Tuesday, May 8, 2007

What Reportage?

CTV News just moments ago broadcast a "story" about the rampant piracy in Canada that's depriving poor wealthy studio owners of their spectacular box-office income. The online story is a bit more balanced (at least if you read all the way to the last three paragraphs), but what was broadcast was absolutely shameful.

Faced with the overwrought claims of Hollywood executives who of course want to maintain their stranglehold on the means of production and distribution of films, not to mention the intellectual property that should belong to the artists in question, our devoted anchorwoman asked an "authority" from the Hollywood Reporter the following penetrating question:

"Why is Canada such a hotbed for movie piracy?"

Nowhere does anyone attempt to determine IF Canada is a hotbed for movie piracy. Warner Bros. claims that 70% of pirated movies are made in Canada. Of course, nobody can actually check that report, so who the fuck knows? All the studios care about is getting Canada to bring its laws in line with those of the United States.

Which are WAY out of line of those of most other countries in the world. Canada meets its obligations to international law. When CTV reports Ellis Jacobs (CEO of Cineplex) saying that Canada's laws should be "updated" in order to be in line with other countries, he means the US. The United States has enacted (at the behest of the large media corporations) staggeringly invasive and restrictive IP laws.

Case in point: we just watched Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men (pretty good, thanks), and if you watch the end credits you see notices for the use of Picasso's painting Guernica and the Statue of Liberty.

Because, you know, somebody might buy Children of Men instead of Guernica. Picasso might really miss out. And for sure the Statue of Liberty is avoiding lost revenue there.

Nobody's thinking in all this. It's just greed, mindless short-term greed.

Is Canada a hotbed for movie pirates? Are people buying so many copies of Spiderman 3 on $3 DVDs that the movie's profits are threatened? Well, the picture did $151,000,000 in its first weekend, setting a new box-office record, so forgive me if I'm skeptical that this is a really pressing problem for the studios. This is about setting the rules to keep out independent operators, to make it as difficult as possible for competition to arise. Canadian competition in particular.

So maybe CTV could spend a minute asking these American executives and their local shills to JUSTIFY their outrageous claims. If some Chinese software development company said that 70% of their programs were pirated in Canada, we'd ask for a little proof as a way to start the conversation off. We'd express maybe a bit of polite skepticism until their claims were verified by someone not getting paid by them. If they said they were losing $6 BILLION DOLLARS A YEAR to this piracy we might suggest they need to back that up with some actual data. But these studios can make these INSANE claims and nobody even bats a fucking eye?

And let's just all leave aside for the moment Canada's second-rate status for these studios anyway -- if you're an American film distributor, you get Canada "for free" as part of any domestic distribution deal. But if you're a Canadian distributor, good luck. You can get deals in Canada, sure, but you have to negotiate a separate deal for the US. Of course our government would never interfere in such a one-sided arrangement.

This is what we get from CTV News? What a sad excuse for reportage.