MPAA Responds In NPR Interview With VFX Soldier

From NPR, A Picket Line At The Oscars: Visual-Effects Artists To Protest. Selected excepts:

“Why Warner Brothers needs the support of the taxpayers of New Zealand in order to make The Hobbit is beyond me,” Cohen says.

Meanwhile, the Motion Picture Association of America, which represents the studios, told NPR in a statement that digital artistry is a service that’s not protected by trade agreements, so they can send their work any place they want.

If you’re keeping count this is actually the third time this week the MPAA responded to media on our legal effort. I’ll explain why the service argument is not only weak, but has actually already been answered by the Supreme Court in our favor.

MPAA response to Pando investigation confirms strength of visual-effects workers case against Big Hollywood

Soldier On.


35 Responses to MPAA Responds In NPR Interview With VFX Soldier

  1. cubicspace says:

    keep going man:).. blow it up. though its as much the efx exec ego as anything else… seen it all over 25 years.:)

  2. Eric says:

    A hand job is a service.

    If you have to “deliver” a digital file, it’s a product in the same way a musician’s MP3 file is a product. Incidentally, how much do they sue people for every MP3 or video file they are caught downloading? A couple thousand per file? VFX in films cost WAAAAAY more than an album.

    Nothing is distributed via film anymore. Even the base footage shot on set becomes a digital file before it’s all said and done.

    Weaksauce MPAA! Those chickens, they’re coming home to roost.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      Great point and again I’ll follow up why there are strong legal cases on our side. However you elude to a problem the MPAA is going to have arguing with us: Any attempt to circumvent or weaken these laws in front of judges of the US Court of International Trade may lead to a loophole for piracy.

      Just randomly thinking, if a song is a good and an online service overseas provides you the ability to listen to it for free without permission does that mean the RIAA can’t go after that given the argument the MPAA is making?

      If given a choice between strong intellectual property laws or weakened subsidies, I think the choice is obvious: Allow us to duty the subsidies.

  3. meanbow says:

    Wrong. A complete movie and an mp3 file are commodities that have a market value. People can trade it.

    However a VFX shot has NO VALUE outside of the production that commissioned it. No-one would buy or sell it.

    You can argue all you want but a VFX shot is quite obviously not an imported ‘product’ in the same way that a movie, mp3 or even a software package is.

    The MPAA will have no problem whatsoever distinguishing between a complete movie and the production of a VFX shot for said movie.

    A haircut is a service. The finished haircut you end up with is a ‘thing’ but it is not a product.


    • Lois says:

      Actually you can say that about every job in the movie industry. A Gaffer just provides a service so does an Actor but they all, every single person, ends up creating a product. So your analogy doesn’t work.

      Furthermore, most films would not work without VFX not vice versa. Life of Pi as an example and Gravity as a better example.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      Again, Ill have a special post for you that proves why you are on the wrong side of the law. Thanks.

    • Eric says:

      A painting is a product. A photo of a painting is a product. A printed page with the photo of a painting is a product. A digital file used to print that page is a product.

      The RIAA and MPAA sue the hell out of people for all of the files they download, they don’t parse whether it’s a hit or not. So your logic, that the market value somehow has some bearing is laughable at best.

      What is a movie other than a collection of digital VFX shots? They are ALL digitized, color corrected, cropped and manipulated. Every single goddamned frame of every movie made in the past 10 years (and that’s a conservative figure).

      I would argue that all movies, regardless of the amount of VFX work are in fact VFX shots since they are all manipulated by an operator using computer hardware and programs. In the SAME EXACT way that music is recorded, manipulate, stored and distributed. In the SAME EXACT way that software is recorded, manipulated, stored and distributed. They are all produced for sale and are intended to have protection from unauthorized use. So once you copyright it, it’s a product.

      How do you know what this bit of binary is? Is it a terrible/awesome copy-written song? A famous art piece? A well known corporate logo? The first sentence from a published literary work? You don’t know and you cannot say this clump of data is a product…


      And now this isn’t.


      • JonMeier says:

        A custom diode in an iphone. Is that a service, or a product?
        Can foxxcon get that diode from another provider?

      • JonMeier says:

        Cleaning up a shot like……….removing scratches, might be considered a service. (It’s essentially the same shot)

        Taking a BgPlate and adding a CG Chupacabra that was never there is a new creation. Is it a new thing? Yes…..The chupacabra was NEVER part of the image before. It is a new shot. The background was just one of the ingredients.

        The bg plate was the tortilla that now is a taco shell. You paid for a taco, not a cleaned up tortilla, or a fried taco shell.

        A grey area to be deliberated is if you gave the VFX facility all of the elements to assemble A over B…..would that constitute a service? I’m not sure. But I’m pretty sure that would never happen in a VFX facility.

    • Dave Rand says:

      So a lyric is not a product but only a song is? So a song is not a product but an album is?

    • Dave Rand says:

      So we can show whatever we want on youtube, as long as it is not the whole movie? Can we pirate a movie shot by shot then?

    • Dave Rand says:

      What if we just sell the song without the lyric for karaoke ? Or what if we pirate a song track by track and assembly it our selves….is that not piracy?

      • Addressing the music analogy… That is a different beast because there are many vested interests in a copyrighted work… there are songwriters getting paid, the publishers AND the performers. The amount each gets paid is a negotiable detail, but that is why it’s cheaper to remake a song for a movie with a brand new performance as opposed to licensing a recorded hit. That way you only have to pay the appropriate fees to the appropriate faction. I’d imagine Karaoke facilities also pay lyricists as printed words on a monitor are a public display of a work.

    • Dave Rand says:

      Does this mean I can show all my work for a feature film whenever i want as long as it is shot by shot without consideration of the release date? Can I post the shot I’m working on on Facebook to show my friends?

    • Dave Rand says:

      Lets say I did a bunch of work on the soon to be released Horns for NewBreed in Montreal but I was not paid. Does that work still belong to me? Can I get an injunction to stop the release of the film until I’m paid for my work?

      • Peter Greenaway says:

        you can put a watermark on every shot you work, I think, especially if you work in Montreal. 🙂
        Something like:
        “Please pay the invoice!” And make sure to be bilingual, otherwise they will not understand.

    • Dave Rand says:

      Is an oil painting that is part of a series of panels a piece of art or a service? Is it only a product if it is in a collection? Is the mural painted on the side of a building a piece of art or a service?

    • minoton says:

      It’s an imported product the same way an auto part is an imported product. A piece “useless” in and of itself, but an integral part of a functioning whole. The MPAA has no legal legs to stand on.

    • jonavark says:

      Some of the CVDs that did make it through were on parts of larger products that were imported to be assembled here in the US. The CVD was only for the part itself, not the final product. That said, the argument you presented will be similar to those voiced against a CVD.

    • Brett says:

      Let me use your own argument. Under your argument it would mean that no VFX shot has a copyright. That would mean Rythym and Hues could’ve sold the Tiger to any studio that wants to buy it. In fact, they could’ve sold all the VFX shots they created for Life Of Pi to someone who shoots their own footage and make a movie with it, right?

      A service can’t be copyrighted. No one can “own” a service provided to them. If VFX shots are services, then the studio that pay for them don’t actually own the VFX shots and those shots could be sold to anyone despite who they are created for.

  4. Hanna says:

    Well we’re about to find out what the federal government thinks. My petition for TAA was submitted to the DOL. Next step is the investigation.

    • formervfx says:

      Are you ex-imageworks? Imageworks employees are pre-certified for TAA assistance. The fed petition case # is 82813

      • Hanna says:

        No different company. But thanks. I submitted before you guys at Imageworks but its a long story on how California just submitted it to the DOL recently rather than back in April. By the way your Certified not pre-certified.

  5. vfxmafia says:

    The bottom line is this all leads back to the studio execs who conjured this up…..and use their thug Lobby group MPAA to write laws and pay off politicians….

    this is just a standard case of giant corporations against labor costs…

    We should be protesting the mansions of the studio execs…..(everything leads back to them)……..and now that we have a statement from the MPAA….we know exactly what they think of us……..

    if the CVD case fails……or fails to be heard ……the only thing that will stop these crap is a whistle blower that exposes the corruption and manipulation of tax dollars….or a strike long enough that will derail a movie date…….

  6. meanbow says:

    A painting is a product with a market value, like a movie. The brushstrokes that went into it are not.

    But in truth we can argue all day that “If X is a product then so is Y. If Z isn’t a product then neither is X”. The pertinent issue is can the MPAA logically argue that a finished movie is a tradable product with a market value whilst some of the VFX shots that went into it are not? The answer is I’m afraid, yes, they can.

    • Minotaur says:

      Wrong! Your are as logical as an ashtray on a motorcycle… The BRUSHSTROKES?! A painter does not provide a service, but manufactures a product, a painting…

      You are saying that the parts – the VFX shots, don’t make the movie by themselves… like a car’s transmission – a part or a car, has no value on its own, but when it is part of a car, what, it does? If you know how a phone works, call whatever school you went to and ask for your money back…

      “…A VFX shot has NO VALUE outside of the production that commissioned it. No-one would buy or sell it…”

      So if you work on Spiderman #5, you are a rigger, building Spiderman, and one day they ask you to take a job in Canada or you will be let go. Say the scenario happens…

      SO according to your cereal-box logic, Sony management scraps everything you made, deletes the files and pays (poorly) a Canadian modeler to create a new model, then a Canadian rigger to build the rigs… oh, wait! They don’t do that, do they? BECAUSE THE WORK YOU DID HAS VALUE!…

      There goes your logic, weakarrow…

      “…A haircut is a service. The finished haircut you end up with is a ‘thing’ but it is not a product…”

      Seriously? A “thing”? Got that from Business School? Get your money back!

      You are CLUELESS are a danger to our industry, logic and the English language… You have no idea about this industry, business, the Law, maple syrup or International trade. Its people like you that make the rest look AND sound bad…

    • Brett says:

      Brushstrokes aren’t physical. That’s like saying a movie is a product, but the keystrokes and mouse clicks that went into are not.

      Got to be careful with analogies, sometimes they don’t line up at all.

    • minoton says:

      Suppose a painting is only one brush stroke. Product, or service? Actually what you’re referring to is a process, which can be patented, and then licensed or sold outright to someone else, thus making it a product. Again, MPAA is in trouble.

  7. minoton says:

    We are a service in that, we (vfx vendor) create the product so that the studio doesn’t have to in house. But whether in house or outside vendor, we are creating a product piece by piece that the studios turn around and sell to audiences for viewing.
    Studios own the rights to our work. Can you own the rights to a service? No. Only a finished product. Does the screenwriter provide a service, or a created product? How about the film’s composer and musicians? Do they provide a service? Are our images any different than those filmed on location? They cut right next to each other in the final product. The producer pays for shots, he/she gets shots. The MPAA has no legs to stand on.

    We are a service the same way Porsche is a service, assembling the the producer’s 944 so he doesn’t have to build it him or her self when they pick it up from the showroom.

  8. VFX_Reckoning says:

    If the law firm is done with the feasibility study, what is the next step on the legal front, soldier? Should we be gathering the troops to prove damage to industry?

  9. […] most of that work will probably be done in Vancouver. As I mentioned on NPR and at a City Hall meeting, Imageworks once employed 1000 professionals at the Culver City […]

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