Movie and Music Copyright Cops Themselves Infringe Intellectual Property

Movie and Music Giants Are Hypocrites

The giant movie and music corporations – and their water-bearing politicians – pushing draconian copyright laws are hypocrites.

According to TorrentFreak, members of the RIAA, Department of Homeland Security, Sony, Universal and Fox may have illegally downloaded files from BitTorrent.

Lamar Smith – the Congressman sponsoring SOPA – used a pirated photograph on his official campaign website.

TechCrunch reports today:

VEVO, the music portal owned by some of the biggest record labels in the US, had a pirated NFL playoff game playing on screens throughout its ‘PowerStation’ venue.

The incident was immensely hypocritical, given that VEVO is owned in part by Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment (with EMI licensing its content to the service) — the same music labels that have made a habit of attacking consumers over alleged acts of piracy.


Imagine what the music industry would say were it on the other side of this. Is there any doubt it would dismiss these explanations and, lawsuits in hand, cry foul over such an overt act of piracy?

Furthermore, this seems no different than an accused pirate explaining that they left their Wifi open, only to have it used by someone else to download content illegally. Which happens to be a defense the RIAA has previously fought vigilantly against, when it sought to make owners of ISP accounts liable for any infringing activity, even if the owner had no knowledge of it. Hypocrisy, indeed.

The movie and music studios also allegedly encouraged people to use file-sharing software for pirating copyrighted material, made hundreds of millions of dollars in the process and are now suing people using the software they pushed.

And the very foundation of the Hollywood movie industry was intellectual property infringement. Specifically, inventor Thomas Edison owned the patents for movie cameras and for several types of movie film. Edison formed the Motion Picture Patents Company (known as the “Edison Trust”) with Kodak and others, and this trust controlled every aspect of movie-making: from cameras to film to distribution.

As Wired notes:

Edison assembled representatives of the nation’s biggest movie companies—Biograph, Vitagraph, American Mutoscope, and seven others—and invited them to sign a monopolistic peace treaty. Since 1891, when the Wizard of Menlo Park filed his first patent on a motion picture camera/film system, his lawyers had launched 23 aggressive infringement suits against other production outfits.

Sometimes Edison won. Sometimes he lost. But the costs of these battles overwhelmed his rivals, and that was the intent.

“The expense of these suits would have financially ruined any inventor who did not have the large resources of Edison,” one of his lawyers boasted, “and it could hardly be expected that he would be able to prosecute simultaneously every infringement as it arose.”

Thus his victims sold their patents, making the Edison movie empire ever larger.

But the old man wanted it all, so he assembled his rivals and proposed that they join his Motion Picture Patents Company. It would function as a holding operation for the participants’ collective patents — sixteen all told, covering projectors, cameras, and film stock. MPPC would issue licenses and collect royalties from movie producers, distributors, and exhibitors.

To top it all off, MPPC convinced the Eastman Kodak company to refuse to sell raw film stock to anyone but Patent Company licensees, a move designed to shut French and German footage out of the country.

“The negotiations were finalized in December,” Gabler notes, and by early January, “the company made its announcement that the old laissez faire of the movie business was being abruptly terminated.”

The Edison trust was based on the East Coast. In order to escape the onerous restrictions of the trust, independent filmmakers fled to Hollywood. Because travel was so much slower back then, Hollywood filmmakers would have plenty of time to close up shop if they got wind that the trust’s enforcers were coming to visit:

If Edison ever sent agents to California, word would usually reach Los Angeles before the agents did, and the filmmakers could escape to nearby Mexico.

In addition, the federal courts in California were also less eager to enforce patent rights.

As Armando Franco writes:

•These actions led several independents to flee to the West Coast. California was remote enough from Edison’s reach that filmmakersthere could pirate his inventions without fear of the law.

•But because patents grant the patent holder a truly “limited” monopoly (just seventeen years at that time), by the time enough federal marshals appeared, the patents had expired. A new industry had been born,in part from the piracy of Edison’s creative property.

And Bullies …

It used to be a widespread practice for music companies to unlawfully bribe radio stations using “payola” to play their songs. Indeed, the practice is still ongoing (at least as of a couple of years ago). See this, this, this and this. Indeed, many have alleged that the music industry is still riddled with organized crime.

It is also well-known in the entertainment industry that movie studios use fraudulent accounting – widely known as “Hollywood Accounting” – to cheat writers, actors and others who are not on the favored list from getting paid. There are many famous examples where writers and actors have been paid little or nothing on films which made billions of dollars. And see this.

And TorrentFreak notes:

The Canberra Wikileaks cables revealed the US Embassy sanctioned a conspiracy by Hollywood studios to target Australian communications company iiNet through the local court-system, with the aim of establishing a binding common-law precedent which would make ISPs responsible for the unauthorised file-sharing of their customers.

Both the location, Australia, and the target, iiNet, were carefully selected. A precedent set in Australia would be influential in countries with comparable legal systems such as Canada, India, New Zealand and Great Britain. Australian telecommunications giant Telstra was judged too large for the purposes of the attack. Owing to its smaller size and more limited resources, iiNet was gauged the perfect candidate.

The involvement of major American studios in the offensive was suppressed. “The case was filed by … the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and its international affiliate, the Motion Picture Association (MPA), but does not want that fact to be broadcasted,” the US Embassy, Canberra wrote. “We will monitor this case … to see whether or not the ‘AFACT vs. the local ISP’ featured attraction spawns a ‘giant American bullies vs. little Aussie battlers’ sequel.”

Whether or not these two industries are actually run by criminal cartels, it is beyond dispute that they are acting like bullies.

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