Harvey Weinstein, the tough-talking indie-film producer, has strongly condemned the pirating of movies and TV shows via the Internet and has accused Apple and Google of being part of the problem.
During a keynote speech in London at the BFI Film Festival, Weinstein attacked Internet companies that profit from the distribution of movies, music and other content but don't compensate the creators, according to a report in the British publication The Register.
Weinstein, who with his brother Bob founded the legendary indie studio Miramax, called for the creative community to band together and fight the infringement of intellectual property and the Web sites that profit from it.
"I think we are being done a massive disservice by these companies," Weinstein told the crowd. "I think after the [U.S. presidential] election we need to rally filmmakers, content providers and musicians around the world as long as these companies [continue to make content available] under the guise of free Internet."
The man who helped make some of the most successful indie films of all time, including "The English Patient," "Sex, Lies, and Videotape," and "Shakespeare In Love," would like the United States to adopt a three-strike rule similar to the one that is now law in France. The law says that people who are flagged three times for illegally sharing films, music or other media run the risk of losing Internet access.
"If an Internet company steals content, they shut it down," Weinstein said, according to The Register. "And let me tell you, Apple France, Yahoo France or Google France, none of them have gone out of business."
Without a doubt, that's the kind of statement by which Weinstein sounds out of touch with the copyright issues of the day. I've been covering Internet piracy for seven years and I have never heard a single exec from the entertainment sector complain about copyright violations at Yahoo.
And calling out Apple is a head-scratcher too. All the major film studios and networks distribute downloads through iTunes. The same with the music-recording companies. Apple sells music and movies legally and always has.
Content creators are sure to point out that Google has a much more spotty record on protecting content. Weinstein mentioned YouTube, a site where people divide complete movies into 10-minute long clips. While that still occurs, Google has a filtering technology that has helped keep some of that content off the Web's top video-sharing service.
More importantly, Google has implemented numerous antipiracy measures recently and cut big distribution deals with film studios and record labels for Google Play.
Had Weinstein lashed out against MegaUpload or Rapidshare, he would have at least been in step with the rest of the entertainment industry. Many in the film and music sectors accuse those cloud storage services of encouraging copyright infringement, though the sites say they operate legally.
One reason why Weinstein may have rattled his saber is that at another recent function, he lamented the decline in film revenue, which he blamed on piracy and consolidation in the sector, The Register reported. As a result, he said he and brother Bob are planning to do more TV production.
While he's at it, Weinstein should do some homework or else risk getting lumped in with Jon Bon Jovi and other stars who have made uninformed statements about copyright and the Internet. The impression they leave is that they're only aware that their royalty checks are getting smaller but haven't taken the time to find out what's really happening in their business.