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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

omg: Hollywood secretly embraces the power of piracy

Viacom does, at least.

It’s from a couple weeks back but I just discovered it, a post by Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing about the lawsuit in which Viacom is suing Google “for $1 billion for not having copyright lawyers inspect all the videos that get uploaded to YouTube before they’re made live.” Here we find this fascinating tidbit (emphasis mine):

The lawsuit has been a circus. Filings in the case reveal that Viacom paid dozens of marketing companies to clandestinely upload its videos to YouTube (sometimes “roughing them up” to make them look like pirate-chic leaks). Viacom uploaded so much of its content to YouTube that it actually lost track of which videos were “really” pirated, and which ones it had put there, and sent legal threats to Google over videos it had placed itself.

I don’t see how it can be that Viacom hasn’t shot itself in the foot with this. Viacom isn’t just crying wolf: it has actually trained some poor tormented wolf who’d rather be left alone to harass the townsfolk on a regular basis in order to lend credence to the wolf-crying.

I’ve said it before, more than once: When pristine copies of movies show up online days before a film opens, the only place such a file could have come from is inside a studio’s own labs and/or offices. But now we have to suspect even the apparently shaky camcordered versions. This is way beyond “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” There are lots of ways that Hollywood could harness the power of the Internet and the hunger of audiences to watch content on their own terms. Demonizing audiences and then engaging in the same behaviors it’s condemning its customers for is probably not the best way to do that.

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