Hello? Is SOPA and PIPA What We’re Looking For?

If only we could bend legal rules to do video mash-ups for “official” or promotional reasons, imagine what fun we could have.  While mash-ups of multiple movies, shows or music is the basis for some great online videos, they’re too cost-prohibitive to pull off above the table – if you could even secure the rights necessary to do so.  Just the other day, there was a really nicely done video out of the Netherlands splicing dialog from multiple classic movies – effectively enabling a cavalcade of stars to sing Hello by Lionel Richie. The online video platform enables us to enjoy creative pieces like this and even drives us to want to own pieces of them – watching some of those clips make me want to watch those movies again. But, will SOPA or PIPA be able to extend to their subsequent removal if either pass through congress?

Matthijs Vlot originally posted the mashup on Vimeo and quickly shot up to 1.3MM plays in its third day on the site.  You can see the statistics as of 6:30 PST this morning to get a sense of the exponential burst below. In this instance, it’s a great showcase of his work and creativity and also a great example of how complicated and expensive it would be to get the rights to all of these clips and the song.  Historically, the only ones who could regularly present an official treatment like this is the Motion Picture Academy in relation to the Academy Awards ceremony.  In that case, I don’t believe they were ever asked to pay fees as it was considered an honor – if not promotional.

Numbers like this are a marketers dream when it comes to video views as the numbers should continue to get exponentially higher in the coming week or two.  As inferred above, the ability of these videos and other online features to remind consumers about movies they might have forgotten and entice them to purchase are invaluable.  There are at least a half-dozen movies in there that I want to see again because I was reminded of them in the video.  But, again, they are in a legal gray area because the content was used without permission, royalties, whatever.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t see these videos as being equal to pirated films sites post that SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act – US Congress) or PIPA (Protect IP Act – US Senate) seemingly aims to remove.  I just see them as what could end up being collateral damage as companies, entrepreneurs, artists and more try to work through what can remain online and what essentially becomes censored.

Even without either Act becoming law, we’re already dealing with removal of content in the name of Intellectual Property (IP) – even when it is the accidental removal.  Studios have done a number of mash-ups over the years on behalf of their properties and sometimes post them as “user-generated” or unofficial as promotional content. Some examples of what I’ve done are mash-ups of FAMILY GUY/BRAVEHEART and FAMILY GUY/WALL STREET and we even placed packshots of both DVDs at the end to make sure it could be considered promotional.  There was an effective legal dance between the marketing and legal teams to enable them to be launched – only to find they were accidentally removed later by the studio’s own IP team.

With the speed at which items are placed online and removed, the possibility for knee-jerk responses, accidental removal, competitive disruption or censorship, I am really concerned about where things could go if either law was to pass.  They just seem too open to interpretation and if sites are closed down due to questionable links and then brought through the time and cost of the court system the business and free expression implications are huge.

Sadly, I think the debate over SOPA and PIPA have become all about politics and not about reality.  As a member of the entertainment industry, I absolutely do not want there to be piracy or illegal file sharing of any kind. But, when draconian measures are put in place – even with the best intentions – those measures can come back to haunt you.  If this becomes a matter of big business protecting their turf – which it could very well become – then it will stunt business in many ways that we cannot yet imagine.

It could definitely diminish independent creativity and opportunities for businesses to grow both small and big.  I own at least half of those movies and now want to get a bunch of the ones I don’t.  Don’t risk the opportunity for growth or fair competition by passing SOPA or PIPA in their current forms.  I don’t want to get to the point in real life that would come after the TOTAL RECALL clip at the end – where Arnold Schwarzenegger as Douglass Quad shoots the Sharon Stone’s Lori who lies in saying, “I Love You,” before telling her, “Consider this a divorce!”

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