The End of a Piracy Era – Kickass Torrents’ Big Take Down

An incredible story is emerging about the take down of arguably the Internet’s biggest torrent listing site, Kickass  Torrents. On July 19th the site went offline as alleged KAT mastermind Artem Vaulin was arrested in Poland under orders from the United States.

Full coverage of this is happening over at TorrentFreak, but I wanted to chime in on this as piracy is something that I’ve written about over the years.

I am not 100% against piracy, as I have said many times. In my opinion one of the driving factors behind movie piracy is the inflexibility of the movie industry to serve it’s customers. I live in Japan. Sometimes our release window is months (in the case of Oscar-nominated Joaquin Phoenix film ‘Her’ it was more than a year) after domestic North American release dates. This often comes down to local distributors and the fact that movie distribution runs much as it did in the days of sending prints by steamship.

When I raised the question at an industry forum about why we can’t abolish these windows I was told ‘it’s not logistically possible’. To which I replied that the pirates seem to be able to do it for free, so telling me that billion dollar corporations can’t do it seems a bit silly. Some filmmakers agree.

But I’m also a filmmaker (I recently received my MA in Film – yeah me!) and I appreciate that piracy is damaging to the financial outlook of a film, especially an indie film that is already running the risk of losing wide swaths of money. But I still argue that piracy stems from desire to consume. If we offer a better, easier, more instant way of consumers getting product then a large chunk of piracy will disappear.

Yes, there are people who pirate for pirate’s sake. And piracy has become incredibly easy….which is another point to the failings of the entertainment industry. NetFlix understands this: the goal is to make it easier to buy than pirate. People want easy. But people also want fast.

Finally, the fact that companies like Apple and Facebook cooperated in the bringing down of Artem Vaulin is concerning. Apple refused to assist in a case of domestic terrorism, but when it comes to jeopardizing their bottom line of movie and music sales via itunes, they’re all over it! As a shareholder in both Apple and Facebook, I see this as a worrying trend that will erode the public confidence in both of these brands. Vaulin’s ‘crimes’ are most definitely economic in nature, as opposed to violent. He also was a Ukrainian citizen living in Poland. That he was arrested under a US extradition order is also worrying. America seems to have no problem with banks foreclosing the homes of veterans, or indeed Wall Street types walking away with billions of government money. But don’t threaten the profit statement of corporations.

It is another case of imposing a rule without a solution. I don’t support piracy, but, I also think that equal, economic, assess to entertainment should be the goal of these companies, not simply clamping down and doing nothing.

Could Netflix be using logic? End geo restrictions on content

A rather surprising article over on TorrentFreak, reporting on recent comments from Netflix CEO Reed Hastings.

Recently, Hollywood has been asking Netflix to do more in preventing people who are accessing Netflix via VPN from non-approved locations from seeing content. Hastings has a simple answer: remove the geo locking!

Now, clear thinking like this never lasts long in Hollywood, so I’m curious to see how it plays out!

Ancient Vulcan Proverb: Only Netflix could go to China

[Letting my Trekkie colours fly]

Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings has said that ‘Netflix wants to reach 200 countries in the next 2 years’. Considering it is at 50 now that is going to be no mean feat!

Over at Reuters they have an article that delves deeper into the attempt to get into China. China is a huge market (double the number of internet users as America, and the spread is growing), and already watches legitimate online content (29 million views per episode for ‘Sherlock’). But can Netflix overcome the home grown company advantage?

It’s an interesting read. And you should start subtitling your films now.

Can all indie’s learn from the Duplass Brothers?

They quickly became indie darlings, but, it was the Duplass Brothers’ deal with Netflix that really opened the doors for them. Tribeca Films examines the long(ish) term impact of their decision to license early instead of looking for traditional distribution.

For sure the decision has worked out well for the brothers, who recently announced a 4 picture deal with Netflix but can the same come through for others.

What we have learned, or should have learned, by now is that in the indie world their is no model. There are only tiny lifeboats and piling into them only sinks them for those coming after.

The ongoing issue of Netflix and viewer numbers

Over on they look – again – at this issue which is really bugging a lot of filmmakers: Netflix’s refusal to release viewer numbers. From Netflix’s point of view the reason may be simple: they don’t care. They want general subscribers. (Of course they really do care because better shows pull in more subscribers).

It’s an interesting read that will hopefully help filmmakers get further inside the head of Netflix, but, at the end of the day the numbers are not forthcoming.

Netflix vs VPN users – how they don’t really want to crack down

Over at investment site The Motley Fool they have an article about the recent news that Netflix was cracking down on VPN users (i.e. members who access the service from outside of their subscription zone). This whole issue is a double edged sword for Netflix. Of course, the terms they have with the content providers specify what regions they can let people watch in. But, the people who are using simple computer trickery to get around this are paying customers – so Netflix is making money.

What to do!

Like Sky Digital satellite service in the UK – that has millions of subscribers outside of the UK in places like Spain and Italy – the best thing to do is to appear to crack down but in reality to turn a blind eye.

The reason is obvious – Netflix makes money from these people. And, I am sure it could be proven, that clamping down on these people doesn’t make them sit at home and stare at a blank TV screen. They turn to piracy.

How many more different use-cases do we need to show that the ‘regionalizing’ system of releasing content doesn’t work and fuels piracy?


An Analysis of Internet Trends for Indie Filmmakers

Over at Marc Schiller has what he calls an ‘evolving document’ where he takes a look at what the internet has to offer – and NOT offer – the independent filmmaker. The article has a great format – each point has a headline and sub-headline that accurately tags his thoughts. You can read deeper on areas of interest to you.

He points out, for example, that blogs like this one – ‘curated’ content – are a thing of the past. This is the story of my life. A day late and a dolla short.

But Schiller covers lots of things in film promotion and gives lots of what to do and not do. Definitely one of the most insightful articles of the year.

Netflix: On Their Way to Global Domination – Australia and NZ next!

A quiet press release announcing Netflix’s readying of their Australian and New Zealand service rollout. With this they become even more of a global player, and they will be a definite force to be reckoned with in film distribution for years to come!


The next step in Netflix domination – Adam Sandler Exclusive

Netflix seems to have actually learned a thing or two from other dominating companies (read: Amazon). With the announcement the other day of the exclusive bagging of Crouching Tiger sequel, they’ve now announced that Adam Sandler will create and star in 4 exclusive films for the platform.