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/

Wk5: I Want My D2C – how can instant TV work?

ABC's iView - a sign of greater things to come?

I agree with Michelle Griffin in her recent SMH article (link) that suggests Australians are third class citizen when it comes to digital consumption.

Amongst the many great points she makes, she suggests that people download so they don’t have to avoid the internet for months. How could you avoid revelations in Mad Men or Lost? Even airing Lost within two weeks of the US date was too late.

But why did it take so long at all? What are the blockages? What’s being done? And will it work?

Programming a TV station must be hell – I’m not going to pretend it’s easy. People who complain about how Sopranos was on at 2am have a point, but God knows how many parties get their say – contracts, advertisers, ratings etc. What to air?

New shows are a risk, and Australian TV still sometimes waits for it to be a hit in it’s home country before committing money. Network schedules are worked out far in advance, and ratings times fluctuate between countries. Holding back a Lost premiere by a couple of weeks might lead to real boost in advertising money.

But Australian TV is learning. The ABC just announced Doctor Who will be airing within the same week of the UK dates next season. They even managed to show the Christmas episode within 24 hours. Brendan Dahill, network programmer for ABC1, even acknowledged Australia’s advanced downloading as the primary reason for this.

Yet, they call this “fasttrack”. It needs to be the norm!

A more impressive and innovative solution from the ABC came last year, when they put the new episodes of Doctor Who on their online iView service straight away, allowing the slower moving TV audience to get to it a couple of weeks later. A great move. ABC has the rights. iView is not a slave to programming time slots. And there’s no need to worry about advertisers.

We are hitting the point for TV that music hit years ago – people who have gone digital and people who have stayed traditional are exclusive. Those who download and/or watch online are not going to watch it on TV – ever. And if you don’t cater to that audience, you’ve lost them.

TV ratings are like music charts – they don’t represent a large part of the audience. Those who watch, listen and love, but don’t contribute to ratings. But downloading TV shows and movies can still be a pain. Is there a way to bring the two together – an online viewing world?

To do it, the big TV studios will have to break down some old school boundaries. But it’s feasible and imaginable.

BBC’s iPlayer is fantastic. The quality is great. And easy to use. They commission and own most of their material. But it is, of course, geo-blocked but free to UK users.

But what if I could pay?

I would definitely do it. Maybe some people wont, but I would get every TV show just after UK airings. Live streaming of the channels. All the neat social features and recommendations. It’s an awesome program!

Will they lose buckets of money if they do this? Maybe. What they get from subscriptions, they will lose on syndication to overseas channels. There is still big money for regular TV.

But it comes back to my point of two audiences. Would a direct-to-consumer TV portal appeal to much more than the downloaders, the digitally savvy? It will probably eat away a bit – but at least it’s not free.

Another way to look at it is much like Netflix Watch Instantly that breaks international boundaries and is tied to a TV studio. The technology is there – but maybe the big shows have too much money involved to take that risk. But there are other shows.

But there are other shows. Despite what your cable network will tell you, there’s only so many hours and channels. And none of it is on demand.

Sticking with the BBC, I can think of dozens of shows that are great, and not on TV. And they could have it online. Blackadder. State Of Play. More.

I know that cable networks occasionally gets some shows – like Black Books. But again – it’s two audiences. Those who browse channels to see what’s on are different to those who have heard about Black Books and want to watch it now. And for new shows, these savvy people are tastemakers, spreading precious word-of-mouth.

Imagine a HBO player. Access to the latest shows and all the old classics. On US release dates. HD streaming quality. No more waiting for Channel 9 to show something at 2am. How much would you pay a month for that?

Then there’s shows like Bored To Death, or all those awesome HBO telemovies. Chances are these second tier shows will never make a splash overseas. What have HBO got to lose from making them available online.

Then there’s international shows. PPS is a service who does something similar for Cantonese shows – shows that have no hope for a local syndication.

Finally, there are shows made by independent studios or have fallen into a rights abyss.

A bright, varied and full digital TV catalogue online. That’s the dream.

But it might not last. There is one very big hurdle to overcome, and one that is coming up quickly;

What happens when the TV becomes a computer?

iPlayer works on Apple TV, and can be accessed from some gaming consoles. But those are special cases, and special interfaces. Full net access from a TV is still not commonplace. But it’s coming.

Why would you watch the Brady Bunch on Foxtel/Sky, when you can watch Boardwalk Empire on a HBO player that can be accessed from your TV. And why would a TV station buy Boardwalk Empire’s rights?

Maybe there will always be passive viewers who want things programmed for them. But for everyone else, why will there be any need for TV stations at all? Especially all those ones that just pump out marathons of old TV shows.

So, maybe the TV station, previously the only distributor of TV shows, has to die before this can happen. Unless they can adapt.

TV viewers are getting more demanding. The downloading genie is out of the bottle. And one of the reasons we download is because we don’t want to wait, and it’s easier.

But the TV studios can give us what we want – instant availability, watched at our own pace. Wrap up the package with old shows and other bonuses. Direct to consumer – no middle man.

Culture Vultures Forced To Go Pirate – Mary Griffin’s SMH article (http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/culture-vultures-forced-go-pirate-20110107-19ikg.html)

PPS streaming for Cantonese TV shows (http://www.ppstream.com/)

BBC iPlayer (http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer) UK only, really.

ABC iView (http://www.abc.net.au/iview/)

Doctor Who Transmission on ABC news, with Brendan Dahill’s quote (http://www.doctorwhonews.net/2011/01/dwn260111235812-australia-transmission.html)