Piracy as it is inaccurately known (the correct term is copyright infringement) is a polarizing term. Mention of it often causes otherwise sensible discussions to degenerate into innuendo and name calling.
In April 2011 Writer/Director/Producer Ellen Seidler was introduced into the Balanced Copyright Facebook Group as the Piracy Waif of the Month. At the time I didn’t question any of her assertions. Copyright infringement is a fact of life in the computer age. Computers, and their main communication medium, the internet are designed to copy. Expecting them not to copy, would be like expecting a cat not to eat meat (cats are obligate carnivores), somewhere between stupid and moronic.
Instead I talked to her about ways to monetize file sharing. Which as it turns out might not have been the smartest thing to do. You see I was assuming that people were actually sharing her movie on a large-scale, based on her statements, and her statements alone. The Cameron Tilbury fiasco made me decide to take a second look.
From the Internet Movie Database Entry on And Then Came Lola:
A talented, but distracted photographer, Lola, on the verge of success in both love and work, could lose it all if she doesn’t make it to a crucial meeting on time. But, as usual, Lola is late. With her job and girlfriend on the line, she has three chances to make it right. In a desperate race through the streets and back rooms of San Francisco, time grows short-will Lola make it? Will she come at all? With a pop sensibility that mixes live action, animation and still photography, And Then Came Lola explores love’s age old question in a fresh new way, “If you try, try again, will you finally get it right?” Written by M. Siler and E. Seidler
The movie is a Romantic Comedy with the minor twist of having a same-sex couple in the starring roles. Now it’s a minor twist to me. Nearly a quarter of the people I know are Queer/Bi/Gay/Lesbian/Transsexual/Other in their sexuality, and a few are living in relationships that would have Cotton Mather spinning in his grave. This film would not do well in the Bible Belt, but would probably play well in major cities, and among youth who don’t have their elder’s sexual hangups.
However the film only garnered a 3.9 out of 10 rating on IMDB. Having not seen the film myself, I can only guess at the reasons. Probably part of the low rating is from the Bible Belt crowd, i.e. it’s political. Certainly the movie’s Twitter Feed is unabashedly political. But let’s face it. A gay who isn’t politically active is like an ostrich with its head in the sand.
Ellen Seidler has complained that her movie, And Then Came Lola, has been heavily pirated. Several articles, like How Pirates Stole Lola: Ellen Seidler Explains the Intricacies of Online Theft at CMW 2011 by Clara Klein a JD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School have covered the issue. Osgoode Hall is the law school of the University of Toronto. IPOsgoode is their newsletter on “Intellectual Property.”
Unfortunately Osgoode Hall is heavily involved on the Corporate side of copyright. This is not surprising, most copyright lawyers are employed by large companies like Warner Music Canada. After the Federal Copyright Consultation a lawyer from Stikeman Elliot wrote an article at IPOsgoode complaining about the consultation. Some of you may remember my satirical answer to him.
Those of us who involved in copyright know that IPOsgoode has close ties to industry, and that it takes the industry line. The industry has decided that Ellen is useful to them, and so she gets backing from IPOsgoode.
Greg Sandoval got involved as well. Indie filmmakers: Piracy and Google threaten us is his article from September 20, 2010. Unique Tracks wrote an article that makes an interesting point – in Independent Filmaker fights online piracy it reports:
Within 24 hours of the release of the DVD of “And Then Came Lola,” digital pirates had ripped the DVD and uploaded it to an internet distribution site where it was distributed for free download. Supported largely by AdSense ads, the site immediately began earning money off the movie.
Are they sure it wasn’t before the release? Usually releases this early are tracked back to the production company/distributor. Some places file the DMCA notices they receive at Chilling Effects. This is a good place to cross check that their actually were DMCA notices filed.
Note that only Google has filed them here. Of course you wouldn’t expect a Torrent site to send copies of the DMCA notices it gets to Chilling Effects. They know that people like me use Chilling Effects for research.
Google is a legitimate business, for all that certain companies might not like their business model. The illegitimate businesses don’t want to hand me that sort of information.
Let’s Consider the Numbers
This is where it gets fun. I traded emails with Ellen. She either isn’t willing or able to supply the information on how many DMCA notices she has filed, and with whom. Considering she runs a small company, my suspicion is that my request would have been too much for them to handle.
And of course several of her backers probably warned her to avoid talking to me. The local entertainment industry lawyers (like the folks at IPOsgoode) are nervous about me. I do what I want, when I want, and I’ve gone almost all of them at one time or another.
But there are bits and pieces of information.
And Then Came Lola cost $250,000.00 US to make. Compared to Titanic that’s nothing. A lot of Television sitcoms cost more than that per episode to produce.
Ellen claimed in an email that she had sent close to forty-thousand DMCA notices in the last year. Let’s consider that.
There are 365 days in a year, 24 hours in a day, and 60 minutes in an hour. That is 525,600 minutes in a year, or 8,760 hours.
Usually a working year for most companies is about 200 days. Subtract Saturday and Sunday, plus holidays. Assume that most days are 10 hours (to allow for overtime). So we are talking 2000 working hours, 120,000 working minutes. If Ellen sent out 40,000 DMCA notices, she would have sent out a DMCA notice every three minutes.
If she worked 24/7 all year, well, she would have sent out a DMCA notice every 13 minutes and 8.4 seconds.
Now it looks possible to fill out a DMCA notice in three minutes, provided you use cut and paste. But you have to find the infringing site first. Well, OK. You don’t have to go looking to find The Pirate Bay, but they ignore DMCA notices anyway, so no one would bother to send them one.
I’m not saying that the movie hasn’t been pirated. I know it has.
I have problems with the numbers I’m being told. They don’t make sense.
What is even more worrying is that people like Clara Klein and Greg Sandoval should have had enough brains to ask questions. If they had, they would have been able to see that the numbers don’t make sense. They just don’t make sense at all.
And when the numbers don’t make sense, you know that there’s a problem somewhere.
Saturday November 5, 2011
PS: I have worked on this article on and off since May 2011. I’ve held back on finishing it because after trading emails with Ellen, I was certain there must be something solid behind it. But no matter where I look, I can’t find it.
If Ellen wants to release all of her information, I’d be happy with look into it with some of my research associates. Because I still want to believe her, but I can’t make it add up no matter what I do.