September 18, 2020

MPAA To Sue Invididuals

The Motion Picture Association of America plans to file copyright infringement lawsuits against about 230 individuals today, according to a New York Times story by Laura M. Holson.

Rumor has it that studio heads had long wanted to do this but former MPAA chief Jack Valenti had refused to go along with it. Now that Valenti has been replaced by Dan Glickman, it’s not surprising to see the suits starting.

Lately the movie industry has had more of a scorched-earth attitude toward the copyright wars than the music industry has. If the movie people start filing lots of infringement suits, perhaps the music people will back off a bit and file new suits.

Comments

  1. hollywood has even less reason at this point to sue its customers because unlike the music companies, movie studios get their money from a bunch of sources: theaters, DVD, PPV, TV, online. Moreover, while a few fans sympathize with musicians who had to struggle in lounge bars before they hit it big, most movie/tv stars are well paid even if they start out with minor roles thanks to SAG (there is no equivalent guild for musicians).

  2. Chris Tunnell says:

    Brian:

    I don’t argree with your logic:

    1. The money sources are the same if, in your post, you replace “theatre” with “concerts” and “DVDs” with “CDs”.

    2. A few friends of mine are trying to get jobs in the film industry and are finding it hard to get a good job despite the guilds.

    3. Even if we assume all actors get paid well, which is mainly true for big bucks hollywood flicks, there are many more people that work on the sets than just actors. For example: make-up, writers, lighting crew, etc.

    I believe that the main reason the MPAA is reacting now is because they notice how easy it is to download these movies with the average high-speed connection. They don’t want to be the next record industry.

    I don’t think we should debate whether or not the industry has a right to defend itself, but rather how it should be defending itself.

  3. Stephen Cochran says:

    Frankly, the only people in the movie industry who need to worry about defending themselves are the theaters. At $8-10 per ticket, most families are being priced out of ever going to see a movie – not to mention the cost of concessions.

    Personally, until recently I was single and went to the movies by myself. I didn’t buy food/drink at the theater, and usually went to weekend matinee’s. Spending $5-8 for myself to see a movie was a decent bargain. However, once I got into a relationship with a woman who had 2 children, the equation changed. It now costs upwards of $50 to go see a movie. Guess how often _that_ happens?

    I understand how the ticket/concession prices work, but that’s an internal issue between the movie studios and the theater chains. Also, the practice of “rolling releases” across regions produces intense demand for pirate downloads.

    I have yet to hear anyone say “But the DVD is too expensive” for any of the recent releases. Between $15-25 to own a movie DVD is a price most people can get behind.

    I firmly believe that the business of theatrical presentation is the single largest driver for movie piracy. Fix that, and the problem (mostly) goes away.

  4. Chris:

    > 1. The money sources are the same if, in your post, you replace “theatre” with “concerts” and “DVDs” with “CDs”.

    No it is not. Concert ticket sales have been and are on the rise all the time (but the music industry does not include these when talking about the damages caused by piracy, they always talk about CD sales, misrepresenting these as their only source of income.)

    Theatre ticket sales on the other hand are on the decline and I think Stephen has a point when he talks about the costs of tickets being a main factor driving sales down. I very much doubt that movie piracy is the main factor for shrinking ticket sales, since watching the movie on a big screen is still a way better experience then watching it from a cam-screener with bad sound at home. The obvious way to dealing with the problem is either adjusting the ticket price downward, or offering added value to the theater experience.

    And comparing CDs to DVDs, you also see that the average DVD sells slightly more expensive for (at least in most cases) an very big additional value.
    Most people would be hard pressed to see why they should buy a 15$ CD when they can get a whole movie on a DVD for 18$. Given the immense cost of producing a movie, the 18$ is likely to sound like a bargain to the buyer, in stark contrast to the cost in producing a CD. There is a lesson to be learned here somewhere…

  5. Chris,

    My reply:

    1) I said Hollywood has more multiple sources of revenue (including tv, ppv et al) than music companies. While some music companies make money by acting as concert intermediaries, most of the popular acts do not share that income with their record partners.

    2) One’s ability to get into acting has no relevance to piracy.

    3) The amount of work staff on films is a diversion because they will be needed whenever a movie gets made anyway. What piracy hurts is the marginal revenue that goes into the pockets of the stars, directors, and studio executives. Meaning if a movie that is projected to make $100M can only make $90M due to piracy the income that is sacrificed the most is the star whose pay cut from $20M to $14M, the director whose pay cut from $10M to $8M, and the studio boss whose pay cut from $5M to $3M because their percentage of the gross is reduced.

  6. Stephen Cochran says:

    Ragnar, just to make sure we are both clear. I don’t believe that piracy is affecting ticket sales – the only thing that affects that is the quality of the movie and the cost of the theater experience.

  7. Chris Tunnell says:

    I will try to respond to all the comments in the best order I can. First, Ragnar:

    I don’t think it is important to compare how theatre ticket and concert tickets are changing in different directions because, even though the change is constant, it is very small over short periods of time. I agree with you though that they are changing, but when I talked at money sources, I was referring to this point in time. Do you not agree that theatres and concerts are a major source of income for their respective industry?

    And also, since we are talking about sources of income, do you not feel as though CDs and DVDs also are major sources of income in their respective industry? If you agree with both, then I don’t see what your problem with my comment is. You seem to be talking about tickets, DVDs and CDs from the buyer’s point of view rather than the industry’s.

    You do make a good point though, from the buyer’s point of view, a DVD is better priced than CDs for what you get out of it. But, what does this imply? People who download music online or buy CDs still enjoy going to concerts. People who download movies online or buy DVDs might not enjoy going to the movie-theater for many reasons: noise, they have a nice home-theatre at home, etc. This puts the MPAA at a disadvantage relative to the RIAA mainly because, unlike CDs, as home theatre systems get better and better, the difference between watching a movie at home and watching it at a movie-theater would disappear. This doesn’t happen in the music industry since when you buy a ticket in this industry, you get something dynamic and not just a DVD of Metallica on a big screen. This makes it so things can get a lot worse for the film industry quickly.

    Brian:

    Well, they do have more sources of income because they are bigger. What is your point? Bigger industries tend to have more sources of income, but they can still shrink. That just makes them more protected.

    Your second and third thing. That is a very singular view to take on this. Let’s look at the 1970s American film industry: this era was the golden age of American film. Executives made money up until the end of the era, producers/directors got a lot of freedom, and everything was well. Then Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate came around and nearly killed United Artists. As a result, investors stop coming back and the studios significantly shrank. Less movies were made and less people had jobs. Film history is full of times in which people said, “No, I don’t want to watch this movie,” and the industry crashed: from Griffith’s Intolerance to Waterworld. There is a very strong connection between theatre returns and the size of the industry.

    Stephen:

    I agree with you that the MPAA and friends aren’t being hurt now, but it can get ugly pretty fast.