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Michel Moore's Slacker Uprising

Is File Sharing Illegal If Rights Owner Says It's Okay to Share?

I go back and forth on the file sharing debate, unable to find solid footing on just one side of the issue. But when I heard that Michael Moore was releasing his new documentary online as a free download, and was even encouraging watchers to "share it or show it in any way you see fit," I thought "Okay, that works." But unfortunately, after the film showed up on torrent sites, letters of cease-and-desist were delivered to many users, sparking a geographical sharing debate.

Since Michael only owns the North American rights to the film, anyone trying to download the film from across the pond will be subjected to copyright infringement. Michael's reasoning on the file sharing issue is this: "What are 'geographical rights'? I'll say it for the hundredth time: If I buy a book and read it, and then give you the book to read, I have broken no laws. Why is that not true for all media?"

I tend to take Michael's side on this one: he made the movie, why can't he distribute it as he sees fit? Maybe I just don't understand the inner workings of movie making, but hey — that's why I'm behind a computer and not a camera!

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macgirl macgirl 7 years
Obviously it's a bit misleading when he says he owns the rights. He only owns certain rights. Maybe he needs better lawyers when he is drafting up his paperwork if he wanted to be able to do whatever he wanted with it. I don't totally agree with his book metaphor either. Giving a book to someone is not the same as making millions of copies of a book and giving them away to anyone, anywhere. I'm pretty sure the publisher/author might come after you.
BostonChick BostonChick 7 years
I think if Michael wants people to download and share then it shouldn't be an issue. That is of course if he has full rights to it or gets the ok from the others who own it. Say, the production company, they probably put money into this so for them to not get paid isn't fair unless that was the deal at the beginning or Michael was going to fork over some cash. But honestly, no matter if you agree or disagree file sharing is part of our world now. It's going to happen whether we like it or not...whether it's right or not. I think Michael is just embracing it.
EvilDorkGirl EvilDorkGirl 7 years
As an artist myself, this is an issue that is very important to me. While it is a sticky situation that is nearly impossible to enforce, unfortunately in the U.S. the law is on the side of the production company for a lot of the reasons Margokahl discussed. The main difference between a movie and a book is the nature of its creation. An author is the only person writing a book, whereas making a movie requires a team of people. True, Mr. Moore came up with the idea and made sure it was executed, but what about the camera guy who shot it? And the editors? And the agents and producers? There are a LOT of people involved in any movie-making process, even documentaries, so unless Mr. Moore created the entire film himself (much in the same way an author develops an entire book), he can't claim sole proprietary rights over the film. Like Mr. Moore, I'm of the opinion that sharing knowledge and creativity is very good. However, if this was one of his priorities, he should have discussed worldwide distribution rights BEFORE making the film instead of complaining about it after the fact. Not that there's any way in hell a producer would have financed the project, but still. In this case, he does not own the rights, so it's not his call.
PiNkY-PiNk PiNkY-PiNk 7 years
I agree with geeksugar. he made the movie and without him, there would be no money for the production company to make. he should have just gotten a camera and distributed it online. but I don't know how all that works, so I don't know if that would've been possible.
gemsera gemsera 7 years
What a crock of shi*e! Good luck controlling content, cause the world just dont work like that LOL We already get tv shows on our tv's like 6-12 months LATER than the rest of you, enoughs enough. USA isnt the be all and end all of the world ffs. Sorry but it gets me really riled up about all that...
margokhal margokhal 7 years
I agree with Michael Moore on this too - he made the movie, he owns the rights to it [even though the jurisdiction only extends to North America], he should be able to distribute it as he sees fit. I think it has something to do with production companies and royalties. That's what makes sharing movies and music and other media more tricky than, say, a book. Publishing companies and the authors of books only make money ONCE - when the book is sold. When the book is resold or subsequently shared [like, at Half-Price Books or at a garage sale or whatever], they don't make money from that. Production companies make money every *time* a movie or song is replayed or reproduced. You go to see a movie in the theater, they get some of it. You go to buy the DVD, they get some of it. When the movie goes on TV, is replayed as a public production [say, at a university - my school has to buy temporary rights to do public showings of movies...they're quite pricey - new movies, ones just out on DVD, can be easily $1000 to show!], they STILL get some of it. It's the same with songs. Every time it's played on the radio, or on the Internet, or at a concert, or somebody buys it from iTunes - they're making money. :|
prettywarrior prettywarrior 7 years
I think it's a gray area because a person can't make an exception to a law like that. It's somebody's job (the police? not sure who is in charge in this case) to enforce the laws and Michael Moore can't just make himself and his work an exception because he says so. I wish things worked that way, though.
vitisva vitisva 7 years
A few years ago my friend who had put Widows XP on her mothers computer had her mother ranting about needing the code to register it. She just refused to understand why they both can't just enter the same code.
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