Wk17: Why We Pirate – the big debate

Here is the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long time.

Is this really what the piracy debate has come down to?

This is a complicated issue. And first we need to define some terms.

This is not a piracy fight. It’s a debate.

And the term “Piracy” is a bad one. Because it suggest people who download illegally are “pirates”.

For me, the term “pirate” suggests someone who profits from illegal downloading. And a big, big, big majority of people who download illegally do not make money from it. They just enjoy the content.

We don’t pirate because we want to go out of our way to screw musicians, actors, directors, screenwriters etc. If anything, we pirate because we don’t want to get screwed ourselves.

So, why do we pirate?

Here’s what I can think of.

We don’t want to wait
We don’t want to over pay
We don’t want to run around to a shop
We don’t want to search through a shop
We can’t get what we want
We don’t want a physical copy
We don’t want to pay at all

If you can defeat all those points above, you will end digital piracy.

It’s that simple.

But sometimes it isn’t.

Why must we wait?

It is worse for TV. Boardwalk Empire premieres in Australia six months after the US. Why do they make us wait for it?

Even a week is too much. The latest episode of Doctor Who had a big twist in the first ten minutes. They kept it secret till the UK broadcast, but it’s a week before the AU one. And if you wanted to keep the surprise, you would have to literally stay off the internet.

I have Doctor Who as one of my likes, and one of my news feeds. I am a fan. And as soon as I logged onto my Twitter, my Google and my Facebook, I saw the twist. Luckily, I downloaded and enjoyed the episode already.

I didn’t do this in the UK. I didn’t watch it on TV their either, but the second after the episode finishes, it is available to watch, free and on demand, on BBC’s iPlayer. I would say that there is no downloading of Doctor Who in the UK at all. Simple none.

Why must we over-pay?

Books are full price in digital, and it’s cheaper to buy them in shops mostly. DVDs can fall into this trap – big movies selling for £3 in the UK, but £15 on iTunes.

And that’s digital vs. digital. Paying $30 for an album for one track? Please. Who wants to do that? Then if you have advanced tastes, there’s the imports game. We’re talking too much money – and we know you are ripping us off.

Why must we go to a shop?

Video stores and CD shops are going if not gone. The video above suggests we should buy DVDs because they are better. How do I even do that? How do most people do that?

And why get a DVD and sit through trailers and crap? The video above suggests that downloading is dodgy and takes a long time. That has not been my experience at all. It’s easy, fast and reliable. Why can’t film companies be like that?

Especially as you still screw me with region codes!

Why must we dig through a shop?

What stores that are left are badly stocked. Where the internet is an infinite shelf.

Even if you live near a store. Even if you live IN a store. Will that store have everything you want?

Why can’t we get what we want?

Why the fuck is Nashville not available on DVD here? Why did I have to search high and low for Sweet Inspiration, the Songs of Dan Penn and Spooner Oldman on CD? All those sweet Criterion DVDs….unavailable.

How can I get them then? Well, why they are right here online. At my fingertips.

And let’s go beyond official releases. The internet has such great live sessions, bootlegs and more. I want to hear it – why can’t I?

And then there’s TV. Why can’t I watch the Daily Show? Because of some archaic contract and red tape?

Why must we own physical copies?

I have thousands of good CDs on crap jewelcases. I have ripped them, and thrown away the cases, keeping the discs and booklets, for a lot of them. You want me to go buy some more jewel cases now?

I watch and listen to far more now than my house can fit. We have seen how much stuff is out there (thanks internet). You expect every home to own every CD and DVD? Insane.

Why must we pay at all?

This is the tricky one.

I think most people would like it if the people who created the things they’ve enjoyed gets paid for it.

But we don’t necessarily want to be the ones who pay them.

But there are ways of hiding that cost. Advertising. Subscriptions.

There’s no easy answer to this one, but think of it from another angle.

Can we really go back to a model where we pay for everything individually? We are just into too much music and TV these days.

My 8 points for why we pirate. We need a solution that covers them, and piracy would end. A global BBC iplayer. With every show ever. As soon as they are released. Ad supported perhaps? Or subscriptions.

The solution is not that impossible. We can almost see it. Let’s go for it.

Or else the world will just keep on downloading anyway.

UPDATE – James rightly points out that another reason to pirate is so you don’t put up with that stupid trailer to not pirate just to watch a DVD you bought.

I have to say, this expands out into another reason it is not easy. Stupid trailers and ads are coming into DVDs. Stupid menus I never liked. And then just the fact the DVDs might be a box downstairs. Sure, I can go get it, pop it in the DVD player, wait for it to load, play me an anti-piracy ad, navigate the menu and make it to my show.

Or I wish I could have subscribed to something where I can just type in a name and click it and play.

That video above is so bad. And it misses the point completely. And the point is this.

Piracy is easy.

And we like easy.

If there was something easier than piracy, we would take it.

But it’s not as hard as that exageratted nerd in the video. And it’s about the content. I’ve watched downloaded TV shows with my friends in a living room and enjoyed it as much as a DVD.

People often ask – how do you compete with free?

The answer is you’re not.

You’re competing with easy.

Slashfilm podcast about the PSA video – http://www.slashfilm.com/filmcast-dark-ep-143-antipiracy-psas-tragedy-commons-guest-scott-mendelson-mendelsons-memos/

30 for 30: Doctor Who

30 for 30 – as I reach my fourth decade of being, I’m writing about some of the things that made the three that came before what they were. 30 – mostly trivial – things that have been a part of 30 – mostly trivial – years.

23. DOCTOR WHO

Matt Smith and Karen Gillan, the current stars of Doctor Who

My favourite show at the moment is Doctor Who

I am a big nerd. And I like being one. I love falling in love with stuff. And the great thing about science fiction (or this terrible word “genre”), is that it provides someone a lot to get into. Star Wars novels, Lost encyclopedias, etc.

(It’s why I love REM as well. So many albums. So many singles to collect. So many special editions. Hooray!)

But there are huge gaps in my nerd-om. Tolkien. For years I thought Tolkien was the name of a character in Lord of the Rings. Battlestar Galactica. By all accounts an amazing show. Just looks cheap and shit to me. Heroes. God what an awful show.

4 years ago, I could say the same thing about Doctor Who. Now, I am obsessed.

What the hell happened?

My pre-season three knowledge of Doctor Who could be summed up thus:

– The Doctorin’ The Tardis song, by KLF, that samples Gary Glitter’s Rock ‘n’ Roll

– The episode of Press Gang (written by future Who showrunner Steven Moffat) called UnXpected – about a  Doctor Who-ish character called Colonel X.

– A skit from the Late Show where a bouncer throws some Daleks out of a night club.

– The show had recently seen something of a rebirth, and Billie Piper was now an actor.

– Tim was a big fan. Paul was a fan as well.

And that’s about it.

I know even less about Tolkien.

The home for comics and sci-fi in London is the world famous Forbidden Planet store – and I would wander in around once a week.

Doctor Who is the biggest thing in the UK sci fi world, and it makes sense that almost half their top floor is devoted to Doctor Who. What is this stuff? People seem to love it.

Toys. Posters. Bubble bath. Costumes. Lunch boxes. It’s over whelming. And I knew nothing about Doctor Who. I have to say – I was a little jealous. Someone who loves this show is going to have so much fun.

I felt the same way as a kid, wandering into Utopia Records, Sydney’s biggest and best heavy metal music store. They would have, say, Japanese Blur records, that I would buy. But they had this whole other section of the store – merchandise. Kiss mugs, Megadeth wrist bands, Manowar posters. My little indie bands didn’t make this sort of stuff. It must be so fun to be a metal fan.

When series three started – with Martha Jones replacing Rose Tyler as the companion – it was all over the news. It was front page of every paper. It really just got to the point where they were going to take away my nerd credentials. When science fiction hits the front page of all the papers and I knew nothing about it, something was wrong.

So it’s really simple actually, the story of how I came to Doctor Who. I sat myself on the sofa one Saturday night and watched the episode 42 on BBC1. It was pretty exciting. I liked it.

So the next week rolled along, then the next. This next run of episodes – Human Nature, The Family of Blood and Blink are probably still the best run of episodes the show has ever had. These episodes won a million awards, and my heart. Blink, especially, is regarded as the greatest Doctor Who story of all time. I’m certain a whole generation of English kids will never forget it.

I’ve been watching it ever since.

I love the message of Doctor Who. The positivity. It’s the opposite of Dark Night, and in general dark sci-fi. It’s so damn positive.

And exciting. Boiling the premise and the point of Doctor Who, it’s this – stay curious and love life.

At it’s very best, it makes the everyday come to life. Statues can be amazing monsters. Your shadows could eat you alive. The crack in your wall could lead to another world. Looking up at the night sky, it’s not just pretty stars. It’s possibilities.

It’s what I love best about sci-fi. It fires the imagination. For me, this show that’s new to me, is about the purest form of all that’s good about sci fi.

That halloween I bought an excellent raincoat and went to a party as the Tenth Doctor. The raincoat is so great.

Doctor Who was also my road into British actors. Because it is one of those rare occurences when something that is hugely popular is also critically acclaimed.

I have a Brit Awards drinking game – a drink for every presenter you don’t know. And there are lots. People from old radio breakfast shows or soaps I’ve never seen. But Doctor Who opened me up a lot.

The list is amazing. David Morrisey and John Simm’s work led me back to the excellent State Of Play mini-series. Catherine Tate, who I heard about but never saw her show, was new to me. Peter Capaldi led me to The Thick Of It. Currently I am enjoying Mark Gatiss’s history of horror movies –  a man I first heard about on Who.

I guess that touches on the educational aspect of Doctor Who. But it goes beyond the silly dropping of “happy prime numbers” into a plot.

Then there’s Doctor Who Confidential – the hour long behind the scenes of Doctor Who that airs after the episode on BBC3. I’ve been chewing over a career in TV or film, and part of it comes from watching DVD extras, and some from watching Doctor Who Confidential. Every week is a lesson on lighting, or scriptwriting, or stunts, or location scouting.

There was also a kids game show based around Doctor Who called Totally Doctor Who. Primary school kids would get into the science of the show, play games and meet the stars. How amazing – shame they cancelled it.

All this happens because of what I said above – the sweet spot of being popular and critically acclaimed. Doctor Who holds such an unique place in British culture. It can do almost no wrong, and a hell of a lot of good.

And hey, it delights me that cockheads like James Murdoch hates Doctor Who, because the brand is so big, it keeps the BBC alive. In a recent rant, he claimed how unfair it was the BBC use Doctor Who to launch games and services like the iPlayer because it gives them a competitive advantage. Another win.

As of this year, Steven Moffat took over as showrunner for Doctor Who. He was another reason I was drawn to the show. He’s one of those writers I have loved all my life – from Press Gang to Coupling.

I am a Moffat fanatic. And although he’d written some of the most acclaimed episodes of Doctor Who, he was still only getting out an hour of TV a year. Jekyll did ok, but a planned second series never happened. Adam and Eve never got off the ground. His script for the Tintin movie was rewritten and is still nowhere near completion. The worse was the dismal US version of Coupling.

I also discovered along the way that Moffat was a life long Doctor Who fan. I’m not sure how to explain the feeling, but when this man who brought me so many good times, who I never met, got his dream job, I was so happy for him. I went out and got really drunk on his behalf. I didn’t care about the people leaving the show. Just that this guy I never met had something good going for him.

I’ve avoided saying what is great about Doctor Who episodes here – there’s plenty of that online. But the Moffat series, starring Matt Smith, was perfect – the best yet. If you want to start somewhere, start with the first episode of that series – the Eleventh Hour.

It also means I’ll be following this show for a while longer, as I pretty much think I will watch anything Moffat is involved in until one of us dies.

As for the Doctor – who knows. Maybe the next team will be awful. And maybe the team after that will be great. Its impossible to tell. But that’s what I love about it. Anything is possible.


Steven Moffat – a writer let loose

If you’ve never watched Doctor Who before, this Easter is the time to start. And not because of the event of a new actor playing the Doctor, but for the return of Steven Moffat – my favourite TV writer of 21 years – to our screens.

Steven Moffat and the best storytelling plot device there is

I myself only started watching Doctor Who for one reason, and that was Moffat (he wrote at least one episode a season since the show was revived in 2005).

It all started with Press Gang in 1989. Press Gang was Moffat‘s first ever writing job. The producer thought the pilot was the best ever first script she had ever read. It was a teen drama/comedy about a bunch of high-schoolers who ran a student newspaper. It also had the neat trick that the Office repeated years later that had a great love story boiling away in the background.

I could go on and on about Press Gang, and the slew of awards it won. But there was one really important point about Press Gang that informs all of Moffat‘s work ever since – it was SMART. Playing around with flashbacks, red herrings and plot twists, it confounded my expectations and got my 9 year old mind whirling – and it’s never stopped.

I bought the DVDs for Press Gang in my twenties, the only kids show I’ve ever bought on DVD. It’s amazing how much of it has stuck in my mind. Long joke pieces, amazing moments – and the characters. My boyhood crush on Lynda Day has led to a life long troubles with smart, bossy, feisty women.

At the time, I didn’t know the man behind the show was Steven Moffat. Turns out he wrote every single word of every single episode.

Moffat fell off my radar until the comedy Coupling (there were a couple of unsuccessful shows that were never shown in Australia). Relationships between men and women, sexual politics and failed encounters – expertly dissected with wit and typically mind bending plot twists (odd for a sit com yet never feels out of place).

It was my perfect show for those crazy early 20s. Again, every episode was written by Moffat. And it was around this time I made the connection between the two shows.

He’s always alluded to his love of Doctor Who and science fiction in his work, but has mainly worked in comedies and dramas set in our time, with largely ordinary people. He did write a Doctor Who sketch for Comic Relief one year, but he became the real thing when he wrote one of the most acclaimed episodes of the new series’ first year – The Empty Child. Then there’s Blink – largely regarded the single greatest episode ever – and there’s about 400 of them.

And now he’s taken over Doctor Who completely, and I’m so excited for him. It’s seeing the dreams come true for someone I’ve known for decades. And I’m so excited to see what he brings. The man never treads water. He’s always trying something new – even his failures fail on ideas, it never drifts into lazy writing.

I’ve learnt a lot from Moffat over the years. Being smart is the big one. Looking at things from every angle. And girls. So much about girls. His deep, deep obsession with sex, love and romance should readdress Russell T Davies‘s campness (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

Moffat wrote other great shows (and has another one, a 21st century take on Sherlock Holmes, out this year, and the screenplay for Spielberg/Jackson’s Tintin movie). Everything is worth exploring, if you’re the TV exploring type.

If not, and you have one hour to spare, I suggest next weekend’s Doctor Who. A great writer will be let loose on prime time. With big crazy ideas for a big audience. It’s going to be something you’ll remember for at least 21 years.