Was Hollywood built on piracy? That’s what some seem to suggest. Lawrence Lessig’s version of this story from his 2004 book Free Culture is archetypical:

The Hollywood film industry was built by fleeing pirates. Creators and directors migrated from the East Coast to California in the early 20th century in part to escape controls that film patents granted the inventor Thomas Edison. These controls were exercised through the Motion Pictures Patents Company, a monopoly “trust” based on Edison’s creative property and formed to vigorously protect his patent rights.

California was remote enough from Edison’s reach that filmmakers like Fox and Paramount could move there and, without fear of the law, pirate his inventions. Hollywood grew quickly, and enforcement of federal law eventually spread west. But because patents granted their holders a truly “limited” monopoly of just 17 years (at that time), the patents had expired by the time enough federal marshals appeared. A new industry had been founded, in part from the piracy of Edison’s creative property.

This little bit of historical revisionism has popped up regularly since then. In January, The Pirate Bay issued a press release repeating the story and claiming they are the modern day equivalent of Hollywood. And most recently, Torrentfreak reminded its readers of the story — picked up by Techdirt, whose story was in turn picked up by Cory Doctorow — in response to MPAA Chairman Chris Dodd’s spoken remarks at last month’s CinemaCon.

The purpose of this spin on the facts seems to be to show some kind of hypocrisy on the part of movie studios. The evidence, though, doesn’t support the claims.1

The Dawn of the Motion Picture Industry

The end of the 19th century found inventors racing to develop technology that could record and display moving pictures, and Thomas Edison was the first to bring a commercial motion-picture machine to market.2 The early years saw some patent skirmishes between rival companies as film began to grow in popularity. In 1908, Edison helped form the Motion Picture Patents Company (MPPC) with other patent holders. Together, they held a virtual monopoly on the movie industry; their patents covered projectors, cameras, and film stock. Their control went beyond patents, however. Using tie-in agreements and licensing, and forming the General Film Corporation to monopolize film distribution, they locked out competition at every step, from making movies to exhibiting them.3

Around this time, a group of independent filmmakers entered the market. These independents included many of the founders of the major studios that still exist today, including Carl Laemmle of Universal Pictures and Adolph Zukor of Paramount Pictures. The independents challenged the MPPC, creating and exhibiting films with unlicensed equipment and buying supplies from outside the US. Edison responded forcefully to the challenges — he took Laemmle’s operation especially personal, suing the independent filmmaker 289 times.

Who Were the Real Pirates?

According to this headline from a San Francisco newspaper in 1913, it wasn’t the independents who were the pirates:

The independents weren’t infringing on any patents themselves, they were violating the license and tie-in agreements that came with the MPPC’s equipment. The MPPC did enjoy some early success with its litigation efforts,  convincing several courts that illegal restraint of trade was not a defense to patent infringement.4

But the MPPC didn’t rely solely on the law — Edison enforced the Trust’s domination with violence. Hired thugs would smash cameras and raid the independents’ places of business.5 Historian Thaddeus Rockwell notes the extent of the violence perpetuated by the Trust: “They seized film, beat up directors and actors, forced audiences out of theaters, smashed the nickelodeon arcades and set fire to entire city blocks where they were concentrated.”

The organization’s anti-competitive tactics caught the attention of the US government, which took action against them. In 1916, the Eastern District Court of Pennsylvania entered a decree against the Motion Picture Patents Co. The judge found that the MPPC, the General Film Company, and the individual companies involved had “attempted to monopolize and have monopolized and have combined and conspired … to monopolize a part of the trade or commerce … consisting of the trade in films, cameras, and projecting machines” in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. It declared all the contracts, patent licenses, and patent assignments used by the MPPC illegal.

The trust also began suffering setbacks in the courts, and in 1917, the US Supreme Court unequiovically struck down one of the license agreements that the MPPC had used to extend its monopoly.6 In that case, the MPPC had sued Universal Film Manufacturing Company for patent infringement pursuant to its license agreement which restricted use of the MPPC’s film projectors to only exhibiting or projecting films licensed by the MPPC. (Imagine if a company like Apple claimed that it was patent infringement to play digital music legally acquired somewhere other than iTunes on an iPod.)

The Court recognized that a patent grant is limited “to the mechanism described in the patent as necessary to produce the described results. It is not concerned with and has nothing to do with the materials with which or on which the machine operates. The grant is of the exclusive right to use the mechanism to produce the result with any appropriate material, and the materials with which the machine is operated are no part of the patented machine or of the combination which produces the patented result. The difference is clear and vital between the exclusive right to use the machine, which the law gives to the inventor, and the right to use it exclusively with prescribed materials to which such a license notice as we have here seeks to restrict it.”

The Supreme Court concluded:

A restriction which would give to the plaintiff such a potential power for evil over an industry which must be recognized as an important element in the amusement life of the nation, under the conclusions we have stated in this opinion, is plainly void, because wholly without the scope and purpose of our patent laws, and because, if sustained, it would be gravely injurious to that public interest, which we have seen is more a favorite of the law than is the promotion of private fortunes. [Emphasis added.]

Why Did the Studios Move to Hollywood

Not only is the story that Hollywood was built on “piracy”, the claim that the independent studios ran to Hollywood to get away from Edison and his legal threats is greatly overstated. Southern California offered many advantages over the established filmmaking centers of New York and Chicago that provide stronger reasons for the migration.

Geography, for one. California offered a wide variety of scenery that was useful as substitutes for all sorts of locations, as this 1927 Paramount Studios map illustrates perfectly.

The landscape of Southern California:

was not only spectacular but extraordinarily varied. Summer greenery and winter snow, sunny beaches, barren deserts and rocky mountains were all with a short distance of each other. Florida and Texas could supply the climate for year-round outdoor filming, but they did not have quite the range of scenic choices within a day’s trip from the studios. Even the light of California was different, gently diffused by morning mists rolling in from the Pacific or by dust clouds blowing off the sandy hills. The rugged western landscape and the wide-open spaces were felt as enormous attractions in the rest of the world.7

Weather played a huge role too — LA offers 70 degree year-round weather as opposed to winters in New York or, worse, Chicago.8 Peter Ediden of the New York Times notes, “This wasn’t merely a matter of comfort; even the brightest electric lights of the time were too dim to  expose film properly, so a run of cloudy days could halt production at, say, the Edison studios in East Orange, N.J.”

In fact, nearly everything about the area was an improvement. Land was cheaper and more available and the costs of labor were lower.

Former Curator of Film at the Museum of Modern Art in New York Eileen Bowser points out that the hiding from Edison factor makes little sense:

[T]he New York Motion Picture Company had already managed to escape the Patents Company’s pursuit just by going to Neversink in the Catskills that summer. Furthermore, by Balshofer’s own account, they were easily found by Patents Company spies in California a short time after they got there. At the same time, the Trust companies, which had nothing to hide, were also discovering the great California winter sunshine.9

What it means

The proponents of this myth seem to want to suggest an analogy: Hollywood was built by “outlaws”; now Hollywood has become the incumbent, seeking to stop the next generation of “outlaws”. But this is a false equivalence. The Pirate Bay (or Megaupload, etc.) isn’t producing its own movies. Recognizing exclusive rights to a creative work doesn’t prohibit anyone from creating their own works. Stopping someone from offering copies, especially complete, verbatim copies, of a work is not anti-competitive.

The Trust’s actions against the independents were found illegal; the agreements were declared “plainly void” by the Supreme Court. Contrast that to the Court’s more recent decision in MGM v. Grokster, where even the dissent said, in reference to the P2P service Grokster, “deliberate unlawful copying is no less an unlawful taking of property than garden-variety theft.”

Footnotes

  1. This seems a common theme when looking at copyright criticims. See Remix Without Romance: What Free Culture Gets Wrong for another recent example. []
  2. Robert Sklar, Movie-Made America: A Cultural History of American Movies, pg 13 (1994). []
  3. Robert Sklar has said, “The roots of the motion-picture monopoly lay in Thomas A. Edison’s greed and dissimulation; and the results of it were a complete debacle for the Wizard, his leadership and social class.” []
  4. Michael Conant, Antitrust in the Motion Picture Industry, pg. 20 (1960). []
  5. Jane Chapman, Comparative Media History: An Introduction: 1789 to the Present, pg. 132 (2005). []
  6. Motion Picture Patents Co. v. Universal Film Manufacturing Co., 243 US 502. []
  7. Eileen Bowser, The Transformation of Cinema, 1907-1915 (History of the American Cinema), pg 151 (1994). []
  8. “Bad weather in Chicago was the primary reason the movies first turned toward the West, and eventually migrated to Hollywood.” Paul Zollo, Hollywood Remembered: An Oral History of Its Golden Age, pg. 12 (2002). []
  9. Transformation of Cinema, pg. 150. []

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44 Comments

  1. Another great post, Terry! So do any of the Free Cultcha myths hold up upon closer scrutiny? Seems like they never do.

  2. Please tell me there’s a book at the end of all this myth-busting. I would buy it, with money.

  3. I, too, would buy a book that busts through all the myths and memes and looks only at the facts, the history, and the laws to give an accurate view of copyright and its history in this country.

  4. I’ve been saying this forever. Great article.

    The other thing to remember is, Edison was a ****. In particular, he was the kind of **** who would pirate a metric shit-ton of European movies (and make a fortune doing it), then turn around and complain about his own ill-acquired, ill-enforced patents being infringed. Melies’ “A Trip to the Moon” is Edison’s most notable piratical endeavor. Later, when Melies finally brought his opus stateside, he was shocked to find everybody had already seen it!

    In any case, I’m happy to see yet another freetard canard laid to rest. It’s amazing Lessig hasn’t choked on a feather yet from all the fucking crow he’s eaten.

  5. I appreciate Larry’s insight that one can move to another location in the US and avoid the arm of the law. Is there, perhaps, a location in the states where I can get away from the IRS and rest in peace that I am untouchable?

    In all seriousness, I have read the Larry et. al drivel for many years, and each time shake my head in utter disbelief.

  6. Isn’t it true that one of the primary reasons for studios going to Hollywood is that they wanted to spend bigger budgets? American movies at the time were rarely longer than a few minutes. I may be recalling this incorrectly, but I think Zukor’s impetus was his interest in releasing a twenty minute movie, which was unheard of in American cinema at the time. Europe was way ahead of the curve.

    It’s my understanding that movies made on the east coast had very limited budgets, which tightly restricted the variety of expression that could be explored. The budgets were worse than the trust (although these factors are all inter-related), and it certainly wasn’t patents that were restricting the expression. It was very much a factory line approach to film making. Something we’ve begun to see again in reality TV shows, singing contests, and Made-by-Muzak pop music. As art becomes beholden more and more to corporate money, I suspect we’ll only see more of this.

    Unlike pirates, Hollywood wasn’t interested in making cheaper movies and lowering ticket prices. They went to California because they wanted to invest in bigger budgets and reap greater profits, something they were unable to do back east. It was definitely about creating new art (for massive profits), not ripping it off. They also wanted to cultivate star power, which basically empowered actors to seek better pay. The Edison Trust wouldn’t allow too many film appearances at the risk of someone becoming a marquee name and demanding higher pay. The Trust’s behavior is suspiciously similar to the Valley drive to eliminate individual powers and personal expression by insisting that all art should be made with the lowest possible investment and released at the fastest possible rate at the lowest possible uniform cost to consumers. All while insisting that it’s for the greater good of the public. Who sounds more like the Edison Trust, now?

    What is Youtube but a modern nickelodeon?

    Another fly in the ointment of the Hollywood Pirates canard is that movies were already being made in CA before Zukor and Fox showed up. Among many reasons, along with those brought up in this article, it was probably inevitable that Hollywood would become the center of film making in America.

  7. Here’s the tell on Edison…after inventing the Electric Light, he was hired by New York City to light streets, etc. He built a bunch of power plants that worked on DC (Direct Current), which is great for the inside of a small appliance, but not so good sent over long distance power lines. So when his system doesn’t work, he hires Nicola Tesla to fix it. Tesla of course figures out that you need Alternating Current (AC) and tries to get Edison to change it up…Edison won’t because he’s so heavily invested in his own technology. He spends the rest of his life and a ton of money trying to shut down AC, even though it works better, is cheaper, more efficient, etc, etc…The only reason we have reasonably cheap and stable AC power today is because George Westinghouse saw the better technology and funded it.

    Needless to say, Edison sued him too.

    The reason this is important, is because we have a similar situation happening now re: copyrights and intellectual property law. Any idiot should be able to see that the game has changed. The Internet is a fact of life, but yet companies with a mind-set stuck in the 20th Century are trying to roll the clock back. They can dream, but this won’t happen.

    George Gershwin is dead, Cole Porter is dead…why is their music not in Public Domain? They collect no royalties. The people who are collecting are the same companies that grabbed their publishing and ripped them off while they were alive. That is the vested interest here, and it comes down to nothing more than greed. That’s why they are so protective of their turf. It isn’t about any artist. These companies rip artists off…that’s their business model and they don’t want it to end. They’ve already gotten 2 extensions of the Copyright Act, such that Mickey Mouse only falls into Public Domain after more than 100 years…when that horizon gets close, you can bet that they’ll ask for another extension.

    The US Constitution says, “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;”…That’s what it says exactly…It makes no differentiation between an Inventor and an Author. A patent is good for 17 years…why is a Copyright good for 100 (or more – 75 years plus life of the author)? The operative phrase here is “Limited Times”…and that’s something almost everyone can agree with. If the framers of the Constitution could realize the value of Public Domain 200 years ago, why are we having such a problem with it? The answer, again…is greed.

    At some point, there will have to be an understanding that the digital world is different. Possibly some sort of licensing arrangement will be found to be workable, much like ASCAP or BMI work for collecting broadcast revenues…we already see the glimmerings of it in YouTube and Spotify. There are plenty of new artists who are starting to recognize that the thing that really stands in their way is not piracy, but obscurity…so they try to interface with their fans, give some of their music away…The future is unwritten, but some smart people will figure out how to make it work in a reasonable way.

    One thing is for sure…it won’t look anything like the past…

    • If you build a house with your bare hands… should it revert to “public domain” after 70 years? or should you be able to hand it down to your children/grandchildren?
      The problem with copyright critics is that they never… nor will they probably ever… make anything worthwhile themselves. The greed isn’t on the part of the creator, it’s on the part of the thief. Eventually EVERYTHING that’s been copyrighted reverts to public domain. You complain because only “old” stuff is PD… well… that just proves that it’s the ‘new’ that is in high demand.

      I -and others- take a huge risk to try and even have a slim chance of making a living producing IP. I don’t have a guaranteed paycheck, i don’t get paid vacations, i don’t get company healthcare, ect. ect. I do however spend DECADES mastering my craft.. just to take an extremely big risk, and foregoing the career ladder others enjoy. If i happen to make something that the public demands and enjoys… don’t you think i should be rewarded for all my sacrifice? Shouldn’t i be able to have the comfort knowing i may have something to hand down to my children? Or should i be put out in the street, and my children starve?

      • Shouldn’t i be able to have the comfort knowing i may have something to hand down to my children? Or should i be put out in the street, and my children starve?

        Psssst….Copyright is supposed to be about providing incentive for further production of creative works, NOT guaranteeing income for future generations. Giving your children a handout will not provide them incentive to create their own works.

        • Psssst… it’s called incentive.

          Not for my children, but FOR ME. For my peace-of-mind.
          Otherwise i might as well work in a cubicle and climb the career ladder… and who are you to say what i should or shouldn’t do for my kin? i’d like to know my children won’t be homeless should i die tommorow, y’all with insurance and steady pay wouldn’t understand (and neither would the children that usually comment…)

          If nobody wants what i make, then yeah.. that either makes me work harder, or find something else to do… but to say i should always be a pauper, i think i’d rather do something else more lucrative, and say ‘screw you’ to society.
          Why would i bust my ass to make something if there’s no possibility of reward at the end? Facebook ‘likes’ don’t put bread on the table. Alot of the time, something’s finantial payoff doesn’t come until a decade or two later anyhow. Should i just fork over my money directly to Google?

          • Why would i bust my ass to make something if there’s no possibility of reward at the end?

            There are rewards all over the place. In fact, there is more art being produced today that at any other point in history, and much of the best of it is distributed for free by the creators.

            You don’t want to make any more art without your ridiculous overbearing copyright mechanisms? Fine. Then stop. Stop and let ten others take your place.

            Your only other alternatives, near as I can tell, are to either find a way to monetize content without whining when someone who likes it actually wants to see it, or perhaps just keep tilting at windmills, making believe that you can convince 500 million people worldwide that they’re wrong and you’re right.

            Good luck.

        • … and whomever said “guaranteeing income for future generations” ?
          That’s a fuk’n hoot! you obviously don’t work in the IP biz…
          There’s nothing ‘guaranteed’ from day to day…

        • The “incentive” of copyright law is encouraging an author to create an original work of authorship in the present. It is not to incentivize that author to create future works.

          • It’s about encouraging all of society in general to produce more creative works. Society at large is intended to be benefited most. Current copyright does not serve society….it guts our public domain and serves only legacy media companies.

    • If you object to Cole Porter’s heirs receiving some benefit today from his genius, why aren’t you complaining about people who own stock in Ford and continue to make money on Henry Ford’s genius? As far as length of copyright, at this point that argument is pointless today. There is effectively no copyright enforcement on the Internet. Your side has won – temporarily. Every song ever written, every movie ever made and virtually every book, video game and software package ever written is available for free on the Internet with essentially no consequences. At this point creators are just trying to hold on to some rights as opposed to losing all of them.

  8. So what. Do the actions of people 100 years ago justify destroying America’s intellectual property based businesses that have driven prosperity in America for decades just to transfer wealth to a few internet advertising companies?

    If we are going to throw stones, how about these:

    Steve Jobs didn’t come up with pull down menus, the mouse, the desktop methaphor. he took them from developers at Xerox.
    Youtube was sold to Google for $1.6B on the backs of stolen content. Viacom sued Google and now Youtube pays small royalties.
    Bernie Ebbers, CEO of ISP/Telco Worldcom swindled investors out of $100B in 2005. What entertainment company has ever even approached that?

  9. Sorry about that but you asked for this one. I love to entertain you.

    I spent so much time mastering my craft (creative writing) I had no time to get a Master’s and therefore I cannot get a job at any major university teaching my craft. I can, luckily, teach Advanced Translation at Germany’s University of Cologne–purely by chance–and Adult Education (for peanuts).

    I suggest “An Empire of Their Own” for a deep gaze into the abyss Tinseltown, the why and wherefore.

    But as a creator I would like to share my piracy initiation with this community. I got ripped off and I can prove it and–to quote Billy Jack–there’s not a damn thing I’m gonna be able to about it. Ever.

    Here we go–not my life story but a page from it:

    In 1983 I went–not unlike Tom Hanks who attended Bible study at my girlfriend’s parents’ home in Piedmont–from San Francisco to Hollywood to make the big time.

    I had a BA in English from Whitworth and a key role in the longest running play in the SF East Bay’s community theater history (Cuckoo’s Nest in the round, done as an asylum and I was Dr. Spivey–meaning I was qualified to attempt a showbiz career). I’d also majored in Performing Arts, taking more Drama than English courses.

    First Hollywood meeting was in Burbank, Casting Director Bill Shepard at Disney. All he had was a Tom Sawyer film set in Hannibal MO. I came from the Show Me state and taught kids rock-climbing in Hannibal two summers. His retort: “You don’t look like it.”

    Welcome to Hollywood. But that’s not the piracy.

    Fast forward to the aftermath of my first-degree murder case (not the point here but the kernel of it).

    British filmmaker David Putnamm, as Chief Executive Officer of Columbia Pictures from 1986 to 1988–for one effective year–was bolstering nonfiction but getting mobbed out. In 1986 I send him my script–that is, I send Catherine Wyler, SVP Production, a screenplay about my self-defense case (which my public defender James Bisnow won–a Jew defending a Christian, a story some would say is worth gold in Hollywood). The details of the case, fascinating and enlightening as they are, would distract from our theme.

    Piracy Exhibits:
    A. Letter to me dated January 16, 1987 signed by Colpix SVP Production Catherine Wyler herself: “I’ll call you as soon as I’ve read it.”
    B. Letter to me dated March 2, 1987 signed by Colpix SVP Production Catherine Wyler herself: “I shared it with colleagues here….”
    C. Released 10 April 1987 (but you can go to imdb.com right now and click to it) “The Secret of My Success” stars Michael J. Fox and grosses $67 million USA. Watch the trailer, note the first seven seconds–the first impression, used to this day to sell the DVD.

    Fox arrives in the big city (change LA to NY), calls his mom (same) from a payphone (same) lying (same) he’s okay (same) while a police action (same) explodes all around. In mine an LAPD chopper drowns out the phone call. In his, NYPD bullets do the deed.

    My script is copyrighted, Library of Congress PAu000612508 / 1984-05-03. I also told the story personally to the President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Robert Rehme, and to two-time Oscar winning screenwriter Donald E. Stewart. So I had reputable witnesses, to say the least.

    Problem: Any attorney who is anybody already represents somebody who is attached to somebody who is attached to Rastar / Colpix. Ergo: conflict of interest. (I asked Jan Laurence Handzlik, a famed white collar crime attorney, the former US Attorney who prosecuted “The Falcon & the Snowman” if you recall the Sean Penn movie about an FBI agent’s son who traffics cocaine–by the way, Jan also represented me in the murder case–until my folks and I ran out of money.

    Speaking of money, any other attorney I could find–one, that is, who would be a David going up against Goliath–asked for a $2000 retainer to “look at” the case. I had no such funds.

    End of story. The rich get richer, the poor teach English.

    That’s my pirate yarn. For my Navy yarn (if you didn’t see the hazing story on INSIDE EDITION in 1997) buy my book “GULF in the WAR STORY: A US Navy Personnel Manager Confides in You” (at amazon). Then they’ll make a movie of it without pirating the text. Right?

    • By the way I got a bit long winded and off point so again, sorry about that.

    • Bob,

      Let it go. Hollywood rips people off all the time, but 1) chances are slim to none that they would have shot a new scene for the film in the last month or two before release, and 2) the scene sounds pretty unoriginal to me. Sorry.

  10. This thread can’t possibly be complete without some nonsensical, ignorant response from Mike Masnick. Where are you Mike, or Jay, or Joe, or whoever your alias is this week?

  11. Pingback: MPAA: We’re No Pirates! You Are Thieves! Or? | TorrentFreak

  12. Ophelia Millais

    I’ve read this post 3 times and still don’t see anything in it which contradicts the assertions made by Lessig, The Pirate Bay, and others. You merely imply that Edison Trust’s bullying of would-be competitors is a non-issue because it was ended by the courts in 1916-1917, and you assert that we can therefore believe the studios’ own story that they just only set up shop in California because they liked the mild weather. That would be fine if the studios had set up out west after 1916, but they did it in 1911-1915, so… try again?

    • You realize that the link you just posted talks about DW Griffith and Biograph… which was an MPPC company. In other words, it doesn’t make sense to claim that independent filmmakers headed to Hollywood to escape the trust since the trust was already out in Hollywood making movies. It talks about that in the article above, as well; maybe you should reread it a fourth time (after you reread the article at the link you posted).

      • Ophelia Millais

        You didn’t read far enough into the linked post. The section titled “Unlicensed Independents Fought Against the MPPC” explicitly says that Nestor, Majestic, and the precursors of Fox, Universal, and Paramount, fled westward so they could operate safely and independently of the Edison cartel… and they also happened to like the weather. This is not a novel theory cooked up by copyright foes!

        • Without any citations, the origin of that statement is questionable. The independent studios, even though they filmed out in California, maintained offices in New York and New Jersey, well within the grasp of Edison. Further, the Trust maintained control over the film’s distribution to theatres; moving a studio to California would make no difference if you could not show your movies in any theatre on the East Coast. And again, Trust studios were operating out in Hollywood at that time anyway.

          The Independent Moving Pictures Company was formed to fight the Trust, not to flee it. They were not trying to use patents illegally or pirate innovation; they were trying to stop unlawful licensing which kept them from inventing their own cameras or showing their own films on projectors owned by the Trust. They were far from pirates, they were, in fact, ultimately vindicated by US intellectual property laws.

        • Here’s a first-hand account of the move west from Jesse Lasky, who formed the Jesse L. Lasky Play Company in New York with his brother-in-law Samuel Goldwyn and Cecil B. DeMille and later merged the company with Adolph Zukor to create Paramount:

          Cecil had passed up Flagstaff as our shooting locale because the weather was bad when he stepped off the train in Arizona, and he suddenly realized there would be no facilities for processing the film there. But he knew there must be film laboratories in California, because, while no one had yet made a feature picture in the West, a few companies making one-reelers had moved there from the East to take advantage of cheaper land, labor, and materials and to benefit from the milder climate and more dependable sunlight. The latter was a potent economic factor in as much as articial lighting was still unknown to motion pictures.

          No mention of Edison. As noted in the sources I cited in my article, if getting away from Edison played any role in the studios’ move, it was a very minor one, contrary to what is being claimed by modern-day revisionists.

  13. As @Ophelia Millais said, this doesn’t contradict what TPB and others say, nor does it justify the scoundrelous behaviour of Hollywood today. They’re now at the top, so they don’t want anyone to break them down. They’ve already infested the US government structures with collaborants, which run around the world destroying legitimate businesses who could be a dangerous competition to the way how Hollywood believes content should be distributed, they crack down on human rights (all secret), just to protect their monopoly. Hollywood is the most rotten place in the world (I’m being nice), which stains the blessed land of California and corrupts it inside out. These foul creatures must be stopped before they destroy all freedom on the internet.

    • Hollywood is the most rotten place in the world (I’m being nice)

      Are you unaware of the rampant human rights abuses which occur throughout the world on a daily basis? Or do you find torture, war and slavery acceptable as long as you can illegally download Game of Thrones a few weeks before you can buy it legally?

      • Red herring.

        Futhermore, one could just as easily ask if you find torture, war, and slavery acceptable as long as you can post on a blog about how you deplorable you find it that anyone wants to watch Game of Thrones in an unauthorized manner.

        • I find piracy unacceptable, but I don’t declare it the worst thing in the world. Saying “Hollywood is the most rotten place in the world” is so hyperbolic it does nothing to add to the discussion.

  14. RadialSkid ie. Lessig wrote: “You don’t want to make any more art without your ridiculous overbearing copyright mechanisms? Fine. Then stop. Stop and let ten others take your place.

    Your only other alternatives, near as I can tell, are to either find a way to monetize content without whining when someone who likes it actually wants to see it, or perhaps just keep tilting at windmills, making believe that you can convince 500 million people worldwide that they’re wrong and you’re right.


    I’m all for people CHOOSING to give away their work for free… more power to them. But, we all know damn well that the vast VAST majority of these creations are utter crap that people wouldn’t watch if they were getting paid to watch/listen.

    Look, i’m FINE WITH getting usrped by people that make better stuff than i. that’s fair competetion, even if they’re not charging for their wares. What i’m NOT for is getting usrped by MY OWN stuff being given away against my will.

    There’s a big difference between a chef handing out free samples outside his restaurant to gain customers, and that chef being forced to cook full meals for everyone every night there after…

    Why is it that there’s always professional music videos in the top 10 watched YouTube videos and not ‘billy learns to play guitar’?

    People don’t want “content”, they want ‘premium’ content. And that kind of content takes alot of time and money and effort and dedication to make well. People are essentially stealing labor.

    And just because “500 million people” like you say are for “sharing” (stealing), doesn’t mean it should be so, nor i should be quiet about it.
    150 years ago slavery was the norm in the US. Popular opinion doesn’t always make good law. Sad thing is, we’re heading back in the wrong direction as a society. Funny. History tends to repeat itself.

    • 150 years ago slavery was the norm in the US. Popular opinion doesn’t always make good law. Sad thing is, we’re heading back in the wrong direction as a society. Funny. History tends to repeat itself.

      Cannot agree more. Copyright is a modern day slavery. Yet it took a lot of compromises (unethical by today’s standards) to abolish slavery. Therefore, no, copyright won’t be gone at once. But to move to the “right direction”, we have to start by compromising: you want your copyright protection? OK, you get it, but for 14 years, not 200. You want your rights to be enforced? Good: go after large-scale commercial copyists, and live college students alone.

      • sorry for the typos:
        to the right direction => in the right direction
        live alone => leave alone,

      • SJD wrote:

        Cannot agree more. Copyright is a modern day slavery.

        Given that (i) copyright is a mechanism through which people get paid for their work; (ii) you want to abolish copyright just so you can get the products of their work without paying for it; so that (iii) the people creating those works will be labouring for nothing, which is pretty much the definition of slavery, I’d day you’re engaging in some serious, weapons-grade projection.

        The ones promoting a return to slavery are the piracy advocates like you.

        • Ophelia Millais

          Which people get paid for which work? Copyright law is used primarily by rich companies (and their legal counsel) which act as gatekeepers and exploiters of other people’s creative works. These slave masters point to the pittance in royalties their indentured servants fought for, saying “look what copyright gave the artists”, never mentioning the fact that the royalties are first charged against the artists’ debts, and that the artists’ real income actually comes from fixed wages or secondary sources (touring, merch, whatever). In cases where these companies win their copyright battles in court, they don’t give the money to the artists, either. So I don’t know, I wouldn’t talk about slavery if I were you.

      • Cannot agree more. Copyright is a modern day slavery.

        Wow, you’ve definitely earned your merit badge in double-speak…

        Relevant quote:

        “The right to life is the source of all rights — and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life. The man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave.” – Ayn Rand

      • Cannot agree more. Copyright is a modern day slavery

        Wait, back up a minute. ^This^ needs some clarification. Please explain to me how copyright is anything like slavery. I suspect the line of thought that leads to this reasoning is mighty impressive. Worthy of study, even.

        Copyright secures rights, while slavery strips them away. I’m fascinated that someone could conflate the two.

        And why the phrase “modern day?” The slave trade is alive and well in some parts of the world. “Modern day slavery” is just old fashioned ‘slavery.’

        Yet it took a lot of compromises (unethical by today’s standards) to abolish slavery

        HOLY S***!!! This is a new one. The Civil War, the bloodiest war America ever fought in, that took more American lives than all of our other wars combined; you call that a “compromise” and “unethical?” Brothers killing brothers… in a compromise to end all compromises!

        Yet! “Copyright is modern day slavery.”

        You have an interesting way with hyperbole.

    • But, we all know damn well that the vast VAST majority of these creations are utter crap that people wouldn’t watch if they were getting paid to watch/listen.

      The vast majority of retail media is, as well. 90% of everything is crap.

      Why is it that there’s always professional music videos in the top 10 watched YouTube videos and not ‘billy learns to play guitar’?

      Leftover influence from the era when major media was the only game in town. This continues to change every day….the “amateurs” at Rooster Teeth have one of the top 10 YouTube channels, and indie rapper (and copyright critic) Dan Bull is currently on the R&B music charts in the U.K.

      doesn’t mean it should be so, nor i should be quiet about it.

      That’s fine. It’s a free country, and nobody can control your opinions nor keep you from voicing them, no matter what they are. You don’t have to like black people, either. Expect to be widely shunned for it, though.

      • Radial Skidmark wrote: “That’s fine. It’s a free country, and nobody can control your opinions nor keep you from voicing them, no matter what they are. You don’t have to like black people, either. Expect to be widely shunned for it, though.

        Hmm.. “expect to be shunned for liking black people?” WOW

        Ironic thing is, i used to stick up for the nerds back in school when they were being picked on and beat up… If i would have known they’d grow up to be racist slave-drivers, i might have done things different…

        • You know full and well I meant shunned for NOT liking them. Your trolling attempt at word games is denied.

      • and indie rapper (and copyright critic) Dan Bull is currently on the R&B music charts in the U.K.

        My god, just keep rolling out the Techdirt talking points why don’t you? Can we gossip about Amanda Palmer next? Where do you have your Mikey Masnick poster? I hung mine right above my bed so my dreams will be ‘innovative’ and so he can protect me from ‘teh intellectual properteez!’

        And, no Dan Bull is not on the charts. But another white rapper of similar caliber is… Vanilla Ice.

        Also, I don’t think it carries much weight when you release a song with the express intent of getting on the charts, you hype the scheme at pro-piracy sites like Torrentfreak, and encourage your fans to purchase your song from ten different retailers to get it on the charts.

        (And also, if “sharing is caring” is the best rhyme an MC can come up with, I think I might know why labels pay him no attention and why his music is free. But I digress…)

        What’s really funny is that what he’s doing is typical major record label behavior. Pumping sales, buying your own albums to get on the charts… a scheme as old as radio. It’s vanity, nothing more. If he has problems with the industry, why acknowledge the charts? Why register with a PRO, who are the quintessential targets of piratical ire, to track your sales?

        • And, no Dan Bull is not on the charts.

          Is that a fact? You want to recheck them, then.

          Also, I don’t think it carries much weight when you release a song with the express intent of getting on the charts

          As opposed to the years’ worth of material he released without that intention?

          And also, if “sharing is caring” is the best rhyme an MC can come up with, I think I might know why labels pay him no attention and why his music is free.

          Thanks for proving you know nothing about his rhymes apart from reading one of his song titles. And his music is free if the fan wants it to be….I’ve paid money for both of his studio albums.

          It’s vanity, nothing more.

          All art is vanity. All of it.

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  16. So the issue wasn’t that FILMS were being pirated, but instead EQUIPMENT was? In the whole scheme of things as far as the history of piracy is concerned, it’s a distinction without much of a difference. Edison’s thugs going in and being the shit out of people and burning buildings tried to stop independent film production and distribution.

    • No, they weren’t pirating equipment. Read the article again. They were, among other things, filming movies on unlicensed film, a license that courts struck down as void and a violation of anti-trust laws.

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