Opinion L.A.

Observations and provocations
from The Times' Opinion staff

Category: Hollywood

What would Sunset Jesus do?

 

I saw Jesus this morning on Sunset Boulevard.

Actually, it wasn't the first time I have found Christ. He can often be found around Sunset, a few blocks from where the other superheroes hang out at Graumann's Chinese Theatre. A local fixture, he can  even be seen refusing money from Snoop Dogg in the above YouTube video. This morning he was parting the red-tail-light sea as he crossed the street in front of the Laugh Factory, which might not have attracted a second glance -- there are odder sights in Hollywood than Jesus on a typical Thursday morning -- except that it was only about an hour after sunrise on Sunset, and I happened to be riding my scooter due East toward the Times building in downtown L.A. That meant Jesus was backlit better than a Spielberg alien, with the head-high sun turning his shoulder-length brown locks into a blaze of glory that looked, for a split-second, almost supernatural.

This would have had a more profound effect on me if I weren't a Buddhist. But I think people of all faiths should be aware of a few basic facts about Jesus:

He walks to work. You will not find Jesus contributing to L.A.'s traffic problem or ravaging the planet's climate by burning fossil fuels.

He has a sense of humor. He paused to look at the Laugh Factory's playbill before moving on.

I've never seen Jesus proselytize, or try to change the nation's laws to suit religious ideals that may not appeal to all Americans; apparently, he just wants to be seen, as if his simple presence is all he thinks it should take to inspire others. Somehow, it seems like there's a lesson there for his followers. Then again, he may just be mentally ill.

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--Dan Turner

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GOP race: Bring back the brokered convention

Supporters
I wasn't  kidding on Super Tuesday evening when I tweeted "Brokered Convention! Brokered Convention!" Even if it opened up the possibility of a Sarah Palin draft, a genuinely deliberative Republican convention would make for more compelling television (and tweets).

I can already see the candidates, flanked by texting aides, streaming into meetings with state delegations between the 14th and 15th ballots. And every day a new dark horse. ("CNN can report that Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has emerged as the latest compromise acceptable to both the Romney and Santorum camps.")

A brokered convention might also revive interest in two masterpieces of American political fiction: Gore Vidal's 1960 play (later a film) "The Best Man" and "Convention," the 1964 novel by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II, the authors of "Seven Days in May." 

 "The Best Man" climaxes dramatically when a liberal favorite for the nomination pulls out of the race and throws his support to a governor who had entered the convention as a long shot.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS: Presidential Election 2012

The dust jacket for "Convention" described the nominating process of what was soon to be a bygone era: "In our whole political scene, nothing captures the imagination like the tense, emotional atmosphere of our party conventions."  Conventions made for riveting fiction not only because of the suspense factor but because so much of the action took place in backrooms. In his notes for "The Best Man," Vidal wrote: "Politicians, like magicians and safecrackers, do not enjoy being explicated."  This was pre-C-SPAN, of course, and pre-Piers Morgan.

Political business still gets done in backrooms -- and PAC rooms -- but nominees are chosen long before the delegates get off the plane. But maybe not this year. A change might do politics, and the political novel, some good.

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--Michael McGough

Photo: Supporters of Rick Santorum listen during his Super Tuesday election night party at Steubenville High School in Ohio. Credit: David Maxwell / EPA

Napoleon's comeback, in 360 3-D?

Mayor Yves Jego in Montereau-fault-Yvonne

Vive la France! Vive l'Empereur!

Vive l'Empereur's French theme park?

Oui!  Just as some U.S. politicians today are busy venerating "American exceptionalism,"  the French are apparently having, as Times staff writer Devorah Lauter put it, "something of a Napoleon moment."

And in the town of Montereau-fault-Yonne, she writes, scene of one of Napoleon Bonaparte's final victories -- over Austrian troops and their allies 198 years ago -- that fervor has sparked plans for a theme park  "complete with snowy battle reenactments and a ride in the shape of Napoleon's famous arched hat."

Oh boy, you can't say the French don’t know how to have fun. Still:

The idea is not to vaunt a bygone glory, [Mayor Yves] Jego insisted, but rather "to give a little pride to France, to show that the figure of their history has an international dimension," and to use "innovative" ways to illuminate his unappreciated sides.

Well, OK, if you say so. Because his other sides are pretty well known, and somewhat less savory:

Yes, the hero's grandiose ambitions led to war after war, countless deaths and, finally, the collapse of his empire.

Oh, that.

Now here in California, we know from theme parks.  We've got Disneyland (which has been exported to France, of course), Knott's Berry Farm, Six Flags Magic Mountain and Universal Studios Hollywood, to name a few.

But we just honor cartoon characters, and movie creatures.  Sometimes we do take note of famous American leaders -- like Abraham Lincoln at Disneyland -- but no one much cares. Kids today would much rather throw up on Space Mountain than listen to a robot that looks like Lincoln "perform."

Sure, Jefo can argue that Napoleon was "a legal authority of great standing, an extraordinary conqueror, an incredible soldier, strategist and a romantic."

"I think that history should be shared with the people," he said. "And visiting a historic park is more enriching than visiting a park about a cartoon character, however great he is."

But Jefo obviously hasn't ridden on Space Mountain or King Kong 360-3D lately.

No, if he wants his Napoleon theme park to succeed, it had better be more "Austerlitz: Kill Zone 360" and less "Hello, Josephine, My Little Buttercup."

Instead, although details are sketchy, Lauter writes:

One sketch shows a giant N-shaped water feature running through a landscape sprinkled with carefully trimmed parks typical of the period, castles, a cathedral, a small mountain range and a likeness of the Sphinx.

Which, except for the Sphinx, just sounds like a smaller version of France itself.

Heck, I've visited the country twice.  The whole place is like a theme park already.  I mean, Mont St. Michel is way better than Cinderella's Castle. Most of Paris is far more charming than Universal CityWalk.  (Although much of the country does shut down every day from noon to 2 for lunch -- and for all of August, naturally. On the plus side, you can eat dinner all night long.)

This is the Old World, though, so of course there's this "never miss a chance to rub it in" critique from across the English Channel:

"A country which can still partly revere such a man surely has a problem," wrote Stephen Glover of Britain's Daily Mail, describing Napoleon as "a man whose actions led to the deaths of millions of people -- and whose defeat paved the way for British 19th century supremacy, reducing France to the rank of a second-rate power where, let us be honest, it has remained."

Which is pretty funny when you think of it: A columnist from a second-rate power calling out another second-rate power. And one from a paper that's busy celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of that ultra-modern institution, the British monarchy.

No, I'm not so ready to kill Mayor Jego's dream.

And especially not when Napoleon's tomb was one of my favorite stops in Paris.

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-- Paul Whitefield

Photo: Montereau-fault-Yonne Mayor Yves Jego with performers dressed in Napoleonic uniform. Credit: Devorah Lauter / For The Times

'Daydream Believers' will miss Davy Jones

If it's true, as a Times editorial recently stated, that during this month's Grammy Awards telecast someone tweeted "Wait, who is Paul McCartney?" and someone else replied "To be honest, I have no idea," then news of the death of Davy Jones on Wednesday will be greeted by plenty of blank looks.

But, hey, hey, he was a Monkee!

And for those of us of a certain age -- "Daydream Believers" you might say -- well, the passing of the Monkees' lead singer at age 66 was sad, and a painful reminder that none of us are getting any younger.

The Monkees, of course, weren't even a real rock band, at least not at first. They were a television creation -- four guys thrown together in 1966 to play a rock group on a TV show. Heck, they couldn't even play very well at first. In fact, they weren't allowed to play.

But the show was a hit, the guys were likable, the name worked -- like the Beatles, the intentional misspelling was spot-on -- and so, for a time, the Monkees were as big as the British mop tops.

Jones was the pretty boy frontman, banging his tambourine and singing lead vocals on such hits as "Daydream Believer," "Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)" and "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You."

How big were they? Well, I can still remember the "Battle of the Bands" nights in my little Midwestern town when fans could vote for their favorites -- and the Monkees would consistently outpoll the Beatles.

Of course, like most rock banks, the Monkees didn't last. The show ran three seasons, from 1966 to 1968. 

Jones, whose background included playing the Artful Dodger in “Oliver!” on the London stage, carved out something of a solo career. In fact, according to The Times' story, he was scheduled to perform Monkees songs at a March 31 concert at La Mirada Theatre in La Mirada.

And he never lost his boyish handsomeness.

No, he wasn't Jimi Hendrix or Jim Morrison, whose stars still shine bright years after their too-young deaths. Nor was he McCartney or Mick Jagger, still famous -- and rockin' -- into their late 60s.

But listen to Jones' sweet voice on "Daydream Believer" in the video above.

Maybe you'll become one too.

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-- Paul Whitefield

Chris Dodd and Sean Penn in Haiti

Christopher Dodd

Chris Dodd, the longtime Democratic senator from Connecticut, now heads the Motion Picture Assn. of America. It's a role that's often been cast from the ranks of politics.

The MPAA's earliest incarnation was headed by Republican Will H. Hays, the former postmaster general, he of the notorious Hays Code. The longest-serving MPAA chief, Jack Valenti, had been an assistant to President Lyndon B. Johnson. Valenti's replacement was Dan Glickman, a onetime Democratic congressman and secretary of Agriculture. They all knew the ropes in Washington, which is where the MPAA is headquartered.

Dodd served in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic and recently went back for a reunion -- and for a journey to the other side of the island, Haiti, in Sean Penn's company.

"It was a great reunion. I saw a lot of old friends I hadn't seen for years," Dodd told me.

At the Sundance Film Festival, he said, he had run into Penn, who invited him to Haiti. Dodd took him up on it, after his Peace Corps reunion.

"Words cannot describe the commitment he has made, the difference he's making in the lives of people," Dodd said. "This is no casual photo op -– this is a deeply serious guy making a serious commitment. And George Clooney, what he's done in Darfur, and Julianne Moore, what she's doing for Save the Children. One thing I admire about a lot of people in the industry is their willingness to use their celebrity to make a difference in people's lives. I want to do things like that as well."

Dodd said he has opened the screening theater in the MPAA's D.C. office for matinees for wounded veterans from Walter Reed Hospital so they can "come on down for a bag of popcorn and a little [movie] break, getting out of the hospital."

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Patt Morrison Asks: Hollywood's pol, Chris Dodd

Academy Awards: It's about art, not political correctness

--Patt Morrison

Photo: Christopher Dodd is seen here on Dec. 13, 2010. Credit: Jessica Hill/AP Photo

Academy Awards: It's about art, not political correctness [Blowback]

Oscars
William Goldstein, a member of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and a Grammy- and Emmy-nominated composer who has worked on numerous films and television, responds to The Times' Feb. 19 article, "Oscar voters overwhelmingly white, male." If you would like to write a full-length response to a recent Times article, editorial or op-ed, here are our FAQs and submission policy

The Times' story implies that diversity among voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is more important than excellence. The Times implies that experience in craft and in life that comes with age is not as valuable as that which comes from a presumably younger and more diverse demographic. The implication that Academy members have an agenda to deprive minorities of membership is insulting and speaks of a press interested only in stirring up controversy.

The Times quotes Frank Pierson, a member of the Academy’s board of governors, as saying: “I don’t see any reason why the Academy should represent the entire American population. That's what the People's Choice Awards are for. We represent the professional filmmakers, and if that doesn't reflect the general population, so be it." Pierson is right, of course, but readers shouldn’t take his quote as evidence of the article’s even-handedness.

I have been a member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and received a Grammy nomination. I have been a member of the TV academy and received numerous Emmy nominations. I’ve been working on a Broadway musical and wrote an editorial that was published in the New York Times in 2005 outlining the problems surrounding the classic American musical and the Tony Awards. In other words, I have experienced the inner workings of most major award shows. The Oscars, in my opinion, is the most serious attempt by an awards show to go beyond the glitz and have peers reward their colleagues for excellence. Academy members take their responsibilities seriously; every one of them I know is genuinely concerned with both preserving and promoting the art of movie-making.

I entered the Academy in 1977 and since that time have served almost continuously on the music branch executive committee. Our committee has a history of being painstaking in its quest to find the most qualified members regardless of ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. For many years I have also served on the foreign language executive committee, where I have been very impressed with how dedicated my colleagues are to inspiring and giving opportunities to filmmakers from all over the world (speaking of diversity).

My own story, interestingly enough, started in Hollywood when I was discovered by Berry Gordy (founder of Motown records). Gordy wasn’t concerned with demographics or diversity, just talent. My first two studio pictures were basically black content films.  I understand the desire to cultivate artistic talent across all demographic lines; the California State Summer School for the Arts, where I have served on the board since its founding nearly 30 years ago, goes out of its way to make sure high school students of all backgrounds know about us and apply. I don't, however, support the recent push toward egalitarianism in the arts, which holds that we all have talent and that no art is “better” than another’s. This view has serious implications for our culture and values. Such political correctness has no place in the arts, save for bringing the public’s attention to social injustices. The demographics of the Academy are not a social injustice.

The Times should aim its darts elsewhere, perhaps at filmmakers. After all, the Academy can select its members only from those working on films currently being made. Since it is the filmmakers who hire the people who will become future Academy members, why pick on the Academy?

The cornerstone of the great country in which we live is based on the premise of equal opportunity for us all, that any of us should be able to go as far as our own abilities will take us. The members of the Academy that I have met over the years are all passionate about preserving the great legacy of storytelling in motion pictures, rewarding excellence, and inspiring future generations to pick up the torch. The media today could do well by trying to follow our example.

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-- William Goldstein

Photo credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Roseanne for pres: A chicken in every bucket, a pie in every face

RoseanneIn a review last year of Roseanne Barr's new reality TV series "Roseanne's Nuts," Times TV critic Mary McNamara noted that the show sometimes played like a satire of "Sarah Palin's Alaska,"another series following the life and adventures of a larger-than-life heroine. While viewers on TLC could watch Palin butchering salmon in Alaska's bear country, on Lifetime you could see Barr tramping through her macadamia nut farm on the Big Island of Hawaii, blasting away at wild pigs with a hunting rifle -- at least until the show was canceled in September. "Perhaps she is considering a run for president," McNamara concluded about Barr. How right she was.

On Monday, Barr's name appeared on the California secretary of state's list of candidates for the June presidential primary, running with the Green Party. If eye-rolling were audible, the streets of California today would sound like the testing lab at a ball-bearing factory. Nonetheless, Barr's pseudo-candidacy does call for some reflection about the influence of celebrities in politics.

Warren Beatty is the most famous person I've ever eaten lunch with. This notable event happened in 2005, when Beatty was feigning an interest in running for governor. Not that he actually filed papers like Barr, or even came out and said he was running; he simply dropped hints. "I have to give you a stock answer," Beatty said when asked if he were going to challenge then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. "I don't want to run for governor, but I would have no inhibition at all." Huh? This was intriguing enough for The Times' editorial board to invite Beatty to lunch, where he regaled us with his political views while making it abundantly clear that he had no interest whatsoever in actually doing the hard work of campaigning, let alone governing. Beatty, in other words, had discovered that fame didn't necessarily translate into influence, and the only way to get people and the media to pay attention to him was to pretend to run for high political office.

This kind of thing poses a challenge for the media because it's hard to know how seriously to take celebrity candidates. Obviously, some are real contenders -- Ronald Reagan showed that Americans were willing to elect a movie star as president, and dozens of others, from Schwarzenegger to former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, have proved that fame goes a long way in swaying voters. Yet it's still possible to divide these candidates into three categories: publicity hounds like Beatty, satirists like Stephen Colbert, and real political hopefuls like former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, who played a tough-guy Southern officeholder so well in the movies that voters awarded him the role in real life.

Pegging a star on this spectrum isn't always simple. How does one assess, for example, the gravitas of a Donald Trump? It would be easy to dismiss him as a pure publicity seeker, but I have to suspect that Trump is just delusional enough to think that he would be a genuine contender if only he could tear himself away from his private sector duties. And, as I discovered after mocking his candidacy in a blog post last year, he actually seems to have a cadre of dedicated supporters who do not appreciate all the "lamestream" media's attacks on their faux-haired boy.

Barr is an easier call. She has no discernible campaign apparatus, zero political experience and very, very little credibility as a policy expert. A talented comedian with a reputation for substance abuse, temper tantrums and bizarre behavior, Barr isn't anybody's idea of a genuine contender, and unlike Beatty, the only lunch invitations she's likely to get as a result of her candidacy announcement will come from the Hollywood tabloids. But she might pick up a few more Twitter subscribers, which may be her real goal.

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--Dan Turner

Photo: A publicity still from Roseanne Barr's short-lived series "Roseanne's Nuts." Credit: Lifetime Television.

Wait! Isn't that Marge Simpson behind that veil?

The Simpsons
D'oh! I shouldn't have sent that Maggie Simpson doll to the orphanage in Tehran!

The Associated Press is reporting that the Iranian government is banning the sale in Iran of Homer, Marge, Lisa and Maggie Simpson  dolls.  An official of the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults (maybe that was the third agency Rick Perry wanted to abolish) explained that the regime had put the kibosh on dolls that are "promoters  of Western culture."

However, images of Superman and Spider-Man are OK because "they help oppressed people and they have a positive stance." (In the case of Superman, there may be another reason:  In a story last year, he threatened to renounce his U.S. citizenship,  saying " 'Truth, Justice and the American Way'  -- it's not  enough anymore.")

Laugh if you want, but some people believe that the insinuation of American pop culture played a role in the decline of the Soviet Union. So maybe the idea of Bart Simpson as a suvbersive isn't all that far-fetched if you're an Iranian apparatchik. 

The best hope for the Simpsons may be that some Iranians will evade their government's censorship of the Internet and catch a glimpse of the lovably dysfunctional family online. Then they can make their own Simpson dolls, and disguise them.

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-- Michael McGough  

Photo credit: Fox Broadcasting Co.

Bronson Canyon murder, meet the Black Dahlia

Body Parts case
Sixty-five years before that severed head turned up in Bronson Canyon, and about eight miles south, the most famous dismembered corpse in L.A. history was found.

"Girl Victim of Sex Fiend Found Slain" was the L.A. Times headline, the first of scores of headlines.

The victim was a woman named Elizabeth Short, who survives in crime lore as the Black Dahlia.

A bunch of dogs on a walk found the severed head in Bronson Canyon; a woman walking to a nearby shoe repair shop found Elizabeth Short’s body.

That woman was named  Betty Bersinger -– "Mrs. John Bersinger" in the style that newspapers used then for married women -– and not until I was talking to my colleague Andrew Blankstein about his accounts of the Bronson Canyon body parts case did I remember:

As a Times intern, I once interviewed Betty Bersinger for one of those occasional check-in stories that city editors love to assign on the still-unsolved Black Dahlia case. [My colleague Larry Harnisch has made a serious study of the case.]

Betty Bersinger told me she hadn’t "thought of that for years," and I can’t blame her. Who would want to have that image taking up residence front and center in your cranium for the rest of your life -– the body cut in half and lying unclothed in an empty lot, with a thatch of winter grass sprouting between the halves, the body gashed and hacked.

The Bersingers had lived in the Leimert Park house for four or five years, and Betty Bersinger was pushing her young daughter in a stroller to the shoe repair shop in a shopping center, walking through a place where "kids rode their bikes," when she saw … something.

"At the time I wasn’t quite aware it was a real person -– maybe somebody playing a trick."

When she realized it was no trick, it was "so frightening," a corpse lying "separated, like you’d expect a mannequin to be." She thought the sight of it would frighten her daughter, so she hustled her along, and from the second house she came across, she made the call that started the enduring notoriety of the Dahlia case.

At the time, any reasonably good-looking single young woman within a 20-mile radius of the studios could be tagged with the descriptor ''starlet,'' which is how the FBI website still identifies her.

It became so infamous that even men who weren’t born at the time of the killing confessed to it; in the grotesque status hierarchy of the criminal world, the Dahlia murder was at the top of the homicidal heap.

One reader letter arrived from a man who had been in medical practice at the time of the 1947 murder, and who expressed his "astonishment" that the police had let one major suspect go. The doctor had treated the man and at the time had assured detectives that he was indeed the killer. He wrote to suggest that I try to get my hand on the patient’s hospital records from decades before.

Many unsolved murders –- and a few solved ones -– have cranked up their own cottage industry of experts and amateurs, but few as much as the Dahlia. 

As we learned again from the Bronson Canyon body-parts story, which conflated the location and the gruesomeness to make for a ''grisly Hollywood murder'' in worldwide news accounts, there's something about a dismembered human body -– even the word "dismembered" -– that carries equal weights of the horrific and the irresistible in the imagination.

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-- Patt Morrison

Photo: A Los Angeles Police Department helicopter searches steep, brushy terrain below the Hollywood sign, where a man's head, two feet and two hands were found. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Copyrights: Feds push a few novel theories in MegaUpload case

The indictment the Justice Department obtained this month against MegaUpload, a popular online locker and file-sharing service, includes allegations that company executives personally uploaded and downloaded copyrighted content -- a familiar accusation in online piracy cases. But it adds a couple of intriguing twists that blur the distinction between actions that promote piracy and those that discourage it. And it echoes the argument by major labels and movie studios that content-sharing platforms have a duty to monitor their users for infringements, an assertion that U.S. courts have largely rejected.

The core allegations against Kim Dotcom and his colleagues at MegaUpload, if true, make the case that company officials knew about the infringing activity and, rather than honoring requests from copyright holders to stop it, encouraged it. In addition to accusing executives (the indictment refers to them collectively as the "Mega Conspiracy") of personally infringing, the indictment contends that the company copied videos wholesale from YouTube without permission, made duplicate links to content that would stay live after copyright holders forced the original link to be removed, and paid repeat infringers instead of banning them.

The indictment also describes MegaUpload's business model as inconsistent with the legitimate uses of a conventional locker service, such as file backup, storage and consolidation. To boost revenue from ads shown on its downloads page, the company encourages MegaUpload users to upload files that are popular with other MegaUpload customers, the indictment asserts, adding, "Because only a small percentage of Megaupload.com users pay for their use of the systems, Mega Conspiracy’s business strategy for advertising requires maximizing the number of online downloads (i.e., distributions of content), which is also inconsistent with the concept of private storage."

So it may be that MegaUpload is, in fact, a big, lucrative conspiracy to profit off of Internet users' love of free (and illegal) downloads. Still, I was struck by how far the indictment goes to find something nefarious in steps MegaUpload took to make it harder for users to infringe. Examples include the following allegations:

  • MegaUpload provided no index or search function to the public, and sister site MegaVideo filtered its search results to remove copyrighted content. That seems like a good thing from an anti-piracy standpoint, but the indictment contends that it's a bad thing because it made it harder for copyright holders to see how much piracy was occurring on the service. (Other, unaffiliated sites provide the ability to search MegaUpload lockers. The indictment contends that company executives knew about and relied on those sites to generate the traffic it monetized through advertising sales.)
  • The list of the "Top 100" files at MegaUpload is edited to exclude copyrighted works. You might interpret that as an effort to avoid alerting users to infringing files available in the lockers. The indictment, however, asserts that it "makes the website appear more legitimate and hides the popular copyright-infringing content that drives its revenue."
  • Users could not stream a file on the affiliated MegaVideo site for more than 72 minutes unless they were paid subscribers to MegaUpload. Although that's a lengthy segment, it's not long enough to watch a typical Hollywood movie. The indictment contends that the point wasn't to discourage illegal movie viewing, but rather to monetize it.

The indictment also alleges that MegaUpload executives furthered their conspiracy to violate copyrights through actions they didn't take, including the following:

[T]he Conspiracy made no significant effort to identify users who were using the Mega Sites or services to infringe copyrights, to prevent the uploading of infringing copies of copyrighted materials, or to identify infringing copies of copyrighted works located on computer servers controlled by the Conspiracy.

In other words, the company is being faulted for not monitoring what each of its users did on its service, not inspecting content as it was being uploaded for copyright violations, and not combing through its servers for infringing material. But that's inconsistent with the rulings from several federal courts, which have held that online companies have no duty to police their services to prevent infringements or detect them after they occur. Instead, it's up to copyright owners to alert them to infringing files, at least until a company has been found liable and ordered to stop the piracy.

In its Grokster decision, the Supreme Court held that a company's decision not to monitor or filter users' uploads could be a factor in determining whether it intended to induce infringement. But in a footnote to the majority opinion, Justice David Souter wrote, "in the absence of other evidence of intent, a court would be unable to find contributory infringement liability merely based on a failure to take affirmative steps to prevent infringement, if the device otherwise was capable of substantial noninfringing uses."

An online locker service has obvious "substantial noninfringing uses," including the sort of collaboration that some music and movie industry luminaries tout in a promotional video (shown above) for the site. But the Justice Department will no doubt argue that it has plenty of evidence that company executives intended to promote infringement, starting with those cash rewards.

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Dueling story lines for PIPA, SOPA and 'foreign rogue websites'

-- Jon Healey

Credit: MrKimDotcom via YouTube

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