By now, we've all heard the reports of Michael Moore's new documentary 'Sicko" being made available for illegal download on the internets.
Moore himself has been quoted as saying that he doesn't believe in copyright laws and that he thinks they're too restrictive. And many of the sites where "Sicko" is available do indeed feature this quote from the director:
"I don’t agree with the copyright laws and I don’t have a problem with people downloading the movie and sharing it with people as long as they’re not trying to make a profit off my labor. I would oppose that...”
The pirates say that they're only following the Gospel according to Michael and allowing more people to see the film. Maybe so, but it still isn't legal.
And Moore himself has since clarified his statement to The Hollywood Reporter:
"Every filmmaker intends for his film to be seen on the big screen," Moore said. "This wasn't a guy taking a video camera into a theater. This was an inside job, a copy made from a high-quality master and could potentially impact the opening weekend box office. Who do you think benefits from that?"
As for the box office take, Variety says that "Sicko" is "socko," earning more than $70,000 from just one New York theatre (where the film opened a week early). The national release was this weekend, so it's a bit too soon to tell how the widespread piracy will affect box office grosses.
But what brings us to write about "Sicko" on this lazy Sunday is Anthony Ehresmann.
Who is Anthony Ehresmann? (We had never heard of him, either.)
In addition to enjoying "hunting, youth baseball and science," Ehresmann is a member of the Moose Lodge and apparently a very patriotic American (you can tell because there's a large flag behind him in this photo).
Like millions of other Americans, Anthony has a blog.
And today he's linked to a site that's offering an illegal download of Michael Moore's latest film. What makes him different than the thousands of others who have done the same thing?
Ehresmann is a candidate (D) for City Council in Urbana, Ohio.
In his blog post, he urges people to download the film for their personal "non-commercial" use only, but he doesn't seem to understand that downloading the film for free - for any use, from any source - is illegal (as is showing a pirated copy of "Shrek 3" to a class of 5th graders).
Oh, sure, it could be argued that what you do in the privacy of your own home is between you and your conscience, but surely he understands that he's running for city council, ferchrissakes, and his decisions will fall under public scrutiny... what was he thinking?
Is that the sound judgment the people of Urbana's Second Ward want for their City Council?
(By the way, Mr. Ehresmann would also like you to know he'll be offering a free screening of the film on July 27th at Wright State University. We e-mailed him to find out whether that was something he had authorized with the distributor or whether he will simply be showing a bootleg copy he found online. We'll let you know if we hear back.)
Update 7/01/07 4:56 PM
We heard from Mr. Ehresmann, who responds via e-mail:
I'm not showing the movie... Mr. Michael Moore is, with his wife and friends according to news releases.
I screened the movie online at the Atlantic Free Press website after receiving a news alert from Democrats.org.
In the spirt [sic] of, and out of respeact [sic] for Mr. Moore I have made no money from his movie. I have only passed on the link.
Fair enough. But the unauthorized downloading of copyrighted material is still illegal, whether or not you personally believe it should be and regardless of whether or not you have personally profited from the act.
And please excuse our confusion, but when we read this on your blog, Mr. Ehresmann...
PS-I will be showing SICKO free of charge at Wright State University on July 27 at 6:30pm. Democrats, some Doctor friends of my wife's, and every Democrat you know are invited!
...we naturally assumed the use of the phrase "I will be showing SICKO" meant that, well, you would be showing the film, it being your blog and all. You're listed as the author of the post and your site proclaims proudly that all content is "provided and approved" by you.
Nowhere do you say that the postscript has been cut and pasted from somewhere else (the only place we've been able to find that specific text, by the way, is on your site and the Champaign County Ohio Democrats site... and they're simply re-publishing your RSS feed).
Update 7/01/07 6:43 PM
Ehresmann has now updated his blog post in an attempt to make it somewhat clearer that Moore is holding a free screening of the film, not he. He also now begins his entry with this disclaimer:
The Following was an email I got on the 30th
In addition, he has added the following puzzling paragraph to the end of his post:
I do not condone pirated movies by any means. I'm like millions of others who visit YouTube and other sites like it to view videos and pass along links to the ones I liked to others. I do not personaly [sic] provide downloads. I would like to thank someone who emailed me named Michael(not Michael Moore)for pointing out potential problems with this post...again thank you.
You don't "condone pirated movies by any means?"
We're a wee bit confused by that statement, Mr. Ehresmann, since the title of your post encourages your readers to "Download Michael Moore's 'Sicko' ...Free."
Had the title of your post been "Run To Your Local Cinema To See Michael Moore's Latest Film," we may have been more sympathetic to your argument.
Update 7/02/07 1:51PM
Oh, dear. He's apparently removed the post from his blog entirely, perhaps unaware that it's in Google's cache as displayed on the Champaign County Ohio Democrats site (from his RSS feed).