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why the movies almost broke the internet
chris dodd, the mpaa, and pirates
by joe procopio (@jproco)
pop culture

Man, now I got a new hate.

I thought it couldn't possibly get any worse than the music industry, a cadre of corrupt suits and ever-willing lackey artists who, in the name of stopping piracy which they sort of disguised as an effort of saving art for the entire universe, resorted to suing housewives they caught downloading free mp3s onto a home computer.

I mean, it wasn't bribery, but that's still some kind of new record for douchbaggery.

Some ten years after it all stated, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the lobbying arm of the moving pictures business, failed at their attempt to pass two laws, known as SOPA and PIPA, in the face of a firestorm of pushback from... well... everyone. But it hasn't stopped the effort.

Here's what MPAA frontman Chris Dodd said about the debacle:

"Those who count on quote 'Hollywood' for support need to understand that this industry is watching very carefully who's going to stand up for them when their job is at stake. Don't ask me to write a check for you when you think your job is at risk and then don't pay any attention to me when my job is at stake,"

That's. Just. Awesome.

Hollywood initially sat out the fight when it first started and Metallica was lecturing all of us about the evils of not paying twenty bucks for a CD that contained two good songs and some filler. But it wasn't for altruistic reasons, it was more because the Internet was not quite robust enough to handle the trading of 4GB movies and the encryption was too tough for your standard non-geek to break.

Also, movies were still shot on film for the most part, meaning first run features were safe. So there were a few PSA-style ads that made it out to seem like if you burned that copy of Mr. Deeds, you were putting set-builders and make-up artists out of work.

In the decade since, here's what happened:

* Shooting digitally went standard.
* Ripping a movie went pushbutton.
* The average household interweb pipe got much fatter.

And here's the big one:

* The way we consume movies began shifting dramatically from the theater to DVD to streaming.

See: Netflix.

I point that aspect out as the dealbreaker because it's the same evolution that happened in the music industry ten years ago. Piracy was not killing the music industry, the iPod was, and the ability to download songs became mandatory.

But the industry was slow to act on this evolution, mostly because they had a very expensive reason not to. If you could download the song you wanted, you wouldn't shell out the $20 for the CD. This is why iTunes got there first. The industry had already hung itself on its own greed. Steve Jobs just picked up the pieces.

So here we are in 2012 and between Apple, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Cable On Demand, and by the end of this year about a hundred other outlets, it's all but over for the DVD.

See: Netflix.

So here's the industry reaction:

* Raise ticket prices to astronomical levels.
* Create the concept of "rental" DVD format with no extra features.
* Put everything into the 3D fad as the only people who didn't see it dying quickly.

When all of that fails, what does the industry do? Like their aural counterparts before them, they don't react by adapting, they reach into a big bag of stupid and, in this case, spend millions lobbying the government to censor the Internet.

It almost worked, and it's not over.

So keep your eyes peeled because, much like a reality show, which incidentally is Big Television's pre-response to the Internet before they start getting evil, it's going to get much, much worse before someone is voted off.


Joe Procopio trades in pop culture and tech culture, allowing him to poke fun at so many things. He's written for a number of online and offline publications from the late, lamented Smug to the fancy-pants Chicago Tribune and also for television. He's a novelist, a shredder, a joker, and a family man. Scoff at joeprocopio.com or follow on Twitter @jproco.

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