Kris Connor/Getty Images for The Weinstein C
Harvey Weinstein speaks during a panel discussion after a screeing of the documentary "Bully" at MPAA in Washington, DC. The producer has become an outspoken critic of the "Open Internet," calling it "stealing."
In the ongoing battle between Hollywood and Silicon Valley over the future of entertainment, two major events - one tragic, the other, comical - have defined the last few weeks.
The tragedy was the apparent suicide of "Open Internet" activist Aaron Swartz. It provoked an outpouring of support for Swartz's at-times radical vision and returned the debate about whether online content should roam free of copyrigh to the national agenda.
The comedy was Kim Dotcom, whose Megaupload site was shut down by the U.S. government last year on the grounds that it was enabling Internet content piracy. Dotcom (not his real name) rolled out a new site last weekend, from the relative safety of New Zealand. He isn't even messing around with the "upload" part any more; the new site is simply called "Mega."
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Former U.S. Sen. and new Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America Chris Dodd. When online piracy legislation came up for a vote in Congress in 2012, he found himself up against open the late open Internet activist Aaron Swartz.
Aaron Swartz — a prodigy, an outspoken political and technology activist, co-founder of Reddit, co-creator of RSS, and a central figure in the open Internet movement — was found dead in Brooklyn last weekend, of an apparent suicide. He was 26 and nearing a court appearance for hacking into an MIT database of academic papers to symbolically liberate the information.
There's already an outpouring of grief among Swartz's former partner, the technorati, and the high-tech venture capital world. There has also been considerable speculation that Swartz, who suffered from depression, was driven to kill himself by a government that didn't at all like his accrued power or point of view. At least one blogger has also suggested a more nefarious explanation for Swartz's demise.
Swartz was something of a techno-anarchist, taking his activism to an place that even garden variety Silicon Valley libertarians have been hesitant to go. In his mind, information was born free, but is everywhere in chains. In this, he lived slightly outside the Big Tech-Big Content debate that I've written about as an ongoing battle between Hollywood and Silicon Valley.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Netflix disappointed Wall Street with its second-quarter earnings. It's trying to get out of the business of delivering DVDs by mail while it grows in online streaming.
In a world where people watching movies and TV shows online is a trend that's absolutely taking off, you'd expect that the biggest name in the streaming space, Netflix, would be doing quite well. And you'd be justified — but also quite wrong.
First, the streaming part. This is from The Wrap, referencing a recent report from the Digital Entertainment Group and looping in Netflix's major business-model change:
The five-fold spike in subscription streaming is largely due to Netflix’s shift away from CDs. Spending on subscription streaming hit $548.6 million in the first half of 2012, up from $85 million in the first six months of 2011. [my emphasis]
How could Netflix lose with increases of that magnitude being posted? Easy: All that demand for streaming means Netflix is going to have to spend and spend hugely to feed the demand. Wall Street is concerned about this — as well it should be given that the former darling of the Silicon Valley tech world just saw second quarter earnings call by a whopping 91 percent. USAToday does the numbers:
Screenshot from the MegaUpload music video
USA Today reports in the federal government's shutdown of file-sharing site Megaupload yesterday:
The five-count indictment, which alleges copyright infringement as well as conspiracy to commit money laundering and racketeering, described a site designed specifically to reward users who uploaded pirated content for sharing, and turned a blind eye to requests from copyright holders to remove copyright-protected files.
It was unsealed a day after technology companies staged an online blackout to protest two related bills in Congress that would crack down on sites that use copyrighted materials and sell counterfeit goods. Congressional leaders agreed Friday to indefinitely delay action on those bills — Stop Online Priacy Act in the House and Protect IP Act in the Senate.
Critics contend SOPA and PIPA don't so much protect the rights of filmmakers, musicians, writers and artists as they do preserve an antiquated film and music distribution system.