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ATPM 8.06
June 2002



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On a Clear Day You Can See the Hollywood Sign

by Mike Shields,

When Is It OK to Yell “Fire” in a Crowded Theater?

When there’s a fire in a theater, and it’s crowded. Stay with me on this—some of it may even be Mac related, one never knows.

I’ve been noticing a disturbing trend lately. Advertisers lie. No big revelation here. They do it. They get paid to. Others that get paid to lie: actors, and of course lawyers. Actors do it to entertain, and lawyers to defend their clients, making it somewhat excusable, but only if the client is innocent.

However, the fine folks in advertising media are paid to blatantly lie and make up facts. I’m reminded of the fake movie reviewer of last year, complete with fake audience testimonials. One I came across today, Contains 100% Juice. Doesn’t necessarily mean that it is 100% Juice. I came across an interesting statistic recently. It costs $1.50 to cut a DVD. A recent check of the local Blockbuster shows that fully half of their shelves are stocked with DVDs. Why do they cost an average of $19.95? Who gets the rest of the money? The fine folks in marketing get a sizeable chunk, as they decide the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, or MSRP. And they aren’t even giving us the true facts. Advertise the sizzle, and sell the steak. Marketing 101. Lately, it’s been, “Advertise the sizzle, and sell them what they think is steak.” It might be fish, or chicken, but we’ll tell you it’s steak, so we make more.


Mel Gibson stars in a movie coming out in August, entitled Signs. According to the trailers that are already in theaters, it’s about the mysterious crop circles that show up around the planet, and specifically, one that appears in his cornfield. Having seen it, I’d tell you more, however a signed non-disclosure agreement forbids me from saying anything more than that’s not really what it’s about.


A movie about to come to a theater or drive-in near you (and as always, if there isn’t one or the other, move!) entitled Undercover Brother has a very disturbing billboard ad. Disturbing to Denise Richards anyway. Apparently, the artist took liberties with the size of her butt.


When I was in sales, we had what are called bundles. Sure, you can go out and buy a monitor, a Mac, and a keyboard, but if you buy our bundle, you’ll get all that, and we’ll even throw in some free software. And, get this, you’ll pay less. What a deal! They still exist. Everywhere except the online Apple Store, where their idea of a bundle is charging the same price as what the two pieces of software cost separately, together. I need Final Cut Pro 3 and Cinema Tools, but why not give me a discount? I’m not shooting Star Wars II: Attack of the Killer Tomatoes here, and every penny saved is literally a penny earned.


When is a CD not a CD? When it’s a copy protected audio disc. A recent article in The Hollywood Reporter, among other places I would imagine, gives the low down on this. A quick stroll over to the AppleCare Knowledge Base, article number 106882, gives the long explanation. The article referred to herein, makes it sound like it’s Apple’s fault that they can’t play a copy protected audio disc. The reality is, and Sony/Epic Records is the biggest transgressor on this one, that some CDs are stamped with the warning, “Will not play on PC/Mac.” Meaning that they aren’t CDs anymore.


A finely worded article in the latest edition of Reason warns of a more immediate danger, if by immediate I mean eight years from now. The battle lines are being drawn, and I’m afraid that the people taking sides are, well, taking sides. It’s that both sides may be wrong. When coming to a fork in the road, sometimes, it’s best to take the third path. Granted, piracy, or should I say, Piracy, is a problem. But, could that be because the prices are too high? Having spoken to several software vendors, I know that the price of software contains the cost of piracy. Other software vendors provide their own version of copy protection, which usually boils down to how many copies you can install before you can’t do it anymore. Which costs money. And we all know how much this type of copy protection is bothersome and, in the end, not feasible.


Yet the software vendors, and now the music labels, continue to insist on more protection for their intellectual property. OK, I do admit, that if someone stole my script tomorrow, and made Diamond Is a Girl’s Best Friend, I’d be pretty upset. However, at the same time, there are laws already in place that protect me, and I don’t need any additional technology to enforce them, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act notwithstanding. Which, by definition, should’ve expired on January 1st, 2001, as it was passed in 1998. Unless of course, it didn’t become law until then. To save you from having to read the entire 18-page document which is also available as a PDF there, I’ll summarize. You can’t copy anything. There. Simple, and straightforward. Well, not so simple. It turns out that you can, if it’s only for your own use, and you don’t intend to profit from it. Sound familiar? It’s basically the same law that allows you to copy books at the library and use a VCR in your home. However, it extends its purview to all things digital and Internet -related. Aye, there’s the rub. For those of you that are just landing on the planet, and have never heard of Napster, this is the law that’s been broken. Taken literally, you can’t rip your CDs, or copy protected audio discs anymore, and put your MP3s on your iPod. Even if you’re able to, your iPod may not be able to play them. I personally don’t have one, however, Father’s Day is coming up…


In any case, hear me now, listen to me later, and understand me after that. Your rights are being infringed. Your right to own a Mac, your right to play your music where and when you want it. What’s next, your right to use a VCR? Anyone ever wonder why a recordable DVD player hasn’t been made widely available? The content providers (read: movie makers) are afraid you’ll start your own DVD distribution company. And if Senator Fritz Hollings (D-SC) has his way, the Security Systems Standards and Certification Act will pass.

Write your Congressman. You’re in a crowded theater, and there’s a fire.

As always, 72 and sunny in Redondo Beach.

e You next time.

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Reader Comments (3)

anonymous · June 4, 2002 - 14:25 EST #1
It's never OK to YELL fire in a crowded theater. It is especially NOT OK to YELL fire when there is a fire.

If you yell fire in an almost empty theater and there is no fire, you probably will not create a panic.

If the theater is crowded and people can see or smell smoke, and you sound like panic, you WILL create panic.

When there is a fire in a crowded theater, the thing to YELL is: Everybody remain calm and please proceed to the exits in an orderly fashion!
Mike Shields (ATPM Staff) · June 5, 2002 - 00:16 EST #2
As my current column deals with how your first amendment rights are being infringed, I took a common question that is asked about free speech and tried to form an answer relative to what's going on right now. As always, I open with a joke. The rhythm of the opener is the same as, "What's big and red, and eats rocks? A Big Red Rock Eater." Thank you for your insightful comments and continuing to be one of my three readers.
anonymous · June 7, 2002 - 15:49 EST #3
I once heard a 1986 debate between VP George Bush and some Soviet loser. The main thing I got from that debate was semanitic: When Bush the first said freedom, he meant capitalism.

When Bush said such and such a people weren't free, he meant that they were capitalists. When he said the U.S. is the champion of freedom, he meant capitalism.

So what exactly is a free press? What exactly is free speech?

Replace free with its synonym capitalist! You will realize that all these measures actually defend the rights of a capitalist press.

Repeat the Republican mantra after me:


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