Fox fires Friedman over ‘Wolverine’ review

04.04.09 9 years ago 19 Comments

20th Century Fox

According to Nikki Finke’s most recent posting on the subject, Fox News columnist Roger Friedman has been fired from his position as a direct result of his review of the leaked “Wolverine” workprint.  I’ve been able to independently verify that this is indeed the case.  We’ve been writing about this as it’s unfolded, as the workprint leaked, and then Friedman reviewed it, and as Fox condemned his actions.

I find it amazing how many people have misunderstood why this matters, or why it was reported as widely as it was by online news sites.  It demonstrates a few things to me, the first of which should be obvious at this point:  there is a generation that has such an ingrained sense of entitlement towards any and all intellectual property that they simply do not accept that copyright exists, or that there is every any reason to pay for any media that they choose not to pay for.  And if you write anything, even if it’s not aimed at them, that dares to defend the idea of anything less than rampant piracy, they will react as if you insulted their mothers.  I’m used to it, and it’s the scariest thing that any intellectual property creator or distributor has to deal with.  You can push enforcement or punishment as much as you want, but we’re dealing with a generational paradigm shift, and that’s not something any amount of law enforcement can necessarily curb or stop.

And I’ve had many e-mails yesterday and today screaming at me about how Ain’t It Cool was built on pirated materials, so how dare I call for Friedman’s job?  But that’s sort of the point… I’ve been punished by Fox, both as a screenwriter (fired from a job there after criticizing Rothman) and as an online columnist (totally barred from press screenings for years now), and that’s fine.  That’s their right.  They were unhappy with actions of mine, they did what they felt they needed to as a reaction, and I’ve had to live with it.  I may not like every action of theirs, but I can more than readily accept that they have the right to do what they’ve done.

[more after the jump]

This all boiled down to one key incident as far as I’m concerned.  When Fox went after a theater employee because he wrote a review for AICN, and they demanded his job because of what he wrote, they set a precedent.  He wasn’t an employee of Fox, and he didn’t break any laws in writing his review.  But he did violate a trust that Fox had placed in that particular theater company, and as a result, it cost him his job.  I was outraged at the time, but even that decision… I have to accept that they were doing what they felt they needed to do to protect their material.

When Friedman published his piece, he crossed an amazingly stupid line.  He didn’t write a piece about piracy and how easy it was.  He didn’t write a piece defending the film and explaining what other work had been done on it since that workprint.  Instead, he just plain reviewed the unfinished movie, and then crowed about going back to get more bootlegs later.  It was an astonishing column, and a blatant finger in the face of not only 20th Century Fox, but everyone who also writes about the film industry who did not indulge.

There are definitely other sites online who have written about viewing the workprint.  iO9, for example, or Obsessed With Film, and they don’t seem remotely worried about having downloaded or reviewed the film.  The difference is that neither of those sites is owned by News Corp, the parent company whose work was stolen.  And while I would expect Fox to pursue some form of action against those sites, they’re in no position to fire anyone there.  The most they’ll do, I’m guessing, is make sure those sites aren’t invited to any press events in the future.  Been there.  Done that.

It was Friedman who was the test case.  Fox aggressively pursued the firing of Memflix, that AICN reviewer, and the only way they could demonstrate any sort of corporate consistency was to fire their own columnist for a transgression far more blatant.  The fact that they did so, and within 24 hours of this becoming an issue, is actually encouraging.  I don’t take any pleasure in anyone being out of work in this climate, but I consider it important that this sort of punitive action has to be uniform.  I’m pleasantly surprised to see that Fox actually followed through and did the only right thing in this situation.

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