By MCN Editor editor@moviecitynews.com

NetCoalition, CEA, and CCIA Respond to Members of Congress On Stop Online Piracy Act

Letter to Members of the House of Representatives

October 31, 2011

Dear Member of Congress:

Last week, Representatives Lamar Smith, Bob Goodlatte, John Conyers, Howard Berman and eight others introduced H.R. 3261, the “Stop Online Piracy Act” (“SOPA”). This legislation has been framed by its sponsors as a vehicle to protect U.S. trademarks and copyrights from foreign “rogue” websites. While we support this concept, H.R. 3261 puts lawful U.S. Internet and technology companies at risk by creating new liabilities, opening the door for vague new technology mandates, imposing significant costs on small businesses, and would create a new unprecedented private right of action regime for intellectual property.

Under this bill, a foreign or domestic Internet site that has broken no U.S. law can nevertheless have its economic lifeblood cut off upon a single notice from a copyright or trademark owner (or perhaps an owner of a patent or trade secret, or possibly even a celebrity with a right of publicity) who alleges that a single page of the site “enables or facilitates” illegal activity by third parties.

Moreover, a court can second-guess whether an Internet advertising network is taking all technically feasible and reasonable measures to prevent the placement of ads on a site that has not been found to infringe an existing intellectual property right.

As currently drafted, we believe SOPA is an alarming step backwards in Internet policy creating  a thicket of Internet regulations containing 16 new legal definitions for evolving Internet technology (including a definition for the word “including”). Further, the definition of “dedicated to theft of U.S. property” is so broad it would unduly ensnare legitimate companies’ websites, products and services.

For example, SOPA would:

  • Effectively undermine provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and Supreme Court jurisprudence that have promoted electronic commerce, cooperation between intellectual property holders and Internet companies, and user privacy. In so doing, SOPA creates a litigation and liability nightmare for Internet and technology companies and social media;
  • Create new litigation risks for cloud computing, social networks, and other new technologies that simply have the potential of being misused by consumers. Virtually every Internet site that allows user generated content can be subject to suit under SOPA and the bill could force Internet companies to police their users’ activities;
  • Allow intellectual property owners to seek actions including the termination of advertising and payment services for an entire site even if there is only one page of unlawful content on a site that has millions of pages;
  • Institute a regime for Internet censorship by both law enforcement and private actors, undermining the U.S.’s ability to oppose Internet censorship by oppressive, undemocratic countries;
  • Allow law enforcement and judges to impose technology mandates on Internet companies to prevent their products and services from being used for illegal conduct by third parties;
  • Introduce serious security risks to our communications infrastructure and the critical national infrastructure that depends on it;
  • Incentivize ISPs, registrars, registries, ad networks, payment processors, and search engines to take action against a domestic or foreign site when prompted by a rightsholder by providing complete immunity for taking such action while exposing those intermediaries to potential liability if they do not take such action.  The property rights of the accused site are tossed away with no recourse and remedy for harm by the website owner;
  • Provide for monetary sanctions against intermediaries (payment processors and ad services) in suits initiated by private actors (i.e. private right of action).

In short, this is not a bill that targets “rogue foreign sites.” Rather, it allows movie studios, foreign luxury goods manufacturers, patent and copyright trolls, and any holder of any intellectual property right to target lawful U.S. websites and technology companies.

Our industry has and will continue to suggest alternative approaches that would target unlawful, foreign sites without the collateral damage inflicted by the proposals in H.R. 3261.

For the reasons above, we respectfully ask that you do not cosponsor H.R. 3261.  A more detailed and substantive analysis of SOPA’s most critical defects and impact on legitimate companies is forthcoming.

Sincerely,

One Response to “NetCoalition, CEA, and CCIA Respond to Members of Congress On Stop Online Piracy Act”

  1. Mike Smullin says:

    Tell your representatives: “NO CHINA-STYLE BLOCKLIST HR 3261 — US Rogue Websites Bill aka SOPA, Protect IP, E-PARASITE, etc.”
    https://www.votizen.com/no-china-style-blocklist-hr-3261-us-rogue-websites-bill-aka-sopa-protect-ip/

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This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin