Monday, July 10, 2006

Double Standards and Greed

I feel a rant coming on. Two rants, actually.

First off, I woke up this morning to discover that my own Utah Senator Orrin Hatch has helped get a music producer (that just happens to be signed with the same music label the Senator Hatch is signed with) out of jail in Dubai.

On the surface this is a good thing. I don’t want any American rotting away in a jail cell in Dubai. Where this gets sticky is that this producer, Dallas Austin, was jailed after being convicted of drug possession when he tried to bring 1.26 grams of cocaine into Dubai.

Several years ago Senator Hatch ran as an incumbent on the “War on Drugs” campaign byline. How is actively seeking the release of a convicted cocaine smuggler fighting the war on drugs? Again, I don’t like the idea of anyone rotting in Dubai, but when’s the last time Senator Hatch tried to get anyone out of a foreign prison? Sorry Senator. I don’t think a record producer should get special treatment, just because he’s signed with the same label you are.

Next I discovered that a federal judge decided that DVD editing services such as CleanFlicks, and CleanFilms are violating copyright laws and need to cease and desist.

Let met give you some background on this. These two companies provide a service. They sell you a movie, just like anyone else does, and pay all the royalties associated with that sale. Then they turn around and sell you a second copy of the movie that has been edited for content, much like a movie would be for viewing on airline flight or on broadcast, and some cable, television networks. This is done for people who don’t like to go watch “R” rated movies and want gratuitous smut and violence left behind. They want to control the content that comes into their homes.

Michael Apted, director of "Coal Miner's Daughter" and president of the Director's Guild of America, gave the argument for Holywood suing these folks: "Audiences can now be assured that the films they buy or rent are the vision of the filmmakers who made them and not the arbitrary choices of a third-party editor.”

This is a lie, or if not a lie then an example of sheer stupidity. These movies are already being edited for content and time by broadcast networks and airlines. In fact, that was one of the big “selling points” of DVD when they were first exploring the technology. Hollywood couldn’t give us edited versions of the movies on VHS because it would be a technical nightmare for them. They could only put on show on one tape, so how many of which version did they need to create? But, Hollywood assured us, that with the advent of DVDs they could include both versions on the disk.

We already get edited DVDs. We can choose to see a DVD in widescreen or fullscreen format. We can even choose what language to listen to it on.

What this is really about is Hollywood retaining complete control of how consumers view and use their product. It’s about how much money they can get out of us as consumers. Even though the CleanFlicks consumer has already paid the licensing fees to see the movie in their homes, and could do the editing themselves under fair use laws, they can’t pay someone else to do it for them according to this ruling.

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