A few months ago I wrote how Warner Bros. threatened to take filming of The Hobbit elsewhere unless the New Zealand government provided the US studio with more taxpayer money. This was already on top of the huge amount NZ offers them in the form of government film subsidies.
Well it turns out the leveraging didn’t stop there:
The government of New Zealand is sneaking in its controversial “3-strikes” Internet disconnection law tonight as part of its emergency legislation dealing with the Christchurch earthquake.
Bill 92A was passed once before and then rescinded after massive popular demonstrations, letter writing campaigns and outrage.
It provided for the disconnection of entire families from the Internet after being accused — without proof or due process — of copyright infringement.
You know when the Christchurch earthquake occurred I cynically thought what if the US studios had the balls to exploit the tragedy for their own gain. Boy was I wrong to think they had an ounce of shame :
NZFACT welcomes the enactment of the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill following its second and third reading in Parliament last night. The bill will now go into effect on September 1, 2011.
NZFACT members include: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, New Zealand; Paramount Pictures Corporation; Sony Pictures Releasing International Corporation; Twentieth Century Fox International Corporation; Universal International Films, Inc.; and Warner Bros. Pictures International, a division of Warner Bros. Pictures Inc.
NZFACT works in association with the Motion Picture Association, which represents the interests of the film industry across the world.
Regardless of how you feel about piracy laws, it’s pretty sleazy and cynical that this bill had to be ramrodded through the legislature exploiting an emergency bill for earthquake relief.
The Hobbit Fiasco
The point I was making with my posts on The Hobbit was that the government of NZ was setting a huge precedent. So it’s no surprise to see that the entertainment conglomerates are at it again.
If you remember, Peter Jackson and WB wanted to film The Hobbit but the economic realities were drastically different than when the Rings films were originally made:
The NZ dollar was at a record high, the NZ film subsidy was considerably lower, and other countries were offering more generous subsidies for the movie to be made elsewhere.
At the same time there was a international labor dispute between the actors union and Peter Jackson. WB and Peter Jackson blamed the dispute as a threat to take the film elsewhere, but at the same time, internal emails between Jackson and the NZ government showed that was not the case.
Soon there were protests to keep The Hobbit in NZ. A dog and pony show begins where WB flies into NZ to negotiate a deal with the Prime Minister. The negotiations ended with WB getting a big payoff in extra subsidies. Peter Jackson got a national labor law changed that previously caused Weta to lose a lawsuit to a former employee. Of course the people of NZ got to keep The Hobbit but at a huge price. Everything is great right?
I really hope the Hobbit stays here, for a lot of reasons, but especially if it will warm the jaded hearts of those of us who are obsessed with money and have come to believe that that’s why we all do what we do.
Sorry but this isn’t care bear land. This is hardball. The US corporations are in New Zealand for one reason: To take advantage of a government that will let them do what they want when they want. We in the states are at the mercy of unprecedented corporate power and are quite familiar with the ruse.
The New Zealand Precedent
However it looks like some Kiwis are becoming quite aware of this ruse:
A controversial high-level deal between the Government and US film studio Warner Bros to ensure The Hobbit movie is made in New Zealand has earned both parties this year’s Roger Award.
“It was an overt display of bullying that humiliated every New Zealander,” they said, adding that such interference in New Zealand politics “sets a precedent for all future negotiations between the New Zealand Government and transnational corporations”.
The ball is still in your court New Zealand.