Online piracy became a phenomenon about a decade ago with music—triggered by smaller files via MP3 and faster downloads via broadband.
The record companies jumped on it with the “big stick” approach to the problem, tossing consumer piracy to their Legal Departments, which led to lawsuits that destroyed the companies’ credibility and goodwill. Handing the problem to Legal Departments proved the old saying, “To a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”
But we move forward. Warner Bros. seems to be doing the logical thing by actually analyzing piracy as if it were a cost-of-doing-business and marketing expense, worth the effort to find profitable ways to deal it.
Piracy should NEVER be used as an excuse to cripple the Internet. To me, that’s akin to removing roads because bank robbers use them for getaways. [see The Internet Needs to be Free]
While I disagree with the corporate legal mentality that can’t see beyond lawsuits, and I disagree with the implications of the DGA and other Hollywood entities that call for ways to cripple the Internet in order to reduce piracy, I also strongly disagree with those who say we must abdicate to piracy simply because it’s so easy for anyone to obtain copies online.
There are major distinctions in the forms of piracy. There are “sharing” pirates, and “thievery” pirates. Sharing pirates are ordinary consumers sharing with a few acquaintances, and thievery pirates turn profits for themselves by ripping off filmmakers AND consumers. For instance, thievery pirates run scores of websites purporting to stream movies for free and paid for by advertising. This is a lie; nobody generates enough online ad revenue to pay for movie streaming; the theivery pirates just keep the ad revenue themselves and use their sites to steal consumer information and to spread malware and viruses.
Further, there are major distinctions between music and movies. Not only are songs much smaller and easier to copy than movies, they are also cheaper and more plentiful to create. In the “indie” world, musicians make many good songs for an insignificant cost that can be absorbed without destroying their ability to survive. Filmmakers, on the other hand, create a single good movie at a cost that can cripple their survival if not recouped.
This discussion is about ordinary sharing pirates and movie piracy.
The argument in favor of abdicating to piracy is that “it’s tough to fight” and “easy to copy.” This argument is weak and unimaginative. Abdicating is a roadblock to finding creative solutions. It’s just as weak as when corporations blindly turn piracy issues over to the Legal Department. Both are devoid of the creative and moral spark to find a worthy solution for all involved.
This is a social phenomenon and if there had been a creative approach to sway ordinary people from piracy, the phenomenon would have been diminished. Apple eventually proved this point for music with the ease and ubiquity of iTunes.
There has always been “shrinkage” (the term the retail world uses to describe losses from various forms of theft), but most people walk into a store, pick up what they need, and pay for it on the way out. Human nature is to recognize value, realize the choice to either take or pay, and then move on.
But there is a difference with music and movies that doesn’t exist with cosmetics or sundries. With our creative endeavors, we enter into people’s imaginations and emotions. It’s very personal. Individuals don’t maintain clarity of ownership over something that is so emotional and imaginative, since we enter their soul, manipulate their feelings, inspire their emotions. The clarity of who created what becomes muddy.
If we are inspired by a movie or song, the feeling is so emotional that “ownership” concepts dissolve.
We need to address these issues: value and ownership (the reason to pay).
Movies have value, otherwise nobody would spend hours searching and downloading them. People expect to be entertained and enlightened and thrilled.
The choice to download without paying—and most people I’ve talked to acknowledge they feel as if they should pay but don’t want to—is often driven by a sense of anger against filmmakers, as if we were all pompous, elitist millionaires trying to pry $10 out of their hands for something that “really” has no value. Weird. (Frankly, I’m now annoyed by the number of times this meaningless, angry, rote argument is foisted as the justification for piracy and I dismiss it.)
We should work on the issues of perceived value and ease of legal acquisition, rather than abdicate to the piracy and buy into the anger argument, or follow the Legal Department lead and attack our consumers.
Creative solutions are required for the survival of indie filmmakers. Not abdication. Not legal thuggery.
Where are the creative thinkers? Where are the creative solutions?