Previously, I scratched the surface of the huge amount of issues I have with the Motion Picture Association of America, including their undocumented and insupportable ratings system and their censoring influence on filmmakers. But they are also working to excel in another area of ridiculousness - the fight against digital piracy.
The MPAA not only controls with an iron hand what you can see in a movie theater, they dictate what and how you can see movies. You're supposed to see cinema on their terms only. This is why you are forced to sit through anti-piracy propaganda at the beginning of DVDs you've bought, and are barred from keeping a copy of this same legally-owned movie on your hard drive. This is why you can only watch certain DVDs in certain regions of the world. This is why theaters are authorized to search you and hold your cell phones before movie screenings, and scrutinize you during the film with night-vision goggles. This, essentially, is why they're allowed to treat you as criminal even before they've proved that you haven't followed rules that are unjust to you in the first place.
The best part of the MPAA's stance on piracy? They themselves have proved it to be hypocrisy. They admitted to making illegal copies of Kirby Dick's This Film Is Not Yet Rated. They also used a linkware blog platform without crediting the developer or paying the license fee. They sidestep both issues by claiming "testing purposes." But I wouldn't recommend trying to use the same defense yourself against them.
And whom does all of the previously described policies benefit? The large movie studios, and the large studios only. Those policies have nothing to do with protecting intellectual property and everything to do with making more money for the studios.
Beyond the consumer's side, there's also the side of the filmmaker. As is true in music industry, technology and new methods of distribution can be the unknown artist's best friends. Digital video, the internet, and DVD burning are amazingly powerful tools for the independent filmmaker. The more the MPAA cracks down on methods of production and distribution, and stacks the deck in favor of their studios, the harder it is for independent voices to be heard. Culturally speaking, this also means any filmmaker who's perspective doesn't align with the mainstream source of movie revenue, will be effectively silenced.
The issues of the MPAA and piracy cross media boundaries. Technology is changing the landscape of all art and its attendant copyrights, and new ways of handling it all effectively have still to be determined. But I don't think the rules should be set by an organization whose only impetus is greed.
Some informative links:
- MPAA Misinformation
- How the MPAA Killed the Movie Theater Experience
- Frequently Awkward Questions for the Entertainment Industry
Next up: attacking the new MPAA smoking ban. And suggesting a better course of action for the entire association.
Note: The image up there is a cartoon version of late MPAA head Jack Valenti from the also late show Freakazoid!. If you don't know what that is, well, there's a few bemused Wikipedia minutes in store for you.