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Sunday, June 20, 1999


Yes, it's another all-Phantom Menace-related Bitch Page, sorry folks! What am I complaining about now?

Well, since the dawn of the VCR, there has been an underground movement to sell crappy copies of the movies EVERYBODY wants to see. One of the first videos I ever watched back in 1980 was a bootleg copy of Star Wars my step-father had scored through certain unnamed channels. That's really what got me hooked. I remember Saturdays where, right after cartoons were over, I'd drop that puppy in the VCR and watch it over and over. LITERALLY! I would watch it, rewind it, and watch it again and rewind it and watch it AGAIN. After a while, I tried to figure out just how many times I had seen it. I estimated my total viewings to be right around 100 times - and that was in 1980!! Almost 20 years later, I've watched it MANY more times, but the ground-work for my fanaticism was directly linked to that illegal, bootleg tape.

With every major movie since then, one wouldn't find it difficult to find a bootleg copy of it on the streets of any major American city. This trend has continued right up through 1997's Titanic and on to this summer's The Phantom Menace. But a new wrinkle has been added to the bootlegging of major box office successes. It's the internet. The recording industry was recently panicking about mp3s and now the film and television industry is starting to panic about bootlegged mpegs, Real Media files and various other forms of digital media making it's way onto the 'net and into people's homes. Sure, you can still drop $20 on a VHS copy in the city, but why bother when even with a 28.8 modem (and several DAYS online) you can download The Phantom Menace and watch it all on your PC?

Now, mind you, I'm not endorsing bootlegging - personally, I'm a psycho for the movie-going experience. I had a chance to see TPM for free through my dayjob, but the screening was in a theater that didn't allow popcorn, so, I turned down the offer. I guess I'm just NOT a fan of laws that exist to protect one's greed and not one's rights. Sure, George Lucas is entitled to make as much money off of his film as possible, but I hardly think even a few thousand people who are nuts enough to spend ALL that time downloading a CRAPPY copy of TPM would NOT go see the movie again in the theater if they could.

So basically, this $15,000 reward the MPAA is offering people for turning in bootleggers of TPM and other box office successes (The Matrix, The Mummy, Austin Powers 2) only exists to help destroy the fan base that these films need to power their money-making machines in the first place. I often ask myself if I were in George's shoes, regarding this bootlegging thing how would I feel? I can't say for certain, but the last thing I'd like to see happen to a fan of one of my movies is for he or she to be sent to jail or fined into the poor house because he bootlegged one of my movies.

I mean COME ON, George's movie made in excess of $300 million in less than a month of being released, what's the big deal if a few people around the country get to enjoy the movie at home too? Are these movie types THAT greedy? And should the law (that is paid for by US) enable them to stay that way?

[|What's your take?]

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