July 26th, 2003

chef bites


If you were watching TV Thursday night, you may have seen this "tsk tsk"'ing PSA admonishing you, the buyer of bootleg tapes/illegal downloader of movies via internet about how many jobs behind the scenes are hurt by your actions, with numerous movie stars wagging their fingers at you. And if you want to subject yourself to more of their propaganda, you could go to www.respectcopyrights.com

I'll just cut to the chase. It's all nice and touching to see the acknowledgement of all the ordinary people whose incomes are tied to the film industry, in all stages of production and release, in these "Respect Copyrights" PSA's that are dotting TV and theatres now.
However, those people are all paid regardless of the performance (or lack thereof) of their individual film product at the box office or on video. As such, to imply their jobs are directly jeopardized by piracy is fallacious, because they have already been compensated for the work being pirated. Maybe Ben Affleck or Sean Astin or James Cameron gets a share of the profits from the box office or the video sales of their movies. But my cousin, a key grip on numerous films, doesn't see any more payment if the movie is a hit, or any less if it gets downloaded on Morpheus.

Where those people's jobs are in danger is from skinflint studios and producers whom, being the direct target of piracy, decide not to use their services or to lowball the costs to below union scale. You could argue that danger as a byproduct of piracy, but it is still an INDIRECT effect, not a direct one. And as such, the average bootlegger knows this. Which is why this PSA is destined to fail. All the bootlegger knows is that studios get the money, and they wanna stick it to the man.


But do not be fooled. The corporations who own the studios are basically trying to guilt trip the consumer by saying that it will be their fault if numerous technical movie jobs are lost, when the reality is that only people lucky enough to see a backend from sales of movie product -- execs and well-represented talent -- are the victims of movie piracy. And as such, to cover their losses, they will make the unglamorous movie grunts suffer the punishment.

Ask Art Buchwald how much Paramount took care of his profits on COMING TO AMERICA.
Ask William Blatty and William Friedkin how timely WB delivered their fair share of THE EXORCIST profits.

I would simply prefer a more honest PSA. Say, Jerry Bruckheimer holding a gun to a key grip's head and saying "If you bootleg my movie, I'll find a cheaper less talented man to do his job next time, and this poor slob will lose his family and spend the rest of his life on Skid Row." You know, the old Nat'l Lampoon "Buy this record or we shoot the dog" approach.
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