The curious case of the anti-piracy announcement

If you’ve ever bought a movie on dvd, you must have seen the announcement that downloading movies is bad. Very bad. We’re even funding terrorism by grabbing a free copy of a blockbuster. Because nothing says the truth more than a statement that isn’t in the least exaggerated. Anyway, quite often you can’t even fast forward these messages which is quite annoying: in an earlier post we mentioned that they become so annoying it’s even tempting to grab an illegal copy of a movie off the internet because that allows you to go straight to the movie. Because, again, nothing says the truth more than an exaggerated statement.
And anyway, aren’t these announcements barking up the wrong tree? Who is being targetted here? The people who actually made the effort to buy a dvd. Wouldn’t a message applauding these people for their efforts be more welcome, more to the point and, why not, shorter?

But that is only the introduction. In the Netherlands a composer was asked to make some background music for an anti-piracy campaign for a film festival. The man was nicely paid by the anti-piracy organisation. Case closed. Ermm, no… some time later the man inserted a dvd into his player and, lo and behold, there was the same message… including his tune. As Private Eye would say: shurely shome mishtake?

The composer contacted the organisation. After all, didn’t his contract specify he was the tune’s owner for national and international territories? Plus, he had composed the tune: surely they’d forgotten he was the rightful owner of the track, even if they used a message for a film festival on another medium… ermm no, the Dutch anti-piracy organisation felt it was their message and therefore their plaything.

So the composer looked for a lawyer to take up this curious case. Not only that, a tv network heard about the story and jumped on it as well. A conversation between the lawyer and one of the anti-piracy guys was recorded and included a most memorable moment: this guy claimed that he was known for his pitbull attitude and he would make sure the composer would be paid after all. Of course, sinking your teeth into something costs some money and the man suggested a nice little fee of one third of the money would go to him for his effort and the composer could get the rest. And after all, two thirds of a sum is still better than nothing, eh?

TV networks tend to have the time to broadcast material and the interview was shown on the Dutch telly (discerning enthusiasts could hear the full interview on the network’s site). The anti-piracy movement promptly decided it was best for the man to stay low and removed him from his current job. Several weeks later, the composer got a wonderful offer: he would be paid the royalties for each dvd on which his tune was present as long as these were Dutch dvds (sometimes a dvd is published in several countries with a various display of subtitles – for those dvds the composer couldn’t be paid, of course, even if the music was featured there) and on the condition that he wouldn’t contact the press anymore. The composer did not agree to these conditions. For the record, we would like to point out that the Dutch anti-piracy organisation clearly states that their guy didn’t do anything wrong and that the network took certain words out of context.

Nevertheless, apparently a composer might not get paid for his work for an anti-piracy organisation (and probably not for any international releases). It just seems like a most curious case.

At least they’re not funding terrorism…

(P.S. If you understand Dutch, a short summary of the case can be watched here. It’s part of the year in review episode (16 Dec) as of 11:45 and is featured in several earlier episodes.)

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