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Wars of Words Erupt Between Wikipedia's Wales, and MPAA

Posted by: , 13:39 AEST, Fri July 13, 2012

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Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales says Hollywood should do more to give customers what they want, instead of relying on "absurd, technologically incompetent, draconian policies", but MPAA says the industry is already doing enough and once again accuses those that download of "stealing", even if they do to solve convenience issues
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Image/Photo Credit: LoveNMoreLove @ Flickr, CC

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has criticized comments made by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales over the contentious issues of copyright policing on the web.

Wales led efforts back in January to opposed the MPAA's favoured Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), legislations if passed would have given the government and content holders, like those represented by the MPAA, enormous powers to police the Internet for copyright infringement. Critics of the bills says that the unworkable laws would have placed too much pressure on websites to police copyright abuses, so much so that it may lead many to close, and that these changes amount to the censoring of the web. They also argued that the removal of due process could lead to a series of harmful lawsuits and takedowns, harming innovation in the same way the Napster decision did back at the start of the last decade.

To protest SOPA/PIPA, Wikipedia's English pages were blacked out for an entire day, the same action repeated across the web on many other websites, including Digital Digest, for a day of protest. The protest worked, and both SOPA and PIPA have now been shelved indefinitely, to the anger of the MPAA members.

Speaking at the Wikimania conference in Washington this week, Wales again re-iterated his willingness to use protest action to protect Internet freedom, even though he does not want Wikipedia to become an activist website. Just this week, Wales organized the shutdown of the Russian language version of Wikipedia to protest new legislation pending in that country that would allow the government there to ban any website it deemed necessary.

And as for the MPAA, and their record industry equivalent, the RIAA, Wales was clear in that he did not want another day of web disruptions to occur, but that "but we may have to" if the entertainment industry continues to see censorship as the solution to their woes.

Instead, Wales says these industries should reflect internally on whether they can serve their customers better, instead of relying on "absurd, technologically incompetent, draconian policies".

"I think that he media industry needs to say, 'Look, why don’t we sell people what they want to buy,’ and I think that will take care a huge proportion of the problem," Wales noted, before citing personal experience with trying to watch the latest episodes of Game of Thrones at home in London, and unable to legally do so even when he was more than happy to pay for it.

But the MPAA hit back, accusing those that use unauthorized downloads "out of convenience" of "stealing". MPAA spokesperson Kate Bedingfield told The Hill that there are already plenty of legal alternatives available, and that the industry is continuing to innovate to bring customers what they want.

"Our studios are constantly partnering and innovating new ways for audiences to watch the movies and TV shows they love: Hulu, HBO Go, Vudu, Crackle, UltraViolet, Epix, MUBI – and that just barely scratches the surface,” said Bedingfield. "There are more legitimate avenues available today to watch movies and TV shows online than ever before, and our studios are continuing to innovate every day to bring audiences even more options."

The studios' self-backed platform, UltraViolet, has been criticized for not focusing enough on convenience, and instead, the fragmented platform has given in to each studio's own self interest and too heavy of an emphasis on anti-piracy. HBO Go, which has exclusive first release web rights to Wales referenced Game of Thrones, is also unavailable outside of the United States, which has seen the show become the most pirated TV show in the current TV season.


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