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It isn't enough that the Australian version of the Screen Actors Guild has forbidden its members to participate in films licensed under Creative Commons licenses. Now that union has apparently declared its opposition to the very production of films licensed...

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April 04, 2005

Return of the Boston strangler

It isn't enough that the Australian version of the Screen Actors Guild has forbidden its members to participate in films licensed under Creative Commons licenses.

Now that union has apparently declared its opposition to the very production of films licensed using Creative Commons.

Michela Ledwidge, founder of MOD Films, sends along this press release from the Australian Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, which really breaks new ground in hysteria:

“A performer with the head of a goat, spruiking for the Trotskyist party on a pro-abortion platform, it’s all just part of the future of film encouraged by the Australian Film Commission (AFC)”, says Simon Whipp, National Director, Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance.

“With Australian box office at historic lows of 1.3% of total film box office, it seems that the AFC has some pretty strange ideas on how to build box office,” he said.

The Australian Film Commission has indicated it intends to fund Sanctuary a ‘so-called’ re-mixable film intended for theatrical release, DVD and the Internet. It is being produced under a creative commons licence, which means that the film can be modified, adapted and reused by third parties without performer or producer consent or payment.

“This means that a film that starts out with a performer in a specific role could end up spliced and diced into a pornographic scenario a million miles away from what the performer agreed to or would feel comfortable with”, Whipp said.

“You’ve got to wonder if this is how Government money should be used in promoting the local film industry,” he said.

“By funding this film the AFC will be party to the exploitation of performers. In other jurisdictions performers as well as writers and directors are protected from this exploitation by moral rights laws.”

In Australia all performers have to rely upon is the agreement negotiated by their union, and the producer of this film has said it will not use the union’s standard Feature Film Agreement, which would prevent this exploitation.

“The US Screen Actors Guild (SAG) have endorsed our stance on Sanctuary and stated that their members will not sign to any productions, either on film, tape or digital, made under a creative commons licence,“ Whipp said.

“The AFC have got is wrong on this production and it is Australian performers who will suffer the consequences of their decision,” Whipp predicted.

“The local film industry is precious to all Australians, and the federal Government should have a long hard think about whether it wants to fund our home grown performers digitally manipulated to sound like aliens with heads of farmyard geese, talking about sex with donkeys as they perform terrorist acts on the Sydney CBD.”

I can't decide whether to nominate this last statement for a Rick Santorum Award or a Jack Valenti Certificate.

In case you're wondering, with the exception of movie stars with special clauses in their contracts, 99% of actors already release creative control over script, direction, editing and virtually every other aspect of production and post-production. For example, when Andie MacDowell performed in Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, she thought her voice would appear in in the movie along with her image. But it didn't. The director had all of her dialogue dubbed by another performer. All without the intervention of the Creative Commies!

Actors also cannot control whether a director gets fired and replaced with another director--one with completely different creative ideas than the first one. They can't control whether their scenes get cut out, or their lines altered to mean something different than they originally meant. In other words, the nightmare scenario painted by the MEAA already exists, and has virtually since the beginning of movie production.

Somehow, it works. And, somehow, we're not all having sex with donkeys while committing terrorist acts. Strange, that.

I called the U.S. SAG communications office to ask if it's true that it has "endorsed" the MEAA's stance on Creative Commons. No word back yet. Will update as warranted.