Another quarter, another 30-page essay that I dutifully wrote. This report involved a bit of theater that I thought amusing. It was to pass for a business intelligence report and include a cover letter addressed to a fictitious person, under the fictitious guise that somebody would find what I wrote to be a matter of interest. The play-acting struck me as marvelously entertaining; if nothing else, it kept me from falling asleep in writing and proofreading my own work. May it do the same for you!
Christopher J. Dodd
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Motion Picture Association of America
1600 Eye St., NW
Washington, D.C. 20006
Dear Chairman and CEO Dodd:
As your editorials since becoming chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) make clear, you see “the theft of intellectual property online” as an area where the copyright industries, like the MPAA, face their biggest challenge. This report examines a technology for file-sharing that many view as a direct tool for facilitating such intellectual property theft, BitTorrent.
The report covers aspects of the BitTorrent technology that explain the popularity and robustness of the system: its architecture, design, standards, market structure, and continued innovations. Balanced against these elements are the regulatory attempts that media industries such as the MPAA employ to – if not eliminate the use of the technology for piracy purposes – than at least to make such use a cumbersome experience fraught with heavy legal liability.
I would like to draw your attention especially to the industry rationale for lobbying for and enforcing these regulatory attempts. While we should continue to tout the costs of piracy to the public as something both astronomically high and yet grounded in its adverse consequence to earthly businesses such as “caterers, hotels, dry cleaners, and lumber yards”, thus eliciting whatever popular support we can with this cheap talk, we must not lull ourselves into believing the speech we craft for consumption by the masses.
We are a business; our goal is to maximize returns for our shareholders. Lobbying Congress for enforcement of stronger intellectual property protections is an expensive venture. Litigating cases, engaging in a constant “tug-of-war” with technology giants like Google, incurring bad publicity for targeting individual consumers are likewise costly. Such undertakings ensure job security for our lobbyists and fill the pockets of our retained council, but how much do they actually add to our business bottom line? It is one thing to cite research based on dubious assumptions to make the case to politicians, voters, and judges that we (and they) suffer catastrophically from piracy and would gain commensurately from its erasure; it is another thing altogether to actually believe what we preach and spend our precious dollars on the strength of such questionable “findings”.
We are often decried for being a hard-nosed business; it is time we act thusly. We should do a hard-nose calculation on what it costs us to fight these pirates, the likelihood of us succeeding in this fight, and the benefits for succeeding. Forget the rest; forget the moral outrage over “theft” of our intellectual property; forget the defense of American jobs; forget the trumpeting of the American value of strong property protection. Concentrate why we are paid to be here – to make money. Battle the pirates, and pirating-enabling technologies like BitTorrent, only if so doing generates more profits for our business; cease otherwise.
Teas & Books
Unsolicited and Unpaid Consultant for the MPAA