawlers certainly would.
Posted by arbeck on April 13, 2012 at 10:08 AM · Report this
Zebes 12

Copyright holders can already get material taken down with the DMCA. They just don't want to have to in the first place by carpet-bombing any site that may provide the utility to do this.

Their revenue isn't shrinking because of piracy, it's because people have other things to do and other things to spend their money on besides sitting in theaters or buying DVDs. This terrifies them and they're going to do what they can to destroy these alternatives and protect their cushy profits.

And if you honestly think people are going to stop going to movies because they can see clips of them on Youtube, then I don't know what to say.
Posted by Zebes on April 13, 2012 at 10:22 AM · Report this
michael strangeways 13
The studios/corporate media empires DON'T want a free flowing internet...they want you to go to the sites they own and control. Paramount doesn't give a rats ass about publicity from Billy Joe Bob's Movie website, even if his website gets 100,000 visitors a month; they want you to go to their "Entertainment Tonight" website because they OWN "ET".

But, the hubbub seems ridiculous since the majority of video material shown on sites related to films, are TRAILERS which are commercials. Are they really going to go after sites for showing a FREE commercial for their film?

Probably. They're that stupid.
Posted by michael strangeways on April 13, 2012 at 10:34 AM · Report this
Mark in Colorado 14
As a librarian I'm all for protecting copyright--however there is such a thing as common sense. "Word of mouth" (on the Web that might be for example in the form of an embedded video or audio clip--not the full version) is a powerful tool to get people to see movies, read a book, buy a CD or an mp3 file. Cutting off your nose to spite your face--well, good luck with that. This will not improve anything for these industries or even small copyright holders.
Posted by Mark in Colorado on April 13, 2012 at 10:38 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 15
... except in Canada.

Hint: get a Canadian music account. You'd be surprised how privacy-enabled and copyright-realistic it is. The internet doesn't care where you are, just where you SAY you are. The tubes still connect.
Posted by Will in Seattle on April 13, 2012 at 10:42 AM · Report this

It's pretty trivial to figure out where you are though. Unless you are using a proxy, my website can tell which country you are coming from. If you lie I can catch you.
Posted by arbeck on April 13, 2012 at 10:50 AM · Report this
I'm with @9. Instead of embedding, Slog and other such sites can and should provide links out to the website where the content is being legally hosted. Doing so drives traffic to the site, and we look at their ads instead of adds for Taboo. Although I'm kind of liking the red Taboo ad in the minor column right now.
Posted by David from Chicago on April 13, 2012 at 11:16 AM · Report this
A lot of the embeds I've seen lately have a quick 10-15 second commercial before the actual clip runs. Putting one of those on any copyrighted material and directing the funds to the owner seems like the best solution to me.
Posted by Ptera on April 13, 2012 at 11:22 AM · Report this
@Dave from chicago

Except that the MPAA has tried to argue that linking is the same as infringing as well. Technically linking and embedding aren't really any different.
Posted by arbeck on April 13, 2012 at 11:24 AM · Report this
@19 Technically, maybe, but in practice if you click a link and it brings up another site in another window, then the user experience is totally different, and I don't expect that the copyright owner would object. I'm guessing that Flava wouldn't have minded links on MyVidster that took users to Flava, yes? It's the "surrounded by myVidster adds" that is the problem.
Posted by David from Chicago on April 13, 2012 at 11:47 AM · Report this
@Dave from Chicago

The MPAA has argued that providing a link is the same as infringing. If they had their way they would sue Google.
Posted by arbeck on April 13, 2012 at 11:51 AM · Report this
@arbeck I'm not a technical person which is likely obvious. So if linking and embedding are the same thing, the MPAA needs to go after linking as well as embedding to avoid the situation of someone putting a frame around content that they own (embedding). So in claiming linking is infringement, they are acting sensibly in their best interests. From a laymen's perspective, if I click a video and watch it on Slog while it's surrounded by Slog ads, it's as though the video is on Slog even though the content is sitting on a different server. If this is a loophole that allows non-copyright holders to profit from someone else's intellectual property, I don't agree it's right even if it's legal. If the MPAA could put an end to embedding without also going after linking, I imagine they would do it that way instead. But again, I'm not a technical person, so I could be misunderstanding the situation.
Posted by David from Chicago on April 13, 2012 at 12:16 PM · Report this
@David From Chicago

I think your problem is from not being technical. The site that hosts the video that I'm embedding on my page has to allow me to embed the video. I can not embed a video from a site that does not give me permission. So if I embed a video that is copyrighted, I'm only in trouble if the host does not have permission to show the video. So if I embed a video from youtube or vimeo, I'm assuming they have the rights to that video and everything is cool. If they don't have the permission the copyright holder will deal with them to have the video taken down, which would also take down my embed. This is why you see embedded video's from youtube, but you don't see embedded videos from Hulu. One gives permission, the other does not.

What the MPAA is trying to do is particularly evil. First of all they don't want to have to deal with the messy problem of notifying the site that the video is infringing and letting them make an effort to remove it. They just want to be able to sue first. Second they want to sue not only the site that is hosting the video, but any site that embeds the video. How is a site supposed to know if the video they are given permission to embed is infringing? It basically ends embeded video of any kind.
Posted by arbeck on April 13, 2012 at 12:32 PM · Report this
@arbeck. Thanks for explaining it. That does sound evil. Are they anticipating pirates building a branded library that embeds links to many different sites that they know to be illegally holding copyrighted content? Then the copyright owners would need to approach each illegal site, which might be offshore, separately? The whole thing seems to be like someone is legitimately trying to close loopholes, and there could be unintended consequences for sites like Slog. As you might except, I work for a company that creates intellectual property.
Posted by David from Chicago on April 13, 2012 at 12:57 PM · Report this
@Dave & @arbeck

We all know that there are tons of videos on YouTube or Vimeo illegally. It's disingenuous to claim that we assumed they had the right when we embedded it. For the most part, we know that if we find an episode of House on Vimeo, it's a copyright violation. We should embed or link to the version on Hulu, which is hosted legally.

I agree with the MPAA that providing a link to illegally hosted copyrighted material is wrong. Putting a link on your blog to a movie on Megavideo is the same thing as telling a thief which bank would be easy to rob. It's just that doing it online makes it more impersonal, and we can kid ourselves that we aren't doing anything wrong.

Bottom line: If a Hollywood studio spends $100 million to make a movie, they can sue bloggers who show that movie without compensating them. Even providing a link to an illegal video is wrong. It doesn't matter if the blog thinks they were offering free advertising -- the studio didn't ask for their help advertising the movie that they own, and they aren't required to accept it and be grateful.

And we should all stop rationalizing our behavior by saying that these entertainment companies are huge corporations. The people who are really being hurt are the creative types employed by these corporations -- one of the last groups of well-compensated, unionized artists in the world, which will likely see their industry go the way of the music and newspaper industry within the next ten years if the online community doesn't start behaving more ethically.
Posted by Adam Hunault on April 13, 2012 at 1:43 PM · Report this
1) People seeking to protect their property rights should have to make contact with the trespasser before going straight to court with it. Litigation should never be the first recourse.

2) A link is NOT the same as embedding. If I don't take possession of the content and have it resident on my site or server, but just direct people to it on the copyright holder's site, what trespass have I committed? Telling people that Gwyneth Paltrow wore a Tom Ford gown to the oscars does not steal that gown from her or the design from him. Telling people that they can watch episodes of the Daily Show at does not steal that content.

This is stupid.
Posted by Charlie Mas on April 13, 2012 at 2:15 PM · Report this
Adam, I agree. I felt guilty providing a link to a Milton Friedman 1970 nytimes article the other day on a college website. In this situation, there is no known legal version of the text online. But still.
Posted by David from Chicago on April 13, 2012 at 3:33 PM · Report this
So I should be sued by the MPAA every time I watch television then? Watching a commercial on television is the internet equivalent of watching an embedded video. After all the television station and the MPAA don't own my television so it shouldn't be legal for me to watch a commercial, a tv show, or a movie, especially if it's on a disc playing on a game console since I don't have to watch the trailers like in the movie theater.
Posted by grazel on April 16, 2012 at 1:58 PM · Report this

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