Via a comment on the blog I learned that the letter translated below was not drafted by Paulo Branco the producer, but in fact by his son Juan Paulo Branco, who is also the maintainer of the blog Pour le Cinema (For the Cinema). Sorry Juan Paolo!
Things are hotting up in France ahead of the reintroduction of the Internet and Creation Law (HADOPI) in the French Parliament on April 29th. As I’ve described elsewhere several groups of musicians and filmmakers have made public pronouncements in support of the law. While there have been dissidents to the industry line throughout, a serious crack has opened up in the last week. Below I’ve translated the letter (French original here) drawn up by Juan Paulo Branco, and signed by over thirty figures from French cinema. Arthouse fans will be happy to see Chantal Akerman on the list, Eva Truffaut – who holds the rights to all her father’s films – documentary and narrative filmmakers, producers, casting directors and actors. One name stands out however, because it’s loaded with serious cultural capital, and that’s Catherine Deneuve. Ah, one more thing, another signatory is a certain Jean Sainati, whom you probably haven’t heard of: he was executive director of the ALPA ie the Antipiracy Board, from 1988 until 2002. Is the penny dropping yet?
The call came late, but hey, it came. Paulo Branco put the delay down to the time required to collect the signatories and veiled threats made to him by other members of the film industry. Serious stuff given that he’s no industry ingenue, having produced more than 200 movies for directors including Wim Wenders and Raoul Ruiz.
When the entertainment industry marshaled its troops for public display at the Odeon in Paris the parade was largely composed of aging songwriters. Note the looks on their faces. They have the support of some younger musicians as well, and Luc Besson and Bertrand Tavernier have been busy penning open letters in favour of the law, but the emergence of this schism internal to the cinema world will complicate the public debate significantly.
Meanwhile Juan Paulo Branco has launched a blog around their call, and is collecting alternative proposals to Hadopi. Today’s contribution is from campaign group, La Quadrature du Net, titled “The necessary union between artists and internet users.” The same crowd who are coordinating an international campaign around the EU Telecoms Package. One imagines that the article must have caused some squeaky-bums moments in a few Parisian boardrooms.
An Open Letter to Citizen Viewers (Spectateurs),
Here is the open letter through which the opposition movement of the cinema world against the Hadopi law has begun. It constitutes a first step in the struggle for a more just system which takes into account the interests of all: the battle has just begun.
Committed (engagé) artists and producers, throughout our careers we have dedicated ourselves to a different cinema, a cinema which is open and challenging.
You have brought life to our work, heralding, acknowledging or rejecting it. Throughout our careers, we have pursued the same ambition: to spread our work and share it with you. Throughout our careers, we have faced a thousand obstacles, be they technical, material or economic.
Today we have the luck to live through a digital revolution which will allow us, in the very near future, to remove a number of these obstacles and open our cinema to all.
Today some fear this revolution, and fear for their monopoly. The Internet and Creation Law responds to a legitimate anxiety, which we share: that of seeing works devalued and degraded through distribution on the internet.
However this law, which claims to position itself as defender of creation, merely establishes a punishment mechanism of dubious constitutionality and opaque functionality.
Fruit of a massive exercise in lobbying and based on the presumption of guild, the Internet and Creation Law creates HADOPI, a high authority controlled by the executive which will be able to cut off an internet user’s connection for an infinitely extendible period, with neither the slightest proof nor the possibility of legal recourse,
Worse, and contrary to what has been widely written, no legislative provision enacts the substitution of criminal and civil charges with this procedure, making a ‘dual punishment’ possible .
Just as the European Parliament has almost unanimously characterized access to the internet as a fundamental right for the third time in just a few months; as ‘graduated response’ model crumbles in the United States; and while the rest of world emphasizes the pursuit of commercial pirates, the French government persists in treating users, viewers, as immature children at the root of all the cinema industry’s problems.
Demagogic, technically unfeasible, doggedly ignorant of the new methods of downloading, and purely repressive, this law is also a missed opportunity. Providing no new form of remuneration for rightsholders, the Internet and Creation Law addresses neither the cinema in its diversity, nor the viewers. Constituting just one last vain attempt to eradicate piracy through punishment, without concerning itself with the creation of legal alternatives, affordable and openly accessible via internet, it responds to none of the challenges posed today by new technologies, even though a strong and creative response is required by the cinema industry and those bodies dedicated to the protection of rights.
We do not identify with this approach, and call for a change of mentality. Fear of the internet is a mistake that we can no longer allow ourselves to make. It is time to accept that we must adapt ourselves to this “new world”, where access to culture loses its discriminatory character, and stop striving to create a society of virtual surveillance where everyone feels monitored.
Be it through a system of compulsory license (license globale) or by through the development of a unified platform for the downloading of works without DRM at reasonable prices, positive responses to this challenge are needed today, which measure up to the expectations of the audience. Now is the time for reinvention and amazement, rather than the introduction of the umpteenth repressive mechanism….
Conscious of the needs of rightsholders, as we are ourselves, to find new forms of remuneration and get rid of piracy…
Confronted by a mechanism which is essentially conservative, demagogic and corrosive of liberty, which does not deals with what is really at stake in the digital revolution, and pays no heed to the interests of auteur cinema (cinema d’auteur). And in response to the numerous public declarations, drawn up by institutions and lobby groups to speak in the name of a profession which they represent only in part….
We, filmmakers, producers and actors, mark with this declaration our refusal of the Hadopi system, and the Internet and Creation Law.
We call on all lovers of cinema and freedom, of creation and diversity, to make their voices heard to their representatives to abandon Hadopi while there is still time, and put in its place a more just system, taking into account the interests of all.
Victoria Abril (actrice), Chantal Akerman (réalisatrice), Agathe Berman (productrice), Paulo Branco (producteur), Catherine Deneuve (actrice), Louis Garrel (acteur), Yann Gonzalez (comédien), Clotilde Hesme (actrice), Christophe Honoré (réalisateur), JP Limosin (acteur), Chiara Mastroianni (actrice), Zina Modiano (réalisatrice), Gael Morel (réalisateur), Eva Truffaut (artiste cinéaste, ayant-droit de François Truffaut), Brigitte Rouan (réalisatrice), Françoise Romand (réalisateur), Laurence Ferreira Barbosa (réalisateur), Santiago Amigorena (réalisateur), Jeanne Balibar (actrice), Luc Wouters (SRF), Jean Sainati (ex délégué de l’ALPA général de 88 à 2002), Pierre Cattan (producteur), Gilles Sandoz (producteur), Pascal Verroust (ADR productions), Timothy Duquesne (auteur), Agnès de Cayeux (auteur), Antoine Moreau (auteur), Nathalie Chéron (directrice de casting), Gisčle Rapp-Meichler (cinéaste), Sylvain Monod (producteur, cinéaste), Richard Rousseau (directeur de casting), Fabrice Ziolkowski (réalisateur), Jacquie Bablet (réalisateur), Olivier Seror (réalisateur)
To see my more recent posts on Hadopi, click here.
Just forty eight hours after the release of the film and the web’s capacity to extend the reach of media through voluntary cooperation is being made clear. English subtitles were made available for the film on its release, a gambit which has paid off as almost immediately people began translating them into their own native languages. So far there are working subs available in Russian (tnx Beast + Lord Russian Nightmare), Finnish (tnx Janne Peltola), Italian (tnx to Chiara Micheli), German (thx Christian), Spanish (tnx Habladorcito) and Portuguese (tnx Felipe) on the website; Dutch, French, and Greek translations are on their way.
As always the gang at the Pirate Bay have been a rock of support, pumping the film on their blog, adding a download link to every page and, in fact, ye scurvy dogs may have noticed that we have taken over their front page, displacing the usual pirate ship!
At time of writing it’s really paying off as there are nearly 5,000 seeds for the three different files containing the film, providing an effective speed equal to that obtainable by any notion picture studio employing global server co-location like Akamai and local caching services like Google, not bad for a bunch of amateurs working from the grassroots! If it’s not coming down fast it may be your ISP is throttling your line, ring them up and complain, and support the fight for Net Neutrality…
Naturally it’s also available at Mininova, (Erik, who appears in the film, blogs about it here), who are showing it their support by deploying a high performance content distribution network to help its distribution. Meanwhile other people have been busily re-encoding it for upload at other sites such as rapidshare, but anyone who’s reading this and wants to support us should check their network of choice (Gnutella, Kazaa, eMule, Direct Connect) and ensure that it’s made available through your shared folder.
“In the universe that did happen…” Bram Cohen, inventor of Bit Torrent in their corporate headquarters in downtown San Francisco. Whilst not in the current edit, the interview will be in the archive.
Help has also come from Bit Torrent Inc. who are hosting the film on their site both as a download and as a stream (even though they’re also working for Hollywood, poachers and gamekeepers and all that). Another version is also available on google video.
Other viewers are so enthusiastic that they want to work with us – offering help shooting in different locations, to compose music, design skills. Keep them coming, it’s really appreciated and we’ll get back to you when things clam down a little.
Mural from the Other Cinema in San Francisco.
To our delight, donations are pouring in, although obviously there is a long way to go to finance another film. If you are in an educational or arts institution, please persuade them to make a donation to us or bring us to your venue to present the film.
Filmmaker Craig Baldwin is pretty sceptical about technological optimism…
eAnd in the end, we appreciate all those who have written to us with their opinions of the film – criticizing its weaknesses, attacking aspects they don’t agree with. Likewise to those opponents who have taken the time to talk to us, and lastly to those who just wrote to tell us with information, or to say they (appreciate what we’ve done), (will spread the word), and (are in solidarity with the ideas the film professes). We did it for you, or rather, for all of us!
Vanessa Renwick’s neon installation sits atop the door to Rick Prelinger’s library of serendipity in San Francisco.
After the usual last minute antics, the second installment of Steal This Film has just been released. You can download it here. There is also a quick interview with my friend Jamie on torrent freak. The film attempts to insert the conflicts over file-sharing and distributed communication in a historical context. Beginning with the book and the printing press, STF 2 tells of the disruptive consequences of new technologies of reproduction, and how these inventions are resisted by those in power.
With historian Elizabeth Eisenstein in her home, April 2007.
Of the many people interviewed there wasn’t space for everyone in the final cut, which will be remedied through the making available online of an archive of the source materials. Undoubtedly the film has innumerable shortcomings, we hope that others will appropriate the materials release, make their own versions, and deepen the discussion.
Wendy Seltzer in Greenwich Village, New York April 2007; creator of Chilling Effects and one of those who are not in the final cut but to whom we are enormously grateful for their generosity.
Interviewed in the film: Aaron Schwartz, Adam Burns, Brokep (the Pirate Bay), Bob Darnton, Brewster Kahle, Dan Glickman, Eben Moglen, Elizabeth Eisenstein, Erik (Mininova), Felix Stadler, Fred Von Lohmann, Ghetto, Howard Rheingold, Lawerence Liang, Raph Levien, Rick Prelinger, The Grime Reaper, Seb Lutgert, Seth Schoen, Siva Vaidhyanathan, Wiley, Yochai Benkler.
Interviewing Eben Moglen from the Software Freedom Law Center in Manhattan, April 2007.
Special thanks to those who were generous enough to allow us to interview them but who are not in the film, sometimes for technical reasons (sound ) or simply because as a film takes shape it has to hug tighter to a theme. Our discussions with people were wide-ranging and sometimes the conversations just didn’t fit with what was eventually to become Steal This Film 2.
… the next film will be more visual!
Eamonn Crudden, Irish filmmaker, Mob Manifesto writer and zombie-economy observer has just released his painstakingly assembled documentary “Route Irish” over Bit Torrent. To my knowledge it is the first time an Irish documentary feature has been released using p2p as its primary delivery mechanism. Premiered in Dublin earlier this month, the documentary is an account and critique of the movement against the use of Shannon airport on the Atlantic seaboard as part of the “war against terror”. The film is the result of nearly five years of work and is written with an attention to detail familiar to those who have seen Eamonn’s previous work, such as “Berlusconi’s Mousetrap” narrating the events of the G8 meeting in Genoa, 2001. More on this later, the torrent for “Route Irish” is available here.
A Danish documentary, “Good Copy, Bad Copy”, about conflicts around copyright and made by Andreas Johnsen, Ralf Christensen, and Henrik Moltke, is now available online. A couple of the interviewees appear also in our documentary which will be out soon and takes a different slant. The movie can be found at the filmmakers’ website.
The organisers of the Oil of the 21st Century have a text, both poetic and inexorably accurate, where they point out that when the content industry claims to be protecting artists, they are increasingly (!) referring to dead authors:
“Human history is the history of copying, and the entirely defensive and desperate attempt to stall its advancement by the means of Intellectual Property – the proposition to ressurect the dead as rights holders and turn the living into their licensees – only indicates how profoundly recent advancements in copying technology, the adaptability and scalability they have attained, the ideas and habits they are creating, are about to change the order of things. …… The spectre that is haunting Intellectual Proprietors world-wide is no longer just the much-lamented “death of the author”, but the becoming-producer and becoming-distributor of the capitalist consumer.”
For ‘intellectual property’, read copyright, which extends past the death of the author, often for an additional seventy years. When the copyright industry seeks another extension to the scope and duration of exclusive rights, they are attempting to increase the licensing value of their archives rather than help the proverbial garret-dweller in the fight to pay rent, fill the stomach and buy pencils.
The point is a good one, but is ripe for additional amendment- there are after all a few artists still breathing. Successful artists and cultural creators do not need to join the deceased in order to get killed off so far as a fair share of revenue from their work, and control over its fate, is concerned. When Tony Soprano orders an OBE* contract on someone, he of course means it metaphorically – Tony is a man with clear ideas as to what lawyers are useful for, and that does not encompass the operational aspect of settling scores or negotiating with hitmen. The movie, music and software industry do, however, take out creators in a very literal way, through the use of contracts.
Principal weapons in this vile practice of elimination are the work for hire clause in both cinema and software, and unfair accounting practices in music. The former case turns the limited company created for a film production into the effective author for legal purposes, whilst the latter ensures that the risk of failure is carried by the musician. Courtney Love made no bones about the villainous nature of record contracts as some readers may remember, and the Recording Artists Coalition regularly make similar points. One doesn’t hear as many complaints about the work-for-hire clause, partially becasue the material situation in the industry is dealt with through the various industry labour negotiations. One thing is sure however, the immediately interested party as far as film copyright is concerned is rarely the director or the actor. Just a small thing to bear in mind next time you listen to Dan Glickman and other industry representatives.
*One Behind the Ear, a dark Irish pun on the UK honours system.
Several weeks ago the Nigerian government announced a $7 billion action against Pfizer for
performing tests on children during a 1996 epidemic without informed consent. This story was one of four cases highlighted in an excellent documentary made by Michael Simkin and Brian Woods for Channel 4 in 2003, called “Dying For Drugs.”
Kano, a town in northern Nigeria, was already in the grip of cholera and measles epidemics when another disease struck: meningitis. Infection spread rapidly and hundreds died. MSF set up an emergency operation there to treat the sick with proven antibiotics. A couple of weeks later Pfizer independently dispatched a team to Nigeria with their new drug Trovan, which had never been tested on children. Pfizer has never produced any consent forms signed by either the children or the parents, claiming that the risks were explained by a local nurse and consent was ‘verbal‘. Over two hundred children were experimented on as part of this trial.
Pharmaceutical tests are required to be cleared in advance by an Ethics Committee. In this case it was notionally based in Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, but in fact does not appear to have existed. Pfizer produced a letter dated March 26, 1996, but later their doctor admitted that he had produced the letter a year later and backdated it to reflect what he claims was a ‘verbal agreement’.
Pfizer later fired one of its child health specialists, Juan Walterspiel, after he wrote an open letter to senior management outlining criticism and concern at the way in which the trials had been conducted. He is not the only Pfizer employee to have been fired for whistle-blowing.
Apart from the Nigerian government’s action, there is a separate case underway in the High Cort in Kano, taken by the state and the families of the children involved. At least five children die, and many others have suffered from arthritis; Trovan was known to have the side effect of causing joint damage. Lawyers representing the families initially sought to have the case heard in the US under the Alien Tort Claims Act, a move which Pfizer’s lawyers fought.
The Food and Drugs Administration eventually granted approval for use on adults in the US, but not on children. Following the exposure of liver related conditions its use was further circumscribed. Trovan has not been approved for use in Europe.
Further information is available in an article published by the Washington Post in 2000, as part of its series “The Body Hunters”, “As Drug testing Spreads, Profits and Lives Hang in the Balance.”
Other chapters in Dying for Drugs chronicle Big Pharma’s modus operandi in three other areas: silencing critical medical research; pharmaceutical pricing; effects of compulsory licenses (and their absence) on the lives of AIDS patients. Director Brian Woods met John Le Carre and Fernando Mereilles during production of “The Constant Gardener” in 2005, and copies of the film were distributed to members of the cast.
In editing studios people often quiz me as to the whther they can use elements of such and such a film, and it’s becoming rather depressing not being able to give them a straight answer. Let’s take something apparently simple first: public domain works. Unfortunately there are quite a few movies cruising the internet under a Creative Commons PD licence which, well, are in the public domain at all…. This is what happens when you have an infinite number of jurisdictions and rules in continual change. Take Russia. There extended their copyright duration in 2004 from 50 to seventy year after the death of the author. Now Dziga Vertov died in 1954, so without the change, “Man With a Movie Camera” would certainly have entered the public domain in 2005. But maybe it’s public domain elsewhere, but filmmakers who want to distribute their works over the net need to theoretically be clean everywhere.
These divergence are an order of magnitude worse when it comes to fair use/fair dealing.
Then there’s the question of protection for sound recordings. Prior to 1972 they weren’t protected by federal law in the US. then you find a case like Capital Records v Naxos to tell you that in fact they are protected at least in New York by State Law! This is the stuff of hair loss – 50 more states to add to the choice-of-law soup.
Of course what happens is that on a functional level deals are done, warranties provided only for certain markets, which correspond with specific jurisdictions. But at a time when web distribution, either on demand or retail, is accelerating, it’s snubs reality. Oh well. Bandit filmmakers don’t need to worry, along with filesharers – the jurisdiction problem for business correlates, curiously, to the difficulty of cracking down on unauthorised uses where no cash is being made of the results.
Man Yan is a young chinese filmmaker who has already achieved considerable renown, His most recent work is “Pirated Copy“, a study of the cycle of production of counterfeit DVDs in China, and they way in which they cause people’s lives to intertwine.
Opening with a series of face-hidden shots of DVD hawkers I initially took it for a documentary, so it was only a police chase in which the cameraman is also involved until its conclusion that woke me up to the fact that it’s fiction. Thereafter we are introduced to the characters, a cinephile whose street-peddling allows him to meet strangers, a film professor with a penchant for Almodavar, a prostitute on the hunt for romance, and a worker high on Tarantino-style imagination who has just been laid off from his job and is desperate for money. Conveniently our friend Lawrence Liang from the Alternative Law Centre in Bangalore came to Berlin for Summit and gave a presentation about the film on sunday morning. He had visited some of the locations where it had been shot, including a bookstore/cafe adjacent to a pirate dvd shop which sells everything from Foucault to Ginsberg (not your knee-jerk idea of Beijing perhaps?), and who faced is adorned with a small mural of Lola from Lola Rennt.
I really recommend the film which is stylishly shot but whose strongest point is in conveying the type of intimate relationship that is created when people share ideas, desires, sensibilities and things.
Whilst in San Francisco we attended a screening in Craig Baldwin’s “The Other Cinema”, compéred by filmmaker Sam Green, director of “The Weather Underground” amongst other works. The idea did occur to us to interview him on the subject of his attitude towards p2p, as his work epitomises in some ways the type of film that benefits in visibility through uncontrolled distribution, as it has a definite audience spread thinly worldwide, many of whom will never have the chace to see it in cinema or rent it at a store. However the object of our attention that night was Craig Baldwin, so we stayed focussed. Fortunately Sam was on his way to Rome to the Tekfestival organized by friends of ours, and my pal Espanz took the opportunity to shoot a short interview with him as they wandered through the streets of the city. You can see it here.
- Commons Talk
- Pirates Languish, Rousing Occasionally to Devour Each Other
- Boas, Malinowski, Musil enter the Public Domain
- Guangzhou By Night
- A Long Night, Near the Bay
- Christmas Reading
- Who Fears To Quote the Studio System?
- European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights, RAND etc.
- On VPNs, Filesharing & Illusions
- Pirate Effect Rolls Through Nordrhein-Westfalen
- More Booty for the Pirate Party in Germany
- Library Closure of Type .nu
- civil liberties
- European Court of Justice
- european directives
- european regulations
- european union
- material culture
- open video
- Pirate Bay
- Pirate Party
- social cooperation
- steal this film