How many times must one repeat a lie before it becomes the truth?

Chris Dodd, current spokesperson for the American movie lobbyist organization MPAA, has been caught lying about the American movie industry’s history. This is not the first time an MPAA spokesman tried to cover up an uncomfortable truth.

To the living we owe respect, but to the dead we owe only the truth.Voltaire

Some years ago at Roger Ebert’s “Ebertfest” (formerly Roger Ebert’s Overlooked Movie festival) I reminded Dodd’s predecessor Jack Valenti (2 MPAA bosses before Dodd) of this history in the Pine Lounge at the Illini Union in Urbana, Illinois. Valenti lectured us on how horrible “piracy” is (really, copyright infringement, not killing people on boats).

I was first in line at the mic and said why Hollywood is where it is located now. I also pointed out a better way to seek license compliance: do this how the FSF does it — private talks first with reasonable offers aimed at seeking compliance not court dates, and public mentions for the non-compliant. This is an approach that doesn’t include jailing and threats of jailing, namecalling, pushing for laws that forgo civil liberties, or suing children. Others came to the mic and added more challenging points and questions for Valenti, pointing out how his perception of fair use didn’t match that of the courts or US law, and how his organization and its members are basically encouraging that which Valenti decries.

An Ebertfest later, I learned that we made quite an impression on Ebert. Ebert held another lecture in the Pine Lounge with a different lecturer. I knew someone who went to that lecture and he told me that Ebert introduced the speaker that year by warning the audience that some people gave some objectionable feedback to his previous guest. Ebert was reportedly unpleased by the audience response at the Valenti lecture.

Ebert might have merely been expressing that he knows what side his bread is buttered on, but Valenti was lying. The alleged harm unrestricted copying and distribution caused MPAA members was (and is) a myth — while he was giving that talk at any audience that would have him (I later saw Valenti on C-SPAN giving the same spiel to another audience at a California university) MPAA members were collectively making more money year after year. It turns out that MPAA member studios have been collectively setting profit records and the MPAA costs these studios more money than Americans cost them via illicit sharing with BitTorrent. No doubt, the “piracy” cry is merely a foot-in-the-door to help the MPAA pass anti-sharing laws that impinge on our civil liberties without effective debate. Any money spent on MPAA dues is merely the cost of doing business with the US Congress; this is what it takes to get control over the public via international trade agreements and laws like the DMCA, SOPA, and now CISPA.

Valenti would go on to call those who copied Hollywood’s movies terrorists when he said “We’re fighting our own terrorist war“, another inelegant bit of speech trying to conflate 12-year-olds copying a movie with those who kill people. Also, not likely to persuade the “terrorists” parents of his perspective. Not too surprisingly really, as this is the same man who told the US Congress on April 12, 1982, “I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone.”.