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Pirate AB
June 30, 2009 3:22 AM   Subscribe

The Pirate Bay will be sold to a Swedish listed software company. The press release states that the intention is to "introduce models which entail that content providers and copyright owners get paid for content that is downloaded via the site". Other stabs at this worked out less than brilliantly. The purchase amount (60MSEK of which half cash/half in stocks) matches the fine a bit too closely, but the founders states that the money are going into a foundation to promote freedom of speech, freedom of information and the openess of the nets. Pirate ideals or gold loot on Booty Island? Stay tuned...
posted by mnsc (233 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by item at 3:31 AM on June 30, 2009


They were in for the money. Colour me surprised.

As for the Swedish voters who voted for the political arm of a criminal for-profit corporation: "Ha-ha!"
posted by Skeptic at 3:32 AM on June 30, 2009


It's not like there aren't already a million alternatives to TPB. I don't really see how they're going to make this work.
posted by dortmunder at 3:35 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


TPB's blog post on the subject makes little sense:

If the new owners will screw around with the site, nobody will keep using it. That's the biggest insurance one can have that the site will be run in the way that we all want to.


Do tell - why exactly is that insurance once the site's sold?
posted by item at 3:37 AM on June 30, 2009


Aaaand the establishment wins, again. Fuckers.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 3:44 AM on June 30, 2009


Mutiny!
posted by Elmore at 3:45 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Henry C. Mabuse, exactly who is the "establishment" winning against?

Self-appointed pirates set to make a mint out of selling their well-promoted brand? (Please note that they are not only selling the TPB website for 60MSEK, but also the so-far unheard of "Peerality" company for 100MSEK, which leaves them a tidy profit even after paying the fine).

Or self-indulgent netizens who believe it is their God-given right to get all the music, films etc. they can stuff into their hard disks without paying the creators a single penny?

The best way to avoid disappointment is not to believe in fairytales.
posted by Skeptic at 3:53 AM on June 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Also, note that, since GGF has a market cap of 140 MSEK, and half the total of 160 MSEK is going to be paid in shares, the "Pirates" are set to become majority shareholders of GGF, besides getting 80 MSEK in cash.
posted by Skeptic at 3:59 AM on June 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Or self-indulgent netizens who believe it is their God-given right to get all the music, films etc. they can stuff into their hard disks without paying the creators a single penny?

I don't know how it could work, but I for one would sure like a model where I can pay many, many pennies.... but only if the music, films etc in question turn out not to suck.

Downloading (not illegal everywhere, Skeptic, though from your tone it must be very illegal in your town) is insurance against the "wow, I want my $9 back for that waste of time."
posted by rokusan at 4:00 AM on June 30, 2009


Oh my. I don't think I'll be able to contain myself. You mean the group that was ran a for-profit site designed to facilitate the theft of copyrighted material was really just in it for the money? But I thought they were sticking it to the establishment who want to control the free distribution of art? There's an inherent logical disconnect when you create a website which has the sole purpose of advocating and advancing piracy (thus denying a the creator/vendor their own profit) and profiting from that.

What part of that isn't unfair? But it's not like it really matters -- the users of the site will move on and this purchase will be useless as they seek out the new flavor of the week. It doesn't much matter, because the only real overarching principle is to fill up on entertainment without a spending a penny. Because that's their right, yes?
posted by cgomez at 4:04 AM on June 30, 2009


Yeah, I think I'll go ahead and pay millions for this website that was recently found by the government to exist for the purpose of committing crimes. I can't see how this could possibly be a bad idea.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:06 AM on June 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


rokusan Pleeaase, how many torrent users go and pay for a legal copy after downloading some content? Don't insult my intelligence.

Also, I would be grateful if you could provide me with a list of jurisdictions where downloads of copyrighted material without the copyright owner's consent is legal. I know there are a few countries where enforcement is lacking, but it is illegal pretty much everywhere (and certainly in Sweden).
posted by Skeptic at 4:12 AM on June 30, 2009


I think I'll go ahead and pay millions for this website that was recently found by the government to exist for the purpose of committing crimes.

The company that is buying have been in the business of saving internet gaming cafés money by allowing them to purchase less licenses than computers and then dynamically reallocate those licenses depending on which machines are currently playing the game. So it's already the gray zone for GGF and there is already rumors of the company being on the verge of bankruptcy. So this is actually not a surprising move.
posted by mnsc at 4:13 AM on June 30, 2009


Because that's their right, yes?

Wait, are you saying it's not your right to fill up on entertainment without spending a penny?

Oh, but I bet it's my right to keep buying the same music over and over again in different formats, isn't it? I love that right.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:31 AM on June 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


> Also, I would be grateful if you could provide me with a list of jurisdictions where downloads of copyrighted material without the copyright owner's consent is legal

I don't know if this still is the case, but in the Netherlands downloading was technically legal, it was the spreading (ie. uploading) which was illegal. This was a few years back though, so the law might have changed since then.
posted by bjrn at 4:36 AM on June 30, 2009


Parlay! I invoke the right of parlay!

Oh, right. More what you'd call guidelines..
posted by elfgirl at 4:45 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Skeptic, you do realize the Pirate Party isn't all about actual software piracy, but attacking ever more ridiculous copyright and privacy laws? There's also the part where piracy has been shown to have a minmal effect on music sales, and if I recall correctly, quite a positive effect for lesser known musicians.

Not that it makes things fine and dandy, piracy is piracy after all. I simply find myself less than pleased with the hardcore anti-piracy advocates when the law states that the punishment for downloading an album results in thousands of dollars in fines, while the actual theft of a physical copy of that same album is a misdemeanor in most jurisdictions with a minimal fine. This is the type of disparity that brings rise to things such as the Pirate Party, not trying to send in representatives to government to say "omg give free musics!!!"
posted by Saydur at 4:46 AM on June 30, 2009 [9 favorites]


Pieces of eight krona! Pieces of eight krona!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:46 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


.

It's not like there aren't already a million alternatives to TPB.

Name 3 that aren't covered with porn ads, false hits and spyware. IMY FRIEND only ever visits PB and Mininova, because all other sources invariably suck. According to my friend.
posted by DU at 4:52 AM on June 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


I would be grateful if you could provide me with a list of jurisdictions where downloads of copyrighted material without the copyright owner's consent is legal
I believe here in Switzerland it's similar to the Netherlands: Downloading is legal, sharing ain't.

Seems a bit of a hot button topic for you Skeptic, hey?
posted by slater at 4:53 AM on June 30, 2009


I hear tell there are other places people can go to illegally download music and stuff.

I don't know how it could work, but I for one would sure like a model where I can pay many, many pennies.... but only if the music, films etc in question turn out not to suck.

I know how it would work. A company would create a system that would make you pay to download music but would then refund your money, no questions asked, if you checked the "Turned out to suck" box. And then 99.999 percent of the users would check that box and the artists would get almost no money.

The only solution to this is for performers to stop depending on sales of recorded music and to treat a recording as a piece of art (but to be freely distributed) and as a commercial for their live work. They just have to assume now that their recordings will be taken and distributed for free and that they will make their money by giving concerts, making other public and private appearances, selling their autograph, selling locks of their hair, selling their used underwear, selling kisses, selling their soul, selling whatever people cannot easily steal from them. To minimize the tedious work of touring, they need to maximize concert profits by auctioning tickets to the highest bidders, even if that means generally not having poor people in the audience and sometimes having only rich people out there. Maybe they need to write jingles for big horrible corporations that would be happy if the "Pepsi Blue" recording became a hit torrent. But they can't count on getting money for a recording directly from the listener. Those days are over forever.
posted by pracowity at 4:53 AM on June 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


(Same story for authors, by the way, now that digital books are really here.)
posted by pracowity at 4:56 AM on June 30, 2009


Also, I would be grateful if you could provide me with a list of jurisdictions where downloads of copyrighted material without the copyright owner's consent is legal. I know there are a few countries where enforcement is lacking, but it is illegal pretty much everywhere (and certainly in Sweden).

"Sharing copyrighted works on peer-to-peer networks is legal in Canada, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday[.]"1 Canadians pay a levy on recordable media - tapes, cds, mp3 players - and in return there is a Private Copying exemption, which does what it says on the tin. Currently it's at best [best for those who argue illegality] unclear on whether downloading is legal in Canada.

1. On Appeal, the court set aside the linked lower court's ruling about the copyrighted works, but dismissed the thrust of the appeal, which was to force ISPs to name a number of file sharers.

Sidenote: Speaking on enforcement being lacking, we have The RCMP's statement to Le Devoir:
On s'attaque principalement aux crimes contre la propriété intellectuelle, qui ont un impact sur la santé et la sécurité des consommateurs [médicaments, appareils électriques, etc.], mais aussi à ceux qui touchent le crime organisé, a poursuivi M. St-Hilaire. Notre assiette est assez pleine avec ça, et malheureusement, le petit, on n'a pas le temps de s'en occuper.»
A rough translation: "We want to focus on IP cases that deal with health and consumer safety [medicine, counterfeit electronics], and organized crime. Our plate is full, and sadly, these small things, we don't have time." I've seen a few other statements by Ontario police, and the RCMP at other times, saying that in effect [and my shoddy memory] it's not serious enough to spend a lot of time on when there are people being directly harmed from other issues.
posted by Lemurrhea at 5:08 AM on June 30, 2009 [7 favorites]


It would be somehow awesome if they were paid in counterfeit currency
posted by mattoxic at 5:18 AM on June 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Lemurrhea, I've researched, and I must agree that, indeed, in a number of countries such as Canada and the Netherlands that charge a "copy tax" on recordable media, downloading is considered to be covered by a Private Copy exemption and is thus legal (as long as you don't reproduce the music in public). Uploading stays illegal, which is a bit of an absurd situation.

And slater, the Pirate Bay/Party is indeed a bit of a hot button issue for me. Of course, I may be biased by the fact that I am a patent attorney (I've disclosed as much in previous discussions here) and point 2 of the Pirate Party's founding principles calls for the complete abolition of the patent system. But mostly I have a bias against hypocrites, and to me there are no bigger hypocrites that those who claim to stick it to "the Man", while simultaneously stuffing their pockets.
posted by Skeptic at 5:29 AM on June 30, 2009


Lemurrhea beat me to Canada (the obvious answer). More info.

Pleeaase, how many torrent users go and pay for a legal copy after downloading some content? Don't insult my intelligence.

I don't survey torrent users. I can speak for myself, though: I have a couple of hundred DVDs, and in almost every case I bought them only after downloading and watching a torrent version first (or seeing the film in a cinema).

But that's a weak model, too. Some sort of payment-for-satisfaction system would be nice, like in service industries. Not happy with result? Don't pay. Again, I don't know if this would work, or how it could be implemented. It would just be nifty.

As for the last bit, I won't try to measure your intelligence. But calling copyright violations "theft" won't help with that Mensa application. You're either falling for lobbyist spin there, or deliberately propagating it.
posted by rokusan at 5:30 AM on June 30, 2009


I hear tell there are other places people can go to illegally download music and stuff.

You reckon? Somewhere, I saw a good summary (paraphrased):

BREAKING: Pirate Bay Sale Marks End of Internet As We Know It.
UPDATE: New Sharing Sites Spring Up Two Hours Later, Internet Resumes as Usual.


I like to think the Internet will respond to too much rights-control the same way it's supposed to respond to attack: route around it and continue.
posted by rokusan at 5:33 AM on June 30, 2009


Pleeaase, how many torrent users go and pay for a legal copy after downloading some content? Don't insult my intelligence.
Well, I'm one. I've got still-shrink-wrapped DVDs of The Wire, Firefly and Battlestar Galactica: watched on torrent when they came out, bought after they eventually bothered to release them in the UK.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 5:35 AM on June 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


The only solution to this is for performers to stop depending on sales of recorded music and to treat a recording as a piece of art (but to be freely distributed) and as a commercial for their live work.

I like that, yes. It's already the case that bands make more from tours than from record sales, I think, and if I hear the complaints of artists correctly its the labels that get most of the actual sales revenue from recordings anyway, so why not make the leap.

I don't know how this could translate to movies, though, I wonder. Free downloads, but only a month or two after a theatrical release, and only at a low resolution? Free streaming, no downloads?

Still sketchy, but one possible nice side effect: that could make cinemas back into luxurious places to go for events, the way live theater/opera/ballet still work. That could be cool.
posted by rokusan at 5:39 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pleeaase, how many torrent users go and pay for a legal copy after downloading some content? Don't insult my intelligence.
I have.

Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam
They Might Be Giants - John Henry
LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver
Arcade Fire - Funeral

...and loads more. Plus, software:

Rayman
Magic: the Gathering Battlegrounds (Yeah, I know.)
MANY Game Boy Advance games.
posted by LSK at 5:39 AM on June 30, 2009


As Mark Stewart/The Pop Group once sung "We are all prostitutes...everyone has their price..." Remember when 'Napster' caved and went too legit to quit? Got less cool than a Happy Meal PDQ.

The Pirate Bay people sold out rather cheaply and quickly though, which is disappointing. Seems so cynical and hypocritical its like the whole thing was some kind of ironic art installation...
posted by The Salaryman at 5:40 AM on June 30, 2009


Yes, I've also done as Theophile with TV.

I'm certainly not going to buy a boxed set DVD of something for $40 before I've seen any episodes: that's an insane barrier to entry.

So I download a few and watch episodes, usually on recommendations from others (often on MetaFilter, in fact). If they suck, they're trashed. But if they rock, then I'm off to get the whole collection on disc.... assuming it's even available.
posted by rokusan at 5:41 AM on June 30, 2009


I've purchased downloaded items later.

I've downloaded items that are not available for purchase.

I've downloaded items that were on public TV in the first place, so presumably I've already paid for them.

I've downloaded items I've already purchased, because it's easier than burning + tagging + etc.

I'd be interested in the RIAASkeptic's position on libraries.
posted by DU at 5:41 AM on June 30, 2009 [14 favorites]


A company would create a system that would make you pay to download music but would then refund your money, no questions asked, if you checked the "Turned out to suck" box

The iPhone App Store is very close to that now. I don't have data, but I don't think many people ask for refunds.
posted by rokusan at 5:43 AM on June 30, 2009


I'd be interested in the RIAA/Skeptic's position on libraries.

Institutionalized theft. All of those authors should be paid for each time a book is read.

Oh wait, they're not filmmakers or musicians. They're writers.

Nobody cares.
posted by rokusan at 5:44 AM on June 30, 2009 [13 favorites]


Anybody understand why they lost their appeal? Because every news article about it sounded like there was a good deal of evidence that the judge was biased.
posted by graventy at 5:44 AM on June 30, 2009


You know, if they actually put like 30M SEK into a foundation advocating for piracy rights, well that's hardly selling out, especially if they refuse to pay the industry anything.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:51 AM on June 30, 2009


Oh sure, we can all talk the talk, but how many of us here can walk like a Pirate Bay?
posted by Elmore at 5:55 AM on June 30, 2009


DU, rokusan, after insulting my intelligence, now you are insulting me personally by pretending I am "on the RIAA line". I'm no fan of the entertainment industry, whether it's the RIAA, MPIAA or others. I don't like the way how lawmakers have pandered to these associations by expanding copyright way beyond what seems fair or reasonable to me. I don't like how they've been allowed to get away anti-consumer outrages such as region-restricted DVDs.

This said, I don't believe two wrongs make a right, and at least the entertainment industry has never pretended to be in it for anything else than the money. (Or at least, they've never pretended it very convincingly). I also believe that, beyond the fairness of compensating creators, without such compensation creation is going to suffer. To all of you who have purchased DVD boxes and music after "sampling" it from torrents: kudos to you, but I'm familiar enough with p2p users to know that that just isn't how it generally works.

Also, that mention of libraries? Completely uncalled for: as it happens, I have a number of distinguished librarians in my family, and I know well enough how minutely they have to follow copyright law as to what they are and aren't allowed to do. (Just as well, since there is also a number of authors in my family, and even some significant overlap between both groups).

BTW, libraries also stock electronic media these days, so, if you really want to "sample" copyrighted works before buying, maybe you should go to your local library, rather than to TPB. You'd also be supporting something more worthwhile than a bunch of greedy pirates.
posted by Skeptic at 6:06 AM on June 30, 2009


Oh hey, on the downloading / paying for. I generally don't worry too much about music, because of the whole private copying Canada stuff. But nonetheless, all of the bands I've seen in concert I had downloaded prior. Cloud Cult1, I downloaded what was out at the time, and have bought their latest two albums. Etc etc.

Television, it depends. I'm ok with downloading shows when I have cable paid for, because then it's just format-shifting and I feel ethically covered. The only exception to that has been Dr. Who, for which I downloaded the revised series, and have since committed to (someday) owning the entire series on dvd. Which will be many hundreds of dollars, so it'll take a while. But in essence, downloading is a trial-version for me.

1. I bought Cloud Cult's latest album from their website, and they give you a download of it so as to enjoy it immediately, and the cd to have and to hold and to love. It's still shrink-wrapped, I just don't need physical cds. Actually, if anybody who hasn't heard much of their music (Indie-rock in the wide definition of indie) wants a free album, I will mail it to you. Drop me a line.
posted by Lemurrhea at 6:07 AM on June 30, 2009


Aaaand the establishment wins, again. Fuckers.

Your revolution is over, Mr. Lebowski! Condolences. The bums lost. My advice is to do what your parents did--get a job, sir! The bums will always lose! Do you hear me, Lebowski?
posted by octobersurprise at 6:09 AM on June 30, 2009 [13 favorites]


Oh wait, they're not filmmakers or musicians. They're writers.

Nobody cares.


Most public libraries offer movies and music for loan. My university library had an entire area that was nothing but monitors, where you could reserve a movie in their collection and go and watch it.

Pretty sure libraries don't operate like they do out of some Marxist vendetta against writers.
posted by elfgirl at 6:12 AM on June 30, 2009


The Pirate Bay Will Close Its Tracker and Remove Torrents

(not really)
posted by channel-1- at 6:14 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


By the way, public libraries came into existence as a way to provide access to printed media to people at a time when buying books was prohibitively expensive for the majority of the population. They were the original "try before you buy" media solution.
posted by elfgirl at 6:22 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


If there's no profit incentive for artists to record albums, will the albums be any good? Communism didn't seem to work too well in that regard.

And I don't buy the idea that albums should only be treated as advertisements for the live shows -- if the Beatles and Brian Wilson, for instance, were forced to continue touring to make money instead of choosing to focus on the hallowed art form of recording, where would Sgt. Pepper and Pet Sounds be today?

There's definitely something worrisome about listeners' feelings of increasing entitlement to music. Maybe the radio and television have given it away for free for too long. Music is everywhere, sometimes you can't even get away from it when you're holding the gas pump... no surprise it's been devalued. Question is, will the quality begin to suffer as artists are less motivated? Or, has it already?
posted by scrowdid at 6:24 AM on June 30, 2009


Uploading stays illegal, which is a bit of an absurd situation.

Not any more absurd than when police go after those who stole goods rather than those they were sold to.
posted by furtive at 6:29 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


By the way, public libraries came into existence as a way to provide access to printed media to people at a time when buying books was prohibitively expensive for the majority of the population. They were the original "try before you buy" media solution.

Yes'm truly. And now the Internet has almost replaced libraries*... in this way and others. It is now the "try before you buy" solution of choice and has many advantages over physical libraries.

So far the "trying" part works great. Now how to encourage people to "buy" without taking away the "try"?

(* Not saying that's a good thing. I'm a bound-paper junkie myself.)
posted by rokusan at 6:31 AM on June 30, 2009


DU, rokusan, after insulting my intelligence, now you are insulting me personally.

Whoop. Now you're being insecure about two things. :)

ou were wrong about downloading being illegal everywhere, and were quickly corrected by a few posters. And then you were wrong about people not buying things after they download, them, as many others jumped in to point out.

No need to be all offended. We're not saying you're stupid; we're just saying you're wrong.
posted by rokusan at 6:33 AM on June 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Pretty sure libraries don't operate like they do out of some Marxist vendetta against writers.

I was being flip. But it's a neat thought experiment to imagine an RIAA-style group representing writers.

"You may not read that!"
posted by rokusan at 6:34 AM on June 30, 2009


And now the Internet has almost replaced libraries

It really hasn't. The only traditional library function that the internet has replaced for me is the reference desk.

I'm not saying physical, paper-based libraries can't or won't be replaced by electronic versions. Just that it hasn't happened yet.
posted by DU at 6:45 AM on June 30, 2009


now you are insulting me personally by pretending I am "on the RIAA line"

So you are saying that the work they pay $$$ to corporate lawyers and astroturfers to do you are willing to do for free? Kind-hearted of you to treat the poor, downtrodden RIAA/MPAA so well.

Also, that mention of libraries? Completely uncalled for: as it happens, I have a number of distinguished librarians in my family, and I know well enough how minutely they have to follow copyright law as to what they are and aren't allowed to do.

Red herring. The relevancy of libraries is not that they pay for their copies. The relevancy of libraries is that patrons share copies.
posted by DU at 6:50 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


rokusan ou [sic] were wrong about downloading being illegal everywhere, and were quickly corrected by a few posters.

I admitted I was wrong on that account. I am not offended about that.

And then you were wrong about people not buying things after they download

Excuse me, but there I certainly wasn't wrong. If a majority of people bought after downloading, you can be certain that the RIAA, MPIAA and others wouldn't have their knickers in a twist. If you pretend that a majority, or even a significant minority of torrent users buy copies after downloading, then you are insulting my intelligence.

I am not saying that you are stupid. I am just saying that you are dishonest.
posted by Skeptic at 6:51 AM on June 30, 2009


If there's no profit incentive for artists to record albums, will the albums be any good?

It will probably be less incentives to produce "good" albums, i.e. music that has been algorithmically smoothed over to attract as broad following as possible (be profitable). Weird music geniuses will continue to work part time in order to realize their vision of brilliant music that perhaps demands an open mind to appreciate. Getting a small following and nothing in return as always. So I guess it depends on whether you believe that the "suffering musician" is the one who produces the genuinely good music.
posted by mnsc at 6:56 AM on June 30, 2009


DU So you are saying that the work they pay $$$ to corporate lawyers and astroturfers to do you are willing to do for free? Kind-hearted of you to treat the poor, downtrodden RIAA/MPAA so well.

Well, considering the effort you are putting in defending the "poor, downtrodden" Pirate Bayers who've just made off with 160 MSEK in shares and cash, and who haven't shown any shortage in corporate lawyers, shills and astroturfers either, that seems also surprisingly kind-hearted (if rather misguided) on your part. Unless you get your cut of the racket.

As for the libraries/torrents parallel, libraries not only have to pay for their content. They also have quite strict rules about how to manage it.
posted by Skeptic at 7:00 AM on June 30, 2009


If you pretend that a majority, or even a significant minority of torrent users buy copies after downloading, then you are insulting my intelligence.

Your intelligence sure gets insulted a lot.

Have you considered that your intelligence might be a bit delicate for the internet?
posted by rokusan at 7:06 AM on June 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Re: try before you buy

Lessee...iTunes and Amazon offer 30 second previews. Radio is still around, but of course with things like Pandora and Last.fm you can even get personalized stations for hearing new music you might like. You can borrow music from a friend. Not sure if most libraries stock CDs or not, though my university's library did.

For movies there are trailers, long previews on iTunes and Amazon, and free movies on over-the-air TV, at least from time to time. You can borrow DVDs from a friend or rent them from many libraries. Do libraries do ILL for DVDs? If so, you can try just about anything under the sun.

Those are all free. For a not-terrible price, Netflix and Blockbuster will let you try movies, particularly the watch instantly stuff. Similarly you can use one of the subscription music services to try a ton of music for one month and make a list of worthwhile stuff to buy later. Repeat once or twice a year, which is about as often as necessary since most bands don't release new stuff all that often.

And of course there are always music and movie reviews. Find a group of reviewers you like and trust and use them or trust the wisdom of the crowds at places like Rotten Tomatoes.

If you just have to have the latest music and movies but still want to try before you buy, well, tough luck. Not being able to try before you buy is sort of the price you pay for having first crack at new material.
posted by jedicus at 7:07 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


If there's no profit incentive for artists to record albums, will the albums be any good?

That argument didn't make internal sense.

(1) If recordings are free commercials to sell concerts, why make good recordings? Well, to sell more concerts, obviously.

(2) I really don't think the effort that went into Sgt Pepper or Pet Sounds was motivated primarily by the desire to make money.
posted by rokusan at 7:08 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's important to remember that libraries are not about books so much as access to information. It's just that, traditionally, the easiest way to access said information was through a book. Format doesn't matter so much - I running a Kindle pilot at my library - the waiting list is currently 18 people long for Kindle 2s. We hope to get some DXes once the budget year rolls over tomorrow.

I think it would have been great for libraries to step up and start torrenting files the same way they loan books, but the reality of the situation is that they would have been a smoking crater where the library once was should they have tried it. I tried to get a pilot program going where students could bring in their own CDs and we'd rip'em and save them on a server for others to borrow, but again, the threat of legal airstrikes made that a bit too dicey to attempt.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:09 AM on June 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


If a majority of people bought after downloading, you can be certain that the RIAA, MPIAA and others wouldn't have their knickers in a twist.

I'm thinking this is wrong. Such a situation would render the RIAA/MPIAA/etc. even more useless than they are currently, which would definitely put their knickers in a twist, even though one could certainly argue that it would be better for artists and maybe even labels if this were the case.
posted by rollbiz at 7:10 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


if the Beatles and Brian Wilson, for instance, were forced to continue touring to make money instead of choosing to focus on the hallowed art form of recording, where would Sgt. Pepper and Pet Sounds be today?

Artists will make art and they will find ways to make money. If they spend lots of money recording a great album and then have to tour to make back the money, that's what they will do, and the new album will be (as it is now) the advertising for the new tour.

But they wouldn't have to spend lots of money or get a contract to do it. Sgt. Pepper and Pet Sounds could be recorded in someone's home with (crazy guess -- someone else can provide actual numbers) a few hundred dollars worth of home equipment these days, the master recordings could be stored on an mp3 player, and the resulting recordings could be distributed almost instantly worldwide for pretty much nothing.
posted by pracowity at 7:13 AM on June 30, 2009


Excuse me, but there I certainly wasn't wrong. If a majority of people bought after downloading, you can be certain that the RIAA, MPIAA and others wouldn't have their knickers in a twist.

If you take the actions of industry copyright enforcement groups as a sign of actual problems with consumer behavior, then you could make similar arguments that nobody who owned a VCR paid for movies or that nobody who owned a dual cassette tape stereo paid for music. The industry will always throw massive amounts of money to restrict consumer rights and prohibit better and more open technology, because the status quo will always be more attractive than an uncertain future.

If you pretend that a majority, or even a significant minority of torrent users buy copies after downloading, then you are insulting my intelligence.

First of all, there aren't any hard numbers on this so I don't think it's really fair to dismiss anyone's honest anecdotal experience on the matter as an insult to your intelligence. I agree that it is very unlikely that a significant minority of torrent users buy copies of everything they download. I would say for every 100 downloads only around 1 or less of those downloaders actually pay for it. I don't think that the other 99 downloaders are complete free-loaders, most of them probably spend as much if not more money on media when compared to anyone else.

Back when I was a shareware author I used to get around the same sorts of numbers. The vast majority of people either didn't like the apps enough to buy them, got what they needed from the trial version, or found a crack on the Internet. Sure, I could have charged people up-front without giving them a chance to try out the apps, and I could have been more aggressive at stopping people from using cracks to bypass my protection schemes. But that would have been pointless, because getting a free version out there helped me reach more potential users, and I knew that if I put a quality product out there people would pay for it if they had the money.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:22 AM on June 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


I guess, once again, that it comes down to where the money goes. Into the pockets of the operators or into this fund they speak of. If predominantly the latter then I don't see the problem really. I quite like the idea of decentralising filesharing more than it is now, if it works then good for them.

To address Skeptic slightly, there have been a number of studies suggesting that illegal filesharing is only damaging to certain 'business models', and not damaging to incentives to create music. Since filesharing got popular, the number of albums sold has decreased, but the number created/published has soared.

Copyright doesn't exist to enrich media publishing houses, sadly though that's what it has been doing.

One last thing, there seemed some confusion further up the thread about the links between the Pirate Bay and the Pirate Party. They are quite separate, though their are similarities in their 'ideologies'. So to speak of "The Pirate Bay/Party" is problematic.
posted by knapah at 7:23 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Artists will make art and they will find ways to make money. If they spend lots of money recording a great album and then have to tour to make back the money, that's what they will do, and the new album will be (as it is now) the advertising for the new tour.

It's true that live performances could conceivably make a good revenue stream for some musical acts. But what about television, movies, and books? Those are becoming more and more pirated as bandwidth, hard drives, and display devices improve, but there's no real equivalent to a touring act there. Switching to theater and charging for author readings are not viable options.

Furthermore, you claim that it is possible to cheaply record an album, early distribute it online, and then if the album is good make money from touring. Well, artists aren't stupid, so if that were possible we would see new artists thumbing their noses at the industry and following your model. To my knowledge, that is not happening, or to the extent it is the artists that try it are not nearly as successful as the ones that use the industry system.

You might say that the industry tricks artists with doubletalk and complicated contracts. The problem there is that the industry's tactics are now well known. Again, artists aren't stupid, at least not on average. If there really were more or easier money to be made with a free internet release followed by touring, that's what they would do.

Note also that the experiments by groups like Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead don't count because those groups were well established long before they started doing things like letting people pay what they felt the music was worth.
posted by jedicus at 7:26 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Question is, will the quality begin to suffer as artists are less motivated? Or, has it already?

People (and, well, birds and frogs...) have been doing and appreciating music for quite a long time before there were records. Indeed, much of the greatest music ever made dates from the pre-record days, and that includes all the folk songs that were never under any copyright and never needed a rich patron. Even today, I'm sure that most of the music is created and performed in a totally record-less way, or in a non-profit recorded way, either by amateurs or by professionals who are not visible enough to have their music distributed by record labels.

The one figure I'd like to see is the actual number of musicians who make a significant living out of this particular form of distribution, compared with the number of musicians who make a living mostly through other means (live music, teaching, advertising, composing for movies and games etc.). Of the thousands of songs produced "industrially" every year, what percentage actually brings back more than pocket change to their authors and performers? And of those profitable songs how many are actually quality art (subjective notion, I know) rather than exploitative byproducts that nobody will miss after a couple of weeks? This kind of data would provide a better measure of what is at stake here, at least from an artistic perspective. I'm pretty much undecided about the long term effect of mass downloading, but I'm not buying the "music will die" line until I can see some figures that would show that the threat is on music itself rather than on some recent form of music business.
posted by elgilito at 7:27 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


"'Sharing copyrighted works on peer-to-peer networks is legal in Canada, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday[.]'1 Canadians pay a levy on recordable media - tapes, cds, mp3 players - and in return there is a Private Copying exemption, which does what it says on the tin. Currently it's at best [best for those who argue illegality] unclear on whether downloading is legal in Canada."

Besides this it is one hundred percent legal for me to make a copy of a CD I've borrowed from the library however the library can't make copies to hand out. IE: the borrower has to make the copy. I'm not sure how this jives with purely electronic tracks. How does someone lend me a iTunes track so I can legally copy it?
posted by Mitheral at 7:29 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Actually Skeptic, the point is that it doesn't really matter what downloaders are doing, the RIAA and MPAA are still knicker twisting because they have to. There are several studies that say that those who download "illegally" actually buy more music than the rest of us. There are also several reports that say that "illegal" downloading is nowhere near the problem the MPAA and RIAA make it out to be. (Kind of like those bastards at Best Buy searching your bag, when the top sources of shrinkage in stores are employee theft and poor inventory control.) The only people the Internet really hurts are the MPAA and the RIAA because they make there money on the one thing that the Internet is routing around them.

You can say whatever you like, but that is the core of the problem, they are ceasing to be relevant and like so many today, they have recognized that it is easier to sue and lobby than adapt.

In turn, the public, which patents, trademarks, and copyrights are meant to benefit, are sued, inconvenienced, and denied the use of music, movies and technologies; all to protect profits. In the end their antics hurt us all.

They keep prices above their real levels. They creates unreal expectations for artists and for possible entrants to the market. They clog our court systems and corrupt our legislatures. In short they achieve exactly the opposite effect they were meant to. The Pirate Bay is simply a reaction from the Market to the incredible damage being done by all this madness.
posted by BeReasonable at 7:34 AM on June 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Old cartoon; One cop talking to another cop. "I tried marijuana once. It made me want to rape and kill."

Skeptic: "Pleeaase, how many torrent users go and pay for a legal copy after downloading some content? Don't insult my intelligence."

You think it is a perception of the outside world, but it is only your perception of yourself.
posted by hexatron at 7:37 AM on June 30, 2009


Question is, will the quality begin to suffer as artists are less motivated? Or, has it already?

Are you serious? You think that the making of music, an art that has flourished for thousands of years will somehow be impeded if we meddle with a fifty year old record-selling model?
posted by rokusan at 7:38 AM on June 30, 2009


rokusan Your intelligence sure gets insulted a lot.

Only by those who lack the braincells to keep up.

Have you considered that your intelligence might be a bit delicate for the internet?

There is some truth there. Considering the asinine and juvenile stuff that mostly clogs the series of tubes, I take that as a compliment...
posted by Skeptic at 7:39 AM on June 30, 2009


"If you take the actions of industry copyright enforcement groups as a sign of actual problems with consumer behavior, then you could make similar arguments that nobody who owned a VCR paid for movies or that nobody who owned a dual cassette tape stereo paid for music. The industry will always throw massive amounts of money to restrict consumer rights and prohibit better and more open technology, because the status quo will always be more attractive than an uncertain future."

And we all know what happens when the industry groups get there way.
posted by Mitheral at 7:41 AM on June 30, 2009


It's true that live performances could conceivably make a good revenue stream for some musical acts. But what about television, movies, and books? Those are becoming more and more pirated as bandwidth, hard drives, and display devices improve, but there's no real equivalent to a touring act there. Switching to theater and charging for author readings are not viable options.

They'll find ways. Actors will act. Writers will write. If there is no longer a market for one kind of writing, a writer will find a different way to write and live. And switching to theater and charging for author readings is a viable option. I believe Dickens, who had to put up with a lot of piracy from Americans, made more from his readings than he did from his book sales. He was a born actor, of course, but it can be done, and it can be done by a busy author. Writers have always had daytime jobs.

It's not a matter of whether this sort of thing should happen. It will happen. You will not stop piracy. It's too easy, too much like sharing a secret or passing a note.
posted by pracowity at 7:59 AM on June 30, 2009


Oh, but I bet it's my right to keep buying the same music over and over again in different formats, isn't it? I love that right.

Amen brother. After vinyl and CD purchases of Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin et. al., I will be helping myself to those files gratis for the rest of my life, and don't much care about the legality or other people's moral/ethical judgements.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:59 AM on June 30, 2009


If you take the actions of industry copyright enforcement groups as a sign of actual problems with consumer behavior, then you could make similar arguments that nobody who owned a VCR paid for movies or that nobody who owned a dual cassette tape stereo paid for music. The industry will always throw massive amounts of money to restrict consumer rights and prohibit better and more open technology, because the status quo will always be more attractive than an uncertain future.

Yes. And this is the problem with groups like the RIAA having as much political power as they have. Their primary obligation - they're only obligation, actually - is to their member labels' shareholders. If you are not a shareholder, you don't get a vote. If you are a musician, you don't get a vote.

I don't think anyone actually believes that the RIAA's current lawsuit-based business model is an any way sustainable. There's just no long-term plan. And as long as the government makes it easy for the RIAA to keep suing everyone and the shareholders demand short-term returns, nothing will change.

When reality is labeled unthinkable, it creates a kind of sickness in an industry. Leadership becomes faith-based, while employees who have the temerity to suggest that what seems to be happening is in fact happening are herded into Innovation Departments, where they can be ignored en masse.
posted by roll truck roll at 8:01 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Your intelligence sure gets insulted a lot.
Only by those who lack the braincells to keep up.


Roger that. Those who disagree with you are obviously stupid. Makes perfect sense.

Norway: Study Finds Pirates More Likely to Buy Music.
Canada: Piracy Boosts CD Sales

And some papers on the economic impacts of file-sharing.

Downloading music/movies is not "stealing" and does not negatively impact artist livelihoods. Clinging to those increasingly-desperate talking points is probably what leads people to mistake you for an RIAA/MPAA-type shill.
posted by rokusan at 8:02 AM on June 30, 2009 [8 favorites]


You know what happens when you have artists less motivated by profit?

You get better art.
posted by rokusan at 8:03 AM on June 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Information wants to be free, or at least free enough that I can build a company around other people's free information and then sell it off for *pinky* millions. Give me your CDs, your hacked e-books, your season one DVD bundles, yearning to be free.
posted by adipocere at 8:08 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


If there's no profit incentive for artists to record albums, will the albums be any good?

You've obviously misunderstood how the music industry works.
posted by god hates math at 8:08 AM on June 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


I download from the established millionaire artists but I almost always buy the CDs for sale from struggling musicians at local clubs (and pay handsomely if it's a "pay what you can" deal). It's kind of a "trickle-up" economics.
posted by rocket88 at 8:11 AM on June 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


"If a majority of people bought after downloading, you can be certain that the RIAA, MPIAA and others wouldn't have their knickers in a twist."

With all the misuse of the phrase, it's nice to occasionally see a real, live Question-Begging. Why does the RIAA et al. have their knickers in a twist? Because people don't buy after downloading. How do we know they don't buy after downloading? Because the RIAA's knickers are in a twist.

IT'S ALL SO SIMPLE SHEEPLE.

Remember, folks, this is the RIAA that tried to get used record stores shut down, and had to send out checks over illegal price fixing. Their peeves have only a cosmetic relationship with morality, law and fact.

As a side note, let's also remember that music sales have gone up over the last couple years, that downloaders buy more music than non-downloaders, and that a legitimate reason to not pay for the music after the downloading is that it's not worth paying for.

(I say all of this having largely dropped out of file-sharing networks—almost everything I'm interested in shows up on Last.fm if it's new, and rapidshare/megaupload/mediafire/zshare/badongo etc. if it's old. And fuck you very much, I still buy more music than most, even when I don't have to.)
posted by klangklangston at 8:26 AM on June 30, 2009 [6 favorites]


I have a couple of hundred DVDs

I've never understood why people have big DVD collections. Do you really watch all those movies multiple times? Are you holding on to the physical DVDs, or do you rip them to a giant hard drive?

I can only think of about 20 or so movies that I'd be willing to watch enough times to consider owning (and storing) the DVD. I'll let Netflix hold on to the rest. Books, on the other hand, have some aesthetic value, so I can understand owning a bunch. DVD cases are ugly.
posted by mullacc at 8:31 AM on June 30, 2009


"If a majority of people bought after downloading, you can be certain that the RIAA, MPIAA and others wouldn't have their knickers in a twist."

Similarly, we know Iraq had WMDs, otherwise why would we have invaded?

BUSH '04!
posted by DU at 8:42 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Or self-indulgent netizens who believe it is their God-given right to get all the music, films etc. they can stuff into their hard disks without paying the creators a single penny?

I make my living producing games, which people seem to pirate rather a lot. Here's my slightly different take on the topic.
posted by Ryvar at 8:43 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Skeptic: "If a majority of people bought after downloading, you can be certain that the RIAA, MPIAA and others wouldn't have their knickers in a twist. If you pretend that a majority, or even a significant minority of torrent users buy copies after downloading, then you are insulting my intelligence."

Err... yes, they would. They have admitted as much in their claims as to their losses profits not made: they say that one downloaded file equals one lost sale.
If you really support this position then I fear that I cannot agree with you. There are tons of reasons why I wouldn't buy a product after I tested it, and I won't have you attacking my right to spend my money elsewhere.

Skeptic: "BTW, libraries also stock electronic media these days, so, if you really want to "sample" copyrighted works before buying, maybe you should go to your local library, rather than to TPB. You'd also be supporting something more worthwhile than a bunch of greedy pirates.

Hey, great. Show me the library over here in Germany that stocks the new season of The Big Bang Theory. Show me where I can legally watch Burn Notice, season 3.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 8:55 AM on June 30, 2009


Old cartoon; One cop talking to another cop. "I tried marijuana once. It made me want to rape and kill."

Skeptic: "Pleeaase, how many torrent users go and pay for a legal copy after downloading some content? Don't insult my intelligence."

You think it is a perception of the outside world, but it is only your perception of yourself.


Turn it around, and it becomes more truthful. "Well, I am moral and pay for things after I download them, that means everybody does!"

One example: Over 80% of the people who played World of Goo were pirates. Even in the absurd best case where everyone who legitimately purchased the game was a converted pirate, that still means 3/4 of the pirates never bought the game.

If anyone claims that a significant portion of pirates buy what they download, they're either delusional or flat out lying.
posted by ymgve at 9:12 AM on June 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Hey, great. Show me the library over here in Germany that stocks the new season of The Big Bang Theory. Show me where I can legally watch Burn Notice, season 3.

I assume the issues there are that those works are released later in Germany, if they are released at all, and that libraries often do not stock foreign TV series. Two points: one, you can still rely on reviews and legally available online clips for 'try before you buy.' Two, to the extent that it is not available at all, it's the copyright owners prerogative not to release it in certain countries, and you could always import it yourself.

The library is only one potential source of 'try before you buy,' as I discussed in an earlier comment. It is the rare case when something is available for download but cannot be sampled via any legitimate means whatsoever, including reviews by trusted third parties.
posted by jedicus at 9:13 AM on June 30, 2009


Do you really watch all those movies multiple times? Are you holding on to the physical DVDs, or do you rip them to a giant hard drive?

Yes. In fact that is a strong motivation: if I liked a movie enough that I know I will wish to watch it many times, I definitely buy it. I also like good commentary tracks, rarely present on crappy "sample" downloads.

There are movies I have watched hundreds of times, as a cursory scan of my glib posting history will reveal to a trained detective.

I've never understood why people have big DVD collections.

Obviously, you're not a golfer.
posted by rokusan at 9:16 AM on June 30, 2009


ymgve, how many copies of World of Goo would have been sold without piracy? How many messageboards would have been on fire recommending the game? How many millions would never have heard of it? The 80% that pirated it are also the reason that the 20% who paid were 20% of such a large pie.

See links above: if you look past the micro scale (one sale I maybe could have had) it becomes clear that from a broader view, piracy increases sales. The only way piracy "hurts" sales is in the delusional world where you assume a 1 download = 1 lost sale. That is ridiculous math.

If anyone claims that a significant portion of pirates buy what they download, they're either delusional or flat out lying.

People keep shooting down this claim that nobody seems to be making.
posted by rokusan at 9:20 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


piracy increases sales.

The only proof of that claim comes from the music industry, and said proof has not been completely conclusive. For example, one cited study drew from people in Norway, which is culturally and legally distinct from the US and does not have the same history of copyright litigation. Furthermore, it remains to be seen what the long term effects will be. As a new generation grows up in a world where file sharing is normal and commonplace, will they bother to purchase copies of their own or merely copy from their parents, siblings, or friends? As storage and bandwidth become cheaper and cheaper, will file sharers start sharing lossless rips and complete DVD images, thus removing quality and bonus features as reasons for purchasing a legitimate copy?

In any case, it remains to be seen whether the video game, television, movie, and book industries are similar or different.

There is also a distinction between economic harm and moral harm. In Europe in particular (and to a lesser extent the US) there is a recognition of the moral right of creators to control their creations. If a creator says "I don't care if allowing piracy gives me more money, I don't want people free riding on the fruits of my labor" then perhaps that ought to be something the law should protect.
posted by jedicus at 9:32 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I believe that the recent experience of Trent Reznor and the release of his last two albums pretty much shot down any idea that releasing music for free is necessarily going to ruin a band's sales. A lot of energy went into creating a fan mindset wherein spending money to support a favorite artist was seen as necessary. Then more energy went into planning the kind of release for which fans might spend much more money than they would with a regular album release. Finally, Trent simply fucking GAVE AWAY his last album, and he STILL sold some 300K units of physical product... of an album that everyone that purchased already had downloaded the music for free.

Couple that with fan-created 5.1 surround mixes of the last three NIN releases, an artist-supported remix community (with the multi-tracks for the songs provided by the artist himself), mammoth concert DVD projects being created online, again with full support of the artist...

The point being, a well-run campaign of release by an established artist without label support can net financial success even while distributing material for free. Nurturing a mindset of nurturing within the fanbase will allow for respectful quasi-official release of product which would otherwise be too expensive to create. This CAN be done correctly.

(NIN also uses tpb's trackers to distribute material which is legal for distribution via bittorrent, and which the artist has used the torrent trackers as its primary source of distribution. NOT ALL BITTORRENT IS PIRACY.)
posted by hippybear at 9:42 AM on June 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


vmove: The converse of a true statement is not necessarily true.

And the original statement really said nothing about the proportion of forever-free to ultimately-paying users. It just noted that if, say, you have invited skeptic over for dinner, it might be circumspect to count the silverware afterwards.

On preview, what rokusan said.
posted by hexatron at 9:45 AM on June 30, 2009


there are no bigger hypocrites that those who claim to stick it to "the Man", while simultaneously stuffing their pockets.

Oh, come on. If you can stick it to the Man AND make a pile of cash, that's just gravy.

Some sort of payment-for-satisfaction system would be nice, like in service industries. Not happy with result? Don't pay.

Dunno what it's like where you live, but where I live, employers are barely required to pay waitstaff and delivery folks at all, on the presumption that tips will bring them up to minimum wage. Getting service and not tipping isn't an expression of satisfaction, it's theft, and in a very real way.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:46 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


As I mentioned above, the experience of Nine Inch Nails cannot be universalized. NIN had released seven albums prior to starting their online distribution experiments. They had also been touring for something like 20 years. They had won Grammys and numerous other awards and critical acclaim.

Even most established bands do not have that kind of success and devoted fanbase as a springboard to successful digital distribution, to say nothing of new bands.
posted by jedicus at 9:49 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm a filmmaker. I earn my entire (very small) living from this and piracy is absolutely killing my business. I have many friends in the music industry and they're busy adapting as quickly as they can, but they're OK because they have two revenue streams, live and recorded, one of which has always been a loss leader for the other. For example, when the Eagles recently played in London the top tickets were somewhere in the region of 150UKP, a sum that would have been unthinkable ten years ago, but now the money isn't coming in from the CD sales they'll make it back on the touring.

But in film we only have a sinlgle revenue stream, be it theatrical or ancillary (DVD, pay TV, etc). If you're not one of the big studios then believe me, it's a very straightforward business, just like any other. People invest allowing you to make product whcih you sell so that you can pay the people back who invested and make enough to live. If they make their money back plus a profit they'll invest again, if they didn't they probably won't.

This blog on the low budget film the Butterfly Tattoo is an interesting case. Written by the films director it is a direct response to how he feels when his film was released in the US to modest sales but over 200000 illegal downloads. The headline "Two years work down the drian in 6 minutes" should give some idea of his feelings on the subject.

My company has a film coming out in six months time. It's going to be a small release and we will struggle to get our money back, but one thing I'm pretty certain of and that's that illegal downloading will kill off this level of film in the next five to ten years. There just won't be the incentive to invest anymore.

It's all very well saying artists will find other ways to survive, but considering it took our writer a year to finish the script, what's he supposed to do? creating these things well is a full time job, but if there's no money in it then who's going to do it? And please don't say 'everyone', as Terry Gilliam once said 'just because you own a typewriter doesn't make you a writer'.

Personally I'm sick of hearing arguments for downloading becuase they're all just so transparent. For me it boils down to this - I've made something and I don't give you the permission to just download it for free because I can't afford to. So don't be an asshole and download it.
posted by ciderwoman at 9:49 AM on June 30, 2009 [8 favorites]


If a creator says "I don't care if allowing piracy gives me more money, I don't want people free riding on the fruits of my labor" then perhaps that ought to be something the law should protect.

So okay, if you're going to bring in this whole moral component and the role of the artist and all that, then it's time to take a good, hard look at how the music industry and major labels work. That piece got hates math linked to above might be a good place to start.

Part of why I'll admit that I'm anxious for the MPAA's collapse is because I think the way they treat musicians is pretty crappy. That crappiness has been more-or-less a necessary evil for decades, but now it's not anymore. The irony is that the technologies that are allowing musicians much more freedom than they've ever had before are the same technologies derided by those who would defend musicians from "pirates."
posted by roll truck roll at 9:51 AM on June 30, 2009


rokusan: People keep shooting down this claim that nobody seems to be making.

Even though they don't make the claim, people sure seem to imply it. For example, hexatron's comment that I quoted.

I agree that massive piracy increases exposure, and therefore has the potential to increase sales, but the people that buy the game due to this exposure are for the most part not the same as the ones pirating it. I am quite certain that over 90% of the pirates downloading a specific game/movie/album will never pay for that same game/movie/album. Because they already have it.
posted by ymgve at 9:51 AM on June 30, 2009


As sort of an addendum to my last comment, I don't actually think that labels are going anywhere. We're starting to see signs of the new labels, and they look very different from RIAA-member ones. They offer much more intelligent and creative production, distribution, and promotion than the old labels. Labels have to offer musicians more, now that any musician can do in her basement what most labels offer.
posted by roll truck roll at 9:56 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Even most established bands do not have that kind of success and devoted fanbase as a springboard to successful digital distribution, to say nothing of new bands.

Ah, but the point I was trying to make is that it was a mindset which was fostered. It wasn't just expected to be there. Trent worked for years in various ways to put the thought out there that artists deserve support and respect and payment for what they do.

What new bands are actually getting ripped off online? Do people really go home after seeing that great group busking on the sidewalk and immediately hop onto Limewire to see if they can download that CD they were selling out of their guitar case? Perhaps I am misreading the situation, but nearly ever concert I go to, from large to small, I see people in the lobby purchasing multiples of albums by the opening band, eager to send to their friends and spread the word. If anything, I see an upward trend in making deliberate purchases of music by up-and-coming artists in order to show them financial support.

If listening to the music for free were really such an obstacle to sales, artists would stop putting up "jukeboxes" of their tracks on their webpages. But even the smallest bands do this.

I'm not advocating piracy. I am saying that a little education helps the little guy out as much as the big guy.
posted by hippybear at 10:02 AM on June 30, 2009


Can we stop pretending this is about artists? It's about distributers. Stupid distributers who have realized twenty years after the fact that distribution is no longer a precious resource.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:03 AM on June 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


ciderwoman, that blog you posted probably does the traditional mistake of believing a download of the .torrent metadata file constitues a download of the actual file. The different public torrent sites mirror each other and creates an artificially inflated "download" count. You can divide that number by at least ten. It is still a large number, though.
posted by ymgve at 10:04 AM on June 30, 2009


So okay, if you're going to bring in this whole moral component and the role of the artist and all that, then it's time to take a good, hard look at how the music industry and major labels work.

The term 'moral rights' is a legal term of art. It is only tangentially related to morality and ethical behavior. In any event, the dirty tricks of the recording and movie industries do not excuse ignoring the rights of artists.

Regarding your second paragraph and addendum: even if what you say is true, it only applies meaningfully to the music industry. Video games, television, film, and books do not have the fallback revenue stream of live performances. Furthermore, as longer format, audiovisual media, it is less common for people to engage in repeat viewings, which decreases the incentive to purchase a copy after viewing the downloaded one. This is contrast to music, which is most often enjoyed repeatedly, partly because it is a short form, audio-only media that can be listened to while doing other tasks.
posted by jedicus at 10:05 AM on June 30, 2009


BTW, libraries also stock electronic media these days, so, if you really want to "sample" copyrighted works before buying, maybe you should go to your local library, rather than to TPB. You'd also be supporting something more worthwhile than a bunch of greedy pirates.

I would very much like to borrow electronic media (like books) from the library, or purchase "used" copies as I do now. Is this actually possible? I'd love to buy/borrow less physical books and go to ebooks, but it seems like the format is deliberately not engineered for things like library loaning and secondhand usage.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 10:05 AM on June 30, 2009


"I've never understood why people have big DVD collections. Do you really watch all those movies multiple times? Are you holding on to the physical DVDs, or do you rip them to a giant hard drive?"

I've got a fairly large collection. Some of it is kids stuff and kids have an absolutely amazing capacity to watch the same thin over and over. Some of it is tv series and in that case I'll flip them on for background noise while I'm modelling, drawing or programming. Some of it is movies that I can watch every week (Some of Kevin Smith's stuff and other low brow comedies). Most of these have been bought at prices equivalent to a single rental. But most importantly I suffer from insomnia so often when I want to watch a movie at 1AM (and 2:30 and 4 and 5:30) I need it immediately. Cable sucks me into watching show after show where I can easily waste days at a time while movies are more of a discrete event that are easier to take a break from. I traded cable/sat service for buying DVDs and spend less per month for something that is a better value for me.

"Show me where I can legally watch Burn Notice, season 3."

Season three has started? Wait a second... Awesome.

"Two, to the extent that it is not available at all, it's the copyright owners prerogative not to release it in certain countries, and you could always import it yourself."

Well thanks to the MPAA and region coding imports from other regions don't work in my DVD player.

"I earn my entire (very small) living from this and piracy is absolutely killing my business."

That is true and surely sucks. It'll be interesting to see how this shakes out in the next 30 years.
posted by Mitheral at 10:10 AM on June 30, 2009


The people that buy the game due to this exposure are for the most part not the same as the ones pirating it. I am quite certain that over 90% of the pirates downloading a specific game/movie/album will never pay for that same game/movie/album. Because they already have it.

Exactly, but follow that through and you'll see that the argument that a download is a lost sale is also ridiculous. Just because your average punter downloads something doesn't mean they would be "forced" to pay for it if the download was blocked. They'll just download something else. The idea that people can be forced to buy things when you change the price to something they won't pay isn't just insulting to consumers, it's business suicide. The RIAA/MPAA is trying to hold down one of the last forts in a long-lost war.

They also paint with broad brushes because they desperately need a unified front for their entire value to mean anything. In a coming-very-soon world where some artists publish their work for free and some don't, guess which ones will thrive?

(Think about two websites with similar content. One has a $30 membership fee paywall, the other is free but ad-supported. Which one is around next year? Why are you so certain?)

This is the whole (failed) charging-for-content model hitting back at the real world. Sooner or later, music and films will be free. How old media "content producers" adapt is the real question.

For now, I'm going to bet on sponsorships and invertising for film, and concerts and merchandise sales for music. But I hope to be blown away by some larger-scale shift.
posted by rokusan at 10:12 AM on June 30, 2009


Obviously, you're not a golfer.

Heh. That's from one of the few DVDs I do own.

Yes. In fact that is a strong motivation: if I liked a movie enough that I know I will wish to watch it many times, I definitely buy it.

But how many movies can pass this test? In my experience, there are about 20-25 movies I could watch more than, say, half a dozen times. And that's a stretch.

Perhaps I'm misunderstanding or underestimating people's moving watching habits. I think I watch more than the average person, but I probably only average two to three per week. At that rate, I have a hard time balancing new releases and older movies I missed. Multiple viewings of the same movie just take the place of a movies I haven't seen yet. I have the same problem with books.
posted by mullacc at 10:12 AM on June 30, 2009


If anything, I see an upward trend in making deliberate purchases of music by up-and-coming artists in order to show them financial support.

Policy decisions should be based on proper research, not anecdotes (which is not to say the data may not reflect your experience).

If listening to the music for free were really such an obstacle to sales, artists would stop putting up "jukeboxes" of their tracks on their webpages. But even the smallest bands do this.

In my experience, those jukeboxes are usually either non-mp3-based (usually Flash), contain only clips, are tied to music videos, or use low quality recordings. Thus, it is either non-trivial to extract the music for regular, offline use or it's not a proper version. But this is an example of the difficulty and futility of arguing from anecdotes.

Well thanks to the MPAA and region coding imports from other regions don't work in my DVD player.

Region-free DVD players, whether out of the box or via firmware updates, are widely available. To my knowledge, avoiding the region coding scheme is not illegal anywhere.
posted by jedicus at 10:15 AM on June 30, 2009


Furthermore, it remains to be seen what the long term effects will be. As a new generation grows up in a world where file sharing is normal and commonplace, will they bother to purchase copies of their own or merely copy from their parents, siblings, or friends?

Given that computer game sharing has existed since before computer games were even sold commercially, and that practically every major commercial computer game has been pirated to some extent, it could probably serve as a good model for what illegal copying can do to an industry over thirty years or so. Computer games are still around, game companies can still make money, and people still buy games.

This blog on the low budget film the Butterfly Tattoo is an interesting case. Written by the films director it is a direct response to how he feels when his film was released in the US to modest sales but over 200000 illegal downloads.

So, an obscure low budget film did poorly in limited release in the US (which in the old days would have been the only way to make any money on an independent film that didn't get picked up by a major distributor) and then became wildly popular on the Internet due to filesharing.

From the same blog post:

I was actually quite surprised how many people knew about the movie and downloaded it. After all, we are a little indie film which has only had a small release in the US. How do the tens of thousands of people know it exists? Apart from the website, a few Pullman fan sites and the trailer on YouTube there hasn’t been much publicity. Since the downloading frenzy has begun, loads of reviews have appears, message boards have lit up and our IMDb page has gone up 10,393% in popularity. This sudden burst of interest has meant our relatively unknown film has been thrown into the spotlight and is now no. 75 on IMDb’s top 100 films (we’re above Wall:E!) and - on one website - we’re in the top 50 of the most downloaded things at the moment. If the success of a film is mainly word of mouth, we’ve certainly got it now.

...

One blogger who admitted to downloading the film said that the film was so good that they’ve gone and bought the DVD. Now isn’t that an interesting turn of events? I’m sure it won’t apply to everyone but, for the minority who do buy, would they have known about the film without downloading it?


The overall positives and negatives that will come from file sharing for the film industry as a whole and independent films specifically are hard to predict. But in this particular case I fail to see how in a pre-file-sharing world this film would have been more successful or returned a better profit for investors.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:19 AM on June 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


This blog on the low budget film the Butterfly Tattoo is an interesting case. Written by the films director it is a direct response to how he feels when his film was released in the US to modest sales but over 200000 illegal downloads

Ciderwoman, I don't wish you to suffer from downloading, so I just read that article you linked to try to get a good handle on these "damages" that seem so slippery... and I still can't see how the downloading cost those producers any revenue. In fact, the article seems to show just the opposite: They had the same old-style distribution they expected, plus a huge groundswell of downloading that greatly expanded their market and even (in their own words) caused some DVD sales to those who would never have heard of the film without the downloading. No, they didn't make any money directly from the downloads, but they would not have made a nickel from those people anyway... by their own admission!

And now, after all of that, where are we now? Well, the potential audience for their next film is now something like 100x what it would have been without the download-frenzy, and they will almost certainly have an easier time securing financing because of the popularity of the film that they attribute to piracy!

So, I don't mean to be nasty, but... how the heck is this bad?

On preview, what burny said.
posted by rokusan at 10:27 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


"My company has a film coming out in six months time. It's going to be a small release and we will struggle to get our money back, but one thing I'm pretty certain of and that's that illegal downloading will kill off this level of film in the next five to ten years."

Are you going to have official places to download or stream it? Are you going to have donation links? Are you going to have multiple quality levels, the higher ones for pay? Are you going to have extras on the DVDs (commentary, deleted scenes, soundtracks, etc.)? Are you going to be pushing posters, t-shirts, other co-branded apparel? Signed scripts? Are you going to have premium movie nights, which include, say, Q&As with the cast and crew? Are you getting sponsors and advertisers? Doing placements in the film? Running commercials on your official streams and downloads?

I'm not saying that it's right that you're inevitably going to get chewed by unauthorized downloaders. It's just that you're going to inevitably get chewed by unauthorized downloaders. For every moment that you spend worrying about that, that's a moment that you're not out there coming up with an alternate revenue stream.

Part of the culture difference is that I come from the world of punk rock. That means to make a living, folks have always had to hustle. That means buttons, 7"s, t-shirts, hoodies, flats, posters, zines, split comps… It means developing a passionate audience who buys these things even while listening to bootleg tapes. Movie makers have been relatively shielded from bootlegging until recently in a way that music hasn't, and that makes the movie industry soft and fat. Their hustle is internal, working hard to get movies made. But in order to survive, they're going to need to turn that hustle external and come up with a million other little ways to make money.

I suppose I think about this a little like I think about my friends up in the boonies of the Midwest. A ceramics artist supports herself by selling mugs and plates, and sells maple syrup on the side, and works at a restaurant, and sells buttons, and does a million other little things. It's great if someone can support themselves with creative work, and I'd love a world where everyone was able to do that. But this artist, y'know, it's not even like folks are downloading her designs or anything. She's got to hustle without even dealing with that, but she also doesn't get the exposure that digital media brings. She makes it work because that's what she wants to do.
posted by klangklangston at 10:29 AM on June 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


But how many movies can pass this test? In my experience, there are about 20-25 movies I could watch more than, say, half a dozen times. And that's a stretch.

It must differ a lot from person to person. For me, it's at least hundreds, if not thousands. I like film.

I definitely don't bother trying to "keep up" with current releases, though there are at least one or two films per month that interest me. But most of my "watch this sometime" list is pre-1980.
posted by rokusan at 10:30 AM on June 30, 2009


If there's no profit incentive for artists to record albums, will the albums be any good?

Anyone who would ask such a question doesn't understand how most artists are constituted.

I am an artist. I don't create art because it's a good way of making money. I create art because I have to.

I guess that's not literally true. I wouldn't die if I quit. But it's so deeply a part of who I am, I'd do it whether I got paid or not. Much of the time, it's not even fun to make art. I don't enjoy it. There's no payoff other than assuaging the drive itself.

Most people aren't built this way. Which is why artists' friends and family say, "How are you going to make a living doing that?" That's fine. But those people don't understand the core of what drives artists.

I'm not talking about all artists. There are some great ones who do it for the money. But most of the ones I've met are like me. Very few artists make a living making art. I recently got my first royalty check for a book I spent a year on. It was for $6. Am I bitter about that? No. It was about what I expected. And even if I was bitter about it, my bitterness won't stop me from writing another book.

I also know some talented artists who aren't in it for the money but who get tired of living in poverty and so quit making art. That's sad. But for every artists who has been destroyed by poverty, there are dozens who have been corrupted by money. I've worked with actors who have turned down a Shakepearean lead to make a few bucks appearing in a commercial.

And at least according to my aesthetics, huge budgets have made Hollywood films worse, not better.

The biggest threat to writers is Stephen King. 99.99999999% of writers will never make anywhere near his salary. They will have to pay their bills via teaching or some other day job. But the existence of King makes writers unrealistically strive to be like him and get bitter when they don't make it. King won the lottery. You won't win it. The odds are against you. Accept that and move on.

Similarly, almost no one gets to be Paul McCartney, Stephen Spielberg or Tom Cruise. Most young actors that I work with (in tiny off-off Broadway productions) are hoping to one day have his fame and fortune. 99.9999999% of them never get close. When they finally realize it's not going to happen, some of them drop out of the business. The ones that don't are the ones who are really cut out for it. They're the ones who love the craft of acting so much, it owns them. Though there are exceptions, these are usually the better actors.

If I could push a button that would make all arts funding dry up for the next 20 years, I'd push it -- knowing that it would mean I'd probably die without ever making any money from art. Lack of funds would clearly separate "the men from the boys." After the smoke cleared, we'd be left with people making art because that's what they were "meant" to do.

You can't kill art. You just can't. It's part of being human.

Yes, TV might die. Films might die. Art isn't an art form. Art forms come and go, anyway. Art is storytelling, color, creating sensual experiences, sparking the mind, etc. That stuff will continue.

It's totally understandable when people say things like, "If there's no profit incentive for artists to record albums, will the albums be any good?" They're thinking, "If no one paid me to do MY job, why would I even bother showing up?"

You wouldn't. That's because you're not it it for the job. You're in it for the money, so that you can use that money to achieve other goals in your life. But for the artist, art IS the goal.

If there's no profit incentive for parents to raise children, will children be any good?
posted by grumblebee at 10:30 AM on June 30, 2009 [24 favorites]


If there's no profit incentive for parents to raise children, will children be any good?

Favorited so hard my fingers are bleeding.
posted by rokusan at 10:31 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


For now, I'm going to bet on sponsorships and invertising for film, and concerts and merchandise sales for music. But I hope to be blown away by some larger-scale shift.

For the sake of argument, I will concede music, but let's take a critical look at sponsorship and 'invertising' for film (and presumably also television, video games, and books).

By forcing these media to have no real revenue stream apart from product placement and built-in advertising, piracy will have tremendously constrained artistic freedom and largely destroyed artistic integrity. Artistic freedom will be greatly constrained because the only commercially successful media will be those in which product place and ads can fit (e.g., sure a movie set in the modern day can be full of Coke and Doritos, but what kind of ads or product placement would fit in Pride and Prejudice?) Artistic integrity will be destroyed as well because writers and directors will be forced to accept this gross intrusion into their work.

Do we really want film to become like a low-rent sitcom, full of obvious product references and interrupted by jarring advertisements every five minutes? Furthermore, these products won't age well. Imagine watching A Few Good Men and seeing Crystal Pepsi all over the place or reading a book from the mid 80s littered with references to characters enjoying a cool, refreshing New Coke. It would fail as advertising and be an even greater distraction to the viewer than usual.

Some films, books, and video games might survive intact by relying on merchandise, but do we want everything to be a glorified toy commercial à la Transformers or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?
posted by jedicus at 10:31 AM on June 30, 2009


"Given that computer game sharing has existed since before computer games were even sold commercially, and that practically every major commercial computer game has been pirated to some extent, it could probably serve as a good model for what illegal copying can do to an industry over thirty years or so. Computer games are still around, game companies can still make money, and people still buy games."

The porn industry is probably a good indication of how this is going to work out in the medium term for independent films. If so production values are unfortunately going to plummet which is too bad. Animation and CGI might be a partial fix in this case. Either way digital piracy isn't going to subside.
posted by Mitheral at 10:34 AM on June 30, 2009


Exactly, but follow that through and you'll see that the argument that a download is a lost sale is also ridiculous.

And you are pursuing a strawman there. Of course, plaintiffs' lawyers in copyright infringement cases are going to make that argument, because they'll be aiming for the highest damages they can get. And the RIAA/MPAA surely aren't going to contradict their own lawyers.

But I don't remember myself, or anybody else here for that matter, making that case. You have made the opposite, equally ridiculous case, that downloading "does not impact artists' livelihoods". That's blatantly transparent bullshit. Of course each download is not a lost sale, and in some (rare) cases, free downloads may actually be a clever marketing tool to increase sales. But, as others have shown now, most downloaders do not then go and buy another copy. Artists and authors (not just the evil MPAA/RIAA and greedy labels) do lose income. And even the most spiritual creator needs to eat. By removing their income, you don't get "better art" (plenty of great artists, from Vermeer to Dalí, would strongly disagree with that assertion). You get starving artists.
posted by Skeptic at 10:34 AM on June 30, 2009


Video that clears up most of the questions about the Pirate Bay sale.
posted by eyeballkid at 10:40 AM on June 30, 2009


By forcing these media to have no real revenue stream apart from product placement and built-in advertising, piracy will have tremendously constrained artistic freedom and largely destroyed artistic integrity.

See, again... I don't think many who are concerned with artistic freedom and integrity are being represented by MPAA lawyers, anyway. The MPAA etc. never seems to really be about artists, or art, no matter how they posture.

As Grumblebee and others have said, good art will always be made by good artists. Art is not a business model or distribution channel.

The protectionist side, on the other hand, is always about the middle-man distributors fighting and clawing to keep their artificially-inflated monopoly on a dying business.

It's as is telegraph operators had the most powerful lobby in Washington.
posted by rokusan at 10:42 AM on June 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


With regards to torrenting = lost sale:
"[A]lthough it is true that someone who copies a digital version of a sound recording has little incentive to purchase the recording through legitimate means, it does not necessarily follow that the downloader would have made a legitimate purchase if the recording had not been available for free," said US District court Judge James P. Jones, in response to the RIAA's request for restitution against the former admin of Elite Torrents, Daniel Dove.
On the subject of the FPP, yeah, so long, Pirate Bay. Every other tracker in the world rejoices.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:48 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


The economic effects of downloading have very little to do with this Platonic ideal of lost sales, and more to do with the effects of supply and demand. By putting out a functionally infinite amount of music, the value of that music necessarily declines even as consumption goes up. This is largely what we've seen with the music industry.

I can understand that folks are irked by essentially being told both that their authenticity premium isn't as valuable as they thought it was, and that their work itself isn't as valuable as they thought it was. On the other hand, trying to spin that as "lost income due to downloading" seems to ignore the underlying issue in favor of a fairly anachronistic and romantic gloss on how art is distributed and purchased.
posted by klangklangston at 10:49 AM on June 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Exactly, but follow that through and you'll see that the argument that a download is a lost sale is also ridiculous.

And you are pursuing a strawman there.


No, because I didn't claim anyone here said that, other than the industry itself. It is a ridiculous claim, and clinging to it is a big part of why their arguments cannot be taken seriously. It's a transparent money grab, and consumers accurately see it as such. This foments piracy. The more you act like an empire, the more you bring a revolution down on yourself.

You have made the opposite, equally ridiculous case, that downloading "does not impact artists' livelihoods". That's blatantly transparent bullshit.

Transparent bullshit? I (and others) have posted links to many articles and studies that back up that very theory. I don't know of any evidence that the actual arts are being impaired, other than invented-stats propaganda from the RIAA-types themselves.

What are your sources for quantifying how much artists are hurt?

I have my own emotional argument side, here too, of course. I spend a lot of time with artists: musicians, filmmakers, writers. Most of the ones I spend time with never seem very upset about all this copyright and downloading stuff, and in fact most are excited about the bigger audience they're gaining.

It's only ever the fucking lawyers.
posted by rokusan at 10:53 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


What? The Pirate Bay was sold?

Someone should make an FPP.
posted by rokusan at 10:53 AM on June 30, 2009


Oh, and Vermeer and Dali are hilarious examples to put forth, in that Vermeer was incredibly poor his entire working life (in part because he worked very slowly with very expensive materials), and Dali intentionally made it impossible to tell an authentic autograph by releasing hundreds of signed sheets of paper.
posted by klangklangston at 10:55 AM on June 30, 2009


mullacc: "I've never understood why people have big DVD collections. Do you really watch all those movies multiple times? Are you holding on to the physical DVDs, or do you rip them to a giant hard drive?"

As the person who wrote this, I can understand where you are coming from. Buying lots of DVD's never made any sense to me, either.

But that said, I do believe I will be making an exception to my own rules for the blu-ray edition of 2001. Netflix's Watch It Now service is great, but the selection sucks and the quality is not so hot. And on more than one occasional I've received discs with scratches or marks that make random scenes of the film unplayable. There are a handful of movies that were so thoughtfully and meticulously crafted that to view them in a format other than the best available is to deprive yourself of an important aspect of the work.

Also, I believe in the value of passive transmission of cultural knowledge and appreciation. It is hard to do this digitally, like by leaving an iPod lying around. Much better in my opinion to leave a vessel for each cultural artifact that the child can come upon like a hidden treasure. Stick Borges Fictions in between some boring Dickens. Make rainy Saturday afternoons interesting again.

Let's face it, the first music many kids listen to and the first films they watch, like the first books they read are the ones their parents or older siblings have around the house. So when my kids go looking for something to watch, I'd rather they find 2001 than nothing and flip on the TV to find Jerry Springer or Independence Day.

And where other dads hide their porno magazines in the bottom of their closet for their 12 yr-old sons and daughters to find, I will be leaving copies of Eraserhead and Inland Empire. That'll teach future li'l pastabagels to snoop around.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:59 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


You're in it for the money, so that you can use that money to achieve other goals in your life. But for the artist, art IS the goal.

By that definition, if someone isn't willing to merely take what society is voluntarily willing to give them for their work, which might be a pittance or even nothing, then they aren't an artist.

Copyright is a way of tying compensation to market demand by establishing a property right in the artistic works. I'd say that's a preferable system to 'here's what I think your art is worth, take it or leave it, but I'm taking the work either way.' I also think it's unfortunate that you feel that it's no great loss that TV, film, and other media that require substantial capital investment should fall away in the wake of pervasive copyright infringement.

Furthermore, even if one is willing to make art no matter whether one makes any money off of it at all, the ability to make money directly from art means more time is available for making art rather than making money to finance making art. Consider a band: if a band only tours out of necessity, then that means less time spent developing the next album.

As grumblebee and others have said, good art will always be made by good artists. Art is not a business model or distribution channel.

Certain kinds of art (large scale video games, certain genres of television and film) are inextricably tied to a business model that relies on copyright.

See, again... I don't think many who are concerned with artistic freedom and integrity are being represented by MPAA lawyers, anyway. The MPAA etc. never seems to really be about artists, or art, no matter how they posture.

I care about those things and I'm not represented by an MPAA lawyer. In any case, you're conflating the merits of the position with the motivation of the presenter.
posted by jedicus at 11:03 AM on June 30, 2009


Also, copyright legnth is immoral. Twenty years should be the absolute max. Every generation should be able to use the culture they grew up on.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:08 AM on June 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


By that definition, if someone isn't willing to merely take what society is voluntarily willing to give them for their work, which might be a pittance or even nothing, then they aren't an artist.

I don't believe that. I'm a fan of having money.

My point is...

(a) Art will not stop (or turn bad) if artists are not paid. I'm not speculating. We already have tons of great art from artists who aren't/weren't paid (or paid well). SOME art -- some good art -- will stop if artists are not paid. That's sad. But capital-A Art will thrive as long as there are humans.

(I suspect that some art would START if commerce got banished from creative endeavors. Some of us really hate working in a community where artistic success is defined by how expensive a watch the artist can afford.)

(b) Money is at least as damaging to art as it is beneficial.

You're right. Artists who don't have day jobs have more time to spend making art. That's great for those artists. Is it good for art itself? Is it good for society.

I am convinced that my art is better because I'm forced to engage with the "real world." I don't like to have to do it. I'd quit my day job if I could. But I'd do that for selfish reasons, and I suspect my art would suffer.

Years ago, I read a review -- I think by Pauline Kael -- of one of the later Monty Python movies. She was comparing it with "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," which she preferred. She wrote about how "Holy Grail"'s budget was so low, they couldn't afford horses. So they came up with the gag of having the knights slap coconut halves together. The later, less creative, movie had a big budget. Kael suspected that the funds killed the film.

I've seen this repeatedly in Hollywood -- and, worse, on Broadway -- where money leads to spectacle, which is used to excuse lazy writing and poor craftsmanship. It's an aesthetic call, of course, but I see no corollary between budget and quality.
posted by grumblebee at 11:23 AM on June 30, 2009


Yes, one core point is that every adult has an inalienable right to all ideas, works, etc. that existed when they were young children. So any copyright beyond 14 years is indefensible.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:27 AM on June 30, 2009


My company has a film coming out in six months time. It's going to be a small release and we will struggle to get our money back, but one thing I'm pretty certain of and that's that illegal downloading will kill off this level of film in the next five to ten years. There just won't be the incentive to invest anymore.

Good luck and let us know how it goes.

Haven't film companies that deal in "small releases" always struggled? Is it particularly strange for them to continue to struggle, especially in a recession? For years I've been hearing about how hard it is, mainly because of the distribution system of the Hollywood system and how that affects getting the films into theatres.

Is piracy the killing blow? If you can't even get your film into theatres or into DVD shops, then I can't really see how that would be true.

I'm interested to see figures, but I guess even if we had them we'd probably disagree about how to interpret them. (For instance, the highest grossing films are probably also the most pirated. We might come to completely different conclusions with that same information.)
posted by ODiV at 11:36 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't feel like I've ever seen a moral or legal argument that compellingly says the pirate bay should be legal or illegal. I suppose that should make the pirate bay intrinsically legal in the strictest sense, but doesn't preclude some sound argument making them illegal.

I personally expect that "aiding large scale copyright infringement" is fine for an individual or a non-profit, but must be illegal for a company. Any commercial copyright infringement risks abusing the creators, but non-commercial copyright infringement simply won't have the same economic costs.

You know there are many "scale based" laws : Several European countries have made sale of marijuana illegal, but allow growing the plant for personal use. Apple may bundle more software than Microsoft because they aren't the monopolist like Microsoft. etc.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:36 AM on June 30, 2009


It's an aesthetic call, of course, but I see no corollary between budget and quality.

In the world where copyright exists and is respected, there is the option of making big-budget spectacles and making low-budget 'proper' art. Artists can choose to do as they like for whatever motivation they have. In the world without copyright or where copyright is pervasively infringed, there is no option.
posted by jedicus at 11:40 AM on June 30, 2009


"In the world where copyright exists and is respected, there is the option of making big-budget spectacles and making low-budget 'proper' art. Artists can choose to do as they like for whatever motivation they have. In the world without copyright or where copyright is pervasively infringed, there is no option."

o_O

Big-budget spectacles existed prior to legislation regarding copyright. While you can argue that record companies are more likely to finance big spectacles with the hope of recouping, this a) has nothing to do with the quality of work, b) doesn't guarantee equal access to the resources or even appropriate access to resources, and c) really has little correlation with copyright at all.
posted by klangklangston at 11:46 AM on June 30, 2009


You know there are many "scale based" laws : Several European countries have made sale of marijuana illegal, but allow growing the plant for personal use. Apple may bundle more software than Microsoft because they aren't the monopolist like Microsoft. etc.

Those laws are not analogous to copyright. The sale and growth of marijuana, for example, does not really harm anyone, whether it's grown commercially or for personal use. Non-monopolists can bundle software because they don't have market power to abuse and therefore aren't preventing fair competition in the market.

In the copyright case, by contrast, even individual, non-commercial infringement still tramples on the right of the copyright owner to control how the work is distributed and used and cumulatively the infringements may cause significant economic harm. In some cases (piracy of computer software, for example) even individual infringements can represent significant economic harm.

A different question, however, is whether high statutory damages make any policy or legal sense in the case of individual non-commercial infringers.
posted by jedicus at 11:49 AM on June 30, 2009


I think a savvy small film can make money off piracy :

You create a "pirate cut" lacking many nice parts from the "normal" or directors cut", but also has some other scenes, and has 3ish commercials for the directors cut interspersed. You upload the version cut into 3ish chunks after each commercial to youtube. You also place this version on the pirate bay with links showing how to just view it on youtube. Finally you ask the pirates nicely to always link the youtube version and to not seed the full version for long.

What will happen? Well, most pirates will just skip bit torrent and use youtube directly, see your commercials, and consider buying the dvd film if they really like it. Sure some jerk will put the full version on the pirate bay too, but now he'll get yelled at by some of his fellow pirates and people will flood the form with the youtube links. So most pirates will still see the youtube version and consider buying it. All this will limit the number of seeds for the full version, inducing more people to buy it.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:51 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


"The Pirate Bay Will Close Its Tracker and Remove Torrents

(not really)
"

Huh. This is one of those news stories that's so weird it seems unreal. If the Global Gaming Factory follows through with what they (seem to) promise in their press release, then the Pirate Bay is dead. But why would a company run by presumably sane and competent people piss away nearly five million dollars? Or are they the Aladdins who've finally found a way to open up the Internet like a treasure cave? Somehow, I doubt it. There has to more going on under the surface here.
posted by Kevin Street at 11:59 AM on June 30, 2009


Big-budget spectacles existed prior to legislation regarding copyright.

Really? Mechanical reproduction of musical works has been protected since at least the 1909 Act. Movies and the like have been protected since at least 1912. What big budget recorded musical or film spectacle would you be referring to? Even supposing an example exists, there are none that post-date easy copying but pre-date statutory protection.

I think a savvy small film can make money off piracy:...Finally you ask the pirates nicely to always link the youtube version and to not seed the full version for long....

That's where the plan fails utterly. The community norms favor those who provide that which is hard to obtain, not those that seek to make something harder to obtain.
posted by jedicus at 12:00 PM on June 30, 2009


To a certain extent, I see paying for TV shows/movies/books/music as modern day patronage. I can get these things for free, but I buy them to support the artists that I like so that they'll keep making art I like.

.....

Another example that follows along the same line as the NIN story (but is a bit different):

When his last book, The Graveyard Book, was released, Neil Gaiman did a book tour (like you do) and along the way read the entire book. Each reading was filmed, and consequently you can hear the entire book for free, never having to pay a cent for it. The Graveyard Book has been on the NYT Children's best sellers list for 37 weeks (as of this week) despite this. (Long enough, in fact, that it engendered cupcakes. Well, not literally.)

A more direct example, also from Mr. Gaiman:

In 2008, HarperCollins agreed to put one of Neil's previously published novels, in its entirety, up online for free. Fans, via online voting, determined that American Gods would be the novel given away.

In March, just before American Gods was scheduled to come down, Neil posted,
"It's worth drawing people's attention to the fact that the free online reading copy of American Gods is now in its last six days online (it ends 31 March 08). I learned this from an email from Harper Collins, which also told me the latest batch of statistics.

For American Gods:

68,000 unique visitors to the book pages of American Gods

3,000,000 book pages viewed in aggregate

And that the weekly book sales of American Gods have apparently gone up by 300%, rather than tumbling into the abyss. (Which is -- the rise, not the tumble -- what I thought would happen. Or at least, what I devoutly hoped would happen.)"
Later, after HarperCollins has gone through the sales figures during the entire run of the giveaway, Neil posted again sharing HarperCollins's conclusions: "In the Bookscan data reported for Independents we see a marked increase in weekly sales across all of Neil’s books, not just American Gods during the time of the contest and promotion. Following the promotion, sales returned to pre-promotion levels."

So, at least in this case, a giveaway of a single title had the effect of raising the sales of not only that title, but all titles of that same author. In fact it worked so well, that they did it again, later that year, with Neverwhere.

Yes, the same argument can be made for Gaiman's success with giving away his work that can be made about NIN--they're already successful, therefore it's not the same as it is for lesser known artists. The problem is that people take the position that it's never successful which is provably not the case. The challenge is finding ways to make it successful for everyone.
posted by elfgirl at 12:02 PM on June 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


In the world where copyright exists and is respected, there is the option of making big-budget spectacles and making low-budget 'proper' art. Artists can choose to do as they like for whatever motivation they have. In the world without copyright or where copyright is pervasively infringed, there is no option.

In my experience, this isn't how it works in practice. In the real world, entire artistic communities get poisoned by money. (And not just artistic communities. It's very difficult to NOT be affected by capitalism.)

I've worked in both the New York and London theatre/TV scenes. In London, almost no one gets rich and famous as an actor. (The few who do, like Patrick Stewart, do it by coming to America.) Since this is not an expectation, people relax and just get into making art. You get the guy who played Lear last week playing a small supporting role this week.

NYC is totally different. As in London, almost no one gets rich and famous (2% of Actors Equity members are employed full time). Yet a TINY fraction of actors get "discovered" and live happily ever after in Hollywood mansions. And once that bar is set, it affects nearly everyone. People start really aggressively gauging their ranks. And they consider themselves failures if they don't become big stars. And their families do, too.

I once cast a young actress in a huge Shakespearean role. My company doesn't pay (it doesn't pay me or the actors). Her family didn't care. Then she got a miniscule background role on "Law and Order." She was on the show for 20 seconds. Her mother was so proud, she paid the girl's rent for a year.

Here's how silly it gets: my off-off Broadway company can't rehearse in Brooklyn, where real-estate is much cheaper. If we said we were going to do that -- even if we promised the actors that the show itself would run in Midtown Manhattan -- we'd be unable to cast it. Most NYC actors will NOT rehearse in Brooklyn -- even though many of them live in Brooklyn and it would be a shorter commute for them. Brooklyn is a step down.

This sort of stuff PROFOUNDLY affects the art itself.
posted by grumblebee at 12:04 PM on June 30, 2009 [6 favorites]


There has to more going on under the surface here.

There is. I guess I spoke too soon about this being the end of PB, and should have read the blog post:
TPB is being sold for a great bit underneath it's value if the money would be the interesting part. It's not. The interesting thing is that the right people with the right attitude and possibilities keep running the site.
As all of you know, there's not been much news on the site for the past two-three years. It's the same site essentially. On the internets, stuff dies if it doesn't evolve. We don't want that to happen.

We've been working on this project for many years. It's time to invite more people into the project, in a way that is secure and safe for everybody. We need that, or the site will die. And letting TPB die is the last thing that is allowed to happen!

If the new owners will screw around with the site, nobody will keep using it. That's the biggest insurance one can have that the site will be run in the way that we all want to. And - you can now not only share files but shares with people. Everybody can indeed be the owner of The Pirate Bay now. That's awesome and will take the heat of us.
So it looks like not much is going to change. And if it does, there are still dozens of torrent search sites and many, many times more trackers.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:06 PM on June 30, 2009


Also, people torrent books? That's news to me. I might download manga now and then, but man, I need to have the paper in my hands to read a collection of stories or a novel.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:08 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


While you can argue that record companies are more likely to finance big spectacles with the hope of recouping, this a) has nothing to do with the quality of work, b) doesn't guarantee equal access to the resources or even appropriate access to resources

Regarding a: the market responds very well to spectacle. You can say 'ah, well, that's not quality work or real art, just commercial pablum,' but that's quite the undemocratic slap in the face of the aesthetic sensibilities of tens of millions of people. You may not like Summer Blockbuster III: The Reckoning, but lots of people do, and their experience of the work is just as authentic and valid as your encounter with a starving artist's unrecognized work of genius.

Regarding b: and what would guarantee equal or appropriate access to resources? Absence of copyright favors well-connected artists or artists that are themselves independently wealthy. How is that equal or appropriate? Should all work only be funded by the government? Who would decide what was an equal or appropriate level of funding? Should oil painters get more, less, or the same as those who use watercolors? This line of thinking gets pretty unwieldy and even nonsensical pretty quickly.

You had a point c, but I've addressed it in lots of ways in other comments.
posted by jedicus at 12:08 PM on June 30, 2009


For whatever reason, Pirate Bay was appealing to some real artists as a way to share material through legal (or in some cases, not-so-legal) means. The one that comes to mind is Trent Reznor aka seed0, who released some interesting "best of" compilations, as well as re-distributing an old bootleg-only video. Trent was the biggest name artist I recall for self-distribution, but there were also a few smaller artists being featured on other community-focused torrent sites.

Torrenting itself isn't illegal or bad: it's the sharing (or enabling the sharing) of copyrighted music. If the band is behind it, recognizing that more exposure is a good thing, and free exposure is even better (assuming they don't pay for prominent placement on a torrent site), it's a good thing, right. Unless the label didn't agree to it, I guess.

As for touring and selling merch to make money: that's bunk. I don't want to demand free music and assume I'll "see" the band live in an arena with all the other downloaders. I like small venues with acoustic bands. I pay for what I like, assuming the material is available and prices aren't preposterous.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:12 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yes, the same argument can be made for Gaiman's success with giving away his work that can be made about NIN--they're already successful, therefore it's not the same as it is for lesser known artists. The problem is that people take the position that it's never successful which is provably not the case. The challenge is finding ways to make it successful for everyone.

I do not take that position, of course. And in fact, if you can find a way to make it successful for everyone, then that method can almost certainly work regardless of the existence of copyright. I believe that it is better for artists to have the option of using copyright instead of being forced to be a guinea pig in trying to discover a new business model.

For example, I support the existence of both proprietary and free/open-source software. The law should not try to pick a winner in advance. If FOSS leads to better, cheaper software then the market will reward that. Similarly, if giving away content can be made to work, great, but doing away with copyright is as silly as preventing people from giving things away. Options are better.

Also, people torrent books?

Over 44k book torrents listed on mininova right now, and that's separate from audiobooks, manga, comics, essays, articles, magazines, and manuals. Expect to see more and more ebook piracy as ereader devices like the Kindle come down in price and go up in features.
posted by jedicus at 12:15 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Neat. But yeah, I need to feel paper. Fortunately, I have a friend at the local anime/manga/games shop around here who does orders for me without charging me too much extra. So it might take a few weeks to get something from Japan, but at least I get what I know is the real deal.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:19 PM on June 30, 2009


Speaking of used music, I like to think that online re-sale prices are more reliable gauges for the value of items. Maybe people are more hesitant to buy used movies, music, books, etc., so there is no demand and people wish to at least clear space in ever-growing collections, but I'm amused when CDs from well-known artists or groups that start at 1 cent only sell for $1.50 after 7 days of bidding. Even with shipping, that's almost always cheaper than digital copies. Of course, there is no additional money made by the people who invested in the original item, but this still speaks to market forces or something like that.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:25 PM on June 30, 2009


If there's no profit incentive for artists to record albums, will the albums be any good?
Anyone who would ask such a question doesn't understand how most artists are constituted.


On the contrary, anyone who doesn't see how important money is to the equation doesn't understand how much time it actually takes to realize a truly great piece of work.

I'm fine with "artists will keep making art", whatever, sure they will, as they have for thousands of years. And they won't get any rewards, and they'll have to eat shit for breakfast and piss in corners of their rooms, etc., etc., the story hasn't changed since Mozart and further back. Humans have always had the peculiar contradicition of holding "art" in high esteem, while screwing the "artist" over repeatedly until they die.

The truth is, it takes a lot of time, equipment, education, and money to make anything worthy of consumption. Yes, artists work tirelessly at perfecting their craft. But they also have to eat, for cryin' out loud. So they take the job working 60 hours a week at restaurants and arrive home drained, veg out on the couch for a while for a little stress relief, and have one or two hours left every night for a little recording or songwriting. Songwriting is easy, you can pick up a guitar and knock a few out in an hour - but crafting a decent recording takes lots of research, planning, and post-production. Add to that the expectation that this songwriter who has become an audio engineer & record producer also must learn distribution, advertising, marketing, art direction, graphic design, and business management in order to get anywhere, because the time and knowledge they've invested in the first two things aren't going to ever see any profits because people will pay for buttons and t-shirts before they pay for the things advertised on the buttons and t-shirts. Whereas, if people actually paid for the music (which is the reason this all exists?), said artist might actually have the means to spend more time MAKING the music, and we'd actually have better music around.

That's just the example for a musician. As tough as it is to get an album recorded, it's got to be multiplied at least ten-fold to get a good film made. And with better equipment readily available, consumers are demanding better and better production values, even as they demand to spend less and less on quality products. So who's going to pay for that? PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE tell me, anyone in this thread who supports this free-ideas model. I would love to hear your soutions. Because you can't make these $6000 prosumer video cameras and $2000 35mm adapters and $2000 microphone packages and $25 XLR cables and $5000 entry-level steadicams OUT OF FUCKING LOVE FOR YOUR CRAFT.
posted by scrowdid at 12:30 PM on June 30, 2009


"Really? Mechanical reproduction of musical works has been protected since at least the 1909 Act. Movies and the like have been protected since at least 1912. What big budget recorded musical or film spectacle would you be referring to? Even supposing an example exists, there are none that post-date easy copying but pre-date statutory protection."

That's not what you said. Is your argument so poor that you need to keep changing the terms? As far as big-budget spectacles, opera qualifies easily, as does plenty of Shakespeare. The limiting factor regarding big-budget extravaganzas is access to the big budget, not copyright. And noting that easy reproduction came after copyright, your argument essentially comes down to post hoc ergo propter hoc.

"Regarding a: the market responds very well to spectacle. You can say 'ah, well, that's not quality work or real art, just commercial pablum,' but that's quite the undemocratic slap in the face of the aesthetic sensibilities of tens of millions of people. You may not like Summer Blockbuster III: The Reckoning, but lots of people do, and their experience of the work is just as authentic and valid as your encounter with a starving artist's unrecognized work of genius."

This is so much bombast and bullshit that I fear you have more interest in the sound of your fingers on the keyboard than the sense of your argument. The market, most manifestly in music, does not necessarily respond well to spectacle—if it did, there would be no massive flops. This has nothing to do with whether or not I consider spectacle good or quality (in fact, we've both been here long enough that there's a pretty decent record of what I do believe regarding pop, democracy and spectacle), it's that big budgets are not predictive of success or even profit. Christ, it's like arguing with someone who thinks that RBIs are a good measurement of batting.

"Regarding b: and what would guarantee equal or appropriate access to resources? Absence of copyright favors well-connected artists or artists that are themselves independently wealthy. How is that equal or appropriate? Should all work only be funded by the government? Who would decide what was an equal or appropriate level of funding? Should oil painters get more, less, or the same as those who use watercolors? This line of thinking gets pretty unwieldy and even nonsensical pretty quickly."

Exactly! As does the inverse, that copyright ensures access to big budgets, when that's manifestly not supported by evidence. They have nothing to do with each other, and it's only your muddling that's raised the issue!

And point c was essentially a summation, but your addressing it does not mean that you've answered it.
posted by klangklangston at 12:30 PM on June 30, 2009


Expect to see more and more ebook piracy as ereader devices like the Kindle come down in price...

Hopefully not completely 'like the Kindle'.
posted by rokusan at 12:33 PM on June 30, 2009


"There is. I guess I spoke too soon about this being the end of PB, and should have read the blog post..."

Well sure, people can buy shares of GGF, and distribute ultimate legal responsibility to the winds. But how many people will bother to go through the complicated process of buying stock in a foreign corporation? And the company itself is still a financial entity that can be sued into oblivion. It's easy to see the quid here (Peter Sunde and his friends get to pay off that fine), but the pro quo is still mysterious.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:35 PM on June 30, 2009


Christ, it's like arguing with someone who thinks that RBIs are a good measurement of batting.

Shut up, you stupid basepath-clogger.
posted by rokusan at 12:36 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Good point, Kevin Street.

I bet they're popping open the champagne over at Demonoid.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:42 PM on June 30, 2009


jedicus : A commercial enterprise infringing upon copyright will actually mussel the artist out of the distribution channel, copyright was created to stop exactly this. But non-commercial copyright infringement will never dominate the distribution channels.

I mean. the creators will definitely get paid if you knock out the organized commercial infringers like Napster, Pirate Bay, etc. But you'll be lucky if the non-profit infringers even help keep the prices sane, most likely they won't even have that effect.

So yeah copyright infringement should be handled exactly like my examples of "scale based" laws. If not, you've got no argument for copyright protection at all. Well, I already said maybe the Pirate Bay should be legal too, they are clearly a sticky issue legally. But I personally favor the non-commercial piracy only compromise.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:44 PM on June 30, 2009


Oh yeah, and I *do* love the free-ideas movement, and a lot of the arguments for it. I'm really quite on the fence with this, and I understand that [piracy | idea-sharing] is never going to stop, and we need to have a business model that accounts for it. But it does make me wonder what we're going to end up with if we keep treating artists like their actual art should be their part-time job.
posted by scrowdid at 12:44 PM on June 30, 2009


Similarly, if giving away content can be made to work, great, but doing away with copyright is as silly as preventing people from giving things away. Options are better.

Agreed, absolutely. Believe me, I am a big fan of copyright and the concept of intellectual property. (Anecdote: I used to do a lot of needlework. Copyright infringement (through photocopying and passing along commercial needlework patterns) is rampant. If you think explaining copyright to a 18 year old downloading music is hard, try explaining it to a 70 year old woman who thinks that just because she paid for a pattern she can do anything she wants to with it. OY.)

To a certain extent, I think the fight over internet piracy is as much about control of distribution as it is about intellectual property rights. Businesses like to be able to prove they're profitable. They want to have a paper trail showing this action led to these sales led to this profit. You can't do that when you deal with distribution channels that you don't control. NIN and HarperCollins gave their intellectual property away for free, but they did so in a way that they controlled. Consequently, they were able to show the paper trail: give book/music away -> track sales -> confirm uplift in sales because of giveaway. It is possible--I'd say almost a given--that any musician/author/movie producer that produces a saleable product gets the exact same lift from their product being available through torrent or other "free" channel. But it's not easily proveable because the IP owners don't control the distribution along those channels, so they don't like it.

Even in the example above about the independent movie, they say that piracy lost them money. But, the producers admitted that torrenting brought them wider recognition and distribution than they would have had otherwise--and lead to sales that would not have happened otherwise. But they didn't like it because people were taking their art and distributing it in a way that was beyond their control.
posted by elfgirl at 12:51 PM on June 30, 2009


As far as big-budget spectacles, opera qualifies easily, as does plenty of Shakespeare.

We must be talking past each other. When I think of big-budget spectacle I think of things like summer blockbusters with budgets in the many tens or hundreds of millions and video games with development budgets in the tens of millions. If there are live opera or Shakespeare productions with similar costs, then please excuse my ignorance.

And noting that easy reproduction came after copyright, your argument essentially comes down to post hoc ergo propter hoc.

Big budget spectacles have been protected by copyright during the development of easy copying technologies. My argument is that if this protection were taken away then there would be fewer big budget spectacles as easy copying crippled their profitability. It's true that I can't prove this empirically but that's because we have no test universe where copyright did not evolve to protect new media prior to the development of copying technology.

big budgets are not predictive of success or even profit.

That's a strong claim to make. Let's take the list of the 10 highest grossing films and look at their budgets (all numbers in millions): 200, 96, 225, 185, 125, 300, 150, 95, 115. You have to get down to ET at number 22 before you find a comparatively small budget film (in today's money it cost about $22 million). So, while a big budget may not guarantee commercial success, it would appear that commercial success does basically require a big budget.

[that ]copyright ensures access to big budgets...[is] manifestly not supported by evidence

I would very honestly be interested in seeing that evidence.
posted by jedicus at 12:58 PM on June 30, 2009


A commercial enterprise infringing upon copyright will actually mussel the artist out of the distribution channel.

Sounds fishy.

Sorry.
posted by rokusan at 1:01 PM on June 30, 2009


I mean. the creators will definitely get paid if you knock out the organized commercial infringers like Napster, Pirate Bay, etc. But you'll be lucky if the non-profit infringers even help keep the prices sane, most likely they won't even have that effect.

This is untrue. See elfgirl's example of needlework patterns, a creative industry decimated by non-commercial piracy. It may sound funny, but it's a very real problem causing substantial economic harm to a lot of people.

So yeah copyright infringement should be handled exactly like my examples of "scale based" laws. If not, you've got no argument for copyright protection at all.

As I pointed out, there are non-economic harms that are present whether the infringement is commercial or non-commercial, such as loss of control over the work. So that's at least one basis that does not rely on scale.
posted by jedicus at 1:02 PM on June 30, 2009


Filthy light thief, you do have permission for all that EM radiation you've been "downloading", right?
posted by rokusan at 1:05 PM on June 30, 2009


Let's take the list of the 10 highest grossing films and look at their budgets (all numbers in millions): 200, 96, 225, 185, 125, 300, 150, 95, 115. You have to get down to ET at number 22 before you find a comparatively small budget film (in today's money it cost about $22 million). So, while a big budget may not guarantee commercial success, it would appear that commercial success does basically require a big budget.

If you confine commercial success to being one of the highest grossing films of all time, sure, most low budget films wouldn't even be able to secure enough screens to make that kind of money. But by the same logic practically no films before 1990 were ever financially successful. If you wanted to prove that budget was predictive of success and/or profit you would need to examine all films (both successes and failures) and adjust for inflation.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:18 PM on June 30, 2009


"We must be talking past each other. When I think of big-budget spectacle I think of things like summer blockbusters with budgets in the many tens or hundreds of millions and video games with development budgets in the tens of millions. If there are live opera or Shakespeare productions with similar costs, then please excuse my ignorance."

Historically, adjusted for inflation, of course there were. Opera especially.

Big budget spectacles have been protected by copyright during the development of easy copying technologies. My argument is that if this protection were taken away then there would be fewer big budget spectacles as easy copying crippled their profitability. It's true that I can't prove this empirically but that's because we have no test universe where copyright did not evolve to protect new media prior to the development of copying technology."

But it's just as easy, and indeed more plausible, to argue that big-budget spectacles would be what would survive, as the disproportionate costs would be born by folks at lower echelons.

"That's a strong claim to make. Let's take the list of the 10 highest grossing films and look at their budgets (all numbers in millions): 200, 96, 225, 185, 125, 300, 150, 95, 115. You have to get down to ET at number 22 before you find a comparatively small budget film (in today's money it cost about $22 million). So, while a big budget may not guarantee commercial success, it would appear that commercial success does basically require a big budget."

Not at all. First, you're defining commercial success incorrectly—Gross is different from Net, but Net is what defines commercial success. Second, you're ignoring the multitudes of films that have big budgets but low returns. Like I said, budget is a terrible predictor for success, and you're also committing the fallacy opposite the one you accused me of—appeal to popularity. There have been scores of great movies that have been neither commercially successful nor spectacles.

Budget has no predictive power for quality of art.
posted by klangklangston at 1:23 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I would very honestly be interested in seeing that evidence."

Oh, and that one's so easy, I overlooked it. If copyright ensured access to big budgets, every artist who wanted to work with big budgets would do so. They do not, so it does not. QED.
posted by klangklangston at 1:26 PM on June 30, 2009


(2) I really don't think the effort that went into Sgt Pepper or Pet Sounds was motivated primarily by the desire to make money.

Fuck, if I were in it for the money, I'd be a damned patent lawyer or something.
posted by kaibutsu at 1:38 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


"people torrent books? That's news to me. I might download manga now and then, but man, I need to have the paper in my hands to read a collection of stories or a novel."

Not novels but I've torrented all the 40K and DnD books I use. I've got hard copies too but 1) the scans came out before the hard copies were available and 2) you can't grep a dead tree. For a while WotC was making electronic copies of their works available but they've stopped that now.

"Copyright infringement (through photocopying and passing along commercial needlework patterns) is rampant. If you think explaining copyright to a 18 year old downloading music is hard, try explaining it to a 70 year old woman who thinks that just because she paid for a pattern she can do anything she wants to with it. OY.)"

You see this in woodworking too. It's a tricky thing in woodworking because there are all sorts of nuances. Some plans come with licence agreements trying to limit what you can do with the complete project; even when the plans are direct take offs of antique pieces. Or the license tries to make you buy one plan for each piece you make, even for your own use. Make four bookshelves and the authors want you to pay four times. It's going to be interesting as CNC technology continues to decline in price and increase in usability it's obvious that control files will be traded like needlepoint plans are now.

"That's a strong claim to make. Let's take the list of the 10 highest grossing films and look at their budgets (all numbers in millions): 200, 96, 225, 185, 125, 300, 150, 95, 115. You have to get down to ET at number 22 before you find a comparatively small budget film (in today's money it cost about $22 million). So, while a big budget may not guarantee commercial success, it would appear that commercial success does basically require a big budget."

This isn't an arguement either way on the need for copyright but you can't trust the cost numbers from Hollywood. After all Return of the Jedi hasn't yet turned a profit.
posted by Mitheral at 1:40 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Historically, adjusted for inflation, of course there were. Opera especially.

I am honestly interested in a concrete example. I searched around and the best I could find was a $10 million modern production of the Phantom of the Opera. Expensive, true, but small compared to a modern Hollywood film. In any event, live performances like opera don't suffer from quite the same copyright dependency as films, video games, books, etc. A modern home theater setup can be as good as a movie theater when you count the convenience and privacy, but no home theater can match a live performance.

Anyway, assume that it is true that budget size does not predict commercial success. Then why do movie studios make big budget films? On the whole the blockbusters must make more money than the flops lose or else it wouldn't be rational. All things being equal it's better to take the smaller risk of a lower budget film.

I couldn't find net numbers, but inflation adjusted lists are mostly big budget films, though there are a few exceptions (ET, Grease, Beverly Hills Cop, and Home Alone).

If copyright ensured access to big budgets, every artist who wanted to work with big budgets would do so. They do not, so it does not. QED.

Ah, again we were talking past each other. My argument was that copyright is a necessary condition for big budget productions for media that are easily reproduced digitally, not that it's a sufficient condition for anyone working in the creative industry to have access to a large budget if they wanted to work with one.
posted by jedicus at 1:45 PM on June 30, 2009


Let's take the list of the 10 highest grossing films...

Um, that's not a very useful yardstick. Even if we posit that financial return is all that matters, a more sensible measure would be the most profitable films, instead, no?

Some of the most successful films have been low budget ones. The Blair Witch Project. American Graffiti. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Those are all films that made back more than 70x their budgets. That's (business) success.

It's also common sense: would you rather spend $100M and get $114M back, or spend $2M and get $30M back?
posted by rokusan at 1:49 PM on June 30, 2009


Even if we posit that financial return is all that matters, a more sensible measure would be the most profitable films, instead, no?

In absolute profit terms, it's still basically blockbusters all the way (scroll down to "Most Profitable Movies, Based on Absolute Profit on Worldwide Gross"). 18/20 of them come from the 90s or 00s. Some of that is inflation-related, it's true.

From the same page you can see that the big ROI films that manage to make a large return in both percentage and absolute terms are fewer and further between. I only count 6 in the 90s or 00s (Primer and Tarnation did not have a high ROI in absolute terms). Apparently it's been more successful to bankroll a few big blockbusters each year than to produce lots of small budget films in the hope that a few hit it big.
posted by jedicus at 1:59 PM on June 30, 2009


Also, people torrent books?

Lots of them. Demonoid says it has 23,742 seeded book torrents right now.

I don't read online, but I download nonfiction PDFs I can't afford and print useful chapters to read offline.

Also, there are audio books.
posted by pracowity at 2:46 PM on June 30, 2009


And with better equipment readily available, consumers are demanding better and better production values, even as they demand to spend less and less on quality products.

Yes, film equipment is expensive. If you can't afford to buy it, you'll have to find some other way to get access to it (borrow? share?) or you'll have to find something else to do. Few of us can afford to do what we really want to do. Life is brutal and full of zasadzkas. No one is entitled to make movies.

People have to stop arguing about this stuff and just get used to it, adjust for it. That, or push for really horrible laws that scare people out of piracy and make ISPs responsible for what people download. If you aren't willing to do that, it will never end.
posted by pracowity at 2:48 PM on June 30, 2009


Underscoring that not all bittorrenting is piracy, a short list of items online available for legal torrent download:

Sita Sings The Blues Previously
Nine Inch Nails -- The Slip Previously
The Corporation
American Prince
Wizard Of Speed and Time
The Great Jonny Quest Documentary

I'm sure there are more. That's just off the top of my head.

posted by hippybear at 2:55 PM on June 30, 2009


"Given that computer game sharing has existed since before computer games were even sold commercially, and that practically every major commercial computer game has been pirated to some extent, it could probably serve as a good model for what illegal copying can do to an industry over thirty years or so. Computer games are still around, game companies can still make money, and people still buy games."

Oh, yeah. that's a great model. Considering that the main complain on pretty much any gaming sight is that the games industry has gone from being innovative and open to a few monolithic studios cranking out formulaic rehashes. Yippee for your brave new world.
posted by rodgerd at 3:34 PM on June 30, 2009


Considering that the main complain on pretty much any gaming sight is that the games industry has gone from being innovative and open to a few monolithic studios cranking out formulaic rehashes.

How is this in any way different from what people say about the music and film industries?
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:47 PM on June 30, 2009


Some of the most successful films have been low budget ones...It's also common sense: would you rather spend $100M and get $114M back, or spend $2M and get $30M back?

This is not common sense at all.

Would you rather buy $100M in 10 year US Treasuries with a 3% yield, or invest $2M in my Web 2.0 startup that could be the next Facegoogle and return 100x your investment?

You need to know a lot more about the relative risk of the different investments and a lot more about the investor (how much capital do they have? what's their risk tolerance, etc...).
posted by mullacc at 3:52 PM on June 30, 2009


If I could push a button that would make all arts funding dry up for the next 20 years, I'd push it -- knowing that it would mean I'd probably die without ever making any money from art. Lack of funds would clearly separate "the men from the boys." After the smoke cleared, we'd be left with people making art because that's what they were "meant" to do.

Ahhh The Ann Rynd School of Art .... I can't help but wonder if those theories work any better when applied to Art as they did applied to our current finance system

You can't kill art. You just can't. It's part of being human.

Of course you can kill Art. You can corprotize and monitize and capilalize it until it isn't Art anymore .... it becomes McArt. Heard any good AM redio stations lately? FM? How many heavily promoted Rap artists can you compare to any up and coming band of the 70's? Seen any good Indie flics at your local google-plex lately? And by the way what ever happenned to all those Art House theaters or the 3 buck a night theaters?

Support your local music Industry - it's good for the artists!
posted by Poet_Lariat at 3:59 PM on June 30, 2009


This is not common sense at all. Would you rather buy $100M in 10 year US Treasuries...

That's a whole different tangent. We were not talking about the risks of investment, only whether huge budgets are necessary for films to be successful. They're not.
posted by rokusan at 3:59 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


If I could push a button that would make all arts funding dry up for the next 20 years, I'd push it -- knowing that it would mean I'd probably die without ever making any money from art. Lack of funds would clearly separate "the men from the boys." After the smoke cleared, we'd be left with people making art because that's what they were "meant" to do.

Which is sort of the opposite of what happened the last time we had a financial collapse.
posted by hippybear at 4:10 PM on June 30, 2009


Thanks for the interest in how my film sells, and I'll be sure to keep the blue updated.

But it seems to me that the pro download arguemt assumes far too much.

A small film looks to make it's money back from ancillary and foreign markets. Anciallry means DVD and Pay TV. If there is evidence of illegal downlaoding then that can directly effect both markets, pay TV may be less inclined to give money for a film they think everyone's already seen, and likewise foreign markets won't wnat to buy something that they think is readily available for free. now yes, you can say that some films will be a huge success with downloads and that will boost their interest and therefore their sales price, but it won't happen to all of them, so what about the others?

And then there's the argument that everyone in the media and in the studios is a gazzilionaire and they can afford to have money taken off them. Record companies are always screwing over artists so it's all OK. Well it maybe OK if you're going to audit every comany before you download their product just to make sure, otherwise how do you know?

I've spent the last 2 years making my film, from first script through production to the point where we're at now, and I've lived on f*** all while doing it. I could have (and did) earn a lot more making commercials, but narrative film is what I wanted to do, and what I thought I could do best and would be enjoyed by an audience best. But I can't afford to do that and not be paid.

The tales of people buying DVDs after downloading them are all well and good, but they're annecdotal. they don't pay my bills, far from it, downloading numbers just put off foreign buyers and investors and are killing what I do. You can argue all the numbers you want, but the fact is there is no evidence that downloading increased sales, especially not in the film business.

And finally, to all those who tell me that it's inevitable, that the internet can't stop downloads ever, I say I don't care. I'd like you to take a personal stand. You don't NEED my film, your life will be fine without it. No one is holding a gun to your head to make you download it. So don't. Just because you can makes it neither right nor morally OK.

It's my job, and you know I think I do it quite well. Read the reviews, and if it sounds like your kind of thing, rent it or go to the cinema to see it, and then if you like it, buy it. If you don't like the reviews then leave it alone. I don't mind. But please, I'm asking you, don't download it illegally. You damage my product in more ways than you think, you ruin what I'm trying to sell and you impact on the next film I'm trying to raise money on.

And I'm really not alone in this situation. You don't need this film, so don't download it if I ask you not to. It's not that tricky.
posted by ciderwoman at 4:25 PM on June 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


You can't kill art. You just can't. It's part of being human.

Of course you can kill Art. You can corprotize and monitize and capilalize it until it isn't Art anymore ....

Sorry, I wasn't clear. The word "art" is overloaded and you and I mean two different things when we use the word. I agree that you can kill individual works of art. What I meant is that you can't kill the human urge to make and consume art.

And even in our corporate-ized world, there's TONS of fantastic art if you know where to look for it. You can't kill good art -- you can't kill good art as a category (though you can kill individual pieces of good art). You can't kill it because good art needs three ingredients: (1) an artist with a good vision; (2) An artist with the ability to realize that vision; (3) an artist unwilling to compromise that that vision for financial (or any other kind of gratuitous) gain. There will always be people like that.
posted by grumblebee at 4:26 PM on June 30, 2009


Ahhh The Ann Rynd School of Art ....

What part of Rand's philosophy am I in agreement with? I thought she believed in laissez-faire capitalism. My fantasy is that artists (including me) don't get paid at all.
posted by grumblebee at 4:37 PM on June 30, 2009


That's a whole different tangent. We were not talking about the risks of investment, only whether huge budgets are necessary for films to be successful. They're not.

My point is that "success" as you're measuring it is meaningless. I could invest $1 in a lottery ticket and win $20M. Does that mean my lottery ticket purchase was more successful than a movie that returned 15x on $2M? You could say that, but it wouldn't really mean anything.
posted by mullacc at 5:01 PM on June 30, 2009


In others words, it's possible that you can make a successful movie without a big budget, but it's also possible that you can't build a successful movie business without making big budget movies.
posted by mullacc at 5:15 PM on June 30, 2009


>You don't NEED my film, your life will be fine without it.

You're right. Please post the title so I can avoid it.

I think you'll find that, in time, obscurity will be a bigger problem than piracy.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:18 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


You don't NEED my film, your life will be fine without it.

You're right. Please post the title so I can avoid it.

I think you'll find that, in time, obscurity will be a bigger problem than piracy


No, that's just the point. From my point of view, from a small business point of view, piracy IS the problem. Obscurity, I'll let posterity decide about that. But the thing that effects my bottom line, and effects in a very real way what i do is piracy, so that's what I deal with.

And no, I won't post the film title, because I don't want my film to be singled out either positively or, as I suspect would be the case, negatively. I can't afford for that to happen.

So enough of the snark, do something that you can effect and leave history to itself.
posted by ciderwoman at 5:23 PM on June 30, 2009


From my point of view, from a small business point of view, piracy IS the problem. Obscurity, I'll let posterity decide about that. But the thing that effects my bottom line, and effects in a very real way what i do is piracy, so that's what I deal with.

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on klangklangston's response to your original comment. Asking for a moral stand against piracy is good and right, but probably not very effective. I hope there's a back up plan.
posted by mullacc at 5:40 PM on June 30, 2009


>And no, I won't post the film title, because I don't want my film to be singled out either positively or, as I suspect would be the case, negatively. I can't afford for that to happen.


Are you afraid that your stance on unauthorized copying would engender more copying, and eat into your shiny disc sales? Or that it would cast a shadow on the work and discourage interest in it?

If the former, I suspect that the exposure might actually help move discs. (Just don't fall into the "D/L=lost sale" trap, or you'll make yourself nuts.)

If the latter... well, your position just doesn't seem productive.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:45 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nine Inch Nails doesn't count. If Trent Reznor had said, "Okay, specially marked boxes of Captain Crunch will contain special cards you have to send in. If you get a card with a cat on it, you have to send in nine cat heads. Your CD will arrive via carrier pigeon," people would have run out and bought Captain Crunch. He's at that point in his career where Trent + Any Business Model = It Works.

That won't be true everywhere else.

This debate is so hard to test. In some sense, we're trying to argue over the numbers an equation. On one side, in the world where DRM magically worked and nobody could share CDs. On the other side, we have the world as it actually exists.

$ from sales if DRM magically worked <> $ one group says we would have had if not for pirates - $ that same group said we lost from piracy + $ this other group says were gained through exposure from piracy

And I am coming across a hard time devising an experiment which would show the effects. For a given band, heck, for a given album by that band, it's going to be substantially different. It's not as if we can release the same album in two different places, one being the United States and the other an alternate version of the United States without the Internet. A possible, sound methodology for this eludes me.
posted by adipocere at 5:58 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


>Nine Inch Nails doesn't count.

Ahem. Masnick's Law.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:20 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


DRM isn't used anymore on CDs. At least not here in Europe. It just didn't work. Bad PR, bad business. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

DRM shouldn't be part of this argument at all. We (the music "business") got over that already.
posted by hoskala at 6:20 PM on June 30, 2009


Nine Inch Nails doesn't count.

Ahem. Masnick's Law.


I'll give you another: Jonathan Coulton. Thing-a-Week FTW.

I hear he's internet famous now.
posted by elfgirl at 6:59 PM on June 30, 2009


Just don't fall into the "D/L=lost sale" trap ...

Seems like that already happened.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:04 PM on June 30, 2009


>I'll give you another: Jonathan Coulton. Thing-a-Week FTW.

Jonathan who? He'll never make a go of it. He's not nearly as famous as Trent.

>Seems like that already happened.

Yeah, unfortunately. If it was just one individual, I'd be sad. When it's the five hundred individuals who get to write the laws, I'm pretty PO'ed.

In retrospect, I'm amazed that all of our new cars don't come with mandatory buggy whips.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:09 PM on June 30, 2009


Pleeaase, how many torrent users go and pay for a legal copy after downloading some content?

Its been a couple years since I last downloaded music or a movie. I'll admit none of my nickels make it back to the movie producers, as I've no desire to ever watch a movie a second time. Music-wise, though, every artist I downloaded and enjoyed repeatedly ended up making a commercial sale to me: I want a bit-perfect copy that I can rip at high quality, plus I want to support the artist. I just wish I could do it without also supporting the bastards at RIAA at the same time. I've sometimes considered just sending cash in the mail directly to the artists.

These days, though, the only torrenting I do is for television programs. If I find myself enjoying a series that is old enough to be out on DVD, I end up renting the DVDs: the video and audio quality difference is enough to make it worth the ten or twenty bucks for a season's worth of entertainment. What bums me out is that I can't get new series on DVD. I would be just as happy to subscribe to a weekly DVD release of each new episode. Video and audio quality are worth a buck or two.

Unfortunately, the media companies continue to price themselves out of the market. There is not a fucking chance in hell that I am going to drop seventy-five bucks on the first season of True Blood, for instance, especially when I can just rent the damn thing for twenty bucks. It's just television: I'm never, ever going to re-watch it, so I sure as hell am not going to pay more to own it than to rent it.

So in my experience, I am willing to pay for a better audio/video quality than torrents will provide. But I am not willing to be gouged for it.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:34 PM on June 30, 2009


I would be just as happy to subscribe to a weekly DVD release of each new episode. Video and audio quality are worth a buck or two.

Unfortunately, the media companies continue to price themselves out of the market. There is not a fucking chance in hell that I am going to drop seventy-five bucks on the first season of True Blood, for instance, especially when I can just rent the damn thing for twenty bucks. It's just television: I'm never, ever going to re-watch it, so I sure as hell am not going to pay more to own it than to rent it.

So in my experience, I am willing to pay for a better audio/video quality than torrents will provide. But I am not willing to be gouged for it.


This is exactly why we subscribe to premium channels via our satellite service. We GET all the movies. We GET all the series. It's all right there! With a DVR, we can watch it on our schedule. With a DVD Recorder, we can archive things for later viewing. And I think each package of multiple channels is, um... $5/month? I'd be surprised if it were more than $10. And that includes the HD versions of the channels, if we were so equipped.
posted by hippybear at 9:45 PM on June 30, 2009


The tales of people buying DVDs after downloading them are all well and good, but they're annecdotal. they don't pay my bills, far from it, downloading numbers just put off foreign buyers and investors and are killing what I do.

I assume the issues there are that those works are released later in Germany, if they are released at all, and that libraries often do not stock foreign TV series. Two points: one, you can still rely on reviews and legally available online clips for 'try before you buy.' Two, to the extent that it is not available at all, it's the copyright owners prerogative not to release it in certain countries, and you could always import it yourself.


To respond to both jedicus and ciderwoman, I think that may be part of the problem. Many (most?) works are released much, much later to foreign audiences (even when they're not being dubbed or subbed!). Letting customers "try before you buy" via previews, clips, and reviews from your country while not actually giving foreign fans a way to buy your work for months (or more) is a great way to encourage people to download or otherwise pirate it. Potential customers take a look at the legally available stuff, decide they want to buy it, and then find out they can buy it... in four months. Or a year. They can import it now, sure... if they don't mind paying double the price with foreign shipping, waiting a few extra weeks for it to arrive (unless they want to pay even more for fast shipping), futzing around with hardware and possibly spending a bunch of money to get a region-free DVD player, etc. That's if they can actually get a copy; some sites simply don't sell stuff overseas. Take a look at all of these barriers. Now imagine going to all this trouble for something you've only seen a few minute-long clips of. Instead, people pirate it. Some of them will concientously pay once it arrives in their market, but when that much time and money is required to see your work, you're going to chase anyone who is more casually interested away.

Let me give a personal example: Last spring, much of the English-speaking internet was talking about the fourth season of Battlestar Galactica, but it wasn't being broadcast in Germany and Hulu wouldn't show it to anyone outside of the US. There was no hope of seeing it any time soon, either: the first half of season 4 aired more or less when the 2nd half started in the US, and as Wikipedia puts it, "Wann die zweite Hälfe in Deutschland ausgestrahlt wird ist noch unbekannt." So when the fourth season started, I ended up downloading it, or using a proxy to trick Hulu into showing BSG to me (catching up on the end of the 3rd season as well; I heard it was airing on a German TV channel around then, but there was no way to watch it online, and I had no TV.) I wanted to throw money their way to encourage more good TV, but each season is almost $40 on amazon.com, and I don't even want to know what the shipping had been if I'd have bought season three and had it sent to me in Germany. I'd have probably paid $50 or $60 to see something that someone in the US could see for nothing but the price of ad-watching on hulu.com.

By comparison, Persepolis came out at similar times in the US and in Germany. I read that they'd made a movie of it, either in the German or American media, and I was able to go see it in a theater as soon as I saw a review of it. I wish I could have done something like that with BSG, but there was no way to do that without waiting a year or paying a huge amount of money.

This is all to say that while I don't have an answer, I wonder if the combination of financial reliance on foreign releases combined with the fact that the foreign products are released much, much later is actually causing more problems for small films like ciderwoman's than piracy alone. Hugely staggered foreign release dates might not have mattered as much a few decades ago, but faster communication and easier film-copying have really changed things.
posted by ubersturm at 10:08 PM on June 30, 2009


"This is exactly why we subscribe to premium channels via our satellite service. We GET all the movies."

Is this really true? My experience, even with a full load off satellite was we were only exposed to maybe 70% of mainstream movies. Sure that's a crap ton of movies but it's not all, especially if you have niche tastes.

"Let me give a personal example: Last spring, much of the English-speaking internet was talking about the fourth season of Battlestar Galactica, but it wasn't being broadcast in Germany and Hulu wouldn't show it to anyone outside of the US."

I'll give you another example. The Daily Show gets linked to on metafilter via comedy central _all_ _the_ _time_. But we can't view those links in Canada; we're supposed to use the Comedy Network's web site. Too bad said website not only both blows about sixty five ways from Sunday while simultaneously sucking so hard I'm sure the server farm exists in a technical vacuum, it also seems to be down about 30% of the time. Or at least not serving video. So I don't even bother anymore and instead just hop right to the torrent. And why does the comedy network's web site blow chucnks? It's about 80% Branding and 15% "Oh my god the user might save a local copy". Christ on a rubber cruch, make it easy for me to watch clips on your site and I'll sit through a 30 second ad at the beginning.

PS: it would be nice if people linking to the daily show would say what episode the clip is from; would make the whole thing a lot easier.
posted by Mitheral at 10:29 PM on June 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is this really true? My experience, even with a full load off satellite was we were only exposed to maybe 70% of mainstream movies. Sure that's a crap ton of movies but it's not all, especially if you have niche tastes.

Um, well, between Sundance, Independent Film Channel, The Documentary Channel, Free Speech TV, LinkTV, and some of the long-tail channels for each of Showtime, HBO, and Starz... I mean, I guess the question is, are you willing to ride the wave that comes into your house, or do you want to direct the flow? If I add in a couple of commercial channels, like Ovation and Current, I can nearly always find something which is going to expand my horizons. But chances are, if I go looking for Exactly That One Thing That I Must Watch, it's not going to be there.

Assuredly, you won't find "all" the movies available anyplace. But as far as getting to see all the episodes of, say, True Blood, or Weeds, or (then) The Sopranos or The Wire... it's a cost effective way to have a pipe of material into ones house, which provides viewing beyond the meagre fee one is paying for the content they are actually wanting. five fresh fish was saying that paying a nominal fee for good picture / sound would be worth it, and I was suggesting that it's pretty easy to do. (Granted, this is only a nominal fee if you already have a television service, yadda yadda yadda...)
posted by hippybear at 10:40 PM on June 30, 2009


Maybe I need to investigate satellite, then. I'd happily enough pay $30/mo if it allows me to watch what I want, when I want, without commercials.

If not, I'm better off watching DVDs or torrents.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:03 AM on July 1, 2009


If there is evidence of illegal downlaoding then that can directly effect both markets, pay TV may be less inclined to give money for a film they think everyone's already seen, and likewise foreign markets won't wnat to buy something that they think is readily available for free.

Do you have data to support this, because it sounds a lot like seat-of-pants counter-anecdote.

You have actual PayTV buyers and DVD distributors offering you less money because your film was downloaded?

That sounds like someone is pulling a bad lie on you, because you know what? EVERY SINGLE FILM has been downloaded a billion times, and the more popular the film, the more it's been downloaded. So following that logic, they'll never buy anything.

If someone suggest that this excuse is the reason they're not offering you more money for your own film, I suggest you ask them which films they did pay for, and then show them how those films were also downloaded three billion times over.
posted by rokusan at 4:44 AM on July 1, 2009


Screw Mike Masnick. He made a quote, it's automatically true? My ass.

Please refute the idea that the reason Trent Reznor's business model du jour is successful is more due to the part where it's Trent Reznor rather than the business model. Don't just throw out some quote from "Free! Free! And if it doesn't work out for them, they must have been wrong about the business model! Free!" Techdirt.
posted by adipocere at 6:34 AM on July 1, 2009


Rokusan, if you want evidence can I suggest you attend the AFM or any other big film market and ask the distributors what they think? I have no idea how you would collect data on something like this, but if you walk round the film markets this is what people are saying.

Time and again when I talk to distributors they want to know if our films have been pirated and indicate they wouldn't be interested if they have been.

Like I said, I work in this business and this is what distributors are saying to me, but beyond dragging one of them in here I don't know what else I can say.
posted by ciderwoman at 6:57 AM on July 1, 2009


Although a quick trawl found this

"Piracy is one of the most challenging problems faced by the motion picture industry. The Motion Picture Association of America estimates that US studios lose more than $3 billion annually in box office revenue from piracy. They have launched a major effort to prevent these losses. Yet their efforts are hampered by the ex post, counterfactual, and indirect methods by which losses are usually estimated. This paper addresses these issues directly. We develop and estimate a statistical model of the effects of piracy on the box-office performance of a widely-released movie. The model discredits the argument that piracy increases sales, showing unambiguously that Internet piracy diminished the box-office revenues of a widely released motion picture. The model overcomes a major weakness of counterfactual or “but for piracy” methods widely used to estimate damages. These counterfactual methods violate the “nobody knows” principle because they forecast what the movie would have earned in the absence piracy. The model we present does not violate this basic principle of motion picture uncertainty. We estimate that pre-release and contemporaneous Internet downloads of a major studio movie accelerated its box-office revenue decline and caused the picture to lose about $40 million in revenue.
-Arthur De Vany, Department of Economics, University of California , from Estimating the Effects of Movie Piracy on Box-office Revenue, 2007
posted by ciderwoman at 7:05 AM on July 1, 2009


adipocere, ChurchHatesTucker brings up the example of Johnathan Coulton, a guy who just recorded songs and put them up for free download. He now sells CDs of those very same songs- which you can still download- and is popular enough that he makes a living off the CDs and live performances.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:08 AM on July 1, 2009


And this

"Another key difference concerns the extent to which markets are influenced by piracy. Piracy is a global problem, but I think it is particularly detrimental to box office grosses in many Asian countries. More and more, fears of piracy impact decisions that industry executives make regarding release strategies"
- Anita Elberse , Harvard business school
posted by ciderwoman at 7:10 AM on July 1, 2009


I hate to keep going in this circle, but those numbers are from the MPAA. They're based on the one download = one lost sale model, which is vital to MPAA's lawsuits.
posted by roll truck roll at 7:17 AM on July 1, 2009


Isn't piracy in Asia more along the lines of "the government doesn't care about the people selling pirated DVDs on the street" than "hey, I downloaded a movie for free!"
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:40 AM on July 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Skeptic: "...the Pirate Bay/Party is indeed a bit of a hot button issue for me. Of course, I may be biased by the fact that I am a patent attorney (I've disclosed as much in previous discussions here) and point 2 of the Pirate Party's founding principles calls for the complete abolition of the patent system. But mostly I have a bias against hypocrites, and to me there are no bigger hypocrites that those who claim to stick it to "the Man", while simultaneously stuffing their pockets."


I disagree with you. The patent system is absurd and needs to be changed.

Also, there is no hypocrisy in sticking it to the man and getting paid. As a result and in spite of the man trying to keep everyone under their thumb, folks were still able to make some cash. The hypocrites are the ones that turn performers into indentured servants and then pretend to be serving their best interests by suing anyone that listens to their music without buying it from said hypocrites.

Most bands make jack shit from CD sales by the record labels. They make a vast majority of their money from performance fee's at venues, merchandise sales at the shows, and promotional contracts, etc...

Case in point of how hypocritical the record companies can be is when they sued John Fogerty for plagiarizing himself. He left the record company and went to a new one, and they didn't like it.... Greedy Bastages.
posted by Gravitus at 8:22 AM on July 1, 2009


And I totally agree that some people can do it. My problem is with mandating it. What this boils down to is "Look, this guy over here made a living this way, and this other artist doesn't mind giving away his stuff, so everyone must now do that."

That's not okay. Somewhere, for nearly every job there is, someone gives it away for free. That doesn't mean that everyone else has to.
posted by adipocere at 8:28 AM on July 1, 2009


Please refute the idea that the reason Trent Reznor's business model du jour is successful is more due to the part where it's Trent Reznor rather than the business model.

Okay, well, linked on the page you seek to refute is a testimonial by Adam Singer, wherein he lays out his adventures with releasing his music under Creative Commons licensing.

With all of that said, I will give a piece of piece of advice I hope you’ll listen to if you’re any kind of artist that can put their work into a digital format: put as much of out under creative commons as you can. It is the most powerful promotion tool I’ve come across in nearly a decade of making music.

He then goes on to mention that the real work of music promotion is the creation of 1000 dedicated fans, and why that is important. He lays out a simple strategy for self-promotion over the internet using CC licensing and free music distribution, and explains how it worked in his personal case.

The marketplace has shifted. Whereas before, radio was the "give it away for free" realm of music exposure, that doesn't exist now. At least, not like it did. We're in a different model, maybe even a different paradigm completely. It isn't that this shift has been mandated. It is that it has happened, and anyone who doesn't make the shift will be left behind as the market moves elsewhere.
posted by hippybear at 8:54 AM on July 1, 2009


"Anyway, assume that it is true that budget size does not predict commercial success. Then why do movie studios make big budget films? On the whole the blockbusters must make more money than the flops lose or else it wouldn't be rational. All things being equal it's better to take the smaller risk of a lower budget film."

I think most of your other points have been addressed, but this is easy to explain if you think about the countervailing interests inherent in a movie production—the cost of cast and crew, who all want to get paid as much as possible. Superstar talent and directors command a premium as a signifier of their value. Producers are subject to irrational ego too.

And I totally agree that some people can do it. My problem is with mandating it. What this boils down to is "Look, this guy over here made a living this way, and this other artist doesn't mind giving away his stuff, so everyone must now do that."

That's not okay. Somewhere, for nearly every job there is, someone gives it away for free. That doesn't mean that everyone else has to.
"

Right, but that does require them to justify why they're not to the market. What makes their work more valuable? Further, folks who do give it way employ a lot of strategies to still make money that can be adopted by folks who don't give it away. As downloading is inevitable, the best reaction is to supplement work with alternate income streams. Hell, major labels and major studios are always looking for ways to squeeze more cash out of a release, so why shouldn't lower-tier folks? Like I said, it's a romantic and foolish approach.
posted by klangklangston at 9:05 AM on July 1, 2009


Piracy is one of the most challenging problems faced by the motion picture industry. The Motion Picture Association of America estimates that US studios lose more than $3 billion annually in box office revenue from piracy.

According to this 1999 report,
the average rate of return for G-rated films is 66%; PG-rated films garnered 52%; PG-13 pictures returned 50%; R-rated films registered a 37% return; and NC-17 pictures had a 27% return.
Those are enormous returns on investment. The US studios could lose billions more and still show greater profitability than almost all other businesses.

IOW, cry me the Nile River, MPAA. You're raking in so much profit it's simply obscene.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:36 AM on July 1, 2009


Those are enormous returns on investment. The US studios could lose billions more and still show greater profitability than almost all other businesses.

Eh...I'm not really sure that report is saying what you say it is. The report (actually the updated 2005 report) can be found here. Clearly this organization is trying to push G-rated movies. But that's sort of besides the point in this discussion. More importantly, Dove is analyzing films that were released.

It's hard to tell if Dove is factoring in the costs of unreleased films, or the general overhead of running a large studio. Their ROI formula is described as "average net profit per film...[divided by] average cost (negative cost, print & advertising, worldwide video costs)." The "average net profit" used is determined using box office results, which are notoriously inaccurate (though the effect can go both ways, I've heard). FWIW, they are also talking about a two-year horizon, so those numbers aren't annualized rates of return.

By comparison, the results for Dreamworks, a public company, show that they generated about a 20% ROIC last year. That's very good, but not quite up to those huge numbers in the Dove report. And some lesser film companies didn't do nearly as well. Lionsgate is losing money and Weinstein Companies is having big trouble too.
posted by mullacc at 10:25 AM on July 1, 2009


>...if you want evidence can I suggest you attend the AFM or any other big film market and ask the distributors what they think?

Seriously? That's like asking the buggy whip manufacturers what they think of automobiles. Almost literally.

> Screw Mike Masnick. He made a quote, it's automatically true? My ass.

A difficult argument to attend to, given that (a) Mike would rebuff my advances, and (b) I'm reasonably sure you have an ass. You may want to consolidate your approach.

Please refute the idea that the reason Trent Reznor's business model du jour is successful is more due to the part where it's Trent Reznor rather than the business model. Don't just throw out some quote from "Free! Free! And if it doesn't work out for them, they must have been wrong about the business model! Free!" Techdirt.


Did you read the link? OK, I'm guessing not:

So, if we show a big name band being successful, we're told it only works for big bands. If we show a less well known name doing well, we're told that it only works for no names, but that it could never work for big names. Someone in our comments jokingly referred to this "exceptionalism" as "Masnick's Law." Hell, in a post that once described both big name bands and no names being successful, someone in the comments complained that it might work for big names, and it might work for no names... but it couldn't possibly work for the vast majority of musicians in the middle.

posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:27 AM on July 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Insider Trading Suspected Ahead of Pirate Bay Sale
posted by homunculus at 2:30 PM on July 1, 2009


"Right, but that does require them to justify why they're not to the market"

No. It. Doesn't.

If I choose to sell something then it's up to me how I want to sell it. I have to justify it to no one, so long as I don't break the law. I am NOT required to sell it or make it available in anyway just because YOU want it. If everyone else offers free downloads and I don't and I go out of business because of that then hey, that's the market. But beyond that I don't have to justify anything in my selling of something. It's there to buy if you want it. If you don't then don't buy it, but don't try and move the moral goalposts and make it my fault.

I'm not going to post anything else on this now because it's just pointless. There's a whole lot of snark here from people who have already made their minds up and have no interest in a debate and I really can't be arsed to try and change their minds.

Everyone in the film business is well aware new business models need to be found, but that still doesn't mean it's OK to take something I made if I ask you not to. This work is not public work, but no one here seems to have an argument for why it should be treated as such.

And all this talk of how much studios are making is just beyond childish, or are you proposing to audit every company before you download their stuff, just to make sure they're 'rich enough'?

For the last time - this is my product, to do with and distribute how I see fit. I'm asking you not to download it. Forget all the arguments about whether DLing is good or bad for a film, I don't want it to happen to my film. My choice. So don't do it.

Maybe one person reading this will think twice before they DL a film next time, wondering if there's someone like me trying their hardest to balance the books, and maybe then think again and not do it. I'm not holding my breath but if this has given a more human face to the side of the evil capitalist exploiters who just want to stop everyone having fun then it's done something.
posted by ciderwoman at 4:34 PM on July 1, 2009


I am now curious, how much money does a filmmaker receive per Netflix rental? Is that something which is quantified and paid out, or is that the physical product version of download, watch and delete, where Netflix is really The Pirate Bay, shipping out DVDs to be viewed basically for free to anyone who will pay the postage?

I'm really curious about this. Because if filmmakers get paid by the rental, that's one thing. But if they sell one copy of the DVD to Netflix which then ships that out to 100 people without any money for the filmmaker, I fail to see why the same arguments aren't being made about everyone's favorite red envelope.
posted by hippybear at 4:41 PM on July 1, 2009


My understanding - and I may be completely wrong about this - is that like any video store, Netflix indirectly pays more for more rentals because more rentals necessitate more rental copies, which are considerably more expensive than normal DVDs.
posted by roll truck roll at 4:46 PM on July 1, 2009


If I choose to sell something then it's up to me how I want to sell it. I have to justify it to no one, so long as I don't break the law. I am NOT required to sell it or make it available in anyway just because YOU want it....I'm not holding my breath but if this has given a more human face to the side of the evil capitalist exploiters who just want to stop everyone having fun then it's done something.

Jiminy. I don't think klangklangston was implying that you are an evil capitalist. I think he's implying that you're bad at being a capitalist.
posted by mullacc at 4:58 PM on July 1, 2009


Er...I shouldn't put words in klang's mouth, but that's what I was thinking and he seemed to be headed down the same path.
posted by mullacc at 5:00 PM on July 1, 2009


Hrm. Okay, doing a bit of my own research (not finding much yet about Netflix but I'm a-diggin'...) I seem to have found IndieFlix, which seems to split revenue for both DVD sales and streaming video purchase.

I also see that Sundance recently had problems with the company they chose to track online film viewings, and ended up bagging the entire concept for the time being.

There are minor details about a business deal with Netflix in this BusinessWeek Article, but they're pretty sketchy:

Data mining also helps Netflix decide what to pay for hard-to-market movies. When it bought DVD rights to Favela Rising, a documentary about Rio de Janeiro musicians, Sarandos knew 1 million customers had rented 2003's City of God, also set in Rio. About 500,000 picked Oscar-winning documentary Born Into Brothels, and 250,000 saw both. So Netflix paid a fee based on 250,000 rentals. If it does better, producers and Netflix split the upside.

Okay, sorry about the derail.
posted by hippybear at 5:08 PM on July 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I would very much like to borrow electronic media (like books) from the library, or purchase "used" copies as I do now. Is this actually possible? I'd love to buy/borrow less physical books and go to ebooks, but it seems like the format is deliberately not engineered for things like library loaning and secondhand usage.

It's happening in our Calgary/Alberta library system. A growing library of eBooks has been available for years (usually through some other service - Safari, etc.) and recently they have introduced downloadable audio books as well - all have heavy DRM and some audio books will only work on some devices (ie. no iPod for audio books, only WMA-capable devices).

The really funny thing, IMO is the artificial scarcity they implement with their electronic media. They can only "loan" out so many at a time, there are still waiting lists. And you still have arbitrary "due dates".
posted by jkaczor at 5:49 PM on July 1, 2009


If I choose to sell something then it's up to me how I want to sell it. I have to justify it to no one, so long as I don't break the law. I am NOT required to sell it or make it available in anyway just because YOU want it.

Pardon me - I really am not trying to snark here - but is it really reasonable to say this and then complain about losing a market you depend on (foreign and DVD sales) because effectively disenfranchised them due to really onerous terms imposed on that market by you and your representatives?

While you may not have to justify your decision to release/not release, I'd venture to suggest that - given the barriers that your decisions represent to potential customers - you should justify your subsequent complaint that customers are not buying as much as you had hoped. As I said previously, I suspect that choosing to follow the current release model will slowly deprive you of your foreign and DVD audiences. If those are the audiences you depend on for profit, well...

I mean, I think we can all agree that there are assholes who will always try to get things for free, and I think we can also agree that there are also fans who will always pay. But I suspect that the middle segment of the population - the people who will pay as long as it's relatively easy and provides a fairly high-quality product, the people who pick the iTunes store over both downloading and heading to a real record store - that will make or break distribution in the age of the Internet. So yes, you can choose to delay release of your film in foreign countries by a year, but I'm not sure that it is then reasonable to complain about foreign audiences downloading rather than seeing. Some people are OK waiting a year or more, but importing is a huge pain and most will get frustrated and download or they'll forget about your film entirely (unless it gets a pretty well-publicized release in their country.) Same thing goes for $40 prices for a season of a TV show (which many audience members will have seen for only the price of cable and/or ads.)

To give a non-film example: the last Harry Potter book was released (in English) all over the world on the same day. Translations followed fairly swiftly (the German one lagging by a mere 3 months, for example.) Not much reason for large-scale pirating (and most of the copies extant prior to the release were crude page-scans.) Now imagine that the book had been released in the UK only, and published in the US (and other English-speaking countries, ignoring translations) a year later. Do you think there would have been more people downloading? Do you think that interest in the US release a year later (after all the hubbub of the initial release of the 7th book (along with all the initial reviews) had died down) would have been quite as great?

When all the world's connected, timing is, unfortunately, everything.

I love independent film, and I spend more time heading to theaters (and renting movies) than I can really afford. Same with music, and shows/record stores. But when certain artists make it very hard for a significant portion of their audience to get their product in any remotely affordable or timely fashion, I can't help but think that they're shooting themselves in the foot, denying themselves a profit from the broader audience that it interested in them.
posted by ubersturm at 10:57 PM on July 1, 2009


"Insider Trading Suspected Ahead of Pirate Bay Sale"

Very interesting...
posted by Kevin Street at 11:21 PM on July 1, 2009


"No. It. Doesn't.

If I choose to sell something then it's up to me how I want to sell it.
"

Yes. You. So. Or. I. Will. Buy. Something. Else.

I mean, there are two options here—you didn't understand what I said, or you're just amazingly stupid and should avoid discussing commerce at all.

Let's assume it's the former: Why do you buy one thing over another? How do you decide what to spend your resources on? You, and every other economic actor, makes a decision based on perceived value. In order to be worth more of anyone's resources, a good has to provide more perceived value. That's the "justification."

Now, think about this from a consumer point of view for a moment. Let's pretend that your movie won't be downloaded at all without your permission. Why would someone choose your movie over some other movie they can see for free? Let's say because it has some great writing about a topic they can't see otherwise—that's the justification. But is that great writing worth the price?

I'd kind of like to see the Cremaster series at some point. So far, it's been prohibitively expensive to do so. I've been tempted to download it, but frankly, I'm just as happy not seeing it, and even downloading has a cost (though a fairly low one).
posted by klangklangston at 11:51 PM on July 1, 2009


"Yes you do." Obviously, downloading has eliminated the market for copy editing.
posted by klangklangston at 11:58 PM on July 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Time and again when I talk to distributors they want to know if our films have been pirated and indicate they wouldn't be interested if they have been.

Okay, now I feel the ground is firming up beneath me when I say:

These distributors are playing you for a fool.

All films have been pirated. Every film they already distribute, and every film ever released. That makes their argument ridiculous. So they are saying this in order to drive down your price, or in some weird jujitsu move to make you blame piracy for their own extortion.

The next time a distributor asks you this question, I suggest you answer:

"Well, I don't know. I expect they've been pirated just as much as any other film."
posted by rokusan at 5:44 AM on July 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


the people who will pay as long as it's relatively easy and provides a fairly high-quality product, the people who pick the iTunes store over both downloading and heading to a real record store - that will make or break distribution in the age of the Internet

It's also about how you treat the (paying) customers.

I was anti-iTunes for music when the songs were all DRM-locked, and I downloaded pirate MP3s exclusively, on principle: I didn't want Apple (or anyone) controlling data I paid for years ago.

Now that iTunes music is DRM-free and I can copy it to my work PC, six iPods, back it up four times, or whatever... and not worry about stupid "licensing keys", I finally use the iTunes store for music, because $1.29 is fair enough for a good song, and it's a lot faster/easier to get a quick fix than to find torrents and cross my fingers.
posted by rokusan at 5:48 AM on July 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Rockusan, I'd really like to offer you a job with my company, because with your amazing insight into a business you don't know you'd be invaluable.

I've been doing this for 15 years and no one is playing me for a fool. I've seen plenty of changes in the business over that time and I'll see plenty more. I see the ins and outs of this business, the clever things it does and the really stupid, and I'm always looking for new ways to work. I've dealt with licencing, distribution, exhibition and production. I've been invloved with tiny sales companies that were little more than two people working out of an appartment and big studios being able to throw money at problems. If the problem of piracy and funding was easy to fix we would be doing it. It makes economic sense to do so. But right now it isn't, and I can only work within the models I have.

Let's just accept that you think downloading is OK and I don't. But please, don't try and make out that I'm some wide eyed idiot being hoodwinked by the distributors, because that really just isn't true.
posted by ciderwoman at 7:14 AM on July 2, 2009


(and, on my I promise last post - itunes is a perfect example of doing things right, showing that people are happy to pay a small sum rather than face the inconvenience of bit torrent / because they think it's the right thing to do. I know plenty of people trying to find a simillar way that will work for films, given that - as I mentioned earlier - it's a different model to music due to there only be a single revenue stream)
posted by ciderwoman at 7:17 AM on July 2, 2009


Let's just accept that you think downloading is OK and I don't.

Actually, my point w/r/t your issue was that it's inevitable, and perhaps you should try to make the best of the situation... but mainly that if your distributors are using that as an excuse for not picking up your film, they are lying.

You're not an idiot, clearly. So you realize that every film is pirated, right?

All films... every single one. How do these distributors reconcile that with their excuse that they won't pick up yours and only yours?

I am genuinely curious because I can't think of a rational explanation other than "they are lying to you."
posted by rokusan at 7:45 AM on July 2, 2009


If the problem of piracy and funding was easy to fix we would be doing it.

You seem to be labouring under the misapprehension that "fixing" it is an option, or even something to worry about. It is something that is simply impossible to stop. You would do well to stop trying to put a stop to it and start looking at how you respond to it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:54 AM on July 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


I know plenty of people trying to find a simillar way that will work for films,

Sort of like...iTunes?

given that - as I mentioned earlier - it's a different model to music due to there only be a single revenue stream

I'm not sure what you mean by "single revenue stream". Both the music industry and the film industry have multiple revenue streams--merchandising, pubic performance, recorded media sales, and so on.
posted by elfgirl at 8:13 AM on July 2, 2009


No. the music industry has 2 streams, you like the record now go see it live. The film industry has one, and that is the real problem facing our industry. Believe me, if i could square this circle I happily would, but right now I, along with many others trying to find a way, can't. I need to make money from what I do and I would love to know how, maybe I should just release my films in cinemas with no DVD, so if oyu like it you have to go and see it there, becuase without an answer my level of film will die from lack of investment very quickly.
posted by ciderwoman at 4:45 PM on July 2, 2009


Believe me, if i could square this circle I happily would, but right now I, along with many others trying to find a way, can't.

The funny thing is that you're in a place where you could probably get some pretty good ideas, and you could probably give us some pretty good ideas too. But somehow this discussion has started off on the wrong foot. Let's have a brainstorm!

- Do a campus tour with cast and crew Q+A sessions.

- Create a cut of the film with no music. Book a tour of music clubs in which the orchestra accompanies the film live.

- Do a campus tour in which the film is the film is the centerpiece of an immersive Ann Magnuson-style interactive performance environment. Have a documentary-maker come along on the tour and film the performances and responses from various venues. Release a two-pack DVD of the feature and documentary.

- Put the entire film online whole, and also provide separate files for each camera take, ADR, music cue, etc. Have a "remix the film" competition. At each screening, randomly select three entries and show only one act of each version. People will watch your movie online and, if they like it, attend multiple screenings to see as many remixes as they can. Put the best three versions on the DVD, along with the original.

- Or, you want scarcity? Don't submit it to any festivals or release it in any form. Require that people rent the film for screening parties in their homes. Have an intern bring the DVD to each party, to ensure that partygoers don't copy it. Also have the intern interview people about what they thought of the film. Create a videoblog of the interviews to build buzz around the film.

- Or here's one: show the film only in porn arcades. Imagine the buzz: a legitimate independent film being screened in pay-per-minute spank booths. You'd get media coverage all over the world. Buzz would develop as confused moviegoers go to seedy neighborhoods with rolls of quarters in their pockets, asking each other, "Is this really the place?"

You might say, "Oh come on, those are terrible ideas." To which I would reply, you're right! They're terrible. Now tell me the good ones. The point is that there is no right way. The artists who are staying relevant in this century are the ones who are taking active control of all of the possibilities at their disposal, the ones who are as creative with context as they are with content.

If you have a minute, check out this column by Momus. It's about all these things we've been talking about. And it's about how artists' interactions with an audience are the one thing that can never, never, never be replaced.

Piracy isn't the issue, really. The issue is that there's no longer such a thing as scarcity of media. The companies who have traditionally controlled media are becoming obsolete. The good news is that artists aren't going anywhere. We don't have corporations presenting our work to audiences on our behalf anymore, but we don't have to give them 90% of the profit anymore either. We're stronger than we've ever been.
posted by roll truck roll at 6:08 PM on July 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


"No. the music industry has 2 streams, you like the record now go see it live. The film industry has one, and that is the real problem facing our industry. Believe me, if i could square this circle I happily would, but right now I, along with many others trying to find a way, can't. I need to make money from what I do and I would love to know how, maybe I should just release my films in cinemas with no DVD, so if oyu like it you have to go and see it there, becuase without an answer my level of film will die from lack of investment very quickly."

Hey, y'know, I realize that in terms of day to day movie business you have much, much more experience than I do. But if you can't figure out—after being told repeatedly—that music has multiple revenue streams and are always looking to expand those, and that major studios also have multiple revenue streams (ever buy a Star Wars figure?), you should really hire me. I'll get merch made that you can sell at every festival. I'll get your film on a tour with bands. I'll get indie game designers who can turn your movie into a flash game, toss in an ad to help support it, and include a direct link to buy your film. I'll seed approved trailers on torrent leak sites, and make sure that folks know they can buy full versions with extras. I'll get your work into non-traditional conventions and build a booth display.

I mean, you know that there are folks doing this, right? You know that comedians and skaters tour with film merch, right? There are folks out there hustling and making bank for it, but it takes work and it takes a willingness to get scrappy and realize that traditional distribution models have historically had high barriers to entry, so folks who wanted to get their stuff out there have to be creative.

Like I said, you're probably great at what you do, and have probably spent a lot of time getting good at it. And you probably are annoyed at internet jackasses telling you what you should do. But it's not the only way to do it, and by insisting that it is even while those distribution models are becoming less successful means that you're ill-positioned to take advantage of alternate revenue streams and likely to be disproportionately affected by the decline of traditional distribution schemes.

(And here's where I admit that I know more about selling music programing, since a lot of this can be negotiated out of promotional budgets and recoupables with record labels and distributors. But I'd imagine that you have a promo budget that this could run as line-items in, and with a lot of music contracts you can set it up so that you can get your label to eat the price of producing these items, then use the money from selling them against the larger recoupable promo budget. But it depends on your contract and how clever your lawyer is.)
posted by klangklangston at 6:37 PM on July 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


At some point you have to question whether you can't or won't.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:38 PM on July 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Copyright was designed only to prevent commercial scale copyright infringement, making your whole point moot jedicus. There just ain't an effective strategy for eliminating non-commercial copying except : force enough product into the distribution channels that many customer buy for convenience.

I'll believe the pirate bay's quasi-commercial nature might eventually generate enough revenue that they'd threaten the normal commercial distribution channels, thus forcing out the artists. But any profitable channel will eventually cream non-commercial channels simply because they can place servers everywhere. Also, I just don't consider old ladies dealing with the psychological effects of inflation and fixed incomes as a meaningful example.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:12 AM on July 4, 2009


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