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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Shouldn’t Hollywood condemn Ashton Kutcher’s ‘piracy’ of ‘Killers’?

I noted in last Friday’s Question of the Day that the Katherine Heigl/Ashton Kutcher flick Killers wouldn’t be screening for critics before it opens tomorrow. (I’ll attend a courtesy screening for press tomorrow morning, and will have a review asap afterward.) Lionsgate’s reason for this? The studio wants to “capitalize on the revolution in social media” by allowing fans to “promote” the film by yakking about it on Twitter and Facebook and the like. Assuming the fans actually like the film, that is. But even if the fans don’t like it, a fair few movie tickets will already have been sold before word gets out.

And now it seems that Lionsgate has found another way to hijack the Internet for its own PR purposes. Via Aceshowbiz:

Ashton Kutcher has defended his decision to “pirate” the first 13 minutes of his new film “Killers” online, insisting internet piracy will soon be a thing of the past when movie executives figure out a way of cashing in on the idea.

The tech-savvy star broadcast the opening of the comedy direct to select fan sites from the premiere in Los Angeles on Tuesday night, June 1, prompting criticism from film experts and critics alike, who accused him of making light of a serious industry issue.

It is absolutely impossible to believe that Kutcher’s actions did not come with the approval of Lionsgate… and in fact, it’s easy to believe that this was something cooked up not by Kutcher but by Lionsgate PR people.

Of course, this has recently become something of a standard way to promote a movie or TV show: release the first 8 or 10 or 15 minutes online, legitimately, free for anyone to watch on YouTube or on an official site for the project. But this takes the idea in a different direction: It appears to appropriate what Hollywood has been insisting forever is an illegal act.

Shouldn’t Hollywood condemn Ashton Kutcher’s “piracy” of Killers? If the industry does not condemn this, should we take Hollywood seriously anymore when it complains about piracy? What does the MPAA have to say about this? Can Kutcher’s actions be taken as evidence that Hollywood is not as clueless about the Internet as it has seemed to be? And could Kutcher’s actions actually be used in a court of law, in any future piracy lawsuits, as proof that Hollywood is not, in fact, genuinely concerned about piracy?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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  • JasonT

    Maybe it should only be illegal when its a good movie.

  • Nate

    And could Kutcher’s actions actually be used in a court of law, in any future piracy lawsuits, as proof that Hollywood is not, in fact, genuinely concerned about piracy?

    If it was, I’d love to see how studios try to defend themselves against it.

  • JoshB

    From an interview with Alex Alvarez, founder of The Gnomon Workshop, which sells art training DVDs produced by industry veterans (Alvarez and several other Gnomon instructors worked on Avatar, for instance), and makes their content available via digital download for pay. I mention this because MaryAnn has stated that she believes people will pay for content if it’s made available via digital download…

    GW: How are things like piracy affecting the industry?

    AA: Jeez, you’re now stoking the fire Travis. Yes, piracy has reached a point that we begin to wonder where things are going. My opinion is that until governments decide to take a stand against it, we will reach a point of diminishing returns. Millions of people around the world feel that they are doing nothing wrong by stealing that which they can’t afford or rather, could maybe afford but why bother if they can get it for free. They know it is illegal but don’t care because they do not feel any tangible repercussions for their actions. You would never steal a Ferrari because you can’t afford one. But if you knew 100% that if you stole one that you would never get caught, would you? Clearly millions of people around the world would answer that with a ‘yes’.

    I think that many people believe that the affect of illegally downloading content is negligible–that they are not hurting anyone. The reality is that so many people are doing it now, that the financial cost to the system and economies of the related industries is very much felt. It is easy to think that using an illegal copy of Windows isn’t a big deal to a company like Microsoft, but for small independent publishers, like Gnomon, you force them to change their business model. I focus now more on the Gnomon School than the Gnomon Workshop. Because of Piracy. In the end I’m still busy and happy… and we continue to create DVDs more out of a personal interest in working with artists. But will the Gnomon Workshop do this forever? Not if piracy continues to grow. At some point I’ll just shrug my shoulders and move on as there are more than enough other things to do. In the end I would be just as happy working in production as I am running Gnomon. If anything I’d get more time to be an artist. But to clarify… we’re not there yet. Gnomon as a whole is growing and all is well. But piracy is evil, illegal and hurts Gnomon and all of the artists that work hard to produce content with us.

  • Lisa

    does anybody care about this movie? Were people rushing to see it? And now look how many people are talking about it!

    Oh wait … only 4

  • MaryAnn

    MaryAnn has stated that she believes people will pay for content if it’s made available via digital download…

    This isn’t something I just made up. People pay for digital music. People pay for ebooks. Is there still piracy happening? I’m sure there is. But people *are already* paying for digital content when they’re given the option to do so.

    will the Gnomon Workshop do this forever? Not if piracy continues to grow. At some point I’ll just shrug my shoulders and move on as there are more than enough other things to do.

    To be fair to me, I have said things like this many, many times, too: If creative people are not compensated for their work, they’ll be forced to stop doing it, and only independently wealthy people or part-time amateurs will *able* to do creative work.

    That can still be true while, at the same time, the industry overall can be not understanding the Internet and what it can do.

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