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May 16, 2010 6:58 PM   Subscribe

Why I Steal Movies... Even Ones I'm In. Written by Peter Serafinowicz, the mind behind Look Around You and Hot Chip's recent music video I Feel Better (previously).
posted by Rory Marinich (72 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
I like this guy.
posted by turgid dahlia at 7:05 PM on May 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, if he didn't steal his own stuff, who would?
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:16 PM on May 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


In the meantime, I'll be suing myself for pirating my own show. And I'm pretty scared, because I have an amazing lawyer.
Man, I <3>Flattr.
posted by signalnine at 7:20 PM on May 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, he gets it: give people better-than-free at a decent price and piracy goes away, or at least is reduced to just the terminally cheapskated or arsey, and they were never going to buy anything anything anyway.
posted by Artw at 7:21 PM on May 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


Post fail. I <3>Flattr so I can express my love in a monetary form.
posted by signalnine at 7:21 PM on May 16, 2010


wow, less than three makes for all kind of HTML fail.
posted by signalnine at 7:22 PM on May 16, 2010


(Psst, signalnine: it's weird, I know, but when you want to do a < or >, you have to type "&lt;" or "&gt;" – keeps the HTML from getting all screwed up and trying to help you close a tag...)
posted by koeselitz at 7:29 PM on May 16, 2010


Do you &lt;3 it?
posted by Artw at 7:30 PM on May 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


See also: Peter Serafinowicz does 50 impressions in 2 minutes.
posted by decagon at 7:33 PM on May 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


He makes the great point (expanded on by people in the comments) that in the globalized world of the internet, we all know what we want to watch, we want to watch it, we want to "consume", but the people running things make that so damn hard, sometimes. I can't buy a Beatles album legitimately on iTunes. Hulu tells me I can't watch a show because of where I live, after my local TV network cancels the show because it doesn't pull in the audience they were hoping for. I can't find the legitimate video clip for The Cult's "She Sells Sanctuary" on Youtube, which I was looking for, and was consdering buying the album, but now I can't be bothered. My son's "A Bug's Life" DVDs are getting scratched to hell, but there are technical limitations designed to prevent me making a back-up copy. Now apparently, in buying that DVD, I paid for a licence to view the content, not the physical disc. I should still be able to watch the media I paid for long after the disc itself has turned to dust, but they don't live up to their word.

You can't fight piracy by going after people's Bittorrent IP addresses, you can only fight it by letting people access the media that they so desperately want to access.
posted by Jimbob at 8:03 PM on May 16, 2010 [12 favorites]


I always figured that a guy who can play a massive dick like Duane Benzies (or, for that matter, Pete in Shaun of the Dead) would have to be a pretty awesome guy.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:13 PM on May 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


after reading this, i love this man.
i'm 100% more likely to check out his work because of it.
the naz:

Most importantly, I believe that the direct and deepening connection artists now have with their fans, be they independent bands or Hollywood talkshow hosts, will play a huge part. But one thing is for sure: artists will always make art, and money-makers will always find a way to make money.

god. yes.
posted by es_de_bah at 8:18 PM on May 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I envision a subscription environment much like Netflix Instant View where you're not limited to viewing just the film, or even the DVD extras; you can also access test footage for the sequel, webcams on the set, and so forth. A huge amount of content that wouldn't even be very practical to pirate because most of it isn't of interest to most fans--but the fact of having so much of it available means there's probably some value you can get from this arrangement that you couldn't get from a box with your movie in it.
posted by LogicalDash at 8:24 PM on May 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Now apparently, in buying that DVD, I paid for a licence to view the content, not the physical disc. I should still be able to watch the media I paid for long after the disc itself has turned to dust, but they don't live up to their word.

Surely that license you bought didn't include the right to make copies of it. That seems like it would be a pretty big oversight on the part of the MPAA...

You can't fight piracy by going after people's Bittorrent IP addresses, you can only fight it by letting people access the media that they so desperately want to access.

You're right, which is why Itunes, Steam, and digital distribution of video games makes so much money- casual consumers (ugh) can just easily buy it without screwing around with a torrent or whatever, and don't have to worry about malware/getting banned from Live/etc.

There's really no way to "fight pircay" anyway, especially considering the massive scale of piracy in Asia/Africa and other places that are not-US/UK. The deal with the Bug's Life disc is just to add that little hurdle so that only 10% of people are pirating it and not the 90% of consumers who are only marginally tech-savvy. The Hulu thing is just a byproduct of the weird license/contracts that happen whenever megacorps make deals with each other (thankfully there's still plenty of streaming sites out there that aren't region-restricted, and most are ad-free unlike Hulu).
posted by hamida2242 at 8:32 PM on May 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


you can also access test footage for the sequel, webcams on the set, and so forth. A huge amount of content that wouldn't even be very practical to pirate

Adding those things might convince folks to pay for the content, but any content that gets produced (especially if those kinds of extras become popular) will get pirated.
posted by hamida2242 at 8:39 PM on May 16, 2010


I reckon quite a few Mefites got their usernames through IsoHunt.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:51 PM on May 16, 2010


I know I did.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:51 PM on May 16, 2010


(i loved this essay. read it earlier today and was waiting for it to show up here...)

i think the guy hits it pretty fairly when he writes of how he's paid for the spirit of the thing so why shouldn't he be allowed to have it in whatever form he wants? this desire to limit our ability to use what we purchase how we want to is just so vulgar. if anything is driving us to replicate past their constraints that might be pretty far up the list.
posted by artof.mulata at 8:52 PM on May 16, 2010


A huge amount of content that wouldn't even be very practical to pirate

There is no amount of content that isn't "very practical to pirate." Now, am I a cynic, or does the idea that all these media companies think if we just get the right DRM, or just provide that little extra icing on the cake, people will stop pirating our stuff? Does anyone believe that is rational?
posted by griphus at 8:54 PM on May 16, 2010


Personally, I got my name through BTJunkie. Too many restrictions on IsoHunt these days.

Seriously though, as someone outside of the US, I can't watch Hulu. Certain things, like Conan O'Brien's last show, won't ever come to Japan, in any form. Only some TV series ever air on Japanese TV, and only a few more are ever sold in stores. Of course, were I to buy those series in America and bring them back to Japan, I'd have to deal with the region hurdle for DVDs. And broadcast sports? One live football game is shown a week on a single cable channel here, with three or four taped and shown as late as Sunday the next week. The Japanese version of NBA League Pass is only available through a satellite provider, and while it shows a game every day during the season, the network chooses the game, and because the Pistons a) suck, and b) aren't hugely popular overseas, not many of their games get aired.

Give me a way to see what I want, and in a timely manner (don't make me wait a week to watch a football game. I love the sport, but watching a game is only really fun when you don't know the outcome), and I'll pay for it, at a reasonable price.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:05 PM on May 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's an old, tired complaint but it would be nice to fork out $40 for a Blu-ray disc and get home and put it into the player and then not have to sit through 10 different clips telling me how piracy is bad and I'm destroying [insert locality here] film and how there are big fines involved. Mainly because if I was a pirate I'd pirate it anyway, and if I'd secured a pirated copy all of those clips would have been excised, and if I wasn't a pirate and wasn't going to pirate it and hadn't secured a pirated copy that would suggest I had paid legitimate money for it from a reputable retailer and fuck you, DVD warning guy.
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:05 PM on May 16, 2010 [11 favorites]


I wouldn't pay money for any of the Star Wars prequels either hee
posted by One Thousand and One at 9:08 PM on May 16, 2010


Look Around You is amazing... if you haven't sought it out, you should...
posted by ph00dz at 9:25 PM on May 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I picture a near future where all the media is hosted on the cloud and is accessible by anyone with the money to pay for the micro-royalties for it.

No one will ever purchase a copy of the media again they will only be able to watch it. People will still pirate some things, but most of the people with cash will just ignore the nearly automatic charge of pennies.

I am not sure that I will like this future.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 9:33 PM on May 16, 2010


turgid dahlia, I've seen your exact complaint somewhere, in a visual explanation of how different watching a legally bought dvd is from watching a pirated version. The dvd has screenshots of the different trailers, ads, and warnings, about ten or fifteen different things to sit through, whereas the pirate just hits play and watches the movie. It's the same with watching movies in the theater. We're the folks who just paid for this, why are you yelling at us?
posted by Ghidorah at 9:37 PM on May 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nice philosophy. If you can't get exactly the shit you want, the way you want it , as soon as you want it , (if not sooner) well then ... it's perfectly justified to just take it.

It worked for the Khmer Rouge , it's gotta be a valid point of view.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 9:45 PM on May 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Wow. PareidoliaticBoy, thanks for equating piracy with genocide. Mind you,

If you can't get exactly the shit you want, the way you want it , as soon as you want it , (if not sooner) well then ... it's perfectly justified to just take it.


Personally? I can't get the shit I want. Not even a near match, let alone exactly what I want. (The NBA vs, I shit you not, the BJ League?). I can't get it at all, let alone in the way I want (being able, once having paid for it, to watch it on the variety of devices, tv/ps3/ipod/computer that I usually watch film or tv on). As soon as I want it? I'm not annoyed because the horses at the Pony Express aren't fast enough. The technology to broadcast and/or stream exists. In the US, I believe, the NCAA basketball tournament is streamed live. In Japan, they start showing March Madness in JUNE.

The technology exists to do this stuff. I'd be happy to pay a reasonable fee, however the product I would like to pay isn't available in my region. Should I just give up, then, and forget about something that I quite like, just to fall in line with outmoded business models?
posted by Ghidorah at 10:02 PM on May 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


It worked for the Khmer Rouge , it's gotta be a valid point of view.

Because the comparison of copyright infringement to larceny and murder at sea wasn't stupid enough...

(also: we know who the Khmer Rouge were. Ta.)
posted by pompomtom at 10:20 PM on May 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


BJ League

I think you're watching the wrong satellite channel....
posted by cthuljew at 10:33 PM on May 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am anti-piracy, but if you think that people complaining that pirated content is superior to paid-for content due the latter containing unskippable ads and unskippable moralistic haranguing of people who bought your content. If you believe that such people are morally equivalent to the people who orchestrated the killing fields of Cambodia -- the literal deaths of millions of innocent people, then you are an asshole.
posted by dirigibleman at 11:13 PM on May 16, 2010 [17 favorites]


cthuljew, lord I wish it was true, but someone actually okayed that name. It should clearly be the JBL, but either WWE threatened a lawsuit, or yet another large Japanese group has decided to use English without getting a proofreader...

On the other hand, unlike most Americans, I got to see Ed O'Bannon play professional basketball.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:13 PM on May 16, 2010


Surely that license you bought didn't include the right to make copies of it. That seems like it would be a pretty big oversight on the part of the MPAA...
Well, it wouldn't need to because making backup copies of media you own is something you're legally entitled to do when you buy it. The license probably didn't specify that you could resell it (you can). A license can't specify you can only watch a movie on Tuesdays either.
i think the guy hits it pretty fairly when he writes of how he's paid for the spirit of the thing so why shouldn't he be allowed to have it in whatever form he wants? this desire to limit our ability to use what we purchase how we want to is just so vulgar. if anything is driving us to replicate past their constraints that might be pretty far up the list.
Well, part of the problem is that when you get something from bittorent, you also help give it out to other people. A lot of people are confused about this, and the MPAA and RIAA do everything they can to keep people confused because they don't want anyone uploading or downloading.

But when they sue you for copyright infringement if they get your IP as being part of a BT swarm, they are actually suing you for distribution not for acquisition. With BT it's all a part of the same thing.

If you find a copy on youtube, or download it from rapidshare or something like that, you've got nothing to worry about.

(I'm not trying to defend the RIAA/MPAA here, I'm just pointing out what's actually going on)
posted by delmoi at 11:32 PM on May 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's an old, tired complaint but it would be nice to fork out $40 for a Blu-ray disc and get home and put it into the player and then not have to sit through 10 different clips telling me how piracy is bad and I'm destroying [insert locality here] film and how there are big fines involved.
I you think that piracy is "Stealing" then why don't you think unskippable ads are also stealing? They're stealing your time, and they make it difficult to put a movie in and skip to a certain part to watch it quickly.

The ads cause you to lose value that you paid for, presumably without knowing about the unskippable ads (or are they so widespread now now that everyone expects them?)

The point is, there are all kinds of annoying things that corporations do that waste your time or annoy you, just to make extra money. They actually destroy value in order to acquire wealth instead of creating it. And a lot of times they buy off politicians in order to make it legal.

Anyway, I don't think piracy is theft. Some of this stuff I wonder about, though. In a lot of cases they actually are depriving you of something you paid for.
posted by delmoi at 11:41 PM on May 16, 2010


Well, it wouldn't need to because making backup copies of media you own is something you're legally entitled to do when you buy it.

That's legally murky, but more to the point, it is explicitly illegal to bypass the access controls on most DVDs. This is true even if the subsequent copying of said content would otherwise fall under fair use.

The RIAA, btw, still maintains that it is illegal for you to rip your CDs to mp3s.
posted by dirigibleman at 11:53 PM on May 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, that's right. If you convert your DVD to a format viewable on your iPhone, or pop your CD into your computer and rip it to a format listenable on your mp3 player, your are the moral equivalent of Pol Pot.
posted by dirigibleman at 11:59 PM on May 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Pff. It's the internet - people are going to compare random-thing-they-don't-like to acts of mass genocide, that's just how it is. You've just got to grow up, shake it off, and stop being such a Hitler about it.

As for the RIA/MPAA, they're really nobodies freind - not only are a faliure at the impossible task they've been alloted, but they've actually managed to make things worse with their heavyhanded tactics by giving some kind of bullshit moral imperitive to every know it all "copyfighter" out there. Thanks guys, that really helps everyone.

Rape of Nanking. Hanson. Armenian Genocide.
posted by Artw at 12:28 AM on May 17, 2010 [8 favorites]


"Better to arrest annoy ten innocent people by mistake than free barely inconvenience a single guilty party."

Come to think of it, even the original quote would suit the [MP|RI]AA …
posted by Pinback at 12:41 AM on May 17, 2010


You've just got to grow up, shake it off, and stop being such a Hitler about it.

Yeah, yeah, that's exactly the sort of thing we could expect to hear from a...a...that's just such a Trekkie thing to say! "Grow up"? Whatever, Picard!
posted by turgid dahlia at 12:55 AM on May 17, 2010


The RIAA, btw, still maintains that it is illegal for you to rip your CDs to mp3s.

Well they're full of shit.
posted by delmoi at 1:16 AM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Good article. However, for all his understanding of the internet and the way people now use media, Serafinowicz is easily the most annoying Twitter user on the planet. I know of at least 10 people that have followed him in the past but been put off by a thousand inane tweets for every gem. Anyway, I know he's got a huge following, but if you like your Twitter feed to be occasional nuggets of funny/interesting stuff I'd suggest you avoid Serafinowicz and stick to his articles and tv shows.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 1:32 AM on May 17, 2010


I quite like movie trailers.. like to know what else is out and I'm an extras junkie. Thought he non-skipable ones are a pain and 'You wouldn't steal a hand bag' can fuck right off.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:36 AM on May 17, 2010


Serafinowicz did the voiceover for this classic anti-piracy warning.
posted by malevolent at 2:41 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


give people better-than-free at a decent price and piracy goes away

If they set up for-pay torrent trackers with guaranteed high-bandwidth seeders, they'd make a mint.
posted by DU at 4:48 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


What strikes me about the article and some of the comments is how much it comes down to a somewhat childish impatience. Why does he really have to see the latest episode of South Park right now? Seems to me that if a tv show or movie is more than just a for-the-moment fad, it'll still be worth watching five years from now, and cheaper at that. I can wait. And if it's temporarily hard to find, then you can always find something else.

I mean to say, good God, these days the amount of material out there that is worth watching so far exceeds the amount of time you have to absorb it that moaning over delayed access is a little like bitching about the line at the all-you-can-eat buffet. A little unseemly. Adjust your schedule. It won't kill you.

(Point of interest - the Jungle Book 40th anniversary DVD has been available in the US and the UK since 2007. Anyway, he would have done his son better service by getting him the book itself. Far better use of time.)
posted by IndigoJones at 6:07 AM on May 17, 2010


Why does he really have to see the latest episode of South Park right now? Seems to me that if a tv show or movie is more than just a for-the-moment fad, it'll still be worth watching five years from now, and cheaper at that.

But many TV shows and movies are just that - for-the-moment. They're things that you joke about with your friends. They're cultural literacy of a simple sort.
posted by me & my monkey at 6:26 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why does he really have to see the latest episode of South Park right now?

...

Anyway, he would have done his son better service by getting him the book itself. Far better use of time.


Let's see: he has his own opinion, it's different from yours... yep, time for snark and snobbery.

He shouldn't pirate television and movies lest your monocle pop out. "Why, I nevah!"
posted by grubi at 6:32 AM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


South Park? The show that writes its shows a week in advance specifically so that its episodes will be frequently relevant to what's happening right then?

Anyway, he would have done his son better service by getting him the book itself. Far better use of time.

Yeah because animation and music and voice acting don't add anything to art and create an entirely separate experience.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:40 AM on May 17, 2010


I still love The Butterfield Diet Plan.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:06 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rape of Nanking. Hanson. Armenian Genocide.

I don't quite yet know how but I am totally going to slip that into a conversation and see if how long it takes for the other person to pick up on it.

DOO WAAP GENOCIDE OOH WAAP
posted by litleozy at 7:34 AM on May 17, 2010


More on the point of the article, doesn't this essential boil down to market failure to adapt to consumer demands? Before consumers had no choice but to shut up and watch the ads, now they can short circuit the 'unreasonable' restrictions (which includes price).

What I wonder is whether, after all this, any restrictions, even legitimate ones, will be put up with. You can't give 'better than free' all the time.
posted by litleozy at 7:38 AM on May 17, 2010


How is downloading a show you missed for the express purpose of watching it once then erasing it different from taping a show on your VCR so you can watch it after you get home from work?

Oh right, Pol Pot. Got it.
posted by Aquaman at 8:10 AM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


But many TV shows and movies are just that - for-the-moment. They're things that you joke about with your friends

But he said without hoop jumping he couldn't get it at all, or at least, not as fast as he would like. If so, then presumably his friends can't either. So the urgency argument still fails.

I'd say also that the best of South Park holds up well over time, topical or not. I don't care if it's last week's episode of back in the days that Chef was still on it.

And though I stand by my monocle, please note that I did not lay out an opinion on pirating one way or the other (at least not here. I've stated elsewhere I'm against it, but tire of arguing). My only point was that, unlike stealing a bottle of medicine for your sickly child, piracy is totally unnecessary and self indulgent. TV and movies are no longer ephemeral, they are stockpiled in ever greater number, building up that list of things one will eventually get around to seeing. Not so long ago, if you wanted to see Citizen Kane, you had hope it would hit the late show or the local art cinema. Otherwise, you're out of luck. No longer. Now you can watch that or the Terror of Tiny Town pretty much at will. And any other number of high low and junk culture you care to name. Unthinkable forty years ago.

It's a simple point. With that kind of richness, it's ridiculous to gripe about all things not being always accessible. The more so since that will presumably come soon enough (though arguably it might come sooner if people showed a little more willingness not to pirate.)

(I also stand of my opinion of the Disneyfied Jungle Book, sidebar though it be. The cheap jack cartoon is a crap interpretation of a first rate childrens book, and the fact that he insists on downloading it apparently without checking if it is otherwise available and without considering the original book as a substitute underscores my argument that his insistence on Right Here Right Now is limiting his vision. Never thought I would see a defense of Disney products on the blue, I'll tell you that much.)


More on the point of the article, doesn't this essential boil down to market failure to adapt to consumer demands? Before consumers had no choice but to shut up and watch the ads, now they can short circuit the 'unreasonable' restrictions (which includes price).

To his credit, he does envision the possibilities of people getting paid once video on demand becomes workable. Meantime, the question is whether consumer demands are reasonable. Something for nothing is not reasonable, especially when you don't ask permission. And a few seconds for warning and adverts? Please. How soft are you people? That's when you go for popcorn and raisonettes.
posted by IndigoJones at 8:28 AM on May 17, 2010


Meantime, the question is whether consumer demands are reasonable.

Given how easily they're met by pirates, you'd think it'd be trivial for the rights-holders to make this stuff available on, say, iTunes, before the pirates can get it up from a TV-rip. They might even make some money. And yet, here we are...
posted by Dysk at 8:38 AM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


But he said without hoop jumping he couldn't get it at all, or at least, not as fast as he would like. If so, then presumably his friends can't either. So the urgency argument still fails.

That's just not reality. There's this thing called the internet, and through it one can make friends with people all over the world. If I want to discuss the latest Doctor Who with my friends, some of those friends will have seen it live, and some of them will see it an hour late on iPlayer, and some of them will have to torrent it or wait for downloads which might take 2 hours post-airing, but the discussion begins as soon as the episode is over, and a week later everybody's on to the next one. The community moment is now, not whenever BBC America happens to get around to airing that episode, 4 months later or whatever.

You're talking about content as content, and sure, some people watch a show or listen to an album and that's it. But far more people watch a show and want to discuss it, to share cultural referents with others. Far more people listen to a song or an album and want to send it to their friends, and dance to it, and make videos of themselves dancing, and remix it, and talk about how it relates to this other song or artist or album. Media, for a lot of people, is about community.
posted by marginaliana at 8:44 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


piracy is totally unnecessary and self indulgent.

Even if that were true, so what? Why must it be "necessary" (whatever criteria you may be using) in order for it to be of an value? How is "self-indulgence" wrong or evil?

You're not one of those anti-tv folks, are you? Because you know... television watching is self-indulgent!

I also stand of my opinion of the Disneyfied Jungle Book, sidebar though it be. The cheap jack cartoon is a crap interpretation of a first rate childrens book

Again, so what? You're simply restating "I don't like it" = "it's a waste of time" (which isn't true). I'm not a fan of the Disneyfication of stories or of Kipling's overt racism, so I don't have much of a dog in this fight, but when it comes to Mr Serafinowicz choosing that film to download and view who the hell cares and why?
posted by grubi at 9:41 AM on May 17, 2010


It's incredible to me how much better pirated versions of shows can be than legal versions.

For example, anime fansubs are in 720p HD, and seamlessly match their subtitles to the fonts and colors used in the show. Meanwhile, the DVDs put out by whatever company gets North American rights—if they get the rights at all—are SD (beginning to change now, but it's not common) and have basic (if better-translated) subtitles at best.

Or, I can set up my torrent client to automatically download whatever TV shows I want. That way, I can get home from work at 8:00 PM (PST) and I've got all the shows I want to watch waiting for me, commercial-free and in HD. Let's see iTunes or Hulu do that.

The fact that people who do this for free are better at it than multi-national corporations blows my mind.
posted by reductiondesign at 10:13 AM on May 17, 2010


Ghidorah - You're probably thinking of this pic "vote with your wallet." Which nails it.
posted by Zack_Replica at 10:15 AM on May 17, 2010


Let me change the focus from piracy for a second to something mentioned in the article that I think, believe it or not, is a far bigger issue than piracy.

I love Serafinowicz. I own Look Around You and The Peter Serafinowicz Show on DVD, and find them to be the funniest, most clever DVDs I've purchased in the past several years. I'm very pleased that a couple of my dollars are in his pocket, and hope he can use that money and the money that his funders made on my purchase of those DVDs to make more brilliant things.

But I'll be damned if the content holders themselves didn't make it extraordinarily difficult for me to appreciate his work and allow me to give them money to own a copy. First, a hypothetical American who saw some of his clips on Youtube and wanted to watch more wouldn't be able to find his DVDs or videos from an American distributor. If that hypothetical American persevered, they'd have to go through an importer or have the discs shipped at added cost from amazon.co.uk (or another overseas distributor). That hypothetical American would find that the discs don't play in their computer or their PS3, and they'd need to either purchase some shady region-free DVD player or figure out a hack of some sort.

But why purchase DVDs? DVDs are so old-fashioned. Shouldn't that hypothetical American just be able to toss a store or distributor -- say, iTunes -- a tenner or two and be able to legally download his work to their computer? Sorry, region restrictions strike there as well. Living in America, if I wanted to do something as simple as to pay Veronica Maggio and her distributors to listen to her newest album... I can't.

My quite serious question: why the hell not?

Let me make this clear: Serafinowicz's distributors are deliberately blocking -- or at least making it tremendously inconvenient -- for Americans or those outside of European regions to pay Peter Serafinowicz for making them laugh. And that's complete BS.

Region coding on DVDs and Blu-Rays needs to be eliminated. Online movie and music download services need to allow folks worldwide to download their wares. While I've personally made the (substantial) effort so that I could legally enjoy Peter Serafinowicz's DVDs in America and make sure he was paid for his work, I think (and Peter Serafinowicz clearly thinks) it's not reasonable for folks to put up with that level of difficulty and inconvenience.

Listen, BBC, Apple, all of the record companies, all of the music companies: eliminate region restrictions. Allow Amazon, iTunes, Pandora and Spotify to recommend and license or sell wonderful things from around the world. Allow yourselves to make money from people around the world as opposed to just a single country or region. Because the way things are right now is just plain stupid.
posted by eschatfische at 10:38 AM on May 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


you can only fight it by letting people access the media that they so desperately want to access.
I was introduced to piracy via Napster, which offered me copies of out-of-print stuff that the record company couldn't be bothered with (Pop Will Eat Itself was my first download).

It shocks me that, 10 years later, there are still out-of-print albums, movies, and TV shows -- things I'd happily pay for if given the opportunity. Fortunately, Pirate Bay allows me access that the studios choose not to.
posted by coolguymichael at 11:49 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nice philosophy. If you can't get exactly the shit you want, the way you want it , as soon as you want it , (if not sooner) well then ... it's perfectly justified to just take it.

It worked for the Khmer Rouge , it's gotta be a valid point of view.


Yes yes, but how does that compare to the, oh I don't know, Laotian minefield of copyright law the RIAA has laid?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:20 PM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


To go along the lines of TV as cultural touchstone, like the Dr. Who discussions, the blog Heaven and Here (set up by one of the esteemed founders of Free Darko) was a fantastic blog of people discussing the Wire. Because of the HBO on demand service allowing some people to watch a week earlier, they split the blog into two sections, clearly marking which episode was under discussion.

As I've said, I have never seen a physical copy of the Wire here in Japan. If I did, I'd buy it immediately, because dear lord, I'd love my wife to see it (though I can't imagine the subtitles will capture half the nuance). I only managed to stumble on the Wire during the fourth season, and it took a while before I caught up to it, and was actually able to read along in the Heaven and Here blog. Being able to read, and participate, in that blog increased my enjoyment and understanding of the show. If, as Monsieur Monocle suggests, I wait for the Wire to become readily available in Japan, with subtitles, I would still be waiting. The same for Deadwood, Homicide, Chapelle's show, Futurama, and dozens of other shows I really, really enjoy, and would definitely watch on TV, if they were here. I understand why they aren't all broadcast, but I'd love to be able to have an option to buy them. That option doesn't exist. If it did (and Japanese DVDs didn't cost $40), I'd buy the Wire, I'd buy Deadwood. I'd pay happily for a bunch of this stuff. Tell me to wait, and be patient, and my only question for you is how long do you consider a reasonable wait? 6 months? A year? 10 years?
posted by Ghidorah at 3:01 PM on May 17, 2010


I'd suggest that a solution that corresponds to human nature is going to work a hell of a lot better than one that relies on everyone denying it, and that after that arguing whether people are "right" or "wrong" is largely academic.
posted by Artw at 3:21 PM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Surely that license you bought didn't include the right to make copies of it. That seems like it would be a pretty big oversight on the part of the MPAA...

Copyright has historically included the right to copy as long as you don't distribute the copies. This has changed recently, however, but for the most part you are still allowed to make personal copies of media you own.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:34 PM on May 17, 2010


My only point was that, unlike stealing a bottle of medicine for your sickly child, piracy is totally unnecessary and self indulgent.

Well sure, I agree with that. And I agree with you that it's wrong, whether we call it "piracy" or "infringement" or "theft." But So is it any surprise that things are the way they are?
posted by me & my monkey at 3:44 PM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


sorry, this got kind of long ...

eschatfische: Listen, BBC, Apple, all of the record companies, all of the music companies: eliminate region restrictions. Allow Amazon, iTunes, Pandora and Spotify to recommend and license or sell wonderful things from around the world. Allow yourselves to make money from people around the world as opposed to just a single country or region. Because the way things are right now is just plain stupid.

Unfortunately, while this intuitively makes sense, it's an extremely difficult thing to do in reality, for a whole host of reasons. This is as it should be.

Let's take music, since I know a little more about that than TV or film rights, though it's still not much. Say you're a band based in the UK. You sign a deal with a small British label, granting them the rights to release your music in the UK. You do this because, perhaps, it's the only deal going, since nobody in the rest of Europe, let alone the US or Japan, gives a shit about your music. Suddenly, you're successful: top ten hit singles, an album laden with superlatives, hookers and blow all the way to the Brixton Academy. Now labels in the US are sniffing around. They want to know what deal you've got going with your wee British indie label: exclusive UK rights? Exclusive worldwide rights? UK, US and major European territories rights? Their advances – both in the metaphorical and literal senses – will differ depending on what is or is not the case.

In theory, it's all well and good that one label looks after everything, worldwide, but there are huge problems with this. For this hypothetical band and their hypothetical label, a few might be:

1. they're a small label with neither the cash nor the expertise to release your music overseas at the exact point where they have to concentrate hard on the British market, and thus will not do it right.
2. If they've got worldwide rights, they may also have the say-so on negotiating with a third party overseas to license the album – at which point there's a conflict of interest, because the label's aim in such deals is to get the best deal for the label which, in many cases, is most certainly not the best deal for you, the band in question.
3. You fall out with the label over their terrible handling of the album in the UK; they maybe fucked up pressing orders so nobody can find your album for love or money, or they didn't promote it well enough (or at all), and you feel that its success is pretty much in spite of their involvement, and not because of it. And now all of a sudden they've got control of your album everywhere else in the world too?
4. They get bought out by EMI or some other major conglomerate of vultures, and now you find yourself signed to, and owned by, a label you have deep ethical objections to.

If you're a band, it makes much more sense – legally, financially, practically – to do deals with different labels in different territories, because no one label knows every territory best. Signing everything over to one entity, no matter where they're based, is – and I think the experience of nearly every band signed to a major label but not selling millions of records pretty much backs this up – a recipe for getting fucked over. More than that, it's a recipe for getting fucked over without recourse to anyone else. At least if $Label screws you in the UK – for one of the reasons I mentioned above, or for myriad others – you can at least be safe in the knowledge that they won't be screwing you overseas too.

Much of the above – along with plenty of other more complicated reasons – is why, for example, the Arcade Fire license their albums country (or territory) at a time, but hold on to the masters and associated rights themselves. So Merge release their albums in the US, Rough Trade in the UK, but the band retain complete control over what happens where. This is also why Radiohead, after six albums on Parlophone/EMI, went with the indie label XL in the UK to release the physical version of In Rainbows. EMI's chief exec acted as if this was some horrific act of corporate sabotage on the part of the band, or a nose-thumbing gesture of disrespect that ought to end up with Thom Yorke waking up to an horse's head in his bed, which tells you pretty much where his and EMI's priorities lie.

Are things stupid, frustrating and expensive the way they are just now? Yes. Would it be great to access anything on Spotify or what have you from anywhere in the world? Oh, yes. But – in music at least – there are real, concrete reasons for this stuff, even if a lot of the time these regional differences are used by record labels for their own nefarious purposes, rather than always being exploited by bands themselves, for their own good.
posted by Len at 6:24 PM on May 17, 2010


What strikes me about the article and some of the comments is how much it comes down to a somewhat childish impatience. Why does he really have to see the latest episode of South Park right now? Seems to me that if a tv show or movie is more than just a for-the-moment fad, it'll still be worth watching five years from now, and cheaper at that. I can wait. And if it's temporarily hard to find, then you can always find something else.
Here's another question: Why watch it at all? If he's really so creative, why bother with mass media at all? I hardly ever watch TV, just The Daily Show and Colbert Report, which are free online anyway, supported by ads*. So frankly, I really couldn't give a crap about piracy. Why should I care if producers of products I never use go out of business?

But realistically, people who don't mind waiting five years also won't mind waiting forever. Movie studios make their money from people without patients who have to see it in a theater, or buy a hardback, whatever right away. These people are the fans. They're the people who actually like, and therefore care about, their products.

(*The thing is, the ads are actually blocked by adblock, so I don't even see them. I installed adblock to prevent hack attempts and terrible flash ads that soak up CPU, but getting rid of all the other ads has been nice too. It doesn't usually prevent flash video ads, but it does work against the ones comedy central uses. Heh. But usually only watch the shows online if I miss them on broadcast the night before, so I usually see the ads)
posted by delmoi at 7:24 PM on May 17, 2010


patients patience
posted by delmoi at 7:26 PM on May 17, 2010


Len's description of why regional or territorial rights are "a good thing" does not ring true to me.

It would if physical media were the sole means of getting entertainment. It isn't.

We're talking about major labels for music, and major film or television distributors for TV and film. That whole statement of "not giving a shit" about your album / film / tv show / work does not hold true once you're signed to a label, or are distributed via BBC or Sony Pictures. These independent territorial deals, in my opinion, do *not* make sense. Not in an era where clearly there *is* a worldwide demand for this material.

Major labels and studios already rely on monitoring groups like Big Champagne to track what titles are being searched for from their catalogue. They have it within their power to make this material available via iTunes, and they still don't do so for any territory. These deals are stuck in the last century when "distribution" meant "discs on a truck." In those days, yes they made sense. Today: I would strongly argue that it does not.

I know there are further complexities, but we're not talking about some total unknown, with no deal, working away in their basement.

ad
posted by adamd1 at 8:07 PM on May 17, 2010


adamd1 – part of my point, laboured and rambling though it may have been (sorry for that), was that these things do not exist in a vacuum. I'd love it if at the click of someone's fingers stuff could be digitally distributed the world over, but as long as physical copies are still part of the equation, region-specific deals are going to be involved for a variety of reasons, many of which are deeply embedded historical ones relating to how the music industry (in the case of music) has developed over the past 100 years. Now, some of those reasons may be bullshit; some of them may be flawed; some of them may have been twisted over the years, or exploited by greedy record labels. But they have to be dealt with nonetheless.

Could they have been dealt with better? Undoubtedly, which is why we're having this conversation in the first place. The failure of major labels, film and television studios, to tackle all this stuff (i) in good faith and (ii) within the bounds of reason – rather, than, saying, suing the parents of 12 year olds on Limewire for $X00k, or making it illegal in some territories to circumvent copy protection on DVDs – is a huge problem. However, pretending that there are not issues that need to be substantively addressed here doesn't do anyone any favours, least of all artists getting squeezed between the much lower prices people are willing to pay for content, and the labels/studios keen to protect their bottom line.

And on this:
We're talking about major labels for music, and major film or television distributors for TV and film. That whole statement of "not giving a shit" about your album / film / tv show / work does not hold true once you're signed to a label, or are distributed via BBC or Sony Pictures.
we will have to disagree. There are endless examples of bands whose material has been ignored in overseas territories (and for that matter, in their own territories) by the label that holds the rights. Indeed, Capitol, part of EMI to whom they were signed in the UK, had the rights to The Beatles' recordings in America, and turned them down; it was only a couple of releases with independent labels that allowed Brian Epstein to strong-arm Capitol into giving them a proper deal, because, essentially, they couldn't be arsed until then. And that was the fucking Beatles. Okay, that was 47 years ago. You want a more recent example? Look at what happened to Wilco over Yankee Hotel Foxtrot; that's a textbook example of a label not giving a shit about a band's album.

When it comes to TV and films, the result is often no better: think of every series that despite a solid fanbase, gets cancelled or screwed about with, like Firefly, or films that get left to rot because the exec at Sony who greenlit it got fired and thus the film has no internal support. This happens all the time. Read some William Goldman or Peter Biskind or Art Linson if you want concrete examples.

Anyway, what to do about digital distribution? To be honest, I don't really have an answer. Neither, it appears, do major record labels, and they're getting shafted as a result, which doesn't bother me a bit, because they've spent the past 30 years reaping enormous awards from the CD boom whilst refusing to prepare for what was so obviously coming next (and simultaneously and systematically screwing over bands in the process). So, on that count, fuck 'em. How this is going to progress for all the bands who would have, in the past, relied on these labels for distribution and promotion, I don't know. To take labels out of it for a minute: while digital distribution is not, in theory, beholden to international boundaries, the interconnected infrastructures which support that distribution often are; press and marketing, advertising, radio and TV stuff, needs to be localised to some extent and as much as you can do a lot of this stuff remotely, it still requires geographically-specific knowledge. You can put your music out there digitally for all to buy and download, but if you want to reach large audiences in markets you're not personally familiar with, you need help on the ground, and that comes with contractual strings, like it or not.
posted by Len at 9:55 PM on May 17, 2010


Len, what I don't get is why those UK bands who are currently ignored in overseas territories, don't get their music on Itunes US store at least.

With the music on Itunes US store, they can at least get SOME sales, and perhaps monetize some of the early buzz when they do break big.

Their current approach guarantees ZERO sales from the US for an extended period.

Why would they do this? What's the benefit to them? It costs nothing to get their tracks into additional itunes stores.

It baffles me, for example, why some Swedish band I love has 4 albums in the Sweden Itunes store and only 1 album in the Australian store. They have 1 album in Aus, so clearly there is some demand. What benefit does the band get from not having those other albums for sale?
posted by dave99 at 11:55 PM on May 17, 2010


Why can't they just let people anywhere buy any movie or album they want? How do these limited releases benefit anyone? Wouldn't it benefit them more if everyone who wanted to buy their music or movies could buy it? All they're doing is encouraging piracy. The big media companies need to get their heads out of their asses.
posted by mike3k at 6:36 AM on May 18, 2010


Why would they do this? What's the benefit to them? It costs nothing to get their tracks into additional itunes stores.

It's just a pissing match. They're trying to negotiate, and some artists/labels don't like or trust iTunes for various reasons. It's all just business. As the labels become less relevant and distribution flattens, I don't see any reason why the business model of scarcity would work effectively anymore, in other words trying to shut off distribution to certain geographical areas. The distance is not so great anymore between someone who just bought their copy and someone else who wants it but cannot legally obtain it. So, they will have to adjust, but they're sure taking their time about it.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:54 PM on May 18, 2010


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