Saturday, February 25, 2012

Hollywood still doesn't get it

The Dutch Anti-Piracy organization "Brein" has decided to sue ISP's UPC, KPN, T-Mobile and Tele2 after their recent victory in court. I really don't understand why. First of all, blocking a handful of IP addresses hasn't had any effect at all.

But most of all, if you really want to fight piracy you got to have support from the public. And that support is crumbling with each and every effort to enforce compliance to that 10 minutes of pesky messages you get when you insert a "legal" DVD. Yeah, you name them all: SOPA, PIPA, ACTA or whatever they may be called. Crowds are cheering on the streets and can't wait to have them ratified.

Metallica, once one of the most fierce fighters of piracy, has seen the sign on the wall and radically changed its position. These guys are not stupid. They know their stand on piracy affected their popularity, so they took the only decision they could take.

I've never been a downloader. I simply don't like the hassle that comes with it. But I have friends who are. One of them is a gray haired hippie, who also happens to be a record collector. Consequently, a burned CD has little value to him. But he is also a great fan of vintage science fiction movies. You hardly find those movies in the local stores and when you do the prices are outrageous. So every now and then he ordered one at Amazon. When you add all the additional costs they're not quite cheap either.

So when he wanted "to go on the Internet" in the early 2000's I told him to buy a Mac and get XS4ALL. A whole new world opened up to him. One night when we were having an beer and he told me how hard it was to get a decent copy of "Jason and the Argonauts" for a reasonable price. So I introduced him to the world of torrents, clearly stating that although downloading wasn't illegal in the Netherlands, it wasn't quite legal as well.

"Unlawful" isn't black and white down here, but has quite a few shades of gray. E.g. contrary to popular belief marijuana isn't legal here, it's just not.. completely illegal. It's - as we Dutch say - "condoned", which means you aren't prosecuted.

We quickly found a viable torrent and started downloading. It trickled down at about 10 kB/s, but he wasn't in a hurry. And a day or so later it was there. The weeks that followed he went into a kind of download frenzy, but then it settled down. I mean, they don't make movies like that anymore and the more recent ones you can get in the shop.

We met on the street a few weeks ago and we quickly landed on the subject of the recent Ziggo/XS4ALL verdict. He was furious. "Who are they to tell me where I can or cannot surf?!" he said. I told him he still could. I told him to take a look at my blog and simply follow the links.

That evening he phoned me to say everything worked fine and he was currently downloading "Captain America, the first avenger". "I'm gonna boycott them!" he said "I spend about 20 Euros a week on DVD's and if this is how they're treating me, they're gonna lose a customer! That thing is in the store for about 15 Euros - that's too expensive for my taste, but I'm gonna watch it tonight! You won't believe the download speed I'm getting, about 500 kB/s!! It's even got Dutch subtitles!"

I wasn't surprised. Everyone knows that the more popular a title is, the more seeders and leechers are offering it, which really helps to speed up the download. He had already downloaded "The Thing 2", "The Green Lantern" and I'm sure more were coming. So that is in effect what Mr. Kuik, spokesman of "BREIN", achieved. And he's making himself more popular by the minute.

The point is that the entertainment industry seems to be unable to listen to their best customers. They want the world to play by their rules, but every enterpreneur knows that's a very bad business model. Studies prove that the entertainment industry can survive and even make money, but they simply have to start to use their brains ("BREIN" means "BRAIN" in Dutch).

One of these pioneers is "Iron Sky", that partly uses "crowd funding" to raise money. And they will offer the movie for download once it has been in the theatres. Now that's creative thinking. I won't say it will work, but at least they're trying. Most importantly, they have the support of the community.

In contrast, the music industry have tried to tie down their customers with DRM. Needless to say they failed miserably - as I predicted - and nowadays it is very hard to find a CD or download with DRM. It simply doesn't work that way, despite state-of-the-art technology and elaborate schemes to "hide" the disadvantages from DRM to the public.

Now they're relying again on technology to fight piracy, but this time the technology is not in their hands, so it is even easier to find a way around it. Technology has always been a double edged sword for Hollywood. The introduction of the TV almost brought it to its knees, CGI on the other hand, produced some of its most famous blockbusters.

However, it has to realize that the Internet is nothing more than the 21st century equivalent of the TV. It can't be controlled and you can't legislate it away. Hollywood will have to change its game. Mikhail Gorbachev once said "Those who come too late will be punished by life itself".

Hollywood may not realize it, but the Internet is not the last challenge it has to face. In 15, 20 years, may be sooner, every kid with a computer will be able to create his own Hollywood grade movies. There will be digitilized Marilyn Monroes, James Deans, Humphrey Bogarts, landscapes from all over the world, cars from every era. Of course, most of these movies will be very, very bad. But some of them will be great. Most important of all: they will be free. And when they're not ready for the Internet, they aren't prepared for that.

With the turn of the millennium I expected "20th Century Fox" to change its name. It didn't. Now I understand why.


Anonymous said...

you just read my mind.

Anonymous said...

I had trouble with the first para until I realised that you meant the Dutch ANTI-piracy organisation

The Beez' said...

I fixed it folks, thanks!