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.

Assault on a new front – Periscope. Platform for pirates?

I am just hearing about Periscope – the live video sharing app from the guys at Twitter. And moments after hearing about it, the next thing I hear is how if can be used for peer to peer video sharing… including of copyrighted material.

This article over at LinkedIn gets into some of the details and is a good starting point for the discussion.

The Hollywood release model fuels piracy

Over at TorrentFreak they – once again – point the Hollywood’s antiquated release model as a primary cause of piracy.

The MPAA came out and said that there were lots of legal sources for digital content. True… but not CURRENT digital content.

TF has the numbers and details. Great read, but it will not change the patterns of Hollywood. Sadly.

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?

 

What we can learn from the piracy of ‘The Interview’

With all the hullabaloo about ‘The Interview’ it is no surprise that people wanted to see it. But, it is only legally available in the US and Canada.

So, when TorrentFreak writes about the stats of who is pirating it I think we can see that a new global distribution method needs to be in place. When I raised these issues at this year’s Raindance Film Festival several studio people said it was impossible to release a movie at the same time all over the world because of subtitling and windowing and etc etc. I replied – you know how manages to do it? Pirates. The excuse that it is too difficult doesn’t fly – and it certainly doesn’t fly for the public.

When will studios understand that the ‘regioning’ system of breaking the world up into chunks just doesn’t work anymore. Piracy is about access. Not about criminality.

The Piracy Problem – how the entertainment industry has learned nothing

Good article from TorrentFreak pointing out the obviously – shutting down (perhaps permanently, perhaps not) The Pirate Bay does little except inspire pirates who had become complacent by TPB’s ubiquitousness, to develop new schemes of sharing. This legal action will – already has, in fact – fuel new technologies. Which is kind of cool, even if done for the ‘wrong’ reason.

They also have a great title for the article.

And read the comments – like why this proves the world will never become like Star Trek.

Because suing people always stops piracy. Not.

There is something unusual in this story from Philippines new source Inquirer.net.

The story is about the Philippines-based TV company ABS-CBN and a lawsuit to stop piracy. That, in itself, sadly, is not so unusual. The same network “successfully”  sued someone earlier this year, winning a $10 million reward.

The strange thing, for me, is that these lawsuits are being filed in America, and are often against Americans. This despite the fact that the situation that drove this latest lawsuit was a raid in Australia.

First – really, are there so many people in the world who want to watch Filipino TV?! And second, do Americans, or many other people for that matter, have legitimate access to Filipino TV shows?

At the heart of this, of course, is money. ABS-CBN claims that the dozen or so website who were doing this piracy were depriving them of income, or, misusing copyrighted materials. Why does ABS-CBN not set up a site of their own where people can download the shows for free? Because either a) they don’t have the rights to do so (which points to a glaring lag in their contracts given the 21st century media distribution conditions) or, they want to charge more money.

So, the money the pirates are making is not enough for the network, but its enough for the pirates.

This is a kind of idiocy, or at best, lunacy.

Maybe (?!) I am an naive idealist, but, all this lawsuit could possibly do is this:

  • shut down some websites
  • cause the content to move to other websites
  • at best inconvenience people by removing their tv shows for a little while

Even if they did stem the tide of those shows they are in fact cutting their own noses off – once people have turned away from a tv show they won’t go back (ask someone who used to watch soap operas and then stopped or changed). These companies seem to think that viewers are loyal (which they are not except in very rare cases) and even worse, are loyal to a production company!

These people will either find other Filipino TV shows or just watch other shows.

Recently a popular website that offered pirated Japanese TV has shut down its service. The majority of its users were from Japan. They used the service not because of the money (most of the shows you can get for free on broadcast TV) but because there was no easy way to download shows to watch on laptops or mobile devices!

Will this drive the TV Networks to offer such a service? No. They have ‘won’ against this pirate and consider it job done.

Companies will never learn.

We need a new distribution model.

Rant over.

We now resume normal programming (ha ha!).

And here’s the article.

Nollywood – 50 movies a week, 1 million workers, $590mn a year

It’s not every day on a movie website you get to link to a story from the UN, but over at UN.org they have  an indepth-ish look at Nollywood, the booming Nigerian film industry (and yes, I know the article is from last year, but it’s new to me).

The numbers are staggering, especially given the country of their source. Nigeria has a national unemployment rate of 50%, yet Nollywood has over 1 million people working in it. Staggering. And they are churning lots of cash.

This is very interesting to the independent or low budget filmmakers of the world. Nollywood films typically shoot for between $25,000 and $75,000. With high DVD sales (at least 20,000 units per film), they seem to have a winning formula.

Read on…

Horse & Buggy companies, er, Hollywood looking to litigate the world

Brutal truth: Times change.

But, I do not think that human morality has fundamentally shifted. I do not think that people – in the case of this article, Australians – have all decided to break laws. People pirate content for other reasons, like because access to the content is so incredibly difficult and expensive.

So, in an unverified leaked memo the powers in Hollywood have their sights set on Australia – supposedly the place with the highest per capita pirates. And Hollywood is looking to fire a barrage of lawyers at the problem.

We know this won’t work. Firstly, because the hard core center of the piracy movement will change technologies and the litigation won’t work.

The smart money would be a TWO-PRONGED approach – litigation in the face of a better, cheaper, simpler system for regular people.

My mother does not want to learn how to use BitTorrent…she just wants to watch TV shows, in her living room in Canada, that are at the moment only available in the UK. This to me seems so basic. Removing territory locks would be a huge step towards ending piracy. And lowering the outrageous cost of a ‘digital copy’ that the small print says you don’t own anyway.

Ok ok… enough of me. Here’s the article.

A different kind of Ice Bucket Challenge – the cold waters of Hollywood

Over on ‘The Pirate Times‘ (a site dedicated to uniting the various pirate factions – not ‘ar, me mateys’ pirates like in Somalia, but the other kind, like they have in Sweden) they have 2 very bold articles from Director Lexi Alexander (who herself has a great blog).

Lexi, I have to opine, is a complete and utter maverick. To have the balls to write these articles is so commendable it makes me want to leave the business in shame. Oh yes, and leave the industry because of the complete industry-BS she talks about.

It has long been known that hollywood is an kind of old boys club, in fairness like many industries, where the people on the inside are either a) so in love with what they do or b) so scared they could be replaced that they try hard to keep the unwashed masses at bay.

part 2 can be found here: