Media Piracy

I don’t believe in stealing. As sometimes indie filmmaker myself I believe people should be paid for their work. Even if their work is infinitely copyable. But I also don’t believe in the current business models of studio and media companies out there. They’re working off of old models and old standards in a new digital age. As a result they often butt heads with technology and progress.

It seems they are trying out in technology and new models by dipping their feet in the water. The whole time complaining every time they get splashed. But what they really need to do is dive in all the way.

We hear stories about studios and organizations that represent studios like the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) going out and suing people and their grandmothers for illegally downloaded content. Essentially making an enemy of who could potentially be their customers.
But often time movies and TV shows are downloaded illegally not because they are free, but instead because they are fast and easy.

The current movie structure looks like this:

Theatrical release ($5-12 a ticket) – 3 to 6 months time in theaters
DVD release – $15-20
Online purchase or rental release – $15-20 – 2 weeks to 2 months after the DVD release.
TV broadcast – years later

Some movies are great to see in the movie theater. Big epic original films that people get excited about people are willing to pay to see on the big screen. For example Avatar, Lord of the Rings, The Matrix
In that example a movie like Avatar made hundreds of millions of dollars off ticket sales because most people, even though they could pirate it, wanted to see it on the big screen in 3D.

But most movies really aren’t worth a theatrical release these days. This is where the problem begins.
A movie that people don’t feel is worth seeing theatrically has a better chance of being seen on DVD. So rather then send it to the theater and try to milk what little ticket sales they can, it should be released from the start on DVD. There are actually a lot of movies that are released this way. But often those movies don’t have the same ad dollars behind them, so they go unnoticed.

But even DVD sales are problematic. Not everyone wants to “own” a movie. Especially if they’ve never seen it. Really all they want to do is just watch it. This is why netflix is so popular. The problem with netflix is that studios were losing sales on DVD’s as a result of netflix so they decided to withhold netflix from renting newly released DVD’s until 2 week to a month after the DVD goes on sale.

If you want to download the movie, you have to wait even longer, pay nearly what you would pay for a physical copy and be limited with how you can watch it based on the copy protection put into the file. For example movies bought from the itunes store can only be played on the computer or on Apple ipods and iphone devices. Limited.

If someone is going to have to wait months to see a movie after everyone who buys a dvd and still pay dvd prices and be limited with how they can watch it, it really is no surprise the piracy movement is still in full swing.

There are three things these companies need to do.

1. Release the movie online first and make sure it’s available everywhere quickly. (the only exception being if they feel they have a movie that will just make a killing at the box office)

2. Outfit that movie with a copy protection that is flexible enough to encompass all types of devices. Copy protection should not be part of a purchased film.

3. Price that movie as both a rental and a purchase that is fair and marketable. $4-5 to rent a movie is too much. $1-2 for a night is much more acceptable. $10-15 for purchase is also acceptable for high definition content.

If a movie is released online at a reasonable price right away, people will use that and piracy will probably go down. But when people have to wait and pay more for something that is locked down, they are less likely to do it.

As for TV shows, the model should be similar. The problem with TV shows is that for some reason they want to force us to tune into a specific channel at a specific time to watch something. We all have busy lives today. If you miss that show what are you going to do? The fastest thing you can do is download it illegally the next day.

They are getting better about TV shows. Often times you can buy an episode in the itunes store a day or two after it has aired on TV for $2-3. But you’re still waiting, you’re still locked down to certain devices for viewing and you’re paying for something everyone else got to watch for free. That can get expensive over the course of a season. Especially if there are a lot of shows you enjoy. There is also the problem of availability. Not all shows are released for online purchase.

The best model for TV shows, even perhaps movies, in my opinion is Hulu. Under the Hulu model TV shows can be watched when you want to watch them, free of charge. You just have to deal with commercials, same as you would on many channels. Personally I’m fine with commercials myself. If I don’t have to pay for it and I can watch what I want when I want, great. I’m sold. But once again, you have to wait till after a show has aired before it appears on Hulu and not all shows are released this way.

I don’t understand why they continue to try to shoehorn us into this certain day/certain time model for TV shows. All TV shows should be released on demand and online first. There also doesn’t need to be a waiting period of a week between episodes. There is no point to this waiting.

I guess in the end what I’m saying is that instead of suing people left and right, these companies really need to change their distribution model to fit the times.

This entry was posted in General.

0 thoughts on “Media Piracy

  1. I suppose this makes sense, but I think that such companies would first lose a lot of money by doing this before gaining any… So that’s probably why they would never want to do anything like this, because of money.

  2. What about if the government levies a tax on the purchase of all blank media storage devices, and gives that tax to the major producers of media? Then, in exchange, the government doesn’t have to outlaw downloading, which citizens are basically paying for anyway.

  3. @NikBv – The problem with that is that you’re paying even if you aren’t downloading media, which in turns gives more people incentive to download more, illegally. It also makes the government in middle man in the affairs of private business, collecting the money and then redistributing it. How is the government going to get paid for this service? Tax dollars to support people stealing? It will never fly. 

    The TV model has worked for decades. I think that’s the best model to transfer to the internet. Show on demand with embedded commercials.

  4. @roxics – I guess so, but keep in mind that over 25 countries (all of Europe except Luxembourg, as well as Canada and Australia, as far as I know) have already instituted blank media levies. Although they’re not necessarily intended as compensation for pirated media, they’re generally taken that way by a lot of people, and though they have some problems, I don’t think that the government’s time spent redistributing the monies is a huge concern.

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