The Madeleine Brand Show

The Madeleine Brand Show is a daily, two-hour program that looks at news and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by Madeleine Brand

How Hollywood lost the battle for hearts and minds in SOPA debate

by The Madeleine Brand Show

Wikipedia blacked out its whole website to join the SOPA/PIPA protest

Wikipedia, Reddit and BoingBoing are just some of the sites that went dark Wednesday to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA). It appears the online forces opposed to the legislation have the upper hand, even though supporters like big Hollywood studios spent millions of dollars lobbying for its passage.

According to the Los Angeles Times, three co-sponsors have publicly withdrawn their support of the antipiracy bills in reaction to the massive internet backlash. Florida Senator Marco Rubio is one of several lawmakers who’ve dropped their sponsorship. Did Hollywood blow it? How could people who make their living creating engaging narratives fail to sell the public on a plan they say is so important to their survival?

Hollywood studios remain firm, arguing piracy is causing workers in the industry to lose jobs. Marty Kaplan, professor of entertainment, media and society at USC, said their moral argument is ineffective. According to Kaplan, a recent study found that neither the notion of job loss nor increased police enforcement decreased the amount of illegal downloads. "The idea that this somehow would be a magic bullet seems enormously optimistic," he said.

Kaplan said that many opposed to SOPA and PIPA want to get content that's legal, and are willing to pay for it. They object, Kaplan said, to the restrictions Hollywood places on when, where and how they can use that content. He went on to say that Hollywood's failure to capture sympathy of the majority comes from its stubbornness to change.

"The example of iTunes demonstrates that if there is a way to get content that seems to be fairly priced to consumers and it allows consumers autonomy, in terms of when, where and how they consume content, that people are willing to do it," Kaplan said. What they resent, he thinks, is the notion that Hollywood is holding all the cards.

Kaplan's solution? Hollywood should change the way they make films. He said that producing
fewer major blockbusters won't hurt the industry that badly.

"I think it's conceivable that Hollywood can reset the price point of what they're doing and still put out quality entertainment and have people watch it," he said. "It just might not be based on the business model that they're clinging to so desperately."


Marty Kaplan,, former political speechwriter and a former movie executive

With contributions from Andrea Wang

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