The MPAA scored a victory last night when millions of people tuned in to CBS’s 60 Minutes. The ‘investigative’ news magazine ran a propaganda piece on movie piracy yesterday, allowing the MPAA to insinuate once again that organized crime and BitTorrent go hand in hand.
The MPAA getting free airtime on one of the most watched television programs in the U.S. is not really a surprise, since CBS has close ties to Hollywood. However, for a program that claims to do ‘investigative’ journalism, yesterday’s item on movie piracy was not very well researched.
What bothered us the most is that the item conveniently mixed file-sharing with commercial piracy, while linking it to organized crime, human trafficking and child prostitution. This setup is a bit misleading to say the least. That aside, the claimed role that piracy plays in organized crime is based on an MPAA-funded study we have previously debunked.
The MPAA’s stance didn’t really surprise us that much though. Their job is to manipulate public opinion in the hope that less people will engage in illicit file-sharing. But it was disappointing to see that CBS didn’t care to bring someone in to counter the arguments of the anti-piracy lobbyists.
No, instead they managed to get director Steven Soderbergh on, who joined the movie industry trade group by providing more twisted facts. Reciting the MPAA’s propaganda, Soderbergh said he wished the Internet was never invented. “Piracy is costing Hollywood $6 billion a year at the box office,” he told the reporter, adding that “as the margins of profit shrink, fewer projects get made, which means fewer people go to work.”
These statements are both inaccurate, or at least highly doubtful. The $6 billion statistic Soderbergh is referring to actually comes from an MPAA-funded report for which the sources were never revealed. In fact, the MPAA itself had to release a statement saying that they “made a mistake” with one of the figures, but they continue to use the report nonetheless.
Similarly, Soderbergh’s claim that “fewer projects get made” was debunked only last week after Sony boss Michael Lynton made a similar statement. The opposite seems to be true. Hollywood is far from bankrupt. In the past decade box office earnings actually increased significantly.
The only piece of the entire item that was pretty accurate and worth watching was the explanation of how BitTorrent works. John Malcolm, a former Director of Worldwide Anti-Piracy Operations for the MPAA shows that his work for the trade group paid off, as it turned him into a BitTorrent expert (video below).
The entire piece is disappointing nevertheless. It fails to ask the questions about why people download movies illegally and acts as if the movie industry is a powerless victim. Perhaps Hollywood should start to see the millions of illegal downloaders as potential customers instead of thieves. There’s a huge demand for online entertainment, so why not compete with piracy instead of spending millions of dollars fighting it?