Understanding DRM: back to the days of Edison & the Motion Picture Patent Company

The monopoly that created the independents that created the studios

Imagine having to pay a license fee every time you filmed something or screened your work. At the start of the 20th century, the Motion Picture Patent Company (MPPC) in America controlled patents around cameras, film and projectors, and demanded fees for anyone screening or filming anything. The MPPC were able to dictate what could get filmed and screened, telling a young Alfred Zukor who had just bought the rights to a big French success: “The time is not ripe for features, if it ever will be” (as described in Timothy Wu’s excellent Master Switch).

Zukor, who would later head Paramount, became an early rebel who refused to play along, as was Carl Laemmle who declared himself ‘an independent’ – the first to use that name. Laemmle wasn’t independent for long, his company Universal became one of the biggest studios on the planet, as did those from other ‘rebels’ and ‘independents’ Willhelm Fuchs (20th Century Fox) and the Warner brothers Jack, Sam and Henry. When Laemmle started to make ‘independent films’ without paying a licence, he was sued 289 times in a three-year period by the Edison Trust, and eventually fled New York to the west coast with Fuchs, Zukor, the Warners and others, further from the MPPC ‘spies’ and lawyers, and closer to the Mexican border if a quick escape was needed.

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How 2014 might be the most hopeful year in 66 million years or so

Amidst gloom-laced end-of-year summaries, I’ve decided to make like a salmon and swim against the flow with ten reasons why 2014 might be the most promising year in about 66 million years. Well there's one main reason really, but on this date of Netribution’s 15th birthday I have a small desire to know I can still get ‘down with it’ and write a list of ten, with numbers and everything, given that’s how people read things now. 

light end tunnel

I had just begun a second day of seemingly unstoppable tears over over the death of Robin Williams when I turned to a friend and asked if there had ever been such a terrible flood of news. From Syria and Isis, full of western Rambo-wannabes, raping and terrorising a too-long-suffering people, to Russia/Ukraine seemingly hot for the start of a new cold war; from Israel and Hamas returning to a never-ending tragic game of Paper-Scissors-Aerial-Bomabrdment to North Korea treating international diplomacy like some kind of drunken PMQs; from planes vanishing from the sky to the rampant spread of ebola; from Philip Seymour Hoffman to Maya Angelou, Gabriel Garcia Marquez to Bob Hoskins; from the ‘tip of the iceberg’ of institutionalised child abuse and murder - to the failure of our establishment to investigate itself in any form; from Fergusson and #Icantbreath to the truth of the Bush-Blair-era torture programme finally (thankfully) materialising; from the schools full of children killed or kidnapped for daring to study, to Nigel Farage being crowned Brit of the year in the latest attempt by Uncle Rupert to write our political narrative in the face of his fear over what a Milliband government might do to his ambitions. Charlie Brooker summed it all up pretty well in August arguing the universe owed us all some kind of epic Unicorn Chaser to balance everything out.

Then the unicorn came, and we all went wow for a little bit at the technical achievement, but much of the media seemed to miss the core of its significance and as we headed further and further towards the Christmas hurricane, it was forgotten. Looking back over the year, there seem to be other rays of hope that slipped through, which leaves me wondering if one of the biggest losses of our digital disintermediated time is the eye of a newspaper editor who serves up the morning news with a balanced weighting of good and bad to ensure we don’t run through the day in a state of perpetual panic that everything is about to end, as the internet’s echo chamber can often leave us feeling, any more than a stoned Sillicon Valley-esque elation that everything is awesome, please leave me alone in my dotcom bubble of self-reinforcing sentiment.

So here goes, 10 reasons why 2014 might turn out to be the best, or at least most promising, year for 66 million years or so.

1. Rosetta calling

66 million years ago, the Chicxulub Asteroid hit earth and killed all non-avian dinosaurs and made extinct three-quarters or more of plant and animal life on our planet. Over 75% of all species became extinct with a single rock hitting us from space.

If the earth had a mind or a will, you might picture it going back to the drawing board after that event and trying to design a new, nimbler species than the ever-more fierce dinosaurs. One with a bigger brain and agile, crafty fingers, and the ability to look up at the stars and dream.

And on 12 November 2014, our planet’s phantom quest to make sure such a catastrophic event could not happen again took possibly its biggest leap forward yet as the Rosetta lander approached a speeding comet, and landed on it. It’s been described as the engineering equivalent of landing a butterfly on a speeding bullet.

We may have near destroyed the earth to get to this point, and near-wiped ourselves out industrialising and inventing the nuclear bombs that could divert such an asteroid, but if nature - mother earth - was in the business of long-term self-preservation, after 66 milion years, you could say we’ve just made a major leap closer to that.

2. Climate progress

Another thing happened on the 12 Novemeber 2014. After decades of delays and dodges, China and America agreed to a huge ‘turning point’ deal to reduce their carbon emissions and the impact of climate change; China for the first time in history giving a fixed date for its emissions to peak at. While the Rosetta landing was a triumph of European cooperation, this deal, crafted in secret over several years and announced on the same day, appears a significant trumpet of Sino-Americna diplomacy, and hopefully is the nudge needed to make 2015’s Paris Climate Change conference a success. 

Yarned tree, Berlin, CC NW

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Links to one thousand film funds in 46 countries

In Europe last year there was €1.5bn in public funding for film & video projects - and its often the same people getting their hands on this cash.

Information on media finance in 46 countries

how to fund your film

One of the most popular parts of Netribution in 2000 was our film funding directory, updated over the years by a number of folks.

While there are some good free sites detailing funding sources like FilmFileEurope and Korda, these only cover Europe.

Since publishing our 480 page book on the subject of film finance we've been able to research and detail as many film funds around the world as we could find. And in line with our aim to help democratise the film industry, regardless of who you are or where you're from, here are some links and basic info (name of the fund award and size, where known) to the 1,000 or so awards from 400 organisations we found for the book.

It's the biggest collection of funding links I know of, and it's down to the painstaking work of a bunch of people, including Catherine Allen, who I worked with on this edition, and Caroline Hancock, Cyndee Barlass, Rachel Bibb and Stephen Salter in previous versions.

Keep in mind that this info was researched over a year ago, so much may have changed. If you want to get much fuller info on each fund, not to mention details of tax breaks and incentives for filmmakers in about 40 countries and a comprehensive guide to structuring multi-party finance, low budget techniques and tricks, using the web as a virtual film studio and navigating the industry, with dozens of interviews and case studies, then please buy a copy of our book. It will also help support us to keep this info up to date in the future.

Likewise if you're not a commercial organisation and want to republish some of this elsewhere, please credit this site and the book. Otherwise please ask first. 

Australia | Austria | Bali | Belgium | Brazil  | Bulgaria | Canada | Croatia | Czech Republic | Denmark | Estonia | Pan-European  | Fiji | Finland  | France | Germany | Greece | Hawaii | Hong Kong | Hungary | Iceland | Ireland | Italy | Jamaica | Latvia  | Lithuania | Luxembourg | Macedonia | Malta | Mexico | Netherlands | New Zealand | Norway | Poland | Portugal | Puerto Rico  | Romania | Singapore | Slovakia | South Africa | Spain | Sweden | Switzerland | Tenerife  | Trinidad and Tobago | UK (Screen Agencies - Private FundsOther sources) | USA (General - State and County screen commissions

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