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precarious since 1997 | by maryann johanson

who benefits from leaking ‘Sicko’ to the Net?

I attended a press conference yesterday with Michael Moore — he was there to promote, of course, his new film, Sicko, and all we journalists were there to listen to him. (The newspaper The Australian had someone there “at New York’s plush Regency Hotel on Park Avenue,” too, it seems, and makes it sound a lot fancier than it was. Mostly it was a hundred or so people with laptops and digital recorders sitting around a small hotel ballroom waiting for Moore way past the time we had been promised him. But it was worth it…)

Someone, naturally, asked what Moore felt about the film being leaked to YouTube and ending up on other pirate sites. The Australian summarizes his response well:

Moore conceded the political impact and commercial success of the film may have been compromised by a high-quality pirated version making its way on to the internet ahead of the US release date later this month.

Without mentioning them by name, he suggested police target their investigations at the healthcare “Axis of Evil” presented in his film – the Bush administration, Big Pharma and the health insurance industry.

“This was an inside job,” he said. “Who has a vested interest in destroying the opening of this film? Who has a vested interest in ruining the opening weekend’s box office of this movie?

“If I were the police or FBI investigating this felony, that’s where I would look.”

As Moore noted, the pirated version of the film that showed up online was a clean master, something only someone with insider access to the film could have. But he seems reluctant to accuse Weinstein Co., the film’s distributor — Moore told The Hollywood Reporter: “Oh no. The (Weinstein) brothers are devastated.” — and indeed it does seem unlikely that the very company poised to profit from Moore’s work would scuttle it at the last minute.

On the other hand…

While Weinstein Co. is an independent company not owned by a globocorp, just a few minutes of Googling turns up some, um, intriguing facts.

From Adweek, late 2005:

WPP Group has confirmed it is among the equity investors in The Weinstein Company, launched late last month by Bob and Harvey Weinstein, who founded Miramax in 1979.

WPP, which owns agencies such as Ogilvy & Mather, Young & Rubicam and JWT, joined GLG Partners, Goldman Sachs, Perry Capital, Quinta Communications and Vivi Nevo as investors in the new film and entertainment entity, which raised about $490 million. WPP’s stake was undisclosed.

Back to Google, and I quickly learn:

Ogilvy & Mather division Ogilvy Healthworld:

provides a world of marketing services for pharmaceutical companies. Formerly Healthworld Communications Group, the company provides contract sales services and such communication services as advertising, consulting, public relations, medical education, and marketing research to pharmaceutical companies worldwide. It focuses on direct-to-consumer advertising that attempts to persuade patients to ask physicians for specific drugs. Ogilvy Healthworld serves about 200 clients, including GlaxoSmithKline, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Eli Lilly.

WPP-owned Grey Healthcare Group:

helps get the word out about all the colored little pills. Grey Healthcare Group is a leading advertising and marketing business focused on serving the pharmaceutical and health care industries.

Perry Capital was under SEC investigation in 2006 because:

SEC has alleged that Perry used a complex hedging technique to try to influence the outcome of a takeover battle for King Pharmaceuticals, a generic drug maker, waged by a larger rival, Mylan laboratories…. The maneuver made Perry the largest, if indirect, shareholder of Mylan…

Ho, boy. Did I mention that if America heeds the call to health-care revolution that is Sicko, the profits of pharmaceutical companies and HMOs will be dangerously threatened?

I’m not drawing any conclusions, just looking at the possibilities…

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