Showing posts from March, 2014

Is Copyright Cultural Theft?

Last night my daughter and I settled in to watch the 2013 blockbuster The Lone Ranger, directed by Gore Verbinski, and produced by six companies including Walt Disney Pictures, Jerry Bruckheimer Films and a rather suspect organisation (in terms of Hollywood accounting practice) called Silver Bullet Productions (II).

While hardly a masterpiece, it made for enjoyable Friday evening in. This was, in part, due to that familiar brand of humour that Verbinski imbues into his films including the first three instalments of the Pirates of the Caribbean (2003, 2006, 2007), also produced in collaboration with Disney and Bruckheimer. Moreover, who can resist Johnny Depp’s incarnation as Tonto, despite the fact that it bears a remarkable similarity to his performance and appearance as Jack Sparrow in Pirates.
And the film’s connection to Hollywood history runs far deeper that the creative talent involved in its production. To the degree that the film labours the motif of crashing trains and pocket w…

Expendable Men and Modern Women in Frozen

So I have finally got around to viewing Disney’s 2013 animation Frozen (Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, 2013). Let me say up front that it took me two attempts to get through the film, because I am, for the most part, not a fan of musicals. Also be aware that in the pursuit of an informed critique of gender and feminism, this film review contains numerous spoilers.
Frozen transforms Hans Christian Anderson’s classic fairy tale about a villainous The Ice Queen, into a nuanced account of how social prejudice drives desperate people to commit (what are perceived to be) harmful or immoral acts. The film begins with an unfortunate childhood incident when Princess Elsa accidently harms her little sister Princess Anna, when she misdirects her magical power to conjure up ice and snow. This sets the scene for Elsa’s isolation and her life-long quest to suppress the emotions that regularly set off her strengthening powers. Fast-forward a number of years, the girls have come of age, their parents ha…

The logic of popular debates about gender inequality

It’s time that media discussion and debate about gender inequality establishes some ground rules, namely logical consistency. Reading Clementine Ford’s opinion piece ‘Male privilege extends beyond the airwaves,’ written for the ABC’s drum, brings this to bear.
This is a cut-and-dry feminist argument that the lack of women in Australian media is detrimental to female equality in society at large. The evidence offered is quite staggering. For instance in talk back radio this time last year there were only 17 female hosts to 123 male hosts. Moreover, Ford’s critique of the ABC program Q&A is spot on, which regularly populates its panel of experts with a 4:2 ratio of men to women. Interesting she ‘guesses’ that if this ratio was in reverse, there would be a vocal audience backlash. To this last point I would caution that conjecture is not evidence.

It is, however, the logical inconsistency of Ford’s central proposition with which I take issue. Ford states: ‘Firstly, it is illogical and…

Evidence that piracy may boost sales

I have recently been pointed in the direction of some interesting research indicating that the publicity generated by 'piracy' may actually negate the negatives, particularly for artists (thanks Peng Tiong). 

The study followed a sample of 16 000 internet users from 5 different European Union countries throughout 2011. The study tracked demographic characteristics, and also identified specific visits to music related websites, both legal and illegal. In the report researchers state that the results: 'present no evidence of sales displacement,' and that piracy does not, in fact, displace legal music downloads. Instead, findings suggest that illegal streaming may actually boost sales.

The study has been conducted by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, and the results have been published in a paper entitled ‘Digital Music Consumption on the Internet: Evidence from Clickstream Data.’ Also see 'Music piracy surprisingly good for business, study claims' fo…

Is public money really cleaner than corporate money? Some reflections on the Sydney Biennale protests

The recent furore that has erupted aroundSydney Bienniale artists rejecting corporate sponsorship brings to bear some important assumptions around the role of the artist in society, and how their activities are bankrolled.
In a nutshell, the Bienniale severed ties with sponsor Transfield Holdings as a protest against the corporation’s involvement in offshore detention centres. This has inspired a number of responses by government ministers. Most notablyArts Minister George Brandisthreatened to pull funding from the event all together.
Interestingly, it seems that there is no currently existing legal or policy grounds for the minister to follow through on his threat, as reflected by his request to the Australia Council to formulate a policy to penalise organisations that refuse corporate sponsorship on “unreasonable grounds.” This should come as no surprise; the expectation that recipients of arts and cultural funding seek corporate sponsorship and improve revenue through growing audien…

Digital technology the cause of DVD market decline, not piracy

Figures released by the Australian Home Entertainment Distributors Association show that the market for digital film and television sales in Australia grew 22.4% last financial year to $143.67 million. It is estimated that digital sales now account for 15% of the market, up from a reported 10% in 2012.
The rise in digital sales has been accompanied by a steady decline in the sale of DVD, Blu-Ray and other physical formats, which peaked in 2007-08 with 98.8 units sold. The number in 2012-13 was 63.6 million units.
Amazingly however, in Melbourne’s The Age newspaper this morning, Karl Quinn asserts that these figures represent a glimmer of hope for the declining home entertainment industry, which is apparently besieged by piracy. As argued yesterday, clearly there is a very significant technological shift occurring and the Australian market is playing catch up with consumers. Piracy is one effect of this, the other is consumers purchasing content online.

The only thing that is going to imp…

It’s Time For Film Distributors to Discover the Internet

The digital age is well and truly upon us, and film industries, the world over, continue to drag their feet. Rather than adapting to the new possibilities of internet distribution large producers are instead focused on alienating its audiences by criminalising them through intellectual property law, and failing to deliver content on the platforms that audiences want.
Key roadblocks are the major exhibitors who contest distributor calls for change on the basis that this will erode box-office returns. There is a major failure to recognise that resisting market demand is not how you maintain or increase profit. For instance, rather than distributors and exhibitors banding together to innovate new solutions, Australia is set to trial a 90-day release holdback between theatrical and home entertainment release, in place of the traditional 120-day holdback.  
As a university tutor of screen studies, I regularly come into contact with moviegoers in their late teens and early 20s. What has this…

The Solution to Cyber-Bullying is Parental Responsibility

It seems that in a liberal-democratic society, the imperative to regulate the masses can only be validly proposed if the safety of the children is deemed to be at risk. Throughout much of the 20th century, it was the portrayal of violence and sex on celluloid. In the 1980s heavy metal music compelled the world’s youth to satanic worship and suicide. 
Today, it is digital technologies that threaten to unmake society by corrupting minds and hearts of innocent youth. The ability of Australian adults to access video games, is for instance, restricted via a video game classification system to prevent violent rampages by impressionable children. In 2014, cyber-bullying has emerged as the primary threat to our children.
In January this year, Australia’s federal government issued a discussion paper,Enhancing Online Safety for Children, inviting experts to reflect on proposed measures to improve the online safety of children, who need to be protected from “child pornography, being groomed by a …

International Women’s Day and the Disposable Male

Western society has made a lot of headway since the inception of International Women’s Day over 100 years ago. However, the women’s movement has failed to evolve with the society that it has helped to change, and to adapt its priorities to the dynamic landscape of gender relations.
In the realm of film and television, activism has taken the form of contesting the negative portrayal of women as sex objects to be leered at, deadly women who lead the hero to their doom, and the image of unattainable perfection to which we should all aspire but can never achieve. And the evidence for this is undeniable.
It is, however, only half of the picture. Screen representations also tend to glorify harmful representations of men. According to evolutionary psychologist Karen Straughan, men are only valued in Western culture insofar as they are willing and able to sacrifice themselves for the good of the masses, for instance in war, and via the performance of back-breaking manual labour. Men are in othe…

Media Hamstrung by Code of Practice

The Code of Practice guiding the conduct of TV and radio broadcasters is outdated and should be scrapped.
Key reasons supplied bybroadcasters, in a report released by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), include the difficulty of sourcing adequate G-rated programming for the day time schedule, declining revenue as advertisers shift their investments to the web, and the costs of responding to code-related complaints.
In addition to these financial complaints, I see three broad problems with the Code of Practice, and indeed regulatory bodies like the ACMA, which ultimately prevent broadcasters from maintaining their relevance for Australians. 
Media is dynamic, bureaucratic regulation is not.As evidenced by ill-advised attempts to adapt existing intellectual property laws to digital media, top-down regulation will at best, play catch up with technological development, and at worst,cripple creativity and innovation.
People are capable of self-regulation. The perception t…