Snippets From SXSW Interactive 2003

The Hollywood Agenda

Tuesday, March 11, 11:30am-12:30pm
The pirates are coming! The pirates are coming! And guess what? It could be your grandfather, using the video camera to film junior's first steps, and oops -- is that a Barney cartoon in the background? What about your friend who wants to share their DVD copy of The Godfather with a person who doesn't have a DVD player? And what about you, videotaping that episode of The Sopranos to share with your neighbor? Thieves, all of them!

High drama? Yes, but what do you expect from Hollywood? According to Cory Doctorow, Outreach Coordinator for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Hollywood is in a self-righteous tizzy about protecting creative material from pirates and the drive to keep honest people honest.

"Keeping honest people honest is like saying you're trying to keep tall people tall," Doctorow said. Through reports Hollywood calls the Content Protection Status Report, Hollywood uses incendiary language to gain lawmakers' trust that Hollywood is the best and most honorable regulator of entertainment products, and more importantly, the best determiner of how they are packaged, sold and used. That means that if Hollywood gets their way, "fair use" may be a thing of the past. It's one thing to copy material for shared use -- it's quite another to make a living under the table from buying and selling goods that don't belong to you. The truth is, the number of people copying and trading material for fair use far outweighs those doing it for dishonest purposes.

Through various measures, Hollywood is proposing safeguards to its property through certain protective components in hardware products that stop illegal copying or viewing. That image of Barney your grandfather captured in the background while taping junior? A broadcast flag could disable his camera.

The counterattack to EFF's efforts is the Napster case. "Before the Internet, 80% of music was not available for sale," Doctorow said. "Napster may have been poor in paying artists, but it was great in distributing artists." Meaning that artists gained more exposure, larger live audiences, and the opportunities that come with exposure.

Hollywood is putting a lot of resources into their efforts. But ordinary people still have time to react. In addition to the EFF (, organizations like the Digital Consumer, Public Knowledge, and the Consumers Union are working to alert and educate the public. Get informed, know your rights, and take action, Doctorow says.

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