We’ve discussed the amazing bullshit known as Hollywood Accounting many times here on Techdirt. This is the trick whereby big Hollywood studios basically get out of paying anyone royalties by claiming movies (including big, mega-famous ones) are not profitable. The most simple version of this trick is that the big studio sets up an independent corporation to represent “the film.” It then “sells” services to that corporation, which it owns, at exorbitant prices. So, for example, it will charge a “marketing and distribution fee,” which may actually be many multiples of the film’s actual budget. No cash changes hands here. It’s just a paper transaction, but because of those “fees” any money made from the film remains with the big Hollywood studio, and is not passed on to anyone who has “participation” in the net profits from the film.
The UK’s Federation Against Copyright Theft has received a major blow after the Motion Picture Association advised the anti-piracy group it will not renew its membership. The termination of the 30-year long relationship means that FACT will lose 50% of its budget and the backing of the six major Hollywood movie studios.
Hollywood is still 100% focused on trying to blame the internet for any of its woes, mostly with bogus attacks on internet companies it doesn’t like. And yet… it seems to keep on setting box office records. The latest is that Universal Pictures has broken a new record in bringing in $2 billion in box office revenue faster than any other studio in history, pushed over the top by the successful opening weekend of “Straight Outta Compton” (a movie that seems to have some big fans in Silicon Valley).
More than a year has passed since the MPAA defeated Hotfile, but the case has still been stirring in the background.
Hoping to find out more about Hollywood’s anti-piracy policies the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) previously asked the court to make several sealed documents available to the public.
These documents are part of the counterclaim Hotfile filed, where it accused Warner of repeatedly abusing the DMCA takedown process. In particular, the EFF wants the public to know how Hollywood’s anti-piracy policies and tools work.
District Court Judge Kathleen Williams sided with the EFF and ruled that it’s in the public interest to unseal the information. The MPAA, however, argued that this may hurt some of its members.
Information regarding Columbia Pictures’ anti-piracy policies, in particular, would still be beneficial to pirates for decades to come, the Hollywood group argued.
“Defendants have cited two specific pieces of information regarding Columbia’s enforcement policies that, if revealed to the public, could compromise Columbia’s ability to protect its copyrighted works,” the MPAA’s lawyers wrote.
In addition, anti-piracy vendor Vobile feared that having its pricing information revealed could severely hurt the company.
Judge Williams has now reviewed these and other arguments but ruled that sealing records indefinitely is not an option. In this case, the public interest in the records outweighs the concerns of the MPAA.
Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me annually and let me get my checkbook! Losses continue to mount, but some very resilient states are still willing to throw more taxpayer money at the film industry. Michigan — a state that seems to be able to generate at least one fiscal horror story per year — is one of the nation’s most consistent losers. Two years ago, it bet the state pension fund on film-related subsidies… and lost. When the “investment” failed to generate a return, nearly $2 million was removed from the already-underfunded retirement pool. One small town pinned its hopes and dreams on a film project that promised 3,000 new jobs but instead fell apart, dragging the town towards insolvency.
Michigan has made some moves in the right direction after being burned so often by Hollywood and its fleeting, mercenary “interest” in its state. It paid out nearly $100 million in subsidies in 2011, but that number has dropped to $38 million for the coming year. Michigan House Minority leader Tim Greimel is pushing to bring that back up to $50 million, claiming that the program has been a great job creator — an assertion that couldn’t be farther from the truth.