OFF THE GRID

Wolverine: Steal This Movie

Apr 7, 09 | 10:52 AM   byMichael Wolff
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Yesterday, Roger Friedman, a columnist for Fox News, was canned by Fox brass Roger Ailes and John Moody. Outside of those facing death and mayhem, Friedman's date with the pitiless Ailes and the I'm-bad-too Moody probably meant he had the worst day of anyone in New York.

What got Friedman into difficulty was reviewing a movie, Wolverine, produced by Twentieth Century Fox, one of the companies owned by News Corp., which also owns Fox News. (Wolverine stars Hugh Jackman, a close friend of News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch and his wife, Wendi.) The difficult part is that he reviewed, however favorably, a pirated copy of Wolverine. This was not just a copyright theft, but a theft of his own company’s copyright. (Curiously, he was merely using what his company owns for his own company’s benefit.)

What was on Friedman’s mind? Perhaps he is a wise guy and cut-up and just found pirating from his own company a bit of irresistible troublemaking. Or, perhaps, like virtually everyone else under some ever-rising age, he just found it too easy and obvious not to do. He didn't even have to download—just clicked and streamed it.

That was actually part of his review—the manic or childlike delight he took in describing how simple it was to watch the pirated movie.


(AP Image)


Though I will guarantee you that Ailes and Moody, and certainly Murdoch himself, couldn’t do it. And that is, of course, part of the issue. They continue to think of this as exceptional behavior, while everybody else knows it’s trivial stuff. (Actually, Murdoch tends to think that almost everything that happens on the Internet involves dubious, if not outrageous, behavior.)

It is unlikely that Friedman, a writer of no distinction or subtlety, tried to convince Fox that everybody who knows how to do it, does it. (Yesterday, at a congressional hearing, video piracy was described as a rapidly deteriorating situation that nobody knows what to do about.) Nor is it likely that he said that alter cockers like the 68-year-old Ailes and the 78-year-old Murdoch might make it to retirement or the grave before their business model dies, but it’s curtains in the movie business for everybody else.

Now, one of the charms, if you will, of News Corp. is that it usually avoids moralizing and shocked-shocked-ness. Indeed, most often, it profits off of everybody else’s self-seriousness and high-mindedness. Not long ago, Murdoch actually considered a branding campaign that would show News Corp. as a pirate ship. But in this instance, in which technology is assiduously undermining the existing order, News Corp. is as uptight and pantywaist and pitiable as everybody else. Peter Chernin, the longtime COO of News Corp., has even become one of the major piracy hall monitors in Hollywood, turning this into a statesman-like persona. With Chernin soon to leave his job, it seems that Murdoch, making a pronouncement about Internet content, wants that high and mighty role.

That’s an unfortunate development for News Corp., because only the pirates will survive in this business.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at michael@newser.com




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