The New ‘Copyright Alert System’ Takes Aim at the Wrong People

fbi_seal_large_verge_medium_landscapeWith the new Copyright Alert System, the MPAA and RIAA are dropping the hammer… On the wrong people…

Internet Service Providers, the MPAA/RIAA, and the Federal government have all teamed up and decided that they are going to fix the problem of internet piracy and copyright infringement. They’ve worked for years, struggling to come up with a comprehensive solution to such a horrible and thoughtless crime epidemic. Piracy is corroding the soul of America, let’s face it. Multinational Corporate-Run Motion Picture Studios work extremely hard to distribute a product that they can make a profit from, and despite the fact that the box office just had its best year in a decade, the scourge of internet piracy has to be stopped.

WarOnDrugsInfographicLike the equally important and equally effective War on Drugs and War on Terror, the War on Piracy has become one of the most important wars of our age… Symbolizing not only the great struggle for the morality of this nation, but for the very souls of our children as well. For what are we if we teach our kids that theft is acceptable? What are we saying about our society if we don’t let our most important corporate citizens set an example for what is and what isn’t appropriate economic responsibility? And now, after years of work, countless man-hours of thoughtful analysis, finally the policy makers AND the government have given the Corporate-Run Motion Picture Studios have a weapon they can finally use to target offenders… Education.

Internet-PiracyAlso called the Six-Strikes Program (just rolls off the tongue doesn’t it?), the Copyright Alert System was finally rolled out this last week, and citizens can sleep a little easier at night knowing that the intellectual property of their beloved Multinational Corporate-Run Motion Picture Studios is safe at last. The copyright owners have tried for a decade now to stem the tide of illegal file-sharing, and since going after the source of pirated movies and music (the downloadees) hasn’t worked, it’s only logical that the next step is to go after the downloaders.

And the best news? It’s not TOO unconstitutional!

anonymous-maskBut seriously, with the new system, if a major motion picture studio invades your privacy and detects that you have illegally downloaded copyrighted material, they now have the ability to let your internet service provider know that this breach (that is the breach that YOU have made) has occurred. The ISPs can then send you a pop-up or alert with educational tips about the importance of copyright law and possible consequences for future theft can be. How about that? A private coalition of corporations can watch your activity and report it to other corporations so that those other corporations can take away some of your freedom! This is truly a step forward in privatizing our liberty.

Let’s say you want to know if the new Green Day album is worth buying or not (Cause let’s face it, at this point in their career, and in this economy, you can’t afford to go spend money on an album that is going to suck and you’re never going to listen to), so you go to your local peer-to-peer network and find an illegally distributed copy of their new album for free. Now you download that file and listen to it. Sure enough, your hunch was right, the new Green Day is worse than whatever a Bruno Mars is. So you don’t buy the album. Now little do you know the Recording Industry Association of America is the one who put that copy on that peer-to-peer network… As bait… That’s strike one. The RIAA has been watching the network, and now they’re watching you. You might not have been on the list, but now you are.

pirate-bayHowever the more likely situation is this: You’re a good consumer. You work, pay taxes, go to the movies, buy iTunes songs AND albums of bands you love, you buy video games, BluRays, Netflix, Amazon streaming, etc… You’re the prime example of the modern media consumer. However you’re hiding a dark and terrible secret, you’re also a downloader... As a movie fan, you love films, but you’re also not rich, so you can’t afford to pay for every single movie you want to see. You don’t go to the movies with video cameras, you don’t upload your screener copies of awards considerations, you don’t even upload CDs you buy for others to get… You’re simply A CONSUMER… Just like the MPAA/RIAA wants you to be. You grew up with your parents teaching you how to hook two VCRs together to record a crappy copy of Tron for pity’s sake.

torrentWould you be surprised to hear that this new Copyright Alert System might just violate a few federal laws? Like primarily that one that says a person is innocent until proven guilty? Or that a person has a right to due process? Or that these coalitions of corporations and internet service providers completely blocked all subscriber/consumer representation from the drafting of their “system?” Or that this whole process runs without any kind of oversight whatsoever?

Or that the Constitution of the United States of America gives CONGRESS sole right to enforce copyright laws and that only our federal courts have the right to punish violators?

Guess that makes this whole Copyright Alert System work-around as shady as it sounds. Watch your back, and call your congressman. Seriously. Here’s the link to find out who is your representative in congress and tell them how you feel about this draconian, privatized law-enforcement system.

Really, PG-13?

Note: This article is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America.

So we’re watching Fast5, right? Like any normal mid-30s couple should do on a beautiful, 80-degree Saturday morning in August. Don’t get me wrong, I love the sun and frolicking in summer as much as the next Oregonian, but sometimes I need me some fast cars, big explosions, and skin… lots of skin (you know, the whole reason Michael Bay is making movies that rake in billions). Anyway, it’s two-thirds of the way through this cinematic pièce de résistance when I blurt out the following:

“You know honey,” as I so often state, “It seems like they can get away with killing as many people as they want in a PG-13 movie, as long as there’s no wounds.”

Flashes of all the R-Rated movies I was raised jogged through my mind. Movies like Robocop, Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, anything with Arnold Schwarzenegger, all movies with one thing in common- the squib.

A squib is a very specific piece of equipment that’s used by special effects guys to simulate one thing, and that’s a gunshot wound. It’s usually a tube, or a miniature explosive attached to the outside of a vest, or anything that can create a nice spray of red mist from a person’s body. You’ve seen them a million times… Ever catch Die Hard on cable? Like, the real cable, the kind that doesn’t censor Bruce Willis shouting “Yippie-Kay-Yay-Motherfucker!” It’s the fine art of action movies from an era that has now quickly faded out. In fact the only action movies that use anything close to Robocop-gore are zombie flicks these days… and then? It’s not even real effects. It’s CGI. I don’t think they even use squibs anymore. Somewhere on a mountaintop, Renny Harlin is crying.

I digress. Fast5. So there’s this big shoot-out toward the end of the movie where literally dozens of men are violently gunned-down, grenaded (a new word?), or blown apart by rocket launchers, and all the while not a drop of blood is spilled. There are no squibs, no CGI sprays, just a shitload of guns blazing, and dudes falling down. That’s when my inner child started crying as well (I’m just saying, Cliffhanger is a great movie alright?).

I remember when action movies weren’t safe. I remember when movie studios made movies that didn’t have to be dumbed-down (intentionally) in order to attract a younger audience… but more and more it seems like anything goes in a PG-13 movie as long as there’s no blood, nudity, or sexual dialogue. You can have truly terrifying images, things that would scar a child for many sleepless nights, in movies like Insidious, The Grudge, or even the Harry Potter finale, and still net a wider audience with a PG-13 rating… but if you talk about sex or even say a certain phrase? You get an R. I guess the movie studios are just like every other corporation out there now- obsessed with the bottom line. Maybe that’s the way it’s always been… What do I know, I’m just a mid-30s gangsta from the streets of South Central Salem.

It made me think of our old friend John McClane, from Die Hard, and how this whole thing started with him. The very R-Rated franchise put out three profanity-laced, bullet-riddled, bloody-good action classics (another nod to our sobbing Finnish director) in the 80s and 90s, and then the fourth one was announced in 2005. In 2007, when the movie came out, it was rated PG-13 , for demographic reasons. So despite the fact that Live Free or Die Hard is a completely badass action flick that is just as good as any of the other sequels, it still felt sanitized. They even cut the signature line, “Yippie-Kay-Yay-Mother-Fu-“GUNSHOT.

Other than the pervasive profanity that is missing, this movie still racks up a body count and blows up more parts of Washington DC than I could count. I mean, Bruce Willis kills a helicopter with a damn police car. So when the DVD came out in two versions, the theatrical PG-13, or the “unrated” cut, I of course bought the unrated one. It was exactly the same movie, just with all of the original, unedited dialogue, and all of the digital blood-sprays. It was the first time I remembered seeing such a fine line of difference between what was acceptable for a PG-13 movie nowadays.

There’s no guidelines for any of this rating stuff by the way. Anything you’ve heard about how a movie can only say “fuck” twice or it’ll get an automatic R… yeah’s that’s all bullshit. Well, except when it comes to nudity. If you have nudity, basically of any kind, there’s your R. Maybe you can get away with a boob-shot if you don’t have any violence in your film… but if you spend an hour shooting bad guys by the truck-full and then try to sneak in a bare chest, well there’s your R. It all comes down to a group of men and women who call themselves the Motion Picture Association of America. They got the movie studios to agree to submit every movie they made to them, where they watch it in secret, discuss it, and vote on it. Studios and directors can re-cut movies to get a lower rating, or they can argue their case… which one do you think works?

Seriously, this group is so creepily affected by sex, and at the same time, have a blind eye to the endless slaughter of minions. Millions of minions have died in the name of action-movie glory, only the kid-movies used to get PG-13… and now that’s all gone.

I blame Peter Jackson. He must have killed a hundred thousand disgusting, blood-covered “orcs” in the Lord of the Rings movies… and you know how he got away with it? Well orc blood is black of course. It fit seamlessly into the fantasy aspect of the films, and allowed him to brutally kill by arrow, sword, impaling, stomping, biting, lava-ing, hundreds of digital bad-guys… and get a PG-13 rating. You know how else he did it? No elf boobies.

Lastly Michael Bay. Bless his blonde little heart. I’ve been a Bay-addict since Bad Boys I, since The Rock (one of the best action movies ever put on film by the way), since Playboy Video Centerfold: Kerri Kendall… I’m talkin’ way back. Michael Bay gets a lot of crap, and whatever, I’m sick of it. Bay, I’m in your corner buddy. The man squeezes more style into every single frame of a movie than most movies have in the whole 90 minutes. Yes, his movies are cartoons, that’s what they’re supposed to be. It’s not like he’s doing this shit accidentally… but I have an issue.

My 4-year-old son is obsessed with Transformers. The robots in disguise are all he talks about, morning, noon, and night. Now, I’ve let him watch parts of the first two Michael Bay Transformers movies, and in retrospect… probably a bad decision. Either I’m getting older and fuddy-duddier, or these aren’t the kid-friendly die-cast toys I used to play with for hours on end. Michael Bay does the same thing with giant, transforming robots as Peter Jackson did with orcs. He gets away with suspenseful, violent, and awe-inspiring fight scenes and shoot-outs where, again, literally hundreds of innocent people are vaporized. Or he gets away with ripping your kids’ favorite Transformer to pieces, oil, hydraulic fluid, and parts flying everywhere like blood-splatter… Try explaining what just happened to Jazz to a 4-year-old (disregarding the deeper, more philosophical music question that comes to mind). Perfect exploitation of the rating system. Damn it Bay.

So I’m sitting there, growing bored and fascinated by the Fast and the Furious, and what it means for America. Because the simple fact is, even when movies were rated R, as 11 year old kids we got to see them all the time. Either we had horrible parents, or theaters and video stores were way more lax with their enforcement… However there was still a feeling of getting away with something. Now we’re straight up telling youngsters it’s ok to watch this stuff. Impressionable minds who think “Wow, that’s so cool!” and don’t think there’s anything wrong with what they’re seeing. When Steven Spielberg suggested to the MPAA they should implement an “in-between” rating to bridge PG and R, do you think he had these two in mind?

(Fast5 Screen Shot)

Well thanks, MPAA, you weird, secret cult you. Thank you for making a cookie-cutter process for judging artistic expression that allows movies like Fast5 and Transformers: Dark of the Moon, both clearly R-Rated flicks, to sneak past with a few edits… And to let movies like The King’s Speech get slapped with an R because of the word fuck. I mean seriously. We will let our kids watch movies where dozens are violently killed, blown up, run-through, smashed by cars, blown up again (and then have some girls in tight-clothes run around of course)… but when it comes to hearing a word in the English language, or seeing something that they too have on their chest or between their legs and deal with every day… well that’s taboo.

I say, we, the people, need to get rid of these guys. They’re not a government body. They’re not associated with anyone but themselves. They are a secret gang of overlords who control what we see with their own values and opinions.

That’s fucked up.