Friday's worldwide leafletting campaign was an undisputed success. We've been getting reports from all over the world, many from places where there aren't even 2600 meetings. We're certain the power of this "day of action" will be felt and remembered by the Hollywood industry for some time to come. In New York, attendees of the 2600 meeting fanned out across the city, handing out more than 3000 flyers before the night was through. We found most people to be receptive and understanding of the issues involved once it was explained to them. This is a tremendously positive thing, as public support is vital to our prevailing. It also means that we have to keep the pressure on. There's no reason why EVERY theater in the United States and a good number more around the world shouldn't know that we're out there. It's easy and, as we've heard from people everywhere, fun to get the word out. If there's one positive thing to come out of all the garbage the MPAA has hurled our way, it's that our power as individuals will be felt. Don't underestimate your ability to contribute. Our actions now will affect the future of technology forever! So print out the flyer, go down to your local theater or video store, and get the word out! And please send us your experiences as the people below did. These are but a small fraction of the people who participated:
Spent Friday night handing out flyers in front of a movie theater at 2nd and 11th in Manhattan. Got a few great reactions, mainly from people who had heard about it already on the net. Theater management gave a bit of hassle, claiming they were going to call cops, but the cops never showed. Good luck on your side there.
Up here in the frozen north of Canada we don't have the advantage of warm weather in February to stand outside and hand out flyers, however several of our theaters are in malls. Five of us left the meet at about 8 local time and went to nearby Eaton center mall. There weren't a lot of people around and we got asked to leave by mall security after about 10 minutes. We cordially left the mall. Not to be dissuaded by a little setback (and by the fact that we had 700 copies of the flyer left), we proceeded to the biggest theater in the city across town. Perhaps you heard of it - West Edmonton Mall. Two entrances to the theater, one in the mall and one leading outside to the parking lot. Not wanting to get stopped by management we focused on the people leaving rather than entering. This worked great. Wizbone sat on a trash can at the bottom of the escalator into the mall and got almost everyone to take one and a great many stopped to talk about it. On the other side Wildman and the clone went like madmen handing them out. We went through about 400 of our flyers that night. After taking everyone home I finally got to bed at about 2 am to get up at 6 am to go to my day job. It was worth it to feel like I helped in a good cause.
Me and my buds got kicked out of one mall and chased out of one theater parking lot by the Wayne Police Dept. So we just went to another mall and another theater. That's the short version - the long is on our web site. All in all I believe we gave out around 700 out of 1200 flyers. But we'll use the rest for public education as well on our campus. We also met a couple of kids who wanted to start a 2600 NJ meeting in Wayne! We would never have met them otherwise, and it was so cool after a week of doing this to run into other fellow pioneers on the day of reckoning. Thanks to you for setting up the protest date! On another note, we met fierce opposition from the management at the Loews/Sony Theater in Wayne at the Willowbrook Mall, who had SHITLOADS of security on duty, watching every angle of the parking lot, and the front door. Dephile and Chaos tried to leaflet there earlier and were thrown out by a screaming fat bastard, and the cops handled us. Although one of the cops did express to us that we could go down to Wayne Town Hall to obtain a permit, which I think would allow us to hand out flyers right at the front door of the theater! We'll find out soon. We are also preparing an article for our school paper (Montclair State University) and a press release about the events to some local newspapers, and the Star Ledger - maybe they will decide to run a story now.
Portsmouth, United Kingdom:
Cheesy, roo and jpayne spent several hours handing out flyers at cinemas in Portsmouth, UK. Good responses generally... people who took leaflets stopped and read them - I was half expecting them to throw them away immediately. Good responses from cinema staff... the UCI (Universal/Paramount)'s landlords (they're in a large private shopping area) asked us to leave purely because we didn't obtain written permission beforehand. They claimed that they would have given permission had we asked - something we plan to test this week. The ABC is situated in a high street, so taking care not to block the flow of pedestrians. We stood on the pavement (sidewalk!) and handed out leaflets. Cinema staff took one and spent a lot of time discussing it amongst themselves. No move to ask us to move on was taken.
Mountain View, CA:
Time to check in and share my experience in Mountain View. Here's how it went down. It started off with just me and 500 copies of The Flyer printed on beautiful Sunburst Yellow paper. The Shoreline Theater had a pretty young crowd on Friday. Lots of high school and college age kids. At a couple of points, I had 10 or 15 people gathered in a circle around me listening to me outline the evil doings of Jack Valenti. Then a member of the local SVLUG showed up. And bless his heart. All the other Sillicon Valley folks wussed out. So he and I continued handing out flyers right outside the Shoreline box office until the manager kicked us out a half hour later. Then we headed to the AMC Mercata theater in Sunnyvale. We positioned ourselves a little more strategically - i.e., out of the security guards' line of site. In short order - maybe an hour or an hour and a half - we had relieved ourselves of all 500 copies. No harassment to speak of. I was hoping for more of a crowd, but we got the job done. By and large, folks were pretty receptive to our message. A couple of people were already familiar with the case. I also noticed that the flyer got read. Most people actually took the time to read it on their way in to the theater (they had a lot of time with those lines.) A few people even stopped to listen to my pitch.
San Luis Obispo, CA:
While the small town protest I organized in San Luis Obispo is small compared to the San Francisco one, we had a fantastic and productive time advertising our cause to the masses. We had a total of six people from the local lug which we split into three two person groups. We have two major theaters in San Luis Obispo, and one independent theater. We didn't bother with the independent theater. We migrated between the theaters according to the movie schedule (both theaters are downtown, within walking distance of each other). At the classic 1940ish theater Fremont we were well received by a long line of interested individuals. It was at this scenic theater that a photographer for the local paper took many pictures. The photographer stayed with me for a good thirty minutes and proved a valuable asset to piquing people's interests. Out of all of the people I talked to, I only mentioned Linux once, and I never mentioned reverse engineering. I became fairly good at keeping the issue simple and easy to understand. The others also became pretty good at this. The manager of the theater was receptive to our cause, and did not try to prevent us from protesting. Manners prevailed. It was a slightly different story at the other theater, however. We were soon kicked off of private property and we ended up distributing fliers from the sidewalk. The security guard was nice however, and let us distribute fliers in peace. He was also sympathetic to the issue. Even limited to the sidewalk, we were able to distribute a good number of flyers. I suppose in all we distributed 200-250 flyers. A local minister took it upon himself to lead us in a group prayer against the MPAA. While most of us were atheists, it was a good thing. Perhaps he will mention us in a sermon. That's the nice thing about this town. It may be the apathy capital of the world, but people were at least tolerant and mostly receptive to our protest.
At various times, we had about 10 people from the local Linux community and perhaps 10-15 from the San Francisco 2600 group. We protested at the Sony Metreon in downtown San Francisco. This is a state-of-the-art mall owned and operated by Sony, containing a Sony Style store and several movie theaters, including an IMAX theater. We had the flyers that the 2600 publishers put together and some signs (which I kept). We gave away about a thousand flyers, I would say, plus or minus a factor of two. We were out there for two and a half hours. We started right next to the main entrance of the Metreon, and gradually got pushed further and further back. First a security guard asked us to leave the property, so we did, but then, very annoyingly, the security guards announced that (once we were on the public sidewalk) we were loitering and they would call the police if we didn't disperse. We didn't disperse, and they did call the police. The police said that we had to move across the street from the Metreon. Most people did. Some people who stayed on the same side of the street or somehow otherwise annoyed the police were detained and questioned (apparently for things like using a cell phone when the police didn't want anyone to use a cell phone). We were also told that we couldn't stand on one OTHER corner of the intersection, so it came out that there were two permissible corners and two impermissible corners. People who came near the Metreon at all after being told to leave were told that they were permanently banned from the Metreon and must never return. I found that it was very difficult to explain things to non-programmers. Some people were sympathetic to objections to region codes, but still they had a hard time understanding the significance of the right to reverse-engineer or to write code that circumvents an access control mechanism. Some people found even region codes too technical and had presumably never seen a geek protest. (I've been involved in or advised of six other geek protests that I can think of in the past two years. It makes complete sense to me that we should be out in the streets holding signs to protest some obscure technical issue. But I think most people had never seen anything like it.) One problem was that we had no individual designated to talk to the police. That would have been particularly useful. It was nice to hear several people coming up to us and mentioning Linux, 2600, or the EFF. So there were a few people in the whole evening who had heard about the thing.
A bunch of us were at the TMBG show at Avalon in Boston Friday night... we
also had several hundred of the leaflets. We got out before the bulk of
the crowd by leaving through a side entrance and handed a good chunk of
them out to the departing crowd. The crowd was surprisingly receptive.
Best of luck.
The Anti-M.P.A.A. flyer distribution scheme seems to have gone well, at
least for the London 2600. We managed to pass out every single one of our
flyers, from such locations as the WB Movie Complex, and taped one to the
window of the Disney Store and one to the window of the Warner Brothers
Store. After walking back the way we came originally, we saw that just
about everyone was actually *reading* them.
My experience on Friday night was great right here in Orlando. It was a
slow night at the movies in Orlando so Geo and Dustin hit three separate
theatres in the Fashion Square Mall area with 400 flyers. There was no
opposition to us voicing our opinion. At one theatre there was a
policeman who just looked the other way and didn't hassle us at all. We
had to hit the Rocky Horror crowd, so we did and now instead of being
just weird, they are weird and informed. Some people didn't want to know
the real nature of the case and just assumed that hackers are all evil
and bad. We tried to change that opinion. In some cases I am sure we
were successful. All in all it was a good exercise in free speech.
After first meeting up at the usual meeting place, five of us proceeded
down to the Carmike Wynnsong theater. We had 2 large signs to hold in
addition to about 600 flyers to pass out. Almost immediately after we
started handing out flyers, a theater manager came out and asked us what
the problem was. I explained the decss issue and handed him a flyer. He
went back inside and it looked like everything was gonna be cool. We had
people stopping their cars asking for flyers, and there were all kinds of
questions. About 5 minutes after the first manager had left, he returned
with 2 other managers and asked us to leave. He said that a protest
looked bad for the movie theater, and that we would either have to stop
holding the signs or leave the premises. I told him that we had all
purchased tickets for a show, and his response was that we would have to
leave until show time. He threatened to call the cops, and we didn't want
to start a fight, so we put the signs in a car and started putting flyers
on cars, since the manager's objection earlier seemed to be focused mainly
on our blocking of the box office lines. A cop pulled up while we were
covering the parking lot, and 3 of our guys left, but Psycho and I kept on
with the flyers until we had covered just about all the cars in the lot.
Just as we were about to leave, a reporter from the Auburn Plainsman
showed up, and started asking us questions. She took some pictures, and
she has called us a few times since Friday for more information. A lot of
people should be fairly well informed between the flyers we put out and
the newspaper article.
I got to the Har-Mar theater a little after 6:00 PM. Another member of
the TCLUG arrived, and he and I were handing out fliers at the front
entrance for about 3.5 seconds before the Mall Manager called security
(the big sign really gave us away). The manager was really pissed off
(either that or he's a jerk all the time!) - he said something like, "Get
the hell out of here - You have no right to be here, Security is on their
way", etc, etc. (he didn't say it in a nice or professional way, either!)
We moved to the other side of the street (by Ground Round), with one of
their guards following. The guard was pretty nice - he talked with me
about our cause for a while, and even took one of our fliers. He did
inform us, however, that the Ground Round restraunt was also owned by the
mall - and that we would have to move to the turn-off at Snelling Ave. (so
much for puplic property close to the theater!)
We stood outside with my huge "Stop the MPAA" sign and handed out fliers
to anyone who was curious - quite a few people stopped just to see what
was going on. Soon, several other members of TCLUG showed up. They had
arrived independantly of the rest of us, and had been distributing fliers
inside the theater for the last half hour or so, and were wondering why we
were protesting outside in the cold!
We had people honking at us much of the time - it is hard to say if they
were from technically-savy people who agreed with our cause, or just
people who like to see conflict (or just weirdos who like to honk their
horns at very cold people holding signs and passing out fliers). Some
people must have thought we were on a labor strike or something - one guy
rolled down his window and said "I'm with the electrician's union", as he
grabbed a flier.
Many people didn't know what "MPAA" stood for, which made it more
difficult to explain our (already complicated) cause in 15 seconds or
The second group continued passing out fliers inside the Mall and theater
lobby, while we continued passing out fliers at the Snelling Ave turn-off.
We found out a while later that a group from 2600 had showed up - and the
other group had met up with them.
It became increasingly obvious that the Mall had started calling in more
security guards. I think when we first got there, there were one or two
guards. By the time we had left, there were many, many more than that.
The place was swarming with them. Also, the number of police cars that
went through the turning lane in front of us would suggest that the police
were patroling the mall as well. One of them nearly scared me to death
when he opened his window to ask for a flier! It's not like we were doing
anything at all wrong - but for some reason that sort of thing can still
give you that creepy feeling inside...
Eventually, the guards caught up with the inside group as well - and we
got separated. But, not before I got to see the Manager with the most
frustrated look I have ever seen on a human being. Knowing that we had
ruined his day is kind of a bittersweet thought. OK, I admit - it was just
sweet. When a manager has protestors outside his door, and he has to pay
security guards overtime because of something his industry is doing - you
can rest assured he's going to make some phone calls.
Since the "inside group" managed to evade the security guards longer than
we did, I think they probably got to more people than we did - but there
was no question that all together a message was sent to the MPAA, and that
some small portion of the public learned of our plight.
Others of us learned to dress more warmly for protests in the future, and
that large signs are hard to control in strong winds... :-)
I think the final number of protestors at HarMar was 5-10 from 2600, and
5 from the TCLUG (although in all of the commotion we never really all
got together in one place - so this number could be off).