Matthew Harrison

Matthew Harrison (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Copyright Alliance’s podcast is always a source of great infotainment to those of us in the creative community, and this month’s interview with New York filmmaker Matthew Harrison is no exception.

 “Restrictions are what often give birth to creativity,” says the director, writer and producer, who has been making films in and around New York City for the better part of four decades.  For Harrison, “it’s often about using money more effectively” when a tight budget starts to pinch, rather than wondering where you can throw more money at a creative hurdle.


Matthew Harrison on Piracy and Inspiration

In many ways it was restriction that fueled one of Harrison’s biggest independent successes, ‘Rhythm Thief,’ released in 1994 and heavily informed by NYC’s Lower East Side.

Size comparison of Elcaset with standard compa...

Remember these? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was his second feature film, created on a budget of just $11,000, and one of the prime inspirations was the cassette trading that was rife in the city at that time.

Focusing Harrison’s mind on the piracy of that time,  a downtown sticker campaign with the tag line “You bootleg, we break your legs!” made him reflect on the image and reality of ripping off the creative works of others.

There are intriguing parallels to today’s online piracy in Harrison’s Sundance Film Festival-acclaimed work, in which the bootlegger “thinks he’s a hero. He doesn’t see the impact he’s having on this band, but he becomes aware.” Fast-forward to 2014 and there are still plenty of pirates who justify their illegal activity with some vague notion of sticking it to a big corporation or millionair celebrity. If they considered the many talented support workers whose income their piracy detracts from, however, they may have a similar epiphany to the lead character in Harrison’s movie.

And as we’ve seen with the case of Kim Dotcom, these delusions of grandeur extend even further to the thieves who operate on a commercial scale.


Break Links, Not Legs

Today’s world is more complex than the analog problems faced at a time that now seems impossibly distant. Piracy is a global concern where no one focus or action will completely prevent the problem.

Despite our New York roots, we obviously don’t advocate “breaking legs” to solve our current piracy problem. Breaking links to sites that profit from copyright theft, though? That we’re all in favor of!

So, “Pirates better think, we’ll break your links!” 

Has kind of a nice ring, doesn’t it?