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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.
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Harvey Weinstein has had just about enough of you Internet content pirates and proposes a draconian "French" solution.
If, in the aftermath of the Stop Online Piracy Act/Prevent IP Act (SOPA/PIPA) battle, you thought that only the most intense financiers of Silicon Valley continue to obsess over threats to the "open Internet, we give you...Harvey Weinstein! The Hollywood Reporter catches up with the outspoken producer in England, where he took the occasion of addressing the BFI London Film Festival to absolutely lay into Big Tech.
But first, he heaped praise on recently dethroned French President Nicholas Sarkozy (who awarded Weinstein the prestigious Légion d'honneur prior to leaving office):
"Whether you like his politics or not, this law was good," Weinstein said, "because people are disincentified to steal."
He said the results also could be seen in a country where 260 French movies were made last year, and difficult funding propositions, like the €14 million ($18 million) black-and-white silent film The Artist, could find people to fund it.
"You get a robust local industry from it," he said.
Weinstein's speech was full of humor and barbed observations.
"I love it when these Internet dudes say to me, ‘Hey man, we just want to be 'content neutral,' " Weinstein noted. "Next time, I'll say, 'Sure, I'll get my tie-dye shirt and come and sit in your billion dollar mansion in San Francisco or Silicon Valley for a while, soak it up.'"
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DGA President Taylor Hackford and host Kelsey Grammer speak onstage during the 64th Annual Directors Guild Of America Awards held at the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland on January 28, 2012 in Hollywood, California.
Directors Guild of America President Taylor Hackford went on "The Patt Morrison Show" on Wednesday to offer withering opposition to the opponents of SOPA and PIPA, the two pieces of federal legislation that are intended to halt the scourge of online copyright piracy and, if you believe Hackford, to preserve the gainful employment of many thousands of entertainment industry workers who make far less money than he does ($50,000 a year, on average).
You certainly can't begrudge Hackford his defense of the "artists" against the Internet ruffians. He's made some fine films, including "An Officer and a Gentleman" and "Ray" (we'll forgive him "Against All Odds" and the improbable ballet-tap Cold War mashup "White Nights"). He's on his second go-round as the DGA prez. That said, he could have done a better job of dealing with Patt's question during the segment about the Hollywood business model.