In late June, an article published in The Hill by lawyer Marvin Ammori slammed the music industry's latest attempt to significantly rewrite the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The article, which aligned with Google and YouTube in the fight against updating the DMCA, criticized the music industry's "renewed assault on Internet freedom." The piece also focused on the Recording Industry Association of America's failed Stop Online Piracy Act, which Ammori argued is what the entertainment industry was hoping to create with a reconfigured DMCA.
However, in an exclusive essay for Rolling Stone, Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter fires back at Ammori, writing that the article's author is "shilling for Uncle Goog," as YouTube's owner Google is one of the main entities pushing back against an updated DMCA. Read Sutter's full essay, including his argument on why a new DMCA is needed, below:
So, there I was just enjoying a little downtime, reading a draft of my new Mayan project… and shmuudd! The awful sound of rhetorical shit hitting an unsuspecting wall. And the fecal fact slinger, praying that some of his bombastic slop sticks – Mr. Marvin Ammori, the pay-for-play lawyer, who waves his quest for liberty banner with one hand, while the other collects big checks from Google.
Once again, Marv is shilling for Uncle Goog, trying to crush our efforts to secure protection for our creative content. And it’s a tactic that dates back to carny hucksters and snake oil salesmen; the same one perfected by Big Tobacco and the fucking Third Reich. Make bold, hyperbolic declarations of speculative facts in an effort to stir fear and anger. Hoping the emotionality will distract an audience from actually inquiring or caring about the truth.
These are the highlights from Marv’s latest piece of fiction:
Marv: The RIAA is trying to revive an “assault on internet freedom [that] would relitigate the SOPA debate and threaten free speech and innovation online.”
Jesus fucking Christ, show some imagination, Marvin. Every time we take a stand for the rights of artists, the bullshit internet freedom fighters accuse the entertainment industry of holding a séance to resurrect SOPA/PIPA, trotting out the same well-worn talking points. Google’s shadow groups, like Fight for the Future, continuously spew the same hollow arguments and never address the issues. The creative communities are not interested in relitigating SOPA or PIPA – we are only interested in protecting the rights of artists everywhere.
Marv: Technology has been a boon to the creative industries – the platforms available, the reach to audiences, the ability for creatives to collaborate efficiently and quickly are all indispensable to the 21st Century creative community.
What Ammori fails to acknowledge, much less address, is the tremendous impact of internet piracy on the free expression of creatives who are forced to spend their time and resources policing the theft of their creative works, when they would otherwise be creating. Copyright is what stands between our creative communities and the breadline. Copyright enables creatives to be compensated for the work they do.
Marv: The Internet empowers millions of Americans to share images, songs, and video clips on platforms like Facebook, Reddit, YouTube, and Twitter. Much of that content is original (think baby photos and holiday taco bowl endorsements), most is lawfully shared (news clips and cat videos).
Yes, Marvin, this is true. And in no way will protecting the rights of the creative community limit the amount of baby pictures you can share with Aunt Gouty and Grandma Huckabee. And thank god, it will never slow down the flow of adorable cats chasing flashlights.
The problem is that Ammori completely mischaracterizes the balance that Congress struck in 1998 by trying to cast the The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) as nothing more than a “notice and takedown” requirement, under which internet companies are apparently free to foster and profit from blatant infringement so long as they remove specifically identified pirated material in response to notices from copyright owners. But that is not the balance struck by Congress in the DMCA. The law was meant to do much more. It was explicitly designed to encourage cooperative efforts between intermediaries and content creators to deal effectively with piracy. Congress envisioned that practices under the DMCA would keep up with changes in technology and the marketplace. Ammori should spend less time trying to rewrite history to benefit his corporate clients and more time advocating forward- thinking and cooperative efforts to combat the growing scourge of online content theft.
We cannot be held to the rules of the world in 1998. We must cooperate and protect content in 2016. Here’s some perspective: The DMCA was passed in 1998 – the same year Google was founded, and seven years before YouTube was established. In 1998, only 30.09% of Americans went online. In 2014, 87.4% went online. Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter weren’t even around in 1998. Mark Zuckerberg balls hadn’t even dropped.
Marv: No technology can find all infringement considering the wide variety of copyrighted works, the diversity of internet platforms, and the vast amount of content that’s shared online every moment of every day.
So what the fuck does that mean? Because we can’t catch everyone, we shouldn’t do anything? Try that argument the next time you get pulled over for speeding. “Hey Officer, don’t bother giving me a fucking ticket, man. Four other people just sped past you at 90 miles an hour…”
It’s remarkable that a consultant to companies that bring us instantaneous access to the world’s information, driverless cars, and endless videos of dudes getting their balls smashed is so quick to declare it absolutely impossible for a site to ensure that a pirated work, once removed, will stay removed.
Marv: The tech community and the general public are united and ready to fight.
Really? When did Ammori and Big Tech become the savior of the common man? Big Tech’s interests are not the public’s interest. The tech community, the creative community, and the general public would be far better off if Ammori and his friends would spend their efforts working cooperatively with the creative community to make the DMCA work as Congress intended, rather than trying to reimagine the deal struck by Congress or keep the DMCA and the internet ecosystem it supports stuck in the mid- 1990s.
It’s absurd that Google continues to position itself as the lovable geek who just wants to keep the internet fun and free. Google is neither fun, nor free. It’s a multi-billion dollar corporation that in 2015 generated more profits than IBM, Merck, and Proctor and Gamble. Every time you click on Google, they make money. And the reason they don’t want the works of creatives protected is because that will deter people from searching for content. Slowing down their profit stream. Google spends millions of dollars every year fronting a campaign to crush the rights of creatives. Ammori and the groups Google fronts are just paid propaganda houses spinning fear and hoping for ignorance.
I am not being paid for my rebuttal, nor am I much of a propagandist. I am an artist directly impacted by this monopolistic assault on copyrights. And so is every other member of the creative community no matter what level they are at in their career. Actors, writers, directors, musicians, designers, etc., we all lose.
I know it’s easy to read this and think: “Fuck that, I like getting shit for free.” I understand that philosophy. In fact, Google has tapped into the Pirate Generation – young people who don’t understand the idea of paying for content because they’ve only known an online experience that encourages and supports theft.
Let me share why, ultimately, the dirty download will fuck you over. If you are young, with any creative aspirations, Google’s free internet will undermine your ability to be fairly compensated for your work. And if you have no artistic leanings, but enjoy good content, think about this. Without the protection of content, creative work will slowly dwindle. Artists will be forced to create less or will be completely deterred from pursuing their passion.
As we plunge head first into an all-digital world, compensation for digital content has become a major point of contention between the entertainment unions and Big Media. Because networks and studios and music labels are also losing millions of dollars every year to piracy, they are trying to pass that loss on to actors, writers, directors, musicians, and crew. I believe that eventually, as it did in the 2007 WGA writer’s strike, the conflict over digital compensation will grow more intense and cause devastating strikes bringing the production of TV shows and movies to a grinding halt.
If you are a member of the creative community, you need to wake the fuck up and help us ring the bell. If you’re not, but enjoy quality and diverse choices in what you watch and listen to, then I urge you to help.
So let your voice be heard. Tweet to Google (@Google) to advocate forward-thinking and cooperative efforts to combat the growing scourge of online content theft.
Tweet to the US Copyright Office (@CopyrightOffice) to say we care about content protection. And join CreativeFuture. http://creativefuture.org/join-us/
Join the cause – no dues, just your voice…