Hollywood Founded on Piracy, and Other Revelations from The Pirate Bay Verdict

So I woke up this morning to news that a verdict had been officially passed down on The Pirate Bay Four — actually it was leaked first and then officially passed down, in a fitting bit of irony.

TorrentFreak (an apparent fan of BitTorrents) has posted the details:

All four defendants were accused of ‘assisting in making copyright content available’. Peter Sunde: Guilty. Fredrik Neij: Guilty. Gottfrid Svartholm: Guilty. Carl Lundström: Guilty. The four receive 1 year in jail each and fines totaling $3,620,000 USD.

The accused are widely expected to appeal the decision, and the process could take years to complete. But assuming for a moment that the verdict sticks, here’s what I think are the consequences:

Will it stop piracy? Absolutely not — quite the opposite, in fact. The people who make this stuff available will just burrow deeper into the Internet and make themselves harder to track. Ever more innovative ways to share files will be invented, attacked and eventually shut down. Lather, rinse and repeat.

Will it stagnate the growth of the Internet? It certainly has the potential to. If this guilty verdict holds then big media’s next logical target would be Internet Service Providers. And with file sharing said to account for at least 20% of all Internet traffic those throttled speeds and data caps we all complain about likely won’t be going away anytime soon.

Has Hollywood made enemies of its customers? Well, they’ve certainly made one. If my only legal options for watching a Hollywood movie are (1) to visit my local multiplex and pay for the privilege of being forced to watch up to 20 minutes of ads and trailers before the film even starts, or (2) to buy or rent a locked-down DVD and be forced to sit through the same incessant ads that I can’t skip past, then I guess I’ll take neither. Maybe instead of passively consuming media I’ll create some — maybe a blog post, perhaps about the fact that Hollywood itself was born of pirates.

Yeah, you heard me.

Check this quote from Lawrence Lessig from the archives of WIRED Magazine:

The Hollywood film industry was built by fleeing pirates. Creators and directors migrated from the East Coast to California in the early 20th century in part to escape controls that film patents granted the inventor Thomas Edison. These controls were exercised through the Motion Pictures Patents Company, a monopoly ‘trust’ based on Edison’s creative property and formed to vigorously protect his patent rights.

The same is true for the industries of music, radio and television. So if you think it’s a little hypocritical for big media to sweep its own disruptive technologies and distribution models under the carpet while attacking The Pirate Bay for doing the same then congratulations, you are officially capable of critical thought — which apparently has no place in this day and age of big media bullying. 😦

BIFF 2009, Day 5: Short Films (Mostly) Suck

Bermuda Short -- haha, get it?

Such a bold statement is tantamount to heresy from this Film School Graduate, but hear me out…

I remember hearing or reading somewhere that if you want to make a feature, why waste time and resources on a short film that could be better spent on your ultimate goal?

Indeed, of the eight films that made up this year’s Bermuda Shorts Program two were actually good (with Rúnar Rúnarsson’s 2 Birds by far the best), one wanted desperately to be an action film (and failed miserably) and the rest were built upon a single revelation so arbitrary that it would make M. Night Shyamalan wince.

It also didn’t help that these films were pitted against each other in the same screening, encouraging the audience to pick favourites and boo the rest. And for the first time since I started attending the festival, there weren’t any local entries.

Could the 15-20 minute short film be a dying art form?

BIFF 2009, Day 4: Keep The Promise

8, directed by 8 directors (go figure)

From The Bermuda Film Festival website:

In September 2000, 191 governments committed to halve world poverty by 2015 and set eight goals to achieve this: the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). At the halfway point, eight directors were invited to share their vision of these major issues, each by way of a short film.

And here’s how effective those 8 short films were: As soon as the houselights came up I came straight home and signed up for an account at Kiva.org

I was more than a bit disheartened by the surprising number of Bermudians who left before the screening was over — most left after the particularly devastating profile of a dying AIDS victim. Their loss, clearly, as the hauntingly beautiful (and equally sad) The Story of Panshin Beka followed directly afterward.

The last short in the collection, by Wim Wenders, was contrived to the point of being silly — yet this was the very piece that introduced the audience to the idea of microfinance. And it’s kind of hard not to heed the call of developing world entrepreneurs speaking to you directly from the big screen.

8 should be required viewing. For everyone.

BIFF 2009, Day 3: Non-voting America’s What Now?

Last night I saw the 12th annual Bermuda Film Festival‘s first dud.

 Dear Oprah, directed by Kasper Verkaik

The Dutch documentarians’ naïveté is undeniably charming as they set out across America in a run-down camper van, to answer the question of why so many Americans don’t participate in the democratic process.

But by the end of the film this very premise proves faulty, because folks do get out and vote — partially because Oprah throws her considerable media influence behind then-Senator Barack Obama, but for a lot of other reasons revealed in course of the film.

And so, Dear Oprah: Non-Voting America’s Wildest Dreams ultimately proves to be as confusing as its title. And clocking in at a mere 55 minutes it’s probably more suitable as an hour-long piece of TV fluff than a big-screen doc.

BIFF 2009, Day 2: Canadian Films That Don’t Suck

Of Time and the City, directed by Terence Davies

Yesterday I did two back-to-back screenings at The Liberty Theatre. First up was Of Time and the City, a documentary about Liverpool by a director who hates The Beatles.

Commissioned to celebrate Liverpool’s year as Cultural Capital of Europe, the striking archival footage certainly made me want to visit this “capital of the north”, but the biting narration damning the Catholic Church was a bit lost on me.

West of Pluto, directed by Henry Bernadet & Myriam Verreault

Next up was À l’ouest de Pluton (West of Pluto) yet another fantastic Quebecois film that highlights the disparity between English and Francophone cinema in Canada.

On the plane ride down to Bermuda I chose to watch a feature called Toronto Stories, and it was awful. The dialogue written for the two child actors was particulary bad — was there no parent on the production to raise their hand and say: “Kids don’t really talk like that…”?

The makers of À l’ouest de Pluton, on the other hand, auditioned and improvised with students from their old high school rather than trained actors — and got predictably more authentic results. The portrayal of suburbia as an alien landscape was also a stroke of genius.

And the title? You’ll have to see the film to get the clever double entendre, which I highly recommend you do.