Media way too easily manipulated

Regular readers of this blog will recognize this refrain. The news business lives off systems that are far too easily manipulated by special interests, and nowhere is this happening more regularly than in stories involving copyright.

The latest is incredibly self-serving “research” (by the Motion Picture Association of America lobbyists) that shows vast numbers of Internet users illegally downloading movies. That’s right, whole movies. The survey of 3,600 Internet users in eight countries shows that a quarter of them have downloaded a movie and more than half have downloaded copyrighted content. An Information Week story headline reads, “Illegal Movie Downloads Are Growing, Hollywood Says. Movie pirates buy fewer DVDs and attend fewer threater screenings, an industry-sponsored survey says.” Here are some other headlines:

Fifth of UK surfers download pirated movies

MPAA shocked at pirating attitude

AU online movie piracy on the rise: Motion Picture Association of America. Almost one-fifth of Australian Internet users have illegally downloaded a movie from the Internet, a survey prepared for a US movie lobby group claims.

Six in Ten Koreans Illegally Download Movies

MPAA: Movie Piracy Is the New Plague

MPAA says 24% of internet users download pirated movies

Movie pirate business booming

20 percent of Brits are Evil, Movie Pirating Thugs: MPAA

Lots of people download movies illegally — shock findings

You get the idea. Only a handful of media outlets have challenged the findings as the farce they are, and nobody that I’ve read has probed the depth of this bullshit.

The “study” was unscientific. I’ve done Internet research and it always comes with a caveat, especially when you’re not given the sites from which the research interviews were culled. (e.g. You want downloaders? Poll users of download sites.) 3,600 respondents is a big number, but it’s spread across 8 countries. And here’s the real kicker: the research was done by OTX. OTX is owned by Zelnick Media of New York, whose officers have deep roots in the motion picture industry.

So here we have a neat press release, based on so-called research, that our watchdog press repeats ad nauseum on behalf of the MPAA. It isn’t a conspiracy, as some would believe; it’s ignorance, laziness and stupidity on parade.

Another headline last week was about a teenager arrested in a theatre for making a pirated video of Spider-Man 2. The employee was wearing night-vision goggles. The MPAA is offering a $500 reward to theatre employees to ferret out piraters. Folks, the only thing new in this story is the reward. Anybody remember the Seinfeld episode ten years ago in which Jerry got caught making a tape?

This is a very well coördinated media campaign by master manipulators, and from where I sit, the press is behaving just the way the MPAA wants them to behave.


  1. The movie industry shouldn’t complain when Spider-Man hauls in what, almost ONE BILLION WORLDWIDE.

    Some costs have been significantly lowered (i.e.: stunts and special effects being done by computers, digital hub instead of film in a canister).

    DVD sales still rake in mountains of cash. They have squashed 321 Studios.

  2. When this story hit /. last week, many people suggested porn might be driving these numbers. Obviously porn wouldn’t have as much of an effect on audio/MP3 downloads.

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