Michael PhillipsListening to Director’s Guild of America president Taylor Hackford on the local Southern California NPR station a couple of weeks ago made me a little crazy.

I like Taylor Hackford, don’t get me wrong, but when I hear the leaders of these Hollywood and recording industry groups talking about things like SOPA and PIPA, it’s frustrating. They seem to have no concept of why people oppose them. Do they really know what’s in the legislation?

According to Hackford, millions of people were “duped” into contacting congress to complain about SOPA/PIPA, based on scare tactics, lies and misinformation from “the big technology companies.”

Hear how you’ve been duped at both the 4:14 and 10:35 points of the interview.

It’s a little disappointing – if unsurprising – to hear statements like that from someone on the creative end of the entertainment spectrum. After all, don’t the DGA, RIAA and MPAA engage in scare tactics, lies and misinformation campaigns of their own?

The continuing complaint that “rogue” web sites are destroying Hollywood or the recording industry – in fact, the entire argument against piracy of any kind – is largely based on a fantasy. The fantasy being that if there were no piracy, everyone would gladly pay for the products produced by Hollywood and the recording industry.

That is incorrect.

We have known this about software piracy for years; the people who are searching for things they can get for free are not really potential customers. They are only interested in your software, movie or music if they can get it for nothing. If they had to pay for it, they would simply do without it.

So when these organizations claim to be losing billions of dollars to piracy, understand that they are using overinflated and ultimately meaningless numbers since one illegal download does not necessarily equal one lost sale. They only lose $15 to piracy if that “pirate” would have paid $15 to buy the product legitimately. And most of them would not. Therefore, the real loss to piracy on those illegal downloads is probably closer to $0.

The underlying message that the entertainment industry is failing to take from much of the piracy of their work is either; your product isn’t worth as much as you’re asking me to pay for it, or in some cases; your product isn’t worth buying at all, for any price.

Independent, creative film and music subcultures are flourishing. Isn’t it curious that we don’t hear them complaining about piracy? Mainstream comedian Louis C. K. released a self-produced concert film in a non-copyright protected download for $5, and made over a million dollars in sales in the first two weeks it was available (and it’s still selling).

There is a clear message there: give people something they want at a reasonable price, and they will gladly pay for it. But are Hollywood and the music industry listening?

Let me be perfectly clear – we oppose SOPA, PIPA and any other legislation that would make us culpable for the actions of our users because there are already effective laws in place to handle trademark and copyright infringement issues. And also for an admittedly selfish reason: we want to survive. If we and other providers are constantly faced with lawsuits that we have to spend our time and resources fighting, none of us will survive.

For the President of the Directors Guild – or anyone else for that matter –  to claim that “millions of people were duped…by the big technology companies” – well, that sort of condescension offends me to my very core, and it should offend you too.

What you are hearing are the complaints of industry groups who have spent many, many millions of dollars lobbying congress in order to introduce unnecessary and one-sided legislation, and now feel betrayed because those dollars were wasted.

Keep letting congress know that you are more than willing to vote them out if they support one-sided legislation introduced or backed by Hollywood and the recording industry.

And when you hear people like Taylor Hackford talking about why it’s a good idea to hand all the power to the big corporate entities they represent, let them know that you will not be duped by that kind of self-serving doubletalk.


3 Responses to “Were you duped by big technology companies into opposing SOPA and PIPA?”

  1. Jane says:

    You have the best explanation for this that I’ve read in years. I’ve been trying to get the right words for this, but you’ve said it perfectly here – and it’s worth repeating:

    “the people who are searching for things they can get for free are not really potential customers. They are only interested in your software, movie or music if they can get it for nothing. If they had to pay for it, they would simply do without it.”

  2. mjp says:

    Yep. We’ve certainly seen evidence of it for a long time as far as software piracy is concerned. It would certainly seem to be true where entertainment is concerned as well.

    Thanks for the kind words!

  3. I agree with others. You said it best. Being a seller and even with sales declining. It was clear to us those that what free have no intentions to pay to begin with… If they had to pay for it they would do with out it. That’s not to say the marketing method to allow someone to try it with some built it disabling technology if the don’t buy is anything to be thought of as the same as those who search for free. The free searches will just pass by because they have no intension to buy it ,, yes there may be a small small number of people to see how you did something but again that is different then those people wanting free stuff… Let me know if there is a group to make sure the law makers get the truth and facts.

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