Why piracy is still the most attractive option available to consumers (…in most cases…)

Why piracy is still the most attractive option, even for those who actively WANT and are HAPPY to pay for the content on offer. In each scenario, I give the honest, law-abiding version, and the ‘dishonest/ illegal’ version. See which you find more appealing:

CINEMA

You pay to go to the cinema.

PROS: You get to see the film on the day of it’s release in the country of release. The film is (hopefully) good visual quality and on the big screen. If you have a rare, attentive and quiet audience, it’s enjoyable to share the ‘big screen experience’ with other people.

CONS: You have to pay. You are bombarded with anti-piracy adverts, ordinary adverts and trailers for films you may or may not want to see – some of which, if you pay to go to the cinema regularly, you will have already seen several times before. You face extraordinary prices for mundane things, and I’m talking a mark up of often several 100% over normal street prices. You are usually faced with an annoying, talking, rustling, popcorn munching audience with whom there is nothing enjoyable about sharing the ‘big screen experience’. The film may be already released over seas whilst it is still unwatchable in your country so you could be waiting an agonising amount of time whilst others are already reviewing, blogging and posting spoilers about it elsewhere in the world.

You pirate the movie.

PROS: It’s free. No ads of any kind, watch it when you want, share it with whoever you like, watch it on any device, usually a smallish digital file size, watch it as soon as it’s pirated – no ocean divides #nooceans, watch it with whoever you want with food that you’ve purchased yourself at reasonable prices, in a sociable environment if you so choose…

CONS: A smaller screen. Potentially fractionally lower quality, both audio and video – if you download a ‘cam’ then you’re looking at substantially lower quality, although why anyone would debase film like that in this day and age is a mystery to me…

BLU-RAY and DVD

You buy a DVD or Blu ray disc.

PROS: The best quality available. You can watch it at your leisure. It’s neatly boxed and packaged. You can lend the disc to a friend and they can watch it.

CONS: You have to pay. You are forcibly bombarded with anti-piracy adverts. These screens are nine times out of ten unskippable and frustratingly delay your viewing. Occasionally you have to put up with ordinary adverts too, despite having paid. You have to wait until the film is released on DVD/ Blu-ray, usually several weeks or months after it has been released in cinemas. As with cinema releases, discs are released at different times around the world, so others can be buying the film abroad whilst you’re still waiting. Studios release and re-release and re-re-release discs again and again in the hope of sponging more money from you. You might think you have the ‘Uncut’ version, but what about the ‘Directors Cut’ and the ‘Collectors Edition’ and the ‘Super Directors Uncut Collectors Edition’? A prime example of this was the Lord of the Rings Extended Edition blu-rays which were calculatedly released months after the theatrical version blu-rays. It’s not usually equipped with a digital copy, so you can only watch it with the right auxilliary hardware (ie. a blu ray/ dvd player).

You pirate the movie.

PROS: As before… It’s free. No ads of any kind, watch it when you want, share it with whoever you like, watch it on any device, usually a smallish digital file size, watch it as soon as it’s pirated – no ocean divides #nooceans

CONS: Potentially substantially lower quality, both audio and video.

BOOKS

You buy an eBook

PROS: Assuming you read it on the device it was purchased for; good quality, legitamate (so customer services to solve any quality issues) You can read it right away as soon as it’s downloaded.

CONS: You have to pay, and often pay exorbitantly given that there are no distribution costs (printing, transport etc.) If you lose the digital copy (considerably easier to do than losing a book) then you may have to buy another. It is incompatible with other e-readers other than the device it was purchased for (eg. Amazon – Kindle, Kobo store – Kobo reader etc.)

You pirate an eBook.

PROS: It is free. It is DRM-free. You can read it on any device (once converted to the appropriate file format). You can share it with whoever you like and redownload it as many times as you like.

CONS: It may need to be converted for your e-reader, athough usually it doesn’t need to. As a result of this, it may have formatting issues. If DRM-free content is detected on your device, some companies can and will remote wipe your device (including books you have legally purchased) – Amazon, I’m looking at you.

What is especially frustrating in the example of books, is that if you own a book, if it is on your shelf at home (ie. after you have paid good, hard earned cash for it), then you can trade it, share it, sell it on, give it away to charity, whatever you like. It’s yours. If you buy the eBook, despite paying the same amount (or in some instances more), you are bound by DRM and obstructed from sharing it, reading it on multiple devices, deleting and redownloading it. You are effectively paying to BORROW a book. That sucks. It shouldn’t even be legal, that’s what libraries are for.

SO HERE’S THE THING

When all of the PROS of honest, legal consumerism far outweigh the CONS, then you can expect a decline in piracy. Right now, in the two industries above (film and books) it seems nobody is making any effort to rectify the unbalance. Whilst that’s the case, why should the consumer go out of their way, to be inconvenienced and charged for an inferior product than they can get elsewhere for free?

You’ll notice that music is not one of the industries listed above. That’s because the music industry has slowly but surely tackled their piracy problem, at least to some degree. How? Through online shopping, streaming, and music on demand services, and through stripping tracks of Digital Rights Management (DRM) ie. DRM-free.

Almost all of the music I own these days is bought and paid for legitamately, through iTunes, or Google Play or Amazon MP3. I have spent more money on music since these online, music on demand services have launched than I ever did at any time in my life before that. Music in the cloud means that I can listen across all of my devices. It means if I lose a song I can redownload it. Most importantly, it means that once I have paid for a tune, it belongs to me. People are willing to pay for content, it just has to be worth paying for.

So here is the message, and hell, how it’s heart felt:

Studios, distributors, publishers Рif you fuck with the consumer, the consumer will fuck you right back. Instead of attacking consumers, labelling them as criminals, trying to frighten and intimidate them through legal tactics and law suits, how about you just offer a fucking service that people are happy to pay for?

Avatar proves pirates and studios have got it all wrong.

Disappointed by the news reported on the BBC today, that James Cameron’s Avatar was the most pirated movie of 2010 according to TorrentFreak. Ok, Cameron’s gigantic ego, his huge budget productions, and the colossal profit they rake in all indicate that having the biggest pirate downloads is only proportionally fair. But what is saddening, is that it is these, the most visually striking movies, that really need to be seen at the cinema, or at least on blu-ray/ dvd in their highest possible quality.

The Studios Vs. The Pirates

Kick Ass, another high octane action blockbuster that really deserved to be seen in all it’s glory at the cinema, is the second most pirated film this year. Closely followed by Inception, Shutter Island, Iron Man 2 and Clash of the Titans. In fact, of all ten films, I don’t think there’s a single one that is fully enjoyable in low quality, slightly pixelated, downloaded format. I’m slightly baffled that people would be content watching that, and it annoys me that some people evidently are.

I’m not going to suggest that any films are more or less deserving than others of being pirated, but it certainly makes sense that people download a drama, or a comedy. Unfairly perhaps, as that means low budget movies would be most vulnerable to suffering from piracy, their lack of special effects easily watchable with a little less quality. However, the fact that the top ten downloaded movies are all dependent on visual style leaves me a little exasperated.

As a film fan, I find piracy to be a tricky topic to discuss, and certainly a balancing act in practice – is it ok to download a movie if I first watch it legally? Is it wrong to download a movie in order to share it with your friends, when in a manner of speaking that could be advertising and promotion? I’ve downloaded movies in the past, watched them, and then bought them. Equally, I’ve seen a film and thought, wow, I wish that was out on DVD, I want to watch it again right now – to Isohunt I go.

The fact of the matter is, piracy is here to stay for the foreseeable future and both punters and studios need to adjust accordingly. Film goers should act responsibly; never watch a cam for instance, try to buy or gift films you love, get to the cinema and support the industry you rely on for so much enjoyment. Equally, studios should meet the demand for immediate content, provide alternative, legal downloads of new films, offer subscription services (such as NetFlix in the USA) etc. at prices people are a) willing and b) capable of paying.

Number one rule: give the people what they want. (Or they’ll take it anyway).

Piracy and Hollywood – the big picture?

So I was having a think, as is my penchant, and I realised: Hollywood are all “piracy supports terrorism/ piracy is theft”, and they’ve made a film about pretty much everything else so where are all the anti-piracy films? (They could run a clever PR stunt and leak it so it’s put online early and proves their point). It would be great…

Maybe Johnny Depp is in: PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN: THE FBI CRACKDOWN

Or Daniel Day-Lewis stars: “If you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and I have a straw. And my straw reaches acroooooooss the room, and starts to drink your film revenue…”

But joking apart – there’s a film for every criminal, why aren’t pirates gracing our big screens? I’d love to know the inside scoop on aXXo or FXG…

So ‘piracy and hollywood – the big picture’ seems yet to be made!