Last week, I wrote a post (“The old reality”) examining filmmaker Harvey Weinstein’s claims that France’s so-called “three-strikes” law had reduced the instance of piracy (it appeared to do so) as well as its impact (this, it did not appear to affect at all).
I wanted to return to Weinstein’s remarks, because he said something curious about the prospects for renewed legislation. Speaking to an audience at the London Film festival, Weinstein observed:
“The fact that the internet companies, when we talk about piracy in the United States, can shut down our country. Wikipedia went out of business for a day. They showed “us” what happens when you protest the freedom of the internet. But no one has yet understood the economics.”
“I think, after the election, there will be a greater forum about that. I think we need to rally filmmakers around the world, content providers around the world and musicians around the world, and as long these companies are the wealthiest companies around the world under the guise of free internet, I think we’re making a gigantic economic mistake.”
Weinstein is decidedly a Democrat and a supporter of President Obama, so “after the election” suggests an understanding of the President’s legislative priorities. Tellingly, Weinstein used part of his London speech to criticize U.S. presidential contender Mitt Romney, though Romney is definitely not on the ballot in the U.K.
The reality is that media coverage, like film sales, can cross borders, and Weinstein knows that his words wend their way back to domestic shores. It’s easier to understand his full intent when you read his thoughts about legislative priorities:
“I am worried about the regulators not being smart enough to deal with these issues and it’s time for us as independent filmmakers to come together and find our own voice – some sort of lobbying effort that’s strong. I know that Senator Dodd is a strong voice in the United States but we need a global voice. We need to band together globally and deal with these issues. But there is, thank god, a shining situation in France that is a model to show the internet companies that they can win and we can win at the same time. There is a bi-partisan harmony in that.”
It was just last April that former Connecticut Senator and current MPAA chair Christopher Dodd broadly hinted that behind-the-scenes talks to replace failed SOPA legislation were already underway. Couple that with administration efforts to work directly with Internet service providers (ISPs) to take down sites that copyright holders find objectionable, and you have the recipe for a new set of laws and regulations.
So don’t be surprised if the upcoming lame-duck session is used to consider a bill that revives SOPA’s core aspects. Weinstein would like it to include a U.S. version of France’s three-strikes law. If only he had the data to show that it actually helps boost film sales.
An additional note: A perspective on the private ISP agreeements was published yesterday by Cory Doctorow, writing on BoingBoing. He explains how these agreements make Harvey Weinstein's preferred approach (disconnect first, ask questions later) a reality in the United States.