Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The ultimate heresy?

I’m about to commit the highest form of heresy in this field that we all love so dearly.

And what’s worse, I’m doing it freely, and of my own volition, and because I honestly and truly feel that what I’m about say needs to be said, and up until this very moment, I don’t believe that anyone else in this industry has had the chutzpah to say it.

Further, I say this knowing full well that as I post it to the ‘net, it will be up there and will be read by others, and could (quite possibly) read it, refer to it, and even link to it. Further, that (due to the natures of the Web) that it could also quite possibly be there forever.

Yes, boys and girls, it is even entirely possible (and even quite probable) that it just might even be read by people who might actually be able (and willing) to do something about it.

What to know what I’m talking about? Come and follow me...

I know how Hollywood can end (or at the very least seriously curtail) video piracy.

Yes I do, and if you were honest with yourselves, so do you. What the various studio heads need to do is to send teams of Federal Marshals to comicbook, sci-fi, Dr. Who, Star Trek, Star War, and similar-themed cons and arrest any vendor selling bootlegs.

Then they need to arrest the convention planners for allowing vendors to sell bootlegged videos and DVD at their conventions.

Then they need to arrest the owners of the hotels and convention halls for allowing the hosting enterprises to hold conventions where bootlegged merchandise was being sold.

Then, the Feds need to do the same thing at flea markets across the country, and serve up subpoenas to the various on-line auction sites to police their sites for bootlegged films.

Think I’m being harsh? Perhaps, but if there was a legitimate business in your neighborhood that was knowing allowing someone to operate out of their establishment who was selling stolen merchandise, or drugs, or conducting an obviously illegal enterprise, you would want the cops to arrest not only the person committing the felony, but the person who was knowing enabling them to do so. Why then is my proposal any different?

Still, I tell you three times that this line of thought is heresy in this industry. Why? I flat-out don’t know, it just is.

Yes, I’m a comicbook aficionado. I discovered the art form in ’61 or ’62. I remember reading the issue of The Flash when Barry Allan met Barry Jay Garrick in Flash #123, so I’ve been here for a while, but I have to tell you that I’m also a movie buff. I remember watching late-night movies on our local TV channel (way before someone thought to invent cable TV). I watched many old B&W classics and enjoying them.

I’ve been working professionally in the field of comics since 1981; I’ve been reviewing movies since 1990 (in fact, I’ve long since determined that I’ve averaged a movie a week since then, so yeah, I’ve seen quite a few). Needless to say, lately when I go to the movies I keep seeing these pre-movie PSAs about how it is, you know, a really bad thing to download, copy, or otherwise reproduce movies. And I know that we all know that, but every time I go to a comicbook convention, I see dozens of tables hawking DVDs and videos of films that we all know are bootlegs (some because the films are still in the theaters and others simply because of the quality of the packaging materials).

And yes, I know that the price of movies is way up there, but part of that reason is that people are bootlegging them, and I understand that people purchase bootlegs because they want to own the film, but don’t feel that they should have to actually pay the full fare to see it. We all think that we are simply entitled to own something that someone else worked hard to produce, and I simply don’t get that attitude.

Some years back, a very good comicbook friend of mine sent me a couple of videos of a pair of bootlegged films that he had acquired. He made copies of them and sent them to me, thinking that I would enjoy them too. Well, you remember that Seinfeld episode where Kramer had Jerry sit in the theater with a mini-cam and videotape the film from like the 14th row? Well that’s what these films were like. They were awful. Like trying to watch a scrambled cable channel through the distortion.

I couldn’t watch them and I very politely told my friend never to send me bootlegs again.

Seriously folks, bootlegs are stealing, and I’m not kidding around here. I’m betting that if someone figured out a way to bootleg current comics and tried to sell them at conventions they’d be tarred, feathered, horsewhipped, and ridden out of town on a rail, but somehow bootlegs of films, TV shows (and music) are fair game. Why is that? I’m a creator (I wrote two books, Kiddie Meal Collectibles, Trivia Mania: Commercials and Ads My name isn’t on the cover, but trust me, its mine), and a short-lived comicbook series (Agent Unknown), ands I know that I worked hard to produce those three works (as well as numerous other published non-fiction works) and I’d be the first guy filing a Federal copyright suit if I learned that someone was attempting to bootleg my property, and so to would all of those greedy, self-serving, self-appointed, so-called “fans” who line up to buy bootlegs.

I’m not even going to play the “moral” card. Making, buying, and/or selling bootlegs is flat out wrong. I won’t participate in the practice, and I look down upon anyone who does. It really is that simple.

And yes, I honestly believe that the big studios in Hollywood should start pressuring the Federal government to send Federal Marshals to comicbook cons to arrest people who traffic in this material. While bootlegging will never completely go away, putting pressure on the people that enable others to do create and sell the bootlegs to stop allowing the practice to occur out in broad daylight will certainly curtail it.

Well, for what its worth, that’s my opinion, and remember, Nothing is Sacred.

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