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How To Address A Visit from MPAA Senior VP Rich Taylor? 314

tedswiss writes "Fate has dropped a unique opportunity upon my lap: I teach at a moderately small independent school who has as one of its alums Richard Taylor. Mr. Taylor is both speaking at our start-of-year festivities and being honored with this year's "Distinguished Alum Award." Having followed and been disgusted by the MPAA's corporate practices regarding DRM and government lobbying in the past (Anyone remember DeCSS?), I would love to make his visit a chance to truly educate our student body, not just indoctrinate them. The school administration is sympathetic to my plight, but I want to present them with more than just my complaints. How would you best make use of this opportunity if you found yourself in my shoes?"
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How To Address A Visit from MPAA Senior VP Rich Taylor?

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  • Teamwork (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Raindance (680694) * <johnsonmx&gmail,com> on Monday August 27, 2007 @06:23PM (#20377175) Homepage Journal
    I suppose it depends on the opportunities and contexts you have access to (what classes you teach, whether you can hold a seminar or discussion panel before/after his address, etc). But my primary advice would be:

    Be respectful. Think teamwork. Don't try to rain on the parade the college is throwing for him. Nobody will thank you for that. Not that you seem to be leaning that way, but it bears mentioning on Slashdot.

    Consider sitting down with Mr. Taylor privately (asap, if it'll be in addition to other things). The article you linked said he seems willing to take outside concerns seriously. It sure seems that he could be a great resource in 1. getting the MPAA to take consumer/citizen concerns more seriously, and 2. helping educate the student body about what's at stake here (on both sides).

    Perhaps you could set up a panel on intellectual property/DRM while he's in town (you, him, maybe some other relevant folks), and invite the student body. Man, I'd love to go to that.
  • Don't be a jerk (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kevin_conaway (585204) on Monday August 27, 2007 @06:26PM (#20377215) Homepage

    Seriously.

    Somebody more powerful than you thought it a good idea to bestow this honor on him. I wouldn't ruin the ceremony by sandbagging him. Perhaps you could invite him to your class to discuss some issues but I wouldn't use this opportunity to harangue him and make yourself look like a whiny prick in the process.

  • Re:Teamwork (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday August 27, 2007 @06:26PM (#20377217) Journal
    Just let him do his talk, usher him out of the building with a nice certificate, and leave it at that. The MPAA isn't going to change its ways because you had a talk with this guy. You'd be wasting your time talking to him privately, and would embarass your school if you went after him publicly.
  • Don't be a jerk. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wheatwilliams (605974) on Monday August 27, 2007 @06:31PM (#20377271) Homepage
    The word that worries me in your discussion above is where you say that you have been "disgusted" with the Motion Picture Association's activities.

    If you've got a distinguished and influential guest addressing your class, you need to show him respect.

    You are not in the business of making or financing motion pictures or record albums, so you have no real stake in the argument. It does not affect your ability to earn a living and feed your family one way or another. Richard Taylor, on the other hand, speaks for tens of thousands of people who earn their livings making and financing motion pictures and record albums. He wants to present their point of view, and he knows what he is talking about.

    So show some class, act like a gentleman, and make sure your students are respectful as well.

    You won't convince or influence anybody with scorn and invective. If you listen to Richard Taylor, you might learn a few things and better understand his point of view.
  • Re:Don't be a jerk (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday August 27, 2007 @06:31PM (#20377275) Journal

    Somebody more powerful, yes, but not necessarily someone more intelligent.
    That is the formula for the bulk of decision-making throughout history.
  • Organize a protest (Score:2, Insightful)

    by iamacat (583406) on Monday August 27, 2007 @06:33PM (#20377301)
    Unless you can get the school to organize an official debate on intellectual property, that's all you can do.

    Come to the event with a big sign illustrating your message and objections to his status as a distinguished alum. Have a group of students do the same as well as boo and chant before/during/after the event. Engage in civil disobedience by bringing a notebook and helping friends make backups of their own DVDs in his plain sight.

  • Or.. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by hax0r_this (1073148) on Monday August 27, 2007 @06:35PM (#20377331)
    Play a pirated HD movie (make sure the name is clearly visible when you start the movie, and make sure it is an obviously "torrent style" name) in Linux using unapproved software. See if they actually come after you for it, or if they would rather just pick on the little guys.
  • Re:Don't be a jerk (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 27, 2007 @06:39PM (#20377387)
    Is that like when middle class people think that rich people shouldn't have to pay more taxes, because they hope that one day, when they themselves are rich, they won't have to pay more taxes either?

    Power needs to be checked. It is wrong that people who abuse their power can go through their daily lives like nothing happened. Make their lives miserable, show them that you mind. But no, they get honors and preferential treatment instead, because their power somehow makes them better people, no matter what they do with that power. I'd rather be a jerk than a kiss-ass.
  • by _xeno_ (155264) on Monday August 27, 2007 @06:43PM (#20377437) Homepage Journal

    What I've always wondered about companies that require DRM on their products is simply this: why do they insist on making their paying customers suffer, which those that don't bother supporting the content creators get a more convenient product?

    With movies, the pirated version usually jumps straight to the movie without going through previews or FBI warnings. It doesn't include slow, time-wasting menus. It doesn't force you to skip by commercials for other movies. It just gets you to the product and lets you view it with minimum hassle.

    As an added bonus, the pirated version doesn't prevent me from transcoding to a format my iPod can support or prevent me from storing it on my computer and streaming it via my TiVo. If I ever get an XBox360 or a PS3, I can stream them to that too.

    With a DRM-encumbered movie, I can't do any of that.

    Why do they insist on giving their paying customers a product that's simply worse than the pirated version? Why do they think we'll put up with it?

  • Ask Why (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 27, 2007 @06:46PM (#20377473)
    Ask why the DVD Forum feels it has the right to control a users DVD player that they do not own by using inserted User Operation Prohibition [wikipedia.org] controls such as disallowing fast-forward or skipping during trailers and ads. In other words, just because someone owns the IP of a movie does it give them the right to control the DVD player?
  • Re:Teamwork (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blhack (921171) * on Monday August 27, 2007 @06:49PM (#20377503)
    His point isn't to change the mind of the MPAA, it is to prevent the MPAA from indoctrinating his students with their views on the matter (or rather, indoctrinate them with his own). No offense, but I HATE it when people claim to be "helping the children" by "telling them the real story". So often that "real story", is a bunch of bias garbage that ends up hurting them 10 fold when the reach adulthood. They end up having a completely warped view of reality (at least warped relative to the their peers; even if they are right, they are stilling playing with a handicap). For instance, lets say that we took a group of elementary aged kids and taught that that IP was a totally evil concept. To US (adults) that is okay because we have grown up around IP and understand the reason that it needs to be changed; however, if you teach somebody that has no frame of reference that IP is evil, they won't understand why. This will end up actually hurting them in the long run. People need the ability to come to their own conclusions. People who try and let their kids skip that whole "experience" thing, and jump right into the understanding part are doing their children a great injustice.
  • Re:Teamwork (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday August 27, 2007 @06:53PM (#20377553) Journal
    We're talking about a bunch of kids that probably download episodes of their favorite TV shows, so I doubt very much that some MPAA mouthpiece is going to make them burn their DVD burners, shave their heads and begin worshipping Hollywood.
  • by c0d3h4x0r (604141) on Monday August 27, 2007 @06:53PM (#20377557) Homepage Journal
    If you've got a distinguished and influential guest addressing your class, you need to show him respect.

    Why? Respect is something that must be earned, and people devoid of ethics deserve none.

  • by turgid (580780) on Monday August 27, 2007 @07:12PM (#20377793) Journal

    Ask him to explain the difference between a copyright held by a corporation and by an individual, rights and protections for the individual copyright holder v.s the corporation and Fair Use.

    Ask him to explain why some "copyright" (sic) works may be freely redistributed (GNU, BSD, Creative Commons, Public Domain etc.) and why others can't.

    Ask him how technological measures to enforce copyright can respect these different regimes, and who polices them.

    Ask him to explain the difference between copyrights, patents, intellectual property.

  • by E++99 (880734) on Monday August 27, 2007 @07:19PM (#20377865) Homepage
    If I ever saw someone behave in that manner, I would have to assume that whatever their point was, they couldn't possibly be right.
  • I'd ask him.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by The Living Fractal (162153) <.moc.liamtoh. .ta. .rratnanab.> on Monday August 27, 2007 @07:20PM (#20377875) Homepage
    How does it feel to be a dinosaur?

    I kid, I kid.
  • by E++99 (880734) on Monday August 27, 2007 @07:36PM (#20378049) Homepage

    Unless you can get the school to organize an official debate on intellectual property, that's all you can do.

    Come to the event with a big sign illustrating your message and objections to his status as a distinguished alum. Have a group of students do the same as well as boo and chant before/during/after the event. Engage in civil disobedience by bringing a notebook and helping friends make backups of their own DVDs in his plain sight.


    Are you serious? Why? How is making yourselves look like obnoxious and inconsiderate buffoons going to help your cause? Those are not the actions of someone possessing reason, or a reasoned argument. Congratulate him on his award and challenge him to a public debate. I'll bet he would take you up on it.
  • by jb.hl.com (782137) <joe@joe-baldwin.nREDHATet minus distro> on Monday August 27, 2007 @07:40PM (#20378085) Homepage Journal
    Yeah, acting like a total prick and trying to beat confessions of wrongdoing out of the guy will surely make him repent all of his sins, join the EFF and start downloading movies.

    Jesus wept.
  • by RobertM1968 (951074) on Monday August 27, 2007 @07:43PM (#20378115) Homepage Journal

    You are not in the business of making or financing motion pictures or record albums, so you have no real stake in the argument.

    Let me correct this error. Everyone of us who buys DVDs or VHS or goes to the movies, or watches them on Pay Per View IS in the business of "financing" motion pictures.

    It does not affect your ability to earn a living and feed your family one way or another.

    Well, in the case of people erroneously sued by the **AA, it definitely does. Suggesting a business model that protects the investments the labels have made - that we are then expected to pay off (and then some) - while dropping the "Sue em all - whether they are guilty or not" business model would be quite valid topics to discuss... show interest in protecting the **AA's properties, while protecting innocent consumers as well. (Innocent) "consumers" is in bold because I am referencing people who buy their music/movies - as opposed to pirates - which I have no problems with the **AA suing.

  • by cybermage (112274) on Monday August 27, 2007 @08:50PM (#20378803) Homepage Journal
    Respect is something that must be earned

    That notion is one of the problems with today's society. Respect should be afforded to everyone until they prove themselves unworthy of it. Now, in this case, respect may not be deserved; but, no respect for others should not be your default stance.
  • by Garwulf (708651) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @12:05AM (#20380197) Homepage
    I've read through a lot of the ideas on here, and I figure it might be worthwhile to throw some of my own words into the mix.

    There are a lot of anarchists on here - they don't like to be called that, but that's what they are. There are a lot of people who wouldn't know copyright law if it hit them in the face, but insist on speaking out as though they're authorities on it. There are people here who are quiet and informed, and quiet and uninformed. There are informed brawlers, soft-spoken lawyers, writers, programmers, and pirates. And, there are a lot of people who would push their own agenda on anything that comes their way, even to the detriment of you and your class.

    Trust none of them.

    Your students are about to meet somebody who is at the heart of one of the major social issues of our time. Get them reading up on it, make sure they're reading both sides of the issue, and then leave it in their hands. Don't put your trust in Slashdot, or some online forum - if you do that, you're putting it into the hands of a bunch of people who you've probably never met, and who may not even be who they say they are. Put your trust in your students - give them what they need to be informed, and then trust them to understand it (and if they disagree with your conclusions, keep in mind that YOU could be the one who misunderstood something). The most important part of education in the end, the part that ultimately can save you from something terrible, is learning to think critically for yourself and make up your own mind. Let them do that.
  • by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @01:16AM (#20380693) Homepage

    Just remember that a man who was the senior vice president for external affairs of the MPAA has probably heard all of your questions before and has a prepared response for each of them. Be prepared to have your questions dismissed without any kind of real answer and quite possibly twisted around into something completely different. Read old interviews with him, watch videos. Try to get an idea of what to expect.

    If a professional weasel with his background and in his position lets himself get blind-sided by a couple of University students with an obvious axe to grind then, first off, something is very wrong with the world.

    And secondly, if you think that's what really happened, count your fingers. And your toes. And review exactly what was said by whom, and ask yourself if you have any way of proving it.

  • Re:Hmmm. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wharlie (972709) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @05:29AM (#20381707)
    I wouldn't "ask" him anything, we all know his stance on copyright.
    You and your students should take this oppourtunity to politely "tell" him your views on how copyright affects you.
    He probably never gets a chance to hear from "real" people.
    Make sure that you consider your comments carefully before making your opinion known.
    Do your research, have your comments prepared.
    For instance, instead of saying stuff like "MPAA rips off artists" say something like "I would be more likely to pay for material if it was distributed online DRM free".
    You never know, you may even have an affect on him, these are the people we need to convince, not annoy.
  • by Monchanger (637670) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @06:52AM (#20381945) Journal
    On the whole, this is a decent list of valid questions I wish consumers could get straight answers on. I think if students were given time to ponder these and other issues and then bring them up in an open forum, you'd have a good event.

    But here's the point I have:

    Be respectful.

    I hate the RIAA/MPAA as much as any faithful Slashdotter, but by attacking a speaker (as many other posts have humorously suggested) you're not going to convince Microsoft to play fair, Cheney to allow accountability, or the MPAA to close up shop.

    If at all possible, I think the best way to educate the students would be a fair debate of the issues. If your premise to the student is "this guy coming to campus has it all wrong- let's tell him why," you're not helping them think. Had the time been available, I'd try to get the "English 101" and other related classes to study these and other issues of interest. I wish I was allowed to choose interesting topics to write about, and I'm sure your students would be excited about the topic as well. Given that this sort of activity requires much more time, I'd promote self-study among the student body (and to be realistic- put an emphasis on reaching out to freshmen and honors students).
  • by Johnny5000 (451029) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @10:12AM (#20383539) Homepage Journal
    Just remember that a man who was the senior vice president for external affairs of the MPAA has probably heard all of your questions before and has a prepared response for each of them.

    Usually that response can be as simple as saying "I'm glad you asked that, it's a very important question" and then he can ramble on for 10 minutes about something entirely unrelated, until everyone forgets what was asked in the first place.

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