Tag Archives: Piracy

New York Times Helps Movie Studios Spread Lies and Fear

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New York Times writers By BRIAN STELTER and BRAD STONE (full disclosure: Brad interviewed and quoted me for his article on $200 netbooks and I think he seems like a real nice guy) seem to have been drinking a bit too much of the movie industry’s KoolAid.

In an article in today’s paper they write the following:

But if media companies are winning the battle against illegal video clips, they are losing the battle over illicit copies of full-length TV episodes and films. The Motion Picture Association of America says that illegal downloads and streams are now responsible for about 40 percent of the revenue the industry loses annually as a result of piracy.

The problem here is that this 40% figure is completely mythical and the reporters neither back up this outrageous claim or offer any subtantive basis for it being made.

The truth is that Hollywood revenue was up year-to-year and there is little true corellation between rates of piracy and Hollywood profits.  The concept that every “pirated” viewing is lost revenue is simply absurd.  It is wrong to assume that people who watch something for free would be willing to pay instead if the free version were gone.

I might watch “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” on a pirate stream for a few minutes but I will not pay $12.50 to go see it on a big screen.  If the pirated version isn’t available I just won’t see the movie at all.  However, if it is a great movie I want to see on a big screen I will cough up the coin.

The overall tone of this article makes it seem like this piracy is a massive crimewave instead of a rational response to an industry that refuses to evolve with the times.  There is a reason that the studios are losing this war: they aren’t changing to meet their customer’s needs and so their customers are going elsewhere:

But many industry experts say the practice is becoming much more prevalent. “Streaming has gotten efficient and cheap enough and it gives users more control than downloads do. This is where piracy is headed,” said James L. McQuivey, an analyst at Forrester Research. “Consumers are under the impression that everything they want to watch should be easily streamable.”

Of course they are under that impression – it’s true.  Where studios and TV networks are losing money is by not finding ways to offer a similar service at a reasonable price.

When they do make the effort, like with Hulu.com, they see great results.  Viewership goes up immediately.

Why they don’t simply release copies to torrent sites with ads embedded is completely beyond my comprehension.  With what they waste each year trying to “fight” piracy, they could develop and distribute a new business model that would make pirating basically obsolete.

Instead, they risk going the way of the music industry and suing their way right out of business.

Meanwhile, I am baffled as to why the New York Times seems to be siding so heavily with “Big Hollywood.”

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UK Makes Pointless Show of Force Against DVD Piracy

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TorrentFreak has word on a big plan to rid London of a horrible scourge:

“Touted as the biggest ever anti-piracy collaboration, the MPA and several major anti-piracy groups have announced that by the time the 2012 Olympics begin, they will have made London “a fake-free zone”. This impossible mission to stamp out DVD piracy was launched by Intellectual Property Minister, David Lammy.”

Is it just me, or does this sound like an enormous waste of time and resources? Isn’t there real crime in London?  How about making the city murder-free by 2012? Or how about a “felony-free zone?”

It upsets me to see how much of our tax money (both here in the US and around the world) is wasted on “stamping out DVD piracy” – not only is it completely ineffective but any small benefit achieved is only enjoyed by the major movie studios who will continue to use it all as an excuse to raise ticket prices.

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UK’s Nation Sport Theatened by Justin.TV? I Think Not.

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(ps – I am pretty sure this is an “unlicensed” use of their logo…)

TechDirt has some thoughts on a GuardianUK article that questions whether people “illegally” streaming local broadcasts of soccer matches over services like Justin.TV is a threat to the financial well-being of the sport since it could impact the licensing fees networks currently pay for the exclusive broadcast rights.

However, as TechDirt so eloquently points out, the piracy only exists because of a big demand that the true rights-holder is failing to meet.  It isn’t that people are unwilling to watch legally sanctioned broadcasts of their favorite team but, unless they happen to live in a very small geographic area, they simply can’t under current conditions.  Thus, they seek out other ways to watch the match.  Are they doing this to hurt the sport?  Of course not!  Their willingness to go so far just to watch is direct proof of a deep love and need.

Not ones to just complain, TechDirt adds:

“Here’s a novel idea: instead of trying to crack down on the likes of Justin.tv, why not require rightsholders to offer free streams of games as parts of their deals? Then, the Premier League and its broadcast partners get to serve this demand, instead of Justin.tv or Chinese P2P services, and get to capitalize on it through advertising or other means. It might have some effect on pay services by giving fans with the least willingness to pay a free service to use, but again, I’d argue that most people would still prefer to watch their teams’ games on a bigger screen and in higher quality enough to pay for it. And the additional fans the services would reach could make new converts to paid services as well.”

From their lips…

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Sarkozy Rejects Will of Euro Parliament Favor of RIAA and MPAA

picture-10Legislation has been under consideration across Europe that would allow governments to ban people from the internet for life if they are found to have committed online piracy more than three times (the “three strike law”).

Aside from the endless grey areas surrounding what would constitute an act of piracy, this kind of legislation is only in existence due to the lobbying pressure of groups like RIAA and the MPAA.

Now, French President Sarkozy, in his position as president of the European Parliament, has sided with the lobbyists and rejected an amendment to reel in this sort of crazy legislation:

“The rejection goes against the will of the European Parliament, where 88% of the members already voted in favor of the amendment, which was originally destined to protect file-sharers from Internet disconnection under the ‘3 strikes’ framework…The rejection also goes against conclusions from the EU culture ministers last week, who sided  with the more balanced view of the European Commission, by encouraging copyright holders to work on offering “high quality, accessible, easy to use and consumer friendly” content online – instead of chasing pirates.” (via)

This is a very disturbing precedent and one that internet-rights watchers here in the US should keep a close eye on.

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Movie Theater Patrons Assumed Guilty and Berated Before Screening of American Teen

Last night I got this rather shocking email from my dad:

“We just had the most disturbing and obnoxious and offensive experienced at the Berkshire International Film Festival screening of “American Teenager.”  At the usual introduction a bulky little white haired man was introduced as representing the distributor. Behind him was a very large person, wearing some sort of a plastic id, who turned out to be some sort of security body guard. The white haired guy started lecturing the audience about movie piracy. He went on threateningly and angrily stating that any recording of any aspect of any movie, even in the background of a cell phone call was a felony and that the studio had hired security to watch the audience including special machines that could detect use of cell phones from blocks away. Then he took out a sheet of paper and a flashlight and started reading what he claimed was material from the FBI. Finally someone in the full-house audience called out that he was offended by the man and objected to his speech, his attitude towards the audience. At this point several other angry audience members spoke out and the man and his bodyguard stalked out. The manager of the theater apologized to the audience saying that the distributor insisted on the guy addressing the audience as a prerequisite for allowing the showing.

I felt ashamed of myself for not speaking up during the man’s fascist tirade and was pretty upset and pissed off for the first few minutes of the film. Afterwards, one of the kids who was in the documentary did a q&a and then the manager apologized again for the guy being allowed to give his threatening talk and asked the audience not to hold it against the distributor (at which there was some grumbling from the audience and I called out “why not?” and he gave me an annoyed look. And then we all went home.

Have you heard of this kind of thing at any other film festivals? It sounds like such a desperate and stupid extension of just the kind of anti-piracy nuttiness you’ve been writing about in your blog.”

I’ve heard similar stories but this just sickens me.  This is going to do more to hurt the movie business than any piracy could.  When will these entertainment conglomerates realize that treating your customers like criminals is simply not good business?

UPDATE: (from my mom)

“its distributor is Paramount Vantage. They were the ones insisted on the gestapo in order to let the festival show the film. And there were two security guards not one! What a shame because I thought the movie itself was terrific. First time I’ve seen some animation incorporated into a doc (used to highlight feelings and fantasies of the teens) at different points in the doc. Anyone who has ever been in h.s. will identify…lol.”

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