Updated Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

This Started Out As A Comment Reply

But it got too long so I decided to post it as a whole new posting.

No, I'm not being lazy, there's another one coming later today.
Hey G and John, thanks for popping on by!

GMajor: Yeah, going to the movies is a tough sell for families these days - especially considering the $12-18 ticket prices (if you wanna watch 3D) per person. Add in food and a few rambunctious rugrats and it's just too much to swing for most people.

That said, the FCC just gave permission for folks at the MPAA to start streaming first-run movies over 'secure' cable lines... so they're obviously aware of this and have been trying to address it.


So, as long as they don't start charging $40 per movie or something this might actually end up being a good thing for them.

John: Piracy is a weird thing - especially considering the harsh vilification of them all as 'thieves'.

I mean, sure, some of them are criminals but some are dumb-ass kids too; Kids who've been told that if you 'go here' you can get stuff for free (which is a whole other problem).

However, if you think about the larger picture, those who most people would call 'pirates' are actually just people who WANT good quality content and are willing to spend an enormous amount of their free time tracking it down (and building massive networks - on their own dime - to share it with each other).

In a way, these pirates are the new critics... especially when it comes to film and TV.

They've become the vanguard of what's actually worth watching - because they're finding it, watching it and, if it's really good, pushing it out to everyone else (or, if it's crap, slamming the hell out of it).

Looking back on it, I think piracy of this level started because of the rising sense of 'crap' coming out of the Music Industry and Hollywood -- eventually growing into TV.

Specifically for movies, I think people got sick and tired of being lured in by flashy trailers or buzz only to be disappointed by films that the studios and/or distributors knew weren't good (as they tried to squeeze as much money out of the viewer as possible).

-- A recent example: Clash Of The Titans. That trailer made me want to dive into the theater... but damn that movie was not worth $15.

That said, there are times where I have to wonder if a lot of the furor over 'piracy' isn't more about studios getting angry that people are watching the bad films and shows ahead of time and warning others before they can try and recoup their losses.

Now, to be clear: there's nothing wrong with that (trying to recoup your losses). Movies and TV are an extremely expensive and risky business - sometimes movies and shows just don't turn out - it's not (always) the studio's fault that a production ends up as an uninspiring mess (or just 'meh').

They deserve to try and get some of that money back.

Where I think it all fell down was in treating the audience like a bunch of slack-jawed yokels who weren't intelligent enough to figure out they were getting played. Consistently.

Some of them figured out how to fight back - and with the rise of personal recording technology (and 'unlimited bandwidth'... remember that?!?) it was just a matter of time.

Yes, this sounds like I'm taking a 'legalize it' stance... and in a way I am. Surely not in the most egregious of cases -- there are people who deserve to be punished here -- but I think a lot of what people call 'piracy' is just an untapped audience that's wrongly vilified.

If you look at classic examples of 'piracy' -- especially software piracy -- hell, that's how entire empires were built.

*cough* Windows, AutoCad, Photoshop *cough*

Of course it didn't hurt that they had a decent product... but there were a lot of decent programs back then (OS/2, Corel, etc). In the end it was because these products came with no protections, because they were easy to share, that they earned and built upon an active userbase of people who lent each other their floppy disks and CDs -- long before BBS's and USENet and Warez and Torrents.

(One could even say the same for the rise of Linux... which some still see as 'piracy'.)

Anyways, yes, like I said earlier, there will always be idiots who exist to screw the system... and that's life. There will always be Car Thieves and Purse Snatchers too.

But I truly believe that if we find ways to acknowledge and work with 'pirates' a lot of good will come from it (on both sides of the argument).

I think that the industry is moving too slow for these elite media consumers and rather than trying to catch up, or bring them on board, they're being tracked and sued and arrested.

There has to be a happy (or at least 'content') medium -- and I think it's just a matter of WANTING to find it.

Personally, I think you can start to find it by first treating them with respect and maybe even some authority. Change the tempo of the argument and play to their needs: feed them content at a fair price, before anyone else gets to see it. Involve them, interact with them and show them that their opinion (the one we're always clamouring for anyway) is valuable.

And who ever does that -- first, best or whatever -- the first to successfully bridge that gap, wins the internet content war.

But, again, just my 2 cents.



Anonymous said...

That said, there are times where I have to wonder if a lot of the furor over 'piracy' isn't more about studios getting angry that people are watching the bad films and shows ahead of time and warning others before they can try and recoup their losses.

That's it. It's all about the opening weekend, right? Stars that can "open". Get people into the theatre opening weekend and hope you can recoup before word gets out that it stinks. People don't listen to critics as much any more, but they will stay away in droves if their friends on the Internet say it sucks. I still haven't seen that Wolverine movie...

John McFetridge said...

That FCC ruling is interesting. I read something last week that said when Netflix starts to be a distributor the way Amazon has become a publisher (anyone can sell books through Kindle and POD) it will be a massive change.

We're seeing it in publishing every day now. Lots of writers are selling their own backlist as e-books and also giving away stories as promo (I'm doing it myself). Some writers are starting to bypass publishers altogether.

We're still in a real transition stage and we don't know how it will work out, but an important factor has been the acceptance of buying online. The delivery method, the distribution, now looks and feels exactly the same for a book from a major publisher as it does from a small press or even a self-published author.

When you're buying a Kindle or Kobo or iPad book you can scroll through titles from any source and the buying experience is exactly the same.

When Netflix starts to simply list every movie and TV show ever made - by anyone - and streams it into your house things will change.

The distribution method is no longer a "gatekeepe," or a way to narrow down choices. But it's not YouTube, it isn't a free service, it's something you have an account with.

Of course, it is different for movies and TV shows because of how much they cost to make, but it's early days yet.