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MPAA Attacks Ars Technica for 'Challenging Efforts To Curb Content Theft'

Posted by: , 19:24 AEDT, Fri January 13, 2012

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MPAA attacks article showing that it misleads on piracy loss figures, and labels tech blog Ars Technica as being pro piracy

The MPAA has launched an attack on Julian Sanchez of the Cato institute, and has also taken a side swipe at Sanchez's former employer, Ars Technica.

In an official MPAA blog post title Standing Against Those Who Trumpet the Economic Value of Theft, the MPAA attached Sanchez for pointing out the various errors in the MPAA's own set of "losses due to piracy" figures, and for arguing that just the money saved by people who pirate movies may end up contributing to other parts of the economy, and so the overall loss to the economy is negated.

Once again, the MPAA uses the analogy of shoplifting to say the Sanchez's assertions are incorrect. 'In his post, Sanchez’s main argument is that theft has a negligible economic impact – only some inefficiency – because theft is beneficial: that is, the consumers who access stolen content can choose to use the money they “saved” to purchase other products. Extending this argument, shoplifting has no economic impact since shoplifters can spend the money they “saved” on other products, a perspective which runs counter to treatment of crime in other “costs of crime” studies', the blog post read. The MPAA blog does not allow comments or feedback.

Critics have often attacked Hollywood for comparing web piracy to physical theft, arguing that unlike shoplifting, the only actual loss incurred with web piracy is a potential lost sale, a sale which may never have occurred. With shoplifting, the store owner has a physical loss that must be replaced financially, whereas with web piracy, the original is never taken, only a "copy".

But what was more controversial was the MPAA's labelling of tech blog Ars Technica as "a tech blog with a long history of challenging efforts to curb content theft".

Ars Technica's Nate Anderson launched a defence of these claims in an article on Wired.com. Anderson's main argument is that some of what steps the MPAA calls "efforts to curb content theft", and the ones opposed by Ars Technica, are actually cases of "absolutely freaking insane approaches to copyright enforcement". Anderson cites examples reaching far back as to the MPAA's opposition to VCRs ("I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone" - MPAA's Jack Valenti), to the introduction of the Broadcast Flag (which was struck down by the US Court of Appeals), to today's support for Internet censorship via SOPA/PIPA.

Anderson notes that if the MPAA can label Ars Technical this way, then many others would get on the MPAA's "black list". Referring to the many controversial opinions supported by the MPAA, and the subsequent opposition from legal, political and the commercial realm, Anderson adds, "That’s a long list of federal judges, official, and companies who came around on copyright. Perhaps they likewise can’t stand anyone who tries to stop content theft?"

Finally, Anderson concludes by saying that Ars Technica supports "Good Copyright Policy", which does not necessarily mean "Stronger Copyright Policy", and urged the MPAA not to mistake constructive criticism on its history of misguided copyright policies, with outright opposition to "any" copyright policy.


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