Gone in 60 Seconds: The Impact of the Megaupload Shutdown on Movie Sales
March 18, 2013 3:49 AM   Subscribe

In this paper we analyze how one such anti-piracy intervention, the shutdown of the popular Megaupload site, affected the digital sales of movies for two major studios. Our analysis across 12 countries suggests that, in the 18 weeks following the shutdown, digital revenues for these two studio’s movies were 6-10% higher than they would have been if not for the shutdown. Thus our findings show that the closing of a major online piracy site can increase digital media sales, and by extension we provide evidence that Internet movie piracy displaces digital film sales. (via IP Finance.)
posted by three blind mice (173 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
Very interesting, especially this from the authors' blog:

Why didn’t consumers just switch from Megaupload to some of those sites?

Undoubtedly some did, but our research suggests that many didn’t. Why? This is a topic we have blogged about previously, and our basic thinking is that one way to look at piracy is as a competing good that just happens to be free. While some have argued that you can’t compete with free, we think a more productive view is that competing with free (pirated) content is just a special case of price competition. We know that people are willing to pay a few dollars more to buy books from Amazon, even if the same books could be found for lower prices at other stores (see here or here). This suggests that Amazon’s consumers value things like reliability, ease-of-use, and convenience, and are willing to pay more for products with these attributes.

Applying these results to digital media channels, we would expect that some consumers would be willing to buy through legitimate channels if content in those channels is more valuable than the “free” pirated alternative. In this view a key part of competing with free pirated content is using the same tools that Amazon uses — reliability, ease-of-use, and convenience — to make content on legal distribution channels more valuable than competing content piracy channels.

posted by chavenet at 3:58 AM on March 18, 2013 [18 favorites]


I'm no statistician, but the results seem weak, especially since they don't cover more than half a year of sales.
posted by ymgve at 3:59 AM on March 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm pretty agnostic on the subject, but I'm wondering about this:
In a completely predictable outcome, a Carnegie Mellon University study has found that in the wake of the controversial interruption of Megaupload, revenues are on the rise for a couple of movie studios. The rub? The University’s Initiative for Digital Entertainment Analytics (Idea) is funded by Dotcom’s firm friends at the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).
If this is true (and it appears that it is), it makes a big, big difference to me that this study was actually footed by the MPAA. Big difference.
posted by taz at 4:20 AM on March 18, 2013 [75 favorites]


Here's the Carnegie Mellon page that announces it, and says "The creation of IDEA was made possible through a gift from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), allowing Smith and Telang to extend their groundbreaking research along with faculty from across the university, including the Tepper School of Business and the School of Computer Science."

"Smith" is Michael Smith who is the co-author of the paper.

It's not impossible that their research and figures are a) correct, b) actually lead to the conclusions they claim, and c) just happen to be funded by the MPAA, but this isn't something I would trust on the face of it.
posted by taz at 4:31 AM on March 18, 2013 [24 favorites]


Meanwhile, a study not funded by the movie industry found the opposite to be true. The paper linked in the FPP is bought and paid for by the people who would want to see a specific outcome. That's the outcome they received.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 4:33 AM on March 18, 2013 [58 favorites]


Also, MegaUpload and MegaVideo were not free pirate sites, like say the Pirate Bay or Library Genesis. In essence, they provided only free previews, albeit long enough to watch a short film, so as to entice buyers for their paid streaming service, making their service much more similar to say NetFlicks than TPB. You needed to reboot your router, launch a VPN, use multiple nights, etc. to watch a long movie on MegaVideo.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:40 AM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


I agree that the MPAA's involvement makes this suspect, but there's nothing strange about the result. It's sheer common sense that pirated copies of a movie are at least a partial substitute for paid copies, and there would be some effect at the margin of anything that temporarily makes piracy a bit harder.

Of course many people pirate things they wouldn't otherwise buy, but many people also pirate things they would otherwise buy. It's only a kind of wishful thinking internet utopianism that leads people to deny that, or to exaggerate offsetting effects like people "discovering" things via piracy and then buying them (give me a break).

Don't get me wrong, I'm still totally unsympathetic to the MPAA and anti-piracy efforts in general, but to me the study finding the opposite effect is far more counterintuitive. When I see any study that seems to contradict something blindingly obvious, i'm more inclined to question the study's methods than to change my opinion.
posted by pete_22 at 4:43 AM on March 18, 2013 [11 favorites]


I never used MegaVideo before it was shut down, but my sister talked about watching the full run of Breaking Bad on it. And I never had problems downloading large files from MU. So I'm not sure what you're talking about.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 4:43 AM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Intuitively, there is no doubt in my mind that sites like MegaUpload and TPB cut into digital sales. Having said that, fuck the MPAA. I pay for $6 popcorn just like everybody else.
posted by phaedon at 4:43 AM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Bad data.
posted by facetious at 4:43 AM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


On the bright side, the paper's published Open Access.
posted by Toekneesan at 4:45 AM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


On the bright side, the paper's published Open Access.

You wouldn't Open Access your car
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 4:47 AM on March 18, 2013 [40 favorites]


That data is pretty unconvincing to me. The line in the paper that most of the correlation is driven by France, Belgium and Spain is almost laughable. Those were the only three countries that were significantly away from the origin on the positive-correlation part of the graph. A sentence like that sounds to my ears like "please ignore most of the data that doesn't fit the hypothesis and focus on these three data points here".

Also, I find "Megaupload Penetration" a very funny term.
posted by Didymium at 4:54 AM on March 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


Everything I've heard and experienced about online watching, free or not, is in line with what chavenet posted -- it's about the ease and simplicity of the medium, not the content. I was excited about Hulu Plus, and was willing to pay for it, so I did my free trial and it seemed like every thing I wanted to watch was on Hulu Plus as little 2-minute teasers, previews, or "behind the scenes" interviews, and at best random single episodes. I simply could not find the content I was looking for -- it was wading through a bunch of stuff I didn't want to see to get to what I did. Netflix even ends up that way a lot; much of the time is spent with the search feature, getting a "nope, not here" response and then trying something else. Amazon Prime has helped a lot with that -- what we want to watch is there and we've spent, on top of our Amazon Prime annual fee, maybe another $20 on "digital rentals" over the past year -- more than we spent on theatres, buying DVDs, or premium cable (all of which are zero). But, I do turn to torrent sometimes because it's just not out there, anywhere, in any convenient two- or three- step process. That's the threshhold the studios need to figure out: when somebody wants to watch a movie, it should be Search > Browse First Page Of Results > Find Movie > Click "Get"/"Buy"/"Stream" > Taadaa! And then people will spend money on media. I haven't found any place online that does this yet, other than pirate sites.
posted by AzraelBrown at 5:13 AM on March 18, 2013 [20 favorites]


People didn't go to Megaupload like they'd go to Amazon so the argument doesn't hold. Megaupload didn't identify the movies so they would have to be led there by some pointer site that would also point to other direct download sources. In the absence of Megaupload, they'd only have to go to digital sales if the pointer sites turned up empty, which is not likely.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:15 AM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


A 10% increase after the holiday season when everyone is flush with new devices, gift cards and Netflix accounts, ya don't say?
posted by furtive at 5:26 AM on March 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


There was one thing that set Megaupload apart from other file lockers, though, and I'd almost forgotten about it - time limits. If you don't pay for a membership, many, many MU-style sites will lock you out of downloading for so many minutes after you download a file, with the time increasing depending on the size of the file. So if you find a movie divided into three CD-sized parts, for instance, you might have to download one part every four hours or more. Megaupload didn't have that restriction. IIRC it didn't even prevent simultaneous downloads. So it wouldn't always be possible to make up the difference by using other sites.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 5:28 AM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


We need a statistician. Stat!

Seriously we do. Anyone
posted by howfar at 5:34 AM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm no statistician, but the results seem weak

I'm not a doctor, but you seem to by dying of cancer.

Meanwhile, a study not funded by the movie industry found the opposite to be true.

No, actually, it doesn't, because they didn't check for the same thing. The latter paper compares *box office revenue* before and after MU/MV shutdown. The paper in the FPP measures digital sales, and does so for the body of work of two, and only two, studios.

I am completely unsurprised, in fact, by the conclusions of both papers. I would not expect to see a decline in box office caused by MU/MV, because people don't just go to the theatre to see a movie, they go to (or, in my case, stay away from) theaters for the entire moviegoing experience, and you can't yet download sticky floors, overpriced popcorn, etc.

Finally, all of you who have seen MPAA funding and automatically decried the research as flawed, it is clear you couldn't be bothered to actually read the paper. The study mentions several areas where they could not be tested. I can't judge the quality of data, but the quality of the analysis is clearly solid -- and they adjusted for factors like holiday sales, and the reputation of both researchers is such that they would have seriously questioned the data. I'm willing to trust them that, if the data presented was massaged, it was done so in a way that statistical testing couldn't discern.

The biggest weakness -- the estimates of MPR (Megaupload Penetration Rate) are just short of guesses, but if they underestimated it, the paper becomes stronger, and they clearly took steps to not overestimate. They also mention several other factors that may have made this effect unique to Megaupload, in particular, the huge press the MU/MV shutdown got. It only measures digital motion picture sales/rentals, not other channels (like DVD, Box Office, or related media). It only measures 18 weeks, and while they state they don't see any sign of a dropoff of effect, they clearly call out that they cannot tell if the effect will persist.

Most importantly, and I quote.
Finally, we note that our study only measures specific benefits of this regulation - it does not measure either tangible or intangible costs of this sort of intervention, and such costs should be considered carefully as part of any policy decisions.
Read - yes, it's clear that publicly slamming down MU hard increased digital sales, but there's no measure in this study of costs of such actions, and such costs need to be considered before you implement this as a universal regulation.

The line in the paper that most of the correlation is driven by France, Belgium and Spain is almost laughable

Why? It's showing that in countries with greater usage of MU/MV per capita show a stronger increase in digital sales following the shutdown. Which, well, is exactly what you'd expect if the proposition is true -- the more users per capita, the larger the effect.

Note that, because these charts are measuring a zero-crossing datapoint, that "0" isn't on the baseline, and the zero line is *not* in the same place between the two charts. (Yes, I think that's a mistake, they should have increased the scale to allow 0 to remain in the same place.)

If you want to argue with this position, I'd be arguing about the Canada and Mexico datapoints. Canada sales actually appear to drop after the shutdown, and Mexico is, for all intents, unchanged.

Other flaws/unmeasured variables.

1) Was there changes in marketing, either in strategy or amount, for these two studios in January-May 2012, which could also cause an increase of sales?

2) Was there an increase in penetration of the digital marketplaces where the works could be legitimately purchased? Just as if more people had access to MU, more would be downloaded, if more people have access to Amazon/iTunes/Whatnot, more would be downloaded legally.

3) Was there an increase in the catalog available for sales? If hundreds of works became available in digital channels that were not available before, this could increase sales. See the converse of MPAA citing the massive drop in CD Singles sales because of piracy when, in fact, the CD Single format stopped being produced. You can't sell what you don't have, and, of course, you can sell what you do.

4) Why did rentals show a much less noticeable effect? (Actually, my guess, is people who rent don't bother to steal.)

If you want to argue against this paper, that's what you argue against. In the vast number of cases, the paper itself will be correct -- it will show the true results of the data, because the easiest thing to check is the paper itself.

Where you get bad research through is by not asking the right questions. It's easy to show that smoking has, at best, a limited effect on bladder cancer. Enough of those type of studies and smoking is "safe." But when you ask about pulmonary diseases....

If you want to argue against the data, why did they only have 18 weeks worth of post-shutdown data! Surely they could have had more! (Note -- this would also make my objections above even more important, because catalog and penetration effects could very continue to increase!)

If you're wondering why they didn't check DVD sales? They cite unreliable data, and I can believe that. Much like how Kiss had 4 albums in the top 100 in 1978, there seems to be lies, damn lies, and "shipped product" as sales.

A 10% increase after the holiday season when everyone is flush with new devices, gift cards and Netflix accounts, ya don't say?

YAY, another person who didn't read the paper! YAY!. Yes, they controlled for the holiday season -- and the effect continued throughout the 18 week period, and the holiday sales period clearly shows in the data, with a massive drop at December 25th, and recovery therafter. And, note that MU/MV were shutdown well after the December Holidays (January 19th, 2012, as a matter of fact.)

And note that gift card sales would count as pre-holiday sales, not post-holiday, of content. New devices would drive purely post holiday.
posted by eriko at 5:45 AM on March 18, 2013 [35 favorites]


pete_22: sheer common sense that pirated copies of a movie are at least a partial substitute for paid copies

You can go off "common sense" if you want to, but I'd rather have a good study with a clean pedigree. It makes just as much "common sense" that many people are like me: willing to buy a very limited amount of media; any consumption past that needs to be free or it simply doesn't happen.

Which is more correct, your common sense or mine? Well-crafted studies are the only way to find out.
posted by spaltavian at 5:48 AM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Online Music Piracy Doesn’t Hurt Sales, European Commission Finds

Veoh Once Again Beats UMG (After Going Out of Business)
Anyone wishing to write an fpp about Veoh should check out Dmitry Shapiro's lovely facebook post on the case. Amusingly, the first time I'd ever heard about him was here, not as the founder of Veoh.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:54 AM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Fine analysis, Eriko. One comment:

4) Why did rentals show a much less noticeable effect? (Actually, my guess, is people who rent don't bother to steal.)

My guess is that people that steal would sooner rent than buy if their free source runs dry.
posted by Akke at 5:59 AM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Weak. Why? The model at the heart of it all. They do control for some time varying variables that could cause a spurious trend - but those are only # of titles available in each country. There's nothing about current releases (e.g., what if the week after it was shut down, 2 big show-stoppers were released - easily controlled for by # of new releases and average audience size for those releases), sales during that time of year (e.g., what if it was the normal time of year for a holiday sale?), and more. There is a protocol for dealing with the kinds of semi-experimental data they are using called a BACI [pdf] design (Before After Control Impact) and a ton of well thought analytical techniques for dealing with this sort of stuff. They seem to have not used any of them. Indeed, the most obvious would have been to find a piracy site, even a small one, that was *not* shut down and monitor change there to validate the results (heck, just monitor torrents!)

tldr - many confounding variables that could just as easily produced this signal over a 6 month period were not included in their model. Nor were best practices for studies of impacts employed. View with a mountain of rock-salt.
posted by redbeard at 6:00 AM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


It makes just as much "common sense" that many people are like me: willing to buy a very limited amount of media; any consumption past that needs to be free or it simply doesn't happen.

You present this like it's mutually exclusive with the common sense that pirated copies cut into sales of paid copies, but it is not. All that needs to be true for your position to still cut into sales is for someone to pirate what they are willing to buy, or to move that line around (in their own ethics) depending on what they can get for free.

I'm not anti-piracy in any large sense, or in any particularly ethical sense (i.e., a certain amount of piracy is consistent with my ethics), but I'm incredibly turned off by people who make the claim that piracy has no concrete consequences in terms of lost sales, depressed revenues, or the sequelea to those. Anyone who has spent any time around the places where media gets pirated who maintains that the uses to which piracy are put are simply expanding consumption (in aggregate) rather than affecting sales, is being disingenuous. By which I mean they are lying, either to themselves or to who they are making the argument to.

If you can't be bothered to account for things like lost sales in your position, you're at least as blind as the RIAA and MPAA.
posted by OmieWise at 6:01 AM on March 18, 2013 [6 favorites]




Well I guess we'll just have to wait until further peer-reviewed studies come out that can reproduce the findings and clear away some problems with the modeling before we can draw any conclusions at all. Right?
posted by dubusadus at 6:15 AM on March 18, 2013


It makes just as much "common sense" that many people are like me: willing to buy a very limited amount of media; any consumption past that needs to be free or it simply doesn't happen.

Well, my common sense tells me that most people might start out paying for certain things at the cash register and quietly pocketing the rest when no one is looking, but if no one ever catches them they are quickly going to get used to just skipping the cash register and strolling out the door with armloads of everything.
posted by pracowity at 6:17 AM on March 18, 2013


there's nothing strange about the result

I don't have much of an opinion on this either way and less of an inclination to debate it, but my own two cents is that the result does seem counter-intuitive, mostly because I've never encountered anyone who chose to download a product instead of buying it. Everyone I've ever known who downloads movies or music has downloaded products that either aren't for sale, for sale at an exorbitant price secondhand, or which they might only purchase for pennies or not at all, otherwise.

Statistically, that's like saying "No one I know voted for Nixon," I realize, but I have never encountered (and have a little trouble imagining, tbh) someone who thinks "Gee, I can't get this for free, guess I better pay retail price for it!"
posted by octobersurprise at 6:23 AM on March 18, 2013


The person I met who was most distraught by megaupload shutting down was a woman I met in Nicaragua, since she wouldn't be able to download American TV shows any more. It didn't really have much impact on her pirated movie consumption, though, since there are shops on every other street corner selling bootlegged DVDs.

I never really knew any Americans that used it. I used it a little bit, but I just went back to torrenting after it went down.
posted by empath at 6:27 AM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Movies are nothing special. You don't have to watch movies. They won't change your life. There are better things, more interesting things, to do with your time than watch a slickly-produced Hollywood sound and light show. There are definitely exceptions, but they're uncommon. A bunch of them are just two-hour behavior normalizing machines. Most people would be a lot happier if they learned to put movies in their proper place.

You don't have to go to the theater. You don't have to pick out something random from Netflix tonight. You don't have to watch something on basic cable or on demand. You don't have to pick something up at Redbox. You don't have to find something on Pirate Bay or Megaupload. And you certainly don't need to update your whole damn movie collection to Blu-Ray. And you don't have to ask "what else would I do with that time," there's dozens of things. You, personally, are a member of a website filled with them.

The American addiction to watching movies fuels draconian copyright and anti-piracy laws. The fabric of our legal system is being warped out of shape by the outsize importance people place on these things, and it's directly harming the internet. Until people realize that movies are not the big deal they're made out to be, they will probably continue to do so, because that gives them money, and money is dangerous.
posted by JHarris at 6:42 AM on March 18, 2013 [14 favorites]


It makes just as much "common sense" that many people are like me: willing to buy a very limited amount of media; any consumption past that needs to be free or it simply doesn't happen.

OmieWise is right: we aren't really disagreeing, it's mostly semantics. I agree that many people are like you in this respect. Additionally, many people are not like you. The real question is the relative size of each group, right? So let's rephrase the question from "does piracy hurt sales?" to "how much does piracy hurt sales?"

If someone wanted to make the case that it doesn't hurt sales enough to justify x, y and z anti-piracy measures, that's a reasonable line of argument. But asserting that it doesn't hurt sales at all just doesn't seem credible.

I've never encountered anyone who chose to download a product instead of buying it.

Really? I know a lot of people who watch Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Girls, and other popular shows by illegally downloading or streaming them, and many seem like big enough fans that they would pay to see them if that option weren't available.
posted by pete_22 at 6:46 AM on March 18, 2013


@JHarris
They won't change your life.
now let's just hold the fuck up there for a second
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 6:53 AM on March 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


now let's just hold the fuck up there for a second

Yes. This critique is over a hundred years old.

Also kids, don't read novels or your teeth will fall out. And then you will die of Faaaaaalse Consciousness.
posted by Wolof at 6:57 AM on March 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


mostly because I've never encountered anyone who chose to download a product instead of buying it

That's hilarious. Our capacity to lie to ourselves to preserve the illusion that we're basically "decent people" is truly astonishing. I particularly like this addendum:

I have never encountered (and have a little trouble imagining, tbh) someone who thinks "Gee, I can't get this for free, guess I better pay retail price for it!"

A) because there's there's essentially nothing digital that you can't get for free, so it's a meaningless claim and B) because even if there were occasional exceptions, that's an absurd standard: in a world where such vast quantites of material are available (illegally) for free it is easy for someone to say "I will forego movie X or album Y which is not available and instead acquire movie A, B, C... and albums E, F, G... which are." But in a world without piracy, do you seriously imagine that these friends of yours would simply cease to acquire any movies or music whatsoever?
posted by yoink at 7:04 AM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


I just came in here to say I once paid to rent Spanglish and that should entitle me to one free download from the dodgy site of my choosing.
posted by mazola at 7:05 AM on March 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


[O]ur basic thinking is that one way to look at piracy is as a competing good that just happens to be free. While some have argued that you can’t compete with free, we think a more productive view is that competing with free (pirated) content is just a special case of price competition. We know that people are willing to pay a few dollars more to buy books from Amazon, even if the same books could be found for lower prices at other stores (see here or here). This suggests that Amazon’s consumers value things like reliability, ease-of-use, and convenience, and are willing to pay more for products with these attributes.

Applying these results to digital media channels, we would expect that some consumers would be willing to buy through legitimate channels if content in those channels is more valuable than the “free” pirated alternative. In this view a key part of competing with free pirated content is using the same tools that Amazon uses — reliability, ease-of-use, and convenience — to make content on legal distribution channels more valuable than competing content piracy channels.


On the flipside, piracy is inherently attractive because it often provides a "better" product than what you get through legitimate channels. A couple of examples:

I'm an Amazon Prime subscriber and on the whole I'm pretty happy with the service. However, inevitably, there are occasional problems with the stream. Burps, hiccups, pauses, desyncs, etc. Those things wouldn't happen if I could download in whole the TV episode/movie I'm watching before launching it, but of course, that isn't allowed. Naturally, I could use the same system to buy the video instead of streaming it, but that costs the same amount of money for me as it does for a non-subscriber (reducing the value of the streaming video portion of my Prime subscription to zero), or I could (hypothetically) torrent the same video and get a full-quality, problem-free viewing experience for free.

Similarly, I recently rented a certain major studio, R-rated comedy featuring a talking stuffed animal from a local Redbox. On loading the DVD, I was subjected to no less than 15 minutes of unskippable advertisements. When I finally arrived at the title menu and attempted to start the film, I was presented with two options: the theatrical release or a special "unrated" version. When I selected the "unrated" version, I was presented with a message saying that the rental version of the disc only contains the theatrical release and I'd have to buy the movie at retail to get the "unrated" version. What a slap in the face! I know the MPAA hates Redbox almost as much as they hate piracy, but those attributes that make Amazon and piracy so attractive--reliability, ease-of-use and convenience--are present in spades in the Redbox system. Again, a pirate could have easily gone out and downloaded the whole movie in 1080p with every single bit of special features and not paid a dime.

There is no value added by the MPAA to legitimate distribution channels; they actively, purposefully, and deliberately remove value from product in a misguided attempt to prevent piracy, which is fundamentally unpreventable. Rather than imagine they can shut down every piracy site in the world, why not focus on providing a better experience and a better product at a fair price? Reliability, ease-of-use, and convenience--who can think of any legitimate video distribution channels that fit those criteria?
posted by kjh at 7:05 AM on March 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


Since France is one of the main culprits here (with Spain and Belgium), I'll just comment on the French situation, which is radically different from the US one (Netflix may arrive in France at the end of 2013): as seen in the figures, MU was highly popular there and the go-to site for everyone who wanted access to digital movies/TV shows since the legal channels were either nonexistent or just abysmal. When MU died, millions of French people suddenly cried out in terror and it's no surprise that a significant number of them switched to the few legal channels to get their movie/TV fix - for a while at least. The French media indeed reported an uptick in legal VOD sales at the time so I'd say that the article is probably right. Well, when people can no longer buy fresh meat, they'll do with rotten one. The meat is still rotten though.

Today, the French legal market looks slightly better but still hampered by local practices (namely poor availability and extra long release windows that piss off lots of people, including in the industry). The pirate market seems healthier than before with high quality releases, extremely short windows and widespread availability (uploaders using dozens of cyberlockers instead of one). One interesting thing here is that people do pay for cyberlocker access, in cash and eyeballs: it's not "free" vs "paying" but "paying for quality goods" vs "paying for inferior goods, if you can find them because most of them are not even for sale".
posted by elgilito at 7:10 AM on March 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


I've never encountered anyone who chose to download a product instead of buying it.

These aren't mutually exclusive anymore!

Right now I'd much prefer a paid download or stream over a physical gift. I don't need more crap in my house.

That said, I just bought Person of Interest Season One on Blu-Ray + DVD because it's not legally available any other way and it's an awesome show. Now I'm seriously considering ripping the discs and getting rid of them.

I know the MPAA hates Redbox almost as much as they hate piracy

Probably more as Redbox is demonstrably making money off of their IP with impunity. As soon as they can skirt around the first-sale doctrine they will.
posted by ODiV at 7:11 AM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Our capacity to lie to ourselves to preserve the illusion that we're basically "decent people" is truly astonishing.

Unless you're asserting that I have encountered someone who chose to download a specific product instead of buying it, I have no idea what you think I'm "lying" about. I think I made it clear that I was describing my own experiences only.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:16 AM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Applying these results to digital media channels, we would expect that some consumers would be willing to buy through legitimate channels if content in those channels is more valuable than the “free” pirated alternative. In this view a key part of competing with free pirated content is using the same tools that Amazon uses — reliability, ease-of-use, and convenience — to make content on legal distribution channels more valuable than competing content piracy channels.

Oh my god. It's almost like they've been listening to what people have been screaming at them for the past five years.

Make it convenient, assholes, or I'm not buying it from you for any amount of money, including free.
posted by chundo at 7:18 AM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also kids, don't read novels or your teeth will fall out. And then you will die of Faaaaaalse Consciousness.

I'm not saying, or at least I'm not trying to say, that movies aren't interesting or fun in moderation. I'm saying that way too much fuss is made over them. Maybe I'm perceiving something incorrectly here, but the culture seems downright obsessed with them sometimes. (Of course I've seen Foodfight 13 times, so maybe I'm not a good judge of that.)
posted by JHarris at 7:22 AM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


6-10% seems like much too big an effect for the relatively small paid subscription base of Megaupload, and the result is very sensitive to estimation of the Megaupload Penetration parameter.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:24 AM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Really? I know a lot of people who watch Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Girls, and other popular shows by illegally downloading or streaming them, and many seem like big enough fans that they would pay to see them if that option weren't available.

For me, it's the other way around. I'd pay to see game of thrones if that were an option.
posted by empath at 7:29 AM on March 18, 2013


kjh: "I was presented with a message saying that the rental version of the disc only contains the theatrical release and I'd have to buy the movie at retail to get the "unrated" version."

Netflix's disc based service has been doing this for a while as well.
posted by the_artificer at 7:30 AM on March 18, 2013


Thanks, I now need to go watch Cage and Jolie in "Gone in 60 Seconds." Does anyone know where I can watch it?
posted by Gronk at 7:33 AM on March 18, 2013


But asserting that it doesn't hurt sales at all just doesn't seem credible.

Promotions, radio (payola!), free samples, etc. don't hurt sales. Rather the opposite.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:34 AM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Setting aside eriko's rude sarcasm (Yes, browbeat people for jumping to conclusions, that will certainly encourage better behavior in the future), and speaking as someone who spends most of his day working with statistical models, I think there are a variety of worrisome factors in the approach the authors take. In practice, the question that the authors are taking on is a difficult one, and their analysis is *good* but it isn't *great.* Given the strong feelings people have towards this topic, the relative weakness of their results ensures that this study isn't going to change anyone's minds.

The most glaring problem is the exclusive reliance on ordinary least squares (OLS) regression as the framework being used to ask this question. Yes, OLS regression is the most widely used and understood analytic framework, but it has well-known vulnerabilities. Chief among these is the enormous asymmetry in the size of the various countries, which will presumably have an impact on the variance (i.e. the relative uncertainty) associated with those observations. The sources providing these data should, if they are at all reputable, include some metric of their uncertainty, and the relative variance of these observations should be used to adjust the weight of each data point in the regression. This is not a screwball technique - adjusting weights using variance is a technique that's been around for over 40 years.

Secondly, I would be more comfortable with this analysis if it were corroborated by a complimentary nonparametric analysis. Yes, the main reason to use a regression model is to obtain a parametric estimate of the effect (in this case, a % sales change). However, since I don't have enormous confidence in the parametric tests being performed, performing a second test with presumably very different blind spots would go a long way towards convincing a skeptic that these results are not merely artifacts of the OLS methodology.

Thirdly, I find it curious that although Table 1 lists the pre-shutdown units, we are given almost no other information about how these data change over time. Simply plotting, as a factor of time, the weekly unit sales over the nine month period covered by the data would give the reader an impression of the range in question. It would also help to determine just how relevant the "holiday sales" effect is likely to be on the data. I strongly suspect that the raw data are *not* presented in some form precisely because they are too noisy to provide any intuitions whatsoever, which itself would be a yellow flag.

Finally, a very important considerations here is the source of the sales data itself. Two "major US movie studios" provided the raw data, and although I am willing to give the authors the benefit of the doubt with respect to their objectivity, I am not willing to do so on behalf of the studios. It doesn't matter how good the analysis is if it's being performed on bad data. Note that the data do not need to have been cooked *with this study in mind* to be suspect. If, for example, the data show irregularities as a result of internal pressure to inflate quarterly earnings, that would likely impact the results. The solution to this problem is to widen the scope of the data, rather than to narrow it. The authors omitted DVD sales because they are "significantly less reliable;" this sounds suspiciously like "they rendered our regression non-significant," and if they *have* DVD sales data, they should use it. Furthermore, the authors should have made an effort to obtain data from a non-studio source. For example, they could seek to obtain approximate sales figures from large retail chains, or directly from a digital content provider.

It's easy to dismiss this paper offhand, as many of you have done. I would argue that even given a close inspection, it is not unjustified to do so. Yes, the authors have done what they can with the data and the tool they have, but that still isn't a very good job given that other data and other tools also exist. Given that this paper appears to cherry-pick its data (whose provenance is not above suspicion) and only performs one variety of analysis on that data, this is a long way from a slam dunk. Instead, it's going to be another almost-immediately-forgotten bit of grapeshot whose only function will be to appear as a footnote in legal proceedings and media company intermal memos.
posted by belarius at 7:40 AM on March 18, 2013 [20 favorites]


Promotions, radio (payola!), free samples, etc. don't hurt sales. Rather the opposite.

These things bear almost no resemblance to the pirating of most media, and asserting that they do is truly bizarre.* Either you have no idea of the overall scope of what and how media are pirated, and how it's clear that many people use pirating sites, or you are making a deliberately false equivalence. Neither makes you a good interlocutor about piracy and its attendant consequences.

*They do, however, bear resemblance to mp3 blogs, which I don't think anyone really equates with pirating as we are talking about it here.
posted by OmieWise at 8:06 AM on March 18, 2013


On the flipside, piracy is inherently attractive because it often provides a "better" product than what you get through legitimate channels.

True -- often, anyway -- for me. This past Thursday, for instance, instead of watching "Parks & Recreation" on broadcast TV, I waited until the next day and downloaded it. For me, the pirated copy was "better" in that the commercials had been edited out for me by the uploader, and I could watch it at my convenience.

I have also downloaded audiobooks from torrent sites that I could have gotten for "free" from Audible (meaning, not actually free, but using monthly credits from my membership), because I didn't like the reader on the Audible edition and found an older edition with a better reader on the Internet (typically one that isn't available digitally but that someone has helpfully ripped from cassette or disc).
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 8:21 AM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Let me just step in here and say thank you internet pirates for making it possible to watch whatever I want in China. And fuck you copyright holders for getting in the way.
posted by saysthis at 8:25 AM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm curious about this in the methodology:
After controlling for country-specific trends and the Christmas holiday
How do they control Christmas trends? How can they tell that the increase wasn't due to a particular film that would've spiked no matter what. For example, the DVD of the Smurfs was released in the first week of December 2011, a fairly large budget overadvertised movie targeted at younger kids (ie, a group unlikely to download and more likely for their parents to give them the actual DVD).

By the way - this is a pretty cool tool for researching when DVDs have been released.
posted by plinth at 8:30 AM on March 18, 2013


We know that people are willing to pay a few dollars more to buy books from Amazon, even if the same books could be found for lower prices at other stores

Where are they shopping for books? I don't buy too many books specifically, but in my limited experience Amazon's prices are nearly always lower than I can get elsewhere (even when factoring in shipping).
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:31 AM on March 18, 2013


But how about my study I uploaded here? It proves the opposite, yet, oddly, no one has peer-reviewed it.
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:39 AM on March 18, 2013


Reliability, ease-of-use, and convenience--who can think of any legitimate video distribution channels that fit those criteria?

NetFlix was like that at first, until the studios got a look at the size of the golden eggs and asked, as one, "How fast can we cook this goose?"
posted by fleacircus at 8:42 AM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


By the way, here's an article about how piracy affected the distribution of the movie Goon. One feels the producer's pain until one gets to the part where US distributors made the movie available on VOD for $30. I haven't seen that movie (I've heard it's good actually), but how could a Seann William Scott vehicle possibly worth a $30 renting? What sort of mind-boggling economics is that?
posted by elgilito at 8:45 AM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Meanwhile, attempts to stop textbook piracy hurting education in India.

I'm surprised I haven't heard more about that sort of thing in the US, with all the talk about college/textbook costs over the last couple of years. It's not hard to do: this weekend I created a full color searchable PDF of an old loose-leaf lab manual in about 20 minutes (only 1-2 minutes of that was actual work) while cleaning out my closet. All you need is a scanner with a document feeder and Adobe Acrobat.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 8:49 AM on March 18, 2013


For me, it's the other way around. I'd pay to see game of thrones if that were an option.

Are you outside of the US? Because otherwise it absolutely is an option. That's kinda the whole point here.
posted by graphnerd at 8:53 AM on March 18, 2013


We need a statistician. Stat!

No, you don't. You need peer-review plus confirming research from other researchers funded by other means. There are statistical quibbles galore with the methods, but the problem is what goes on behind the scenes. The relationship between data and a researcher is custodial, and someone with an agenda can make the data say anything they want it to say by abusing that custodial relationship. The authors present us with models that are faits accomplis. Anyone who does research knows that model selection can make results go in any direction one wants and that therefore not only is the rationale for model selection critical but selecting the model before looking at the data is mandatory for drawing conclusions rather than merely generating hypotheses. Without evidence to the contrary, this paper is pure hypothesis formulation and proves nothing.
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:53 AM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


The American addiction to watching movies fuels draconian copyright and anti-piracy laws.

First, there is no "addiction." If anything, movie viewership and audience size are declining, not increasing, and have been for decades. The number of tickets sold domestically in 2011 was the lowest since 1995. 2012 wasn't much better. I realize that you're also talking about other platforms for watching movies (Netflix, etc.), not just the cinema. But the old-fashioned movie theater, such as it is, is still the point of first release for most films.

Second, "draconian copyright and anti-piracy laws" are fueled by the MPAA, AFTRA, SAG, the National Association of Theatre Owners, major studios, etc., etc., and their interest in protecting their product profit by any means necessary. If anything, their decision to pursue this course would seem to be fueled by the decline in viewership -- not by the "addiction" you describe (that doesn't actually exist). It seems that you're conflating a media construct -- you claim that there's an outsized cultural "obsession" with movies, but that's really something mostly driven by mass traditional media to flog product and to try to hold off losses (or, in rare cases, help spark a hit) -- with actual lived experience. Because the lived experience and the data show a steady and ongoing erosion in movie viewership that has the parties mentioned above trying anything they can try to stop the bleeding.
posted by blucevalo at 8:57 AM on March 18, 2013


I was coming in to ask some questions about how the authors managed to control for confounding factors between the periods when Megaupload was up and when it was down, but eriko's excellent analysis settled many of them for me and if you've somehow gotten down here to the bottom of the thread without reading it (or the paper), then you ought to do so.

It does seem like the researchers more or less did their homework. They controlled for what seem like the most obvious possible confounders, and while it's not really possible to do this kind of study in a laboratory setting where everything is locked down except for your independent variable (the status of Megaupload) they seem to have been sensibly conservative in their analysis, which is also lent strength by the fact that they saw some secondary correlations which would be expected if their primary finding is true – such as the effect of MU's shutdown being more pronounced in countries where MU was more heavily used.

It's not a perfect paper, but these kind of socioeconomic observational studies don't really lend themselves to perfect papers – there are inherent limitations to doing work out in the real world instead of in the laboratory. (This is something that we also frequently encounter in my own field of ecology.) It seems to be a decent paper though, as good as one might expect a couple of experienced and knowledgeable researchers to be able to come up with.

It should be mentioned though that at least in my own field, one paper of this type – where they basically have a single treatment and control replicate, lots of potential confounding factors, and a possible lack of complete independence between the treatment and control – would never be considered conclusive, no matter how well-executed. In all but the most urgent conservation scenarios we would wait for additional studies of similar cases to come forward before making firm recommendations about how to act on the data. I don't know if that's the standard of evidence for this field, but I suspect it probably is. Confirmation or disconfirmation on this point would be welcome.
posted by Scientist at 9:02 AM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


I've seen way more screaming sheep this year than movies.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:03 AM on March 18, 2013


I ought to add that belarius makes a lot of excellent points as well about the fundamental unreliability of this kind of study. The sort of things that he/she points out are exactly the reasons why in my own field a single paper like this would not be considered conclusive.
posted by Scientist at 9:07 AM on March 18, 2013


They do, however, bear resemblance to mp3 blogs, which I don't think anyone really equates with pirating as we are talking about it here.

Yet another example, thanks. The *AA certainly do think they're equivalent to piracy, sometimes to the point of their legal departments sending takedown notices for content that their marketing departments sent out.

It's not exactly equivalent with torrenting, of course, but the point is that you can use "free" to drive sales if you're smart about it.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:21 AM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


the study finding the opposite effect is far more counterintuitive.

It isn't counterintuitive to me, based on my own personal experience. I think that there is another angle: Consuming media makes you want to consume more media.

This argument doesn't say that if you pirate something and like it you're likely to buy it. It says that pirating x,y,z may make you more likely to buy v, u, w.

Using music as an example. Music piracy has changed the way many of us listen to music. I make a lot of playlists and mixes, participate in music blogging, and listen to music almost constantly if I'm not watching TV - things I would not do if I only had, say, 1,000 tracks. I listen to music when walking to school, on my iPod. This kind of involvement makes me more likely to buy music than I would be otherwise.

It may not be a big effect but I bet that it's there. Sure, some people may never buy music that they can get for free, but that isn't the only thing going on.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:22 AM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


how could a Seann William Scott vehicle possibly worth a $30 renting?

For some reason that movie became a test vehicle for new distribution ideas. The thought was because some people (myself included) dislike going to the movies nowadays and because the proliferation of cheap, big HDTVs means the home experience is "close enough" the a movie screen that groups might choose to split the $30 to watch at home with cheap snacks, beer, no annoying seatmates, etc.
posted by yerfatma at 10:08 AM on March 18, 2013


brucevalo: First, there is no "addiction." If anything, movie viewership and audience size are declining, not increasing, and have been for decades. The number of tickets sold domestically in 2011 was the lowest since 1995. 2012 wasn't much better. I realize that you're also talking about other platforms for watching movies (Netflix, etc.), not just the cinema. But the old-fashioned movie theater, such as it is, is still the point of first release for most films.

I am talking about the general flood of movies, watching them, talking about them, media saturation of them. A pervasive assumption of their value. Movies as go-to water cooler conversation topic. Everyone knowing who the current stars are. That kind of thing.

But the media wouldn't be saturated if people didn't keep watching. So I am going to stick by the word addiction, you haven't actually said anything that disproves my claim, because the other venues are crowding out first-run showings. (And even if they weren't -- a decline in first-run ticket sales merely implies that the problem is getting better, not that it doesn't exist.) Note that this is a metaphorical, cultural addiction, not a specific person's addiction.

This is one of those things I actually want to be wrong about, so if you have something substantive on hand that counters my observation, I'm all ears.
posted by JHarris at 10:54 AM on March 18, 2013




Meanwhile, a study not funded by the movie industry found the opposite to be true. The paper linked in the FPP is bought and paid for by the people who would want to see a specific outcome. That's the outcome they received.

I look forward to reading the two papers, but first note that the one you posted is only 3 pages long and by appearances looks incredibly preliminary (e.g., spacing is irregular starting paragraphs, too short). Economics working papers typically are 15+ pages excluding tables, bibliography and figures. This is 2 pages if you throw out the references and tables.

The designs are similar but not the same. One of them is using a combination of diff-in-diff with matching (the 3 pager) whereas the other is using diff-in-diff with pre-treatment megaupload usage rates to facilitate modeling the counterfactual.

It's a kind of cognitive bias to simply judge the work's merits based on which conclusion you prefer. Terribly dishonest. Not trying to necessarily point fingers, but this seems like a rush to reject based on not liking what one paper is finding -- as opposed to understanding the causal inference science behind them and judging it accordingly.
posted by scunning at 11:02 AM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


all of this fine talk about content delivery isn't doing anything about the people who can't afford the content
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:03 AM on March 18, 2013


yoink: "Our capacity to lie to ourselves to preserve the illusion that we're basically "decent people" is truly astonishing."

I think we always get the spectrum wrong on which this all plays out. It's not between "decent" and "criminal". Rather, I believe, it's between "lazy" and "cheap".

Primarily I want access to content. I want to consume content when and where I please. Me and most of the people I know and have had conversations about this topic with would be perfectly willing to get legal access to said content if it's (a) easy to do and (b) reasonably priced. More often than not the problem is with (a) and not with (b). Myself and the people I know usually don't resort to, uh, sources of questionable legality because we don't want to pay money for stuff. It's because stuff isn't being made available at all or only it a way that is extremely inconvenient or bundled with loads of crap nobody wants to pay for. I suspect that a big percentage of piracy isn't driven by cheapness but by convenience and availability issues.

Case in point: there is a book I absolutely love. I have already purchased brand new paperback copies twice since I tend to read it into the ground (it's a thick history book which lends itself to re-reading repeatedly but thick paperbacks don't handle the physical stress well). Finally I got an e-reader and I was all like "yay!" at the thought of not having to re-buy the book over and over again. BUT... turns out I can't buy it here in the US... the ebook version is only available in the UK and in AUS... WTF? Here I am with money in my pocket ready to buy the same book for the 4th time and you don't want to sell it to me? At that point I decided that I had paid more than enough for this book already and, well, let's just say I now do in fact have that book on my e-reader.

The music industry eventually came to realize this and as a result I'm aware of only very few people who still download pirated music simply because the "own a track you want for a buck" approach taken by Apple and Amazon etc. combined with the various streaming services means easy access, no unwanted extras and reasonable pricing. The movie industry is still fighting the same fight and they still have to learn this lesson. Just make stuff available to everybody everywhere and for a reasonable price and piracy will shrink to a negligible fringe problem. Done. Problem solved.

I do work in the film industry and have observed that individual studio heads and CEOs are starting to get it. The CEO of the studio I work for has made statements during company updates saying he'd rather have a billion people worldwide pay a buck to watch a movie than a few dozen million paying $10 or more. I'm aware of lots of people downloading and watching pirated movies but most of them would rather just have access to legit copies. But the studios and distributors are still trying to control their turf and their channels and they do it by restricting access and by bundling it in undesirable ways. Instead they should be increasing access to their products and give customers what they actually want.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 11:03 AM on March 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


kjh hits the nail on the head: "piracy is inherently attractive because it often provides a "better" product than what you get through legitimate channels."

Every time I see that stupid unskippable FBI warning I get a little bit more irritated by it. The ONLY people who ever see it are legitimate, paying customers. Nobody rips the FBI warning onto a pirated copy. The one and only function of that enforced delay is to inconvenience customers who have paid for the product. Nice job, Hollywood.
posted by fogovonslack at 11:17 AM on March 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


But in a world without piracy, do you seriously imagine that these friends of yours would simply cease to acquire any movies or music whatsoever?

No, they'd spend the same amount, but have much less stuff. I mean, this is transparently the truth. It's not like we have to imagine a world where rampant digital piracy didn't exist. Before cheap CD burners existed, for example. Was that a utopia where all artists were taken care of and making money hand over fist? Or did people just have access to a lot less media, and especially poor people?
posted by empath at 11:26 AM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think that there is another angle: Consuming media makes you want to consume more media.

That seems to be the French experience, anyway.

I don't pirate much music. I also don't buy much music. Because I don't really care about music. To the RIAA, I'm nearly a model citizen.

Meanwhile, I pirate the hell out of film and video. I also have boxes of DVDs. I have t-shirts about TV episodes. I've helped fund several films. But to the MPAA, I'm a thief of the highest order.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:35 AM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Primarily I want access to content. I want to consume content when and where I please. Me and most of the people I know and have had conversations about this topic with would be perfectly willing to get legal access to said content if it's (a) easy to do and (b) reasonably priced. More often than not the problem is with (a) and not with (b). Myself and the people I know usually don't resort to, uh, sources of questionable legality because we don't want to pay money for stuff. It's because stuff isn't being made available at all or only it a way that is extremely inconvenient or bundled with loads of crap nobody wants to pay for. I suspect that a big percentage of piracy isn't driven by cheapness but by convenience and availability issues.

This.

I am, I believe, potentially a model customer. I believe in paying money for goods and services. I believe in consumer activism - in rewarding people with my dollars when they make a good product. And I have a nearly insatiable addiction to consuming media. When I get interested in a television show, I want to watch the entire five seasons that have gone before. I have a good bit of disposable income. They should, indeed, want to make it easy for me to buy their product.

But they don't. I love Game of Thrones, and would cheerfully pay a reasonable price to watch episodes - even /with/ commercials or advertising. But I don't care about 99% of HBO's shit, and do not want to have to pay for an entire channel just to watch Game of Thrones. Instead, I let someone else with HBO acquire it for me and allow me to watch it - which is actually way more inconvenient than allowing a link on the HBO website saying "Want to watch Game of Thrones? Pay 3$ and click here!" (Price calculated by theater movie watching price divided by time of episode. Conceivably, since they don't have overhead costs in streaming as high as operating a theater, it could reasonably be cheaper.)

Another example. I've been introduced to Lost Girl through the wonders of Netflix. But of course, Season 3 isn't out yet. I want to watch it now! I would be happy to pay for the privilege of watching it now! But there is nowhere for me to do so without engaging in a cable contract for a lot of, again, shit I do not want.

Am I going to acquire it online? Maybe. But if I do, that will be completely a choice of "I am sick of attempting to throw money at these people and being rebuffed" rather than "I cannot afford to pay $3 for this."
posted by corb at 12:18 PM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


pete_22: I agree that the MPAA's involvement makes this suspect, but there's nothing strange about the result. It's sheer common sense that pirated copies of a movie are at least a partial substitute for paid copies,...
Lately I've realized that "common sense" is simply shorthand for "I have no data to support my hypothesis, so I'm hoping you'll simply agree it's true."

"Common sense" is a ridiculous basis for any major policy that could alternatively be based on actual data. And, as we all know, "common sense" is often very, very wrong.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:22 PM on March 18, 2013


a movie screen that groups might choose to split the $30 to watch at home with cheap snacks, beer, no annoying seatmates, etc
I can understand that, but it means that the distributors willingly choose to exclude many customers: couples, people who are alone etc. This can't be a winning strategy and they were punished for trying it, but they still blame their failure on piracy.
posted by elgilito at 12:25 PM on March 18, 2013


Are you outside of the US? Because otherwise it absolutely is an option. That's kinda the whole point here.

"Paying for a massive cable package that includes Game of Thrones" is not the same as "paying for Game of Thrones".

I'd pay $30 per season for Game of Thrones. I won't pay $120/month for it.
posted by chundo at 12:33 PM on March 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


JHarris: I'm not saying, or at least I'm not trying to say, that movies aren't interesting or fun in moderation. I'm saying that way too much fuss is made over them.
So glad we have you here to tell us what we should enjoy, and how much. Your judgment is clearly superior to everyone else's.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:34 PM on March 18, 2013


OmieWise: "I'm incredibly turned off by people who make the claim that piracy has no concrete consequences in terms of lost sales, depressed revenues, or the sequelea to those."

Hey, good for you! The completely inconclusive nature of the research so far makes it just so terribly annoying when people choose to disregard the horror stories being told by the content industry.

Based on that fact alone it seems pretty likely to me that there's not actually a lot of substitution of paid goods for illicitly copied goods. But hey, why wait for actual evidence of a problem before complaining that people refuse to acknowledge it?

pete_22: "Really? I know a lot of people who watch Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Girls, and other popular shows by illegally downloading or streaming them, and many seem like big enough fans that they would pay to see them if that option weren't available."

I assume these are people who don't pay for cable and live in a location where they can legitimately purchase the content? Personally, I have legal access to all those things yet still usually download them because downloaded copies can be streamed to my smartphone, for example, which I can't do with my DVR without buying more shit I don't want/need. (I can actually stream video from my DVR to my smartphone, but it's a pain in the ass, whereas the content downloads and becomes available with zero clicks on my part)
posted by wierdo at 12:36 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


"*They do, however, bear resemblance to mp3 blogs, which I don't think anyone really equates with pirating as we are talking about it here."

That was 99 percent of my usage of Megaupload/Rapidshare, with the other 1 percent being huge-ass work files that (ironically) sometimes were enough to get a free membership. (Oh, hi, uncompressed video shared between 20 people.)

For me, the killer ap would be a movie version of Spotify, even Spotify Pro (or whatever they call the premium service), where I can get practically everything without hunting through bad versions, mislabeled torrents and corrupt files, for a simple, cheap price. Netflicks or Amazon could have been that, but the studios care more about cutting those services off at the knees than they do about making money (and both of them have some dumbass policies that make them harder to use the way I want — like Amazon only displaying 12 search results at a time, which their customer service rep says is necessary to limit system load).

TL;DR: Just let me give you money, studios. Stop worrying about piracy and just make your shit easy to get.
posted by klangklangston at 12:41 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I assume these are people who don't pay for cable and live in a location where they can legitimately purchase the content? Personally, I have legal access to all those things yet still usually download them because downloaded copies can be streamed to my smartphone, for example, which I can't do with my DVR without buying more shit I don't want/need. (I can actually stream video from my DVR to my smartphone, but it's a pain in the ass, whereas the content downloads and becomes available with zero clicks on my part)"

Yeah, despite my DVR having a USP port right on the front, I can't take any of the content that I've downloaded and watch it on any other devices, as I learned the last time I had a business trip. So I fucking found illegal streams and downloads. Because fuck you.

(Similarly, I've been known to "pirate" a lot of music that I already bought on vinyl or CD, because I'm too lazy to rip it and add all the tags and etc.)
posted by klangklangston at 12:44 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


The most glaring problem is the exclusive reliance on ordinary least squares (OLS) regression as the framework being used to ask this question. Yes, OLS regression is the most widely used and understood analytic framework, but it has well-known vulnerabilities. Chief among these is the enormous asymmetry in the size of the various countries, which will presumably have an impact on the variance (i.e. the relative uncertainty) associated with those observations. The sources providing these data should, if they are at all reputable, include some metric of their uncertainty, and the relative variance of these observations should be used to adjust the weight of each data point in the regression. This is not a screwball technique - adjusting weights using variance is a technique that's been around for over 40 years.

Are you saying they should have adjusted for heteroskedasticity? This is a differences in differences methodology and so following the literature (here) adjust the standard errors within each cluster, which is heteroskedastic robust to serial correlation within the cluster. Isn't this what you are saying or am I missing something entirely? Are you saying that they should also be using analytical weights to adjust the observations for the size of the population or something along those lines? If so, see this new study by Gary Solon, Jeffrey Wooldridge and Stephen Haider entitled "What are we weighting for?" where they discuss when and why to weight regressions.

As for the use of least squares. They've modeled the conditional mean. Maybe we don't think the conditional mean is interesting. In which case, your point is well taken. But if we are interested in it, then it's fairly standard in these types of research designs to implement a differences in differences methodology using OLS.
posted by scunning at 12:45 PM on March 18, 2013


Does anyone else find it delightfully twisted that the MPAA funded paper is open access?

It makes sense, don't get me wrong, but there's something delicious about it. Can't put my finger on it.
posted by Slackermagee at 1:41 PM on March 18, 2013


As we head into the third annual season of Game of Torrents, it's good to see that progress on all sides has been minimal. Actually, I think this study is a good thing and that goes double for the MPAA funding. To date, and as far as I can tell exclusively, the MPAA and its brothers in righteousness have been spewing out claims for economic damage that vary between EE 'Doc' Smith and GRRM in terms of sense-of-wonder and unbelievable fantasy.

This study, within its bounds, looks plausible, in data, methodology and conclusions. Which is the beginnings of what you need to have a debate, and without a debate nothing will happen that's any good for anyone. (Excepting civil disobedience, which is what I guess is happening right now, but is a pretty poor substitute for getting it right through agreement.)

The reasons that we don't have a Spotify for Movies - or even a half-arsed version thereof - is the same reason we can't just watch cable TV on the Internet on a per-channel subscription basis: it breaks the extremely inefficient and very profitable broken-by-design distribution model from which Hollywood et al makes its money. Fixing inefficiencies removes whole layers of margin, which is not what shareholders want to happen. It will happen, of course; the movie and music industries have been lucky that their particular game has a lot more legal options to hold things back than print or retail. But that won't last.

It's only when real figures and real debate happen, and the long-term advisability of fixing the broken thing can be shown as fiscally responsible, that shareholder value stops being the ultimate baddie in this movie and achieves redemption as a newly minted hero.

I don't blame the studios for needing to call down the fury of heaven on all those naughty downloaders: to do otherwise would take the sort of moral cojones that normally prevent one getting appointed CEO. But I do blame the industry groups who lie and lie and lie about what's actually happening.

Winter is coming. It's good that they're talking about the price of survival.
posted by Devonian at 2:01 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Paying for a massive cable package that includes Game of Thrones" is not the same as paying for Game of Thrones.

I'd pay $30 per season for Game of Thrones. I won't pay $120/month for it.

I love Game of Thrones, and would cheerfully pay a reasonable price to watch episodes - even /with/ commercials or advertising. But I don't care about 99% of HBO's shit, and do not want to have to pay for an entire channel just to watch Game of Thrones.


Both seasons of Game of Thrones are available on iTunes, DVD and Amazon Instant Watch for about 40 bucks. So four dollars an episode. How much more "reasonable" do you want it to be?

"But I to watch it while it comes out!"

Then pay the premium price. Or chip in with five other Game of Thrones fans for 3 months of HBO. Or wait an extra few months and get it on DVD. This isn't about right and wrong or what you're entitled to. You don't get to decide how things are delivered. It seems incredibly presumptuous to assume that HBO/Time Warner doesn't have anyone running the numbers and saying "for the time being, it's more profitable to make this subscription only than make each show a la carte"? What proof do you have that your "shut up and take my money!" concept is better beyond convenience for you?

Either own up that you just don't want to pay for a television series or stop making excuses for you would pay for things legally if things were just a little more convenient for you. There's nothing wrong with the former, but hiding behind it when there are alternatives is incredibly disingenuous.
posted by bittermensch at 2:15 PM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


@bittermensch

i would love to buy this tv series. can i have some money?
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 2:24 PM on March 18, 2013


Are you suggesting they should give away their product for free?
posted by bittermensch at 2:27 PM on March 18, 2013


i'm not suggesting anything, and i have no idea how to fix this. not all problems have solutions.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 2:28 PM on March 18, 2013


Either own up that you just don't want to pay for a television series or stop making excuses for you would pay for things legally if things were just a little more convenient for you. There's nothing wrong with the former, but hiding behind it when there are alternatives is incredibly disingenuous.

I own Game of Thrones on blu-ray and would pay for digital delivery of episodes a la carte in order to avoid lagging a year behind the broadcasts if I could. I have no control over my cable subscription - it's provided by my landlord on a take-it-or-leave-it basis - and couldn't subscribe to HBO if I wanted to. Do I get to complain?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:31 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I own Game of Thrones on blu-ray and would pay for digital delivery of episodes a la carte in order to avoid lagging a year behind the broadcasts if I could.

Okay, you want HBO to sell Game of Thrones digitally, same day as broadcast. HBO has said that is not an option. They made the product, they get to decide how to sell it. What is wrong with this? Just because the internet has driven the perceived value of content to $0 doesn't mean HBO has to play along.

It may be frustrating that, due to personal circumstances, you cannot go buy an HBO subscription, but do you honestly think that's a reasonable argument to completely abandon that model?

It's okay to complain. The bigger problem is the (impotent) indignation that comes up every time a digital delivery argument starts on the internet.
posted by bittermensch at 2:54 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Okay, you want HBO to sell Game of Thrones digitally, same day as broadcast. HBO has said that is not an option. They made the product, they get to decide how to sell it.

They get to sell it however they want, and I get to tell them that I would give them more money if they chose a different method. Just because they don't have to give me what I want doesn't mean I can't ask for it.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:58 PM on March 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


The bigger problem is the (impotent) indignation that comes up every time a digital delivery argument starts on the internet.

That's the bigger problem? Maybe you should let HBO know that everyone's indignation is actually impotent and they have nothing to worry about. They seem to be under the impression that this is costing them money.
posted by ODiV at 3:03 PM on March 18, 2013


bittermensch: "Then pay the premium price. Or chip in with five other Game of Thrones fans for 3 months of HBO. Or wait an extra few months and get it on DVD. This isn't about right and wrong or what you're entitled to. You don't get to decide how things are delivered. It seems incredibly presumptuous to assume that HBO/Time Warner doesn't have anyone running the numbers and saying "for the time being, it's more profitable to make this subscription only than make each show a la carte"? What proof do you have that your "shut up and take my money!" concept is better beyond convenience for you?"

Companies can base their business models on desired reality or actual reality. Desired reality is what entrenched interests with a big stake in an existing pipeline have: that they can continue business as usual without much effort and investment and that they can enforce customer adherence to said pipeline. Actual reality is that it's a shitty pipeline, customers are both frustrated with it and also aware of alternative pipeline designs and, like water finding the path of least resistance, they circumvent the parts of the pipeline that they hate the most whenever and wherever they can. They may be wrong in doing so and you can accuse them of having a false sense of entitlement. From the point of view of these companies however it does not or at least should not matter at all since it has no effect on the reality of what people will do under the given circumstances.

Smart businesses will adapt and respond to actual reality and redesign their pipelines in such a way that people simply won't bother to circumvent them. The music industry eventually understood this. TV/movie companies will eventually get it too. But it'll probably be another drawn out and painful process. Offering pay-as-you-go streaming will do no damage to a company like HBO. Most people already record stuff and only watch what they record. I know very few people who do any sort of random channel surfing anymore.

To be honest I think companies like HBO would probably offer pay-as-you-go streaming tomorrow if they weren't stuck in an entangled mess of vested interests including cable/sat providers, distributors, studios etc. That's where the real problem is in my opinion. We're seeing the violent convulsions of a dying paradigm.

There's a whole generation coming up who don't watch TV the same way my generation does. I know of kids who basically never watch TV and only consume video/film content online (and I'm not even talking piracy here). The basis for the old cable/TV business model is rapidly eroding. Even people from my generation are increasingly looking for ways to cut the cable. I'm only a subscriber at this point because I watch European soccer and cable is the only way to get it. Preprogrammed TV is growing increasingly anachronistic when everybody has gotten used to the idea of shaping their own on-demand media experience online.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 3:14 PM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Bah, I need to dial back the snark sorry. What I meant is that I really doubt some Internet indignation is really much of a problem.
posted by ODiV at 3:14 PM on March 18, 2013


@Hairy Lobster

I am not arguing that the HBO subscription model is the correct method. I'm not arguing that they aren't leaving money on the table. Like you said, the HBO model is completely tied with the cable model. While it may not be maximally profitable, it is still profitable for the time being and in Time Warner/HBO's best interests.

My argument concerns the expectation that HBO should meet every viewer's convenience (which is HBOGo at $10-15/month for the three months their favorite show lasts) and the way people twist their piracy into this locked-in position. HBO does offer reasonably priced a la carte alternatives, you just have to wait a few months. This is not ridiculous. Just because you think this is an anachronistic model doesn't make it a justification for piracy.
posted by bittermensch at 3:30 PM on March 18, 2013


chip in with five other Game of Thrones fans for 3 months of HBO.

I would be surprised if this was legal in the US, but I'm no lawyer.
posted by ODiV at 3:34 PM on March 18, 2013


HBO does offer reasonably priced a la carte alternatives, you just have to wait a few months. This is not ridiculous. Just because you think this is an anachronistic model doesn't make it a justification for piracy.

Why doesn't it? Serious question.

I want to buy a service. Said service is: the shows I want from HBO, when I want them, which includes, "the day or next day it has been broadcast", without having to buy cable.

HBO will not provide them. Thus, I look to the market to see who else is offering the thing I want. If other people are offering that product, why /not/ go to it? That is the product I want - I do not want a lesser product.

If you don't believe in IP law (which I do not as it is currently written) then why wouldn't you do that?
posted by corb at 3:36 PM on March 18, 2013


bittermensch: " Just because you think this is an anachronistic model doesn't make it a justification for piracy."

My point wasn't that piracy is justified but that piracy is an inevitable outcome of the current business model. Which, in my mind, makes insistence on maintaining existing pipelines and fighting your own costumers bad business.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 3:42 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


(which is HBOGo at $10-15/month for the three months their favorite show lasts)

Unless things have changed very recently, one needs an HBO subscription in order to use HBOGo. And one needs a premium-tier cable subscription in order to get HBO. You're should probably multiply your cost estimate by ten-fold.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 3:56 PM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


You don't get to decide how things are delivered.

Actually, I do.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:14 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I fully believe that these authors are probably totally decent and intelligent people, but that's exactly the point. Conflicts of interest only affect the good people, because their interest (truth) can conflict with others' interests (profit). If the researchers were money-grubbing opportunists then there's no conflict of interest... just compatible selfish interests.

The catch-22 of science in a market-driven system is that having a vested interest in a study will likely corrupt it (whether directly or indirectly), but it's extremely difficult to fund a study without the support of someone who has a vested interest in its outcome.
posted by Riki tiki at 4:17 PM on March 18, 2013


The biggest weakness -- the estimates of MPR (Megaupload Penetration Rate) are just short of guesses, but if they underestimated it, the paper becomes stronger, and they clearly took steps to not overestimate.

I think you're working a little too hard to defend the paper, eriko. This is the biggest weakness, but you too easily accept their defense of the problem. If they underestimated, it just means the sample size is smaller than it should be, so the error is reduced. The real problem with the estimated input is that it could have differential error based on exogenous factors related to sales, a not unlikely scenario. This would pretty much invalidate the whole shebang.
posted by Mental Wimp at 5:26 PM on March 18, 2013


Piracy doesn't need to be justified, paying for information is what needs to be justified.
posted by empath at 6:23 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm no statistician, but the results seem weak, especially since they don't cover more than half a year of sales.

It's the number of observations that matter (i.e., the combination of month and country data), not the number of months by themselves. Even in the model with smallest number of observations (because they removed data for the Christmas season to account for seasonal effects), they still had 391 data points.
posted by jonp72 at 6:33 PM on March 18, 2013


"Paying for a massive cable package that includes Game of Thrones" is not the same as "paying for Game of Thrones".

I'd pay $30 per season for Game of Thrones. I won't pay $120/month for it.
posted by chundo at 12:33 PM on 3/18


Why are you entitled to that? The overall cost to having Game of Thrones exist is absolutely baked in to that cost.

HBO is a loss leader, and the fact that people have to pay that much for high-quality content is a prerequisite for that high-quality content to exist.

GoT (or The Sopranos, The Wire, Oz, Sex and the City, etc.) exist because they are so premium that they drive people to cable subscriptions to acquire them.

It's cool if you think that you have the right to pay whatever price that you determine to be fair to get them.

Just don't complain when premium television dries up once everyone else realizes how great it is to be a free rider.
posted by graphnerd at 7:19 PM on March 18, 2013


Piracy doesn't need to be justified, paying for information is what needs to be justified.

This reminds me of my favorite bumper sticker of all time: "Don't trust anything that fits on a bumper sticker."
posted by graphnerd at 7:21 PM on March 18, 2013


Just don't complain when premium television dries up once everyone else realizes how great it is to be a free rider.

People have been saying that this was imminent since cassette tapes came out, and yet more and more and better tv, music, movies, games and books are being released now than ever before. How do you account for that?
posted by empath at 7:41 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


The amount of self-justification for piracy here is incredible.

I want to buy a service. Said service is: the shows I want from HBO, when I want them, which includes, "the day or next day it has been broadcast", without having to buy cable.

HBO will not provide them. Thus, I look to the market to see who else is offering the thing I want. If other people are offering that product, why /not/ go to it? That is the product I want - I do not want a lesser product.

If you don't believe in IP law (which I do not as it is currently written) then why wouldn't you do that?


Then I guess HBO's product (which is the subscription, not a television series) isn't for you. You don't get to call the shots since you are the customer. Regardless of your beliefs, they do believe in IP law and if you want to legally acquire their product you have to play by their rules.

Also, I fail to see what IP law has to do with "I want the show cheaper or available the same day a la carte" when they meet you halfway and let you buy the show on DVD. Go ahead and pirate it, but don't hide behind some sanctimonious "IP law is unfair" argument.

My point wasn't that piracy is justified but that piracy is an inevitable outcome of the current business model.

So? How HBO chooses to distribute their tv series is irrelevant. Let them burn their cash away. Like you said, piracy isn't justified. I find it hard to believe everyone pirating Game of Thrones does it as a crusade to teach HBO a lesson.

>>You don't get to decide how things are delivered.
Actually, I do.


If you're referring to how HBO chooses to deliver their content, then unless you happen to work for HBO's distribution department, no, you don't get to decide anything. You can complain, but that is not making any decisions for them.

If you're referring to your ability to pirate their shows, then that is true. But own up to it.

Piracy doesn't need to be justified, paying for information is what needs to be justified.

What does this soundbite even mean? That someone shouldn't expect payment for something they made? Do you go to restaurants and tell the owner "paying for food needs to be justified"?

You cannot simply reduce something like a television series to 0s and 1s and say "it's information, it should be free." In this scenario, what does "information" mean? This argument seems to purely boil down to "I want that thing for free." Just admit it.
posted by bittermensch at 8:12 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


People have been saying that this was imminent since cassette tapes came out, and yet more and more and better tv, music, movies, games and books are being released now than ever before. How do you account for that?

Music? Yes, because musical production lends itself to an individual or small group of production. Games? Sometimes, because some games fit the same.

Movies? Occasionally.

TV--especially HBO-quality TV? Absolutely not. Even if gaffers, grips, editing interns, PAs, etc didn't need to have livelihoods, quality motion pictures will almost certainly always require ensembles.

And ensambles can't get popular on Kazaa and go on tour to support their art.

That's how I account for that.

To use your bumper sticker style: If something is worth your time, it's worth your money.

And if it's worth creating, it's worth supporting, regardless of whether you agree with the price.
posted by graphnerd at 8:25 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Then I guess HBO's product (which is the subscription, not a television series) isn't for you. You don't get to call the shots since you are the customer.

I guess you can believe this, but the media companies would be foolish to act as if this were the case. Because people can and will download whatever they feel like, and a few egregiously unfair prosecutions to make examples of housewives isn't really going to stop them from doing it.
posted by empath at 8:26 PM on March 18, 2013


I guess you can believe this, but the media companies would be foolish to act as if this were the case. Because people can and will download whatever they feel like, and a few egregiously unfair prosecutions to make examples of housewives isn't really going to stop them from doing it.

You really did not address the point there.

It's one thing to say that people will behave in some manner.
posted by graphnerd at 8:28 PM on March 18, 2013


TV--especially HBO-quality TV? Absolutely not. Even if gaffers, grips, editing interns, PAs, etc didn't need to have livelihoods, quality motion pictures will almost certainly always require ensembles.

You'll note that I didn't ever suggest that people could make these things for nothing. You suggested that all the money for media production will one day dry up because of piracy, while the fact is that both piracy and media spending have gone up together.
posted by empath at 8:28 PM on March 18, 2013


if you want to legally acquire their product you have to play by their rules.

Whoa, slow down there. I understand that they have a powerful lobbying group, but HBO doesn't write the laws quite yet. If you want to legally acquire their product you have to not break the law.
posted by ODiV at 8:29 PM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


You don't get to call the shots since you are the customer

Yes. You do.

That's what they're afraid of.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:31 PM on March 18, 2013


Empath,

How much would you pay for GoT? And if it's less than the going rate, do you have a right to watch it anyway?
posted by graphnerd at 8:36 PM on March 18, 2013


I guess you can believe this, but the media companies would be foolish to act as if this were the case. Because people can and will download whatever they feel like, and a few egregiously unfair prosecutions to make examples of housewives isn't really going to stop them from doing it.

This has nothing to do with what we are discussing. I do not care if people steal some medieval action series. Why don't you address what I actually said and explain why "paying for information is what needs to be justified"?

>>You don't get to call the shots since you are the customer
Yes. You do.

That's what they're afraid of.


Can you please stop dancing around with empty threats and tell me what you mean?
posted by bittermensch at 8:38 PM on March 18, 2013


Movies are nothing special. You don't have to watch movies. They won't change your life.

Just for the sake of clarification, is this the old "art is a waste of time" canard, or is this the old "movies aren't art" canard? Both?

And if it's worth creating, it's worth supporting, regardless of whether you agree with the price.

Wait, what? It sounds to me like you're claiming that the guy setting the price can't ever be wrong. (And here I thought the *customer* was never wrong...) But y'know, I'm pretty sure that's not what you're saying. Because that would be pretty obviously ridiculous. If Game of Thrones is worth creating, it's worth supporting, even if an acid-tripping HBO exec decides a la carte eps should cost a million bucks a piece? I'm sure that's not what you're saying, but it sure *sounds* like that's what you're saying.
posted by mstokes650 at 8:48 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


graphnerd, the question is, given that media piracy is easier than it's ever been, if piracy will inevitably destroy visual media how do you square that with the fact that networks are spending huge gobs of money on shows like Game of Thrones, and turning a profit on it? How can both be true?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:50 PM on March 18, 2013


How much would you pay for GoT? And if it's less than the going rate, do you have a right to watch it anyway?

I actually have an HBO subscription right now, but only because I got a deal when I signed up for internet and the new season is coming up. I'm cancelling it as soon as it's over, though. I would say ordinarily that I'd pay $15-20 a month for access to HBO's library. Without that option, I'll just pirate it. I'd also pay whatever the current price is for individual episodes on itunes if they were released the same week as the show airs -- I bought the whole run of The Wire that way because I got around to watching it after it had already gone off the air.

But I'm only willing to pay those prices now because I have the disposable income right now. If I were still making what I was making 10 years ago, I'd have just gotten it for free, and would not have felt guilty about it. And if I lived in the developing world, I'd probably just buy a bootlegged dvd for a dollar like everyone else does.

And here's the thing, the people who are pirating stuff now because they're broke are going to be the people like me ten years from now who are educated media consumers with disposable income and a willingness to support the creation of products they enjoy, and also the people who are creating those products. And the people who aren't well-off who voluntarily deprive themselves of media out of a misguided sense of morality will drop out of the world culture -- they won't be able to produce or to consume, because they'll be out of touch with what the rest of the world is talking about.
posted by empath at 8:59 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


graphnerd, the question is, given that media piracy is easier than it's ever been, if piracy will inevitably destroy visual media how do you square that with the fact that networks are spending huge gobs of money on shows like Game of Thrones, and turning a profit on it? How can both be true?

That's a very good question.

And my answer is that long-term they can't. But we're at a peculiar moment in history where media has been so disrupted that media companies are grasping at straws to find profitable content.

CBS is using the old-school business model of broadcasting, sports networks are taking advantage of the fact that live events can't be time-shifted, and premium channels can put out premium content because they can induce consumers to pay for their subscriptions and for cable (which subsidies their production costs).

My worry is exactly what you mentioned: if piracy is indeed inevitable, then the $50+ a month that consumers need to pay pre-HBO that allows for things like The Wire to exist will no longer make financial sense.

Make no mistake, if Game of Thrones could be financed by DVD sales or Netflix, it would be. But it can't, because it's tremendously expensive and low-rated. The only reason it is produced is that enough executives saw data that suggested that its presence induced enough customers to not cancel their cable subscriptions to justify its budget.
posted by graphnerd at 9:03 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Make no mistake, if Game of Thrones could be financed by DVD sales or Netflix, it would be. But it can't, because it's tremendously expensive and low-rated.

Netflix just spent over 100 million on House of Cards.
posted by empath at 9:06 PM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Empath, you're making two very different arguments here.

One is that the premium TV business model is self-defeating and stupid, and that may very well be correct.

Here's the other:

I would say ordinarily that I'd pay $15-20 a month for access to HBO's library. Without that option, I'll just pirate it

You're literally saying that you, as a consumer, get to set an upper limit on a price point, and if that's not the going rate, then--well fuck it--it's yours for the taking.

I'm really flabbergasted as to where that $15 figure came from. If you set an arbitrary 'will-not-pirate' line at any point, why not $1? Why not $100?
posted by graphnerd at 9:10 PM on March 18, 2013


Netflix just spent over 100 million on House of Cards.

How many hours of TV does Netflix produce a season, compared to HBO?

More to the point, what if I decided that House of Cards was only worth $4/month? Would I be in the right to pirate it?
posted by graphnerd at 9:12 PM on March 18, 2013


How HBO Is Protecting 'Game of Thrones' from Online Piracy in 2013 on Forbes, March 4th.
“We think the key to combating piracy is to make content like Game of Thrones available worldwide within the smallest window possible…to 176 territories within the week of the U.S. premiere."
posted by ODiV at 9:19 PM on March 18, 2013


More to the point, what if I decided that House of Cards was only worth $4/month? Would I be in the right to pirate it?

You'd have a right to pirate it if you thought that a penny was too much to pay, imo. I'm checking out of this thread now, though, because I don't want to be subject to an interrogation. I'm comfortable with what I spend on supporting creative work. Which is sometimes nothing, and sometimes quite a bit.
posted by empath at 9:21 PM on March 18, 2013


Make no mistake, if Game of Thrones could be financed by DVD sales or Netflix, it would be. But it can't, because it's tremendously expensive and low-rated.

Movie production costs can be financed by ticket sales and rentals and streaming. Why not Game of Thrones? If not, maybe their business model is what's broken and archaic.

The only reason it is produced is that enough executives saw data that suggested that its presence induced enough customers to not cancel their cable subscriptions to justify its budget.

Is that something you can verify, or is that just a guess?
posted by krinklyfig at 10:03 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Netflix just spent over 100 million on House of Cards.

How many hours of TV does Netflix produce a season, compared to HBO?

A lot less, but they make significantly more on demand content available. If the question is if a company can produce Game of Thrones quality shows without having to purchase a basic cable subscription along with the HBO fee the answer is yes. That doesn't speak to the justification for piracy though.

I usually download a torrent of Game of Thrones each week. I am a paid HBO subscriber. I like to rewatch parts of the show and the HBO GO client is absolutely godawful at that compared to VLC. Low video quality at times due to latency, freezes when you try and jump around in the episode. Just a total mess. The cable company DVR has it's own issues. I think they have captions now on GO which is an improvement at least, enough of a quality improvement that I will likely not be downloading again.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:07 PM on March 18, 2013


"Then I guess HBO's product (which is the subscription, not a television series) isn't for you."

No, it's not for you. Other people seem to have found a way around this problem.

You don't get to call the shots since you are the customer. Regardless of your beliefs, they do believe in IP law and if you want to legally acquire their product you have to play by their rules."

The flawed, unstated assumption you keep reasoning from is that morality stems from the law. It doesn't.

I enjoy smoking pot. I am willing to break the law to smoke pot because I like pot that much, which is a great deal less than many people like movies. The amount that I care about smoking pot being illegal is exactly proportionate to the risk smoking pot causes me to bear.

So it just reads as so much puffery when folks make this appeal to the law like "regardless of your beliefs" and expect that to carry the weight of suasion.

(Then there's the silliness about how pirates somehow won't admit they're selfish or pirates or whatever, like critics of downloaders would somehow either be proven right or at least stop blustering about it if they did.)
posted by klangklangston at 10:40 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


What's odd is all the people saying that they have a right to set the price of another's work, and if their desired price isn't met, they have a right (not an ability, a right) to take it for nothing. Which no one would accept as true in the case of labor– we all agree with minimum wage laws, right? But somehow it does get accepted as true with regards to the products of labor.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 3:38 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is that something you can verify, or is that just a guess?

That's a fair point. I guess I can't directly verify it in this particular instance with any quotes from HBO executives.

That being said, it is well-known that it is exactly HBO's business model (cf the special features in The Wire box set for more details). Their model is explicitly to produce loss leader premium content--shows, movies, and miniseries that are so good that they prevent consumers from dropping cable, which Time Warner makes up on carrier fees for Cartoon Network, CNN, etc.

GoT is exactly the kind of high-budget content that's unsustainable on its (relatively small) viewership alone, so I'm confident in making assumptions about executive decisions particular to it.

It's not like HBO is rejecting the potentially lucrative revenue streams of Netflix, iTunes, and timely DVD sets because they hate consumers more than they love money. They're a business, and if they could sustainably produce GoT in a a la carte fashion, they would of course do so.

If a la carte TV shows were a sustainable model (and it may be some day), why wouldn't there be a glut of entrepreneurs producing GoT-type shows on their own?
posted by graphnerd at 6:21 AM on March 19, 2013


The flawed, unstated assumption you keep reasoning from is that morality stems from the law. It doesn't.

I didn't read it that way. I read it as the morality stems from respect for the creator's rights. Like thatfuzzybastard said above, we're talking about real, honest-to-god labor of a lot of people here.

The better analogy here isnt whether it's moral to smoke pot. It's whether it's more to smoke pot that someone else grew, without their consent, because you think their prices were too high.

(no pun intended)
posted by graphnerd at 6:26 AM on March 19, 2013


The better analogy here isnt whether it's moral to smoke pot. It's whether it's more to smoke pot that someone else grew, without their consent, because you think their prices were too high.

More like, whether you should be allowed to plant the seeds. In a world where everyone has a grow house.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:57 AM on March 19, 2013


what
posted by OmieWise at 7:09 AM on March 19, 2013


The better analogy here isnt whether it's moral to smoke pot. It's whether it's more to smoke pot that someone else grew, without their consent, because you think their prices were too high.

Plus whether it was grown by nice hippies in California or by murderous drug lords in Mexico.

You'd have a right to pirate it if you thought that a penny was too much to pay, imo

Why? Seriously, why? Why do you have the right unilaterally to turn a market of willing seller and willing buyer entirely in your favor?

This is the one point I have never seen satisfactorily addressed in this whole debate. It's skirted in many artful or sophomoric or illogical ways, but never actually addressed.

"Because I can" gets you into the might makes right thing, which gets dicey when it's someone else's might. Sometimes a little self restraint is better for the soul than just grabbing as impulse strikes. (I learned that in kindergarten.) And for a product that will inevitably decline drastically in price if you're willing to wait a while, I mean, come on. Show a little respect.

novels

No, JHarris has a point. On top of all the other issues involved, we're not talking samizdat copies of the Gulag Archipelago here. We're talking video of Game of Thrones.
posted by IndigoJones at 8:16 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why do you have the right unilaterally to turn a market of willing seller and willing buyer entirely in your favor?

I didn't. Computers did. Things that used to be exclusive goods (books, film reels, etc.) are now non-exclusive. That changes everything, and trying to deny that is at best silly and at worst dangerous.

And for what? Propping up a business model that's at least a decade out of date.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:34 AM on March 19, 2013


I agree mostly with what empath is saying, including the general idea of this:

And the people who aren't well-off who voluntarily deprive themselves of media out of a misguided sense of morality will drop out of the world culture -- they won't be able to produce or to consume, because they'll be out of touch with what the rest of the world is talking about.

But there are other reasons to drop out of the media clogosphere than moral sense, whether that sense is justified when applied to Ayn Rand-inspired, gigantic, themselves-amoral, profit-making mechanisms or not, and the results are complex. I speak as someone who has partway done this.

1. It's all not wholly escapable. Even though I don't watch many non-awful movies right now (there's probably a story there that's not in keeping with the thread topic), other people make the references, and eventually I end up being able to guess the gist of the references. Like Nicolas Cage's NOT THE BEES performance in The Wicker Man: I've never seen it myself, but have heard about it, and can probably find clips of it on YouTube or somewhere if need be, so I still understood it when it came up in the Nic Cage/Majora's Mask thread.

2. It's good, generally, to duck out of a monoculture. We're not talking in terms of generational timescale here, I'm not going to turn into a Morlock because I didn't see The Croods. Because my brain has things in it that other people don't, and doesn't have some other things that they do, I am helped in having different ideas than other people. Remember when most of the internet was filled with Monty Python quotes, and everyone knew what you meant when you made a joke about 42? It felt like being part of a big club, sure, but it also meant that the community perspective, while smart, was less varied than it is today. Having more people with more greatly varying knowledge, skills and interests interacting produces more interesting discussion than if everyone is shouting "A HERRING!" at each other. Not that that wouldn't be awesome, but it gets old after awhile.

Media saturation tends to flatten that cultural mindspace. Avoiding the media, to the degree that it's possible, can ultimately cause disconnects in communication, but in practice it helps one to maintain a degree of psychological independence. Well, that's part of my own excuse for it.
posted by JHarris at 10:36 AM on March 19, 2013


Kim “Billy Big Steps” Dotcom Still Causing Headaches For Spy Agency
(Seems a few GCSB spooks might be fired over illegally spying on Dotcom)
posted by jeffburdges at 11:13 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


More like, whether you should be allowed to plant the seeds

But your average Megaupload user didn't plant the seeds. They didn't mic the instruments on the recording, or focus the cameras. All they did was reproduce the final product, after all the long hard labor was finished. To say that computers have made production obsolete is eating your cultural seed corn.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:22 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


What's odd is all the people saying that they have a right to set the price of another's work, and if their desired price isn't met, they have a right (not an ability, a right) to take it for nothing. Which no one would accept as true in the case of labor– we all agree with minimum wage laws, right? But somehow it does get accepted as true with regards to the products of labor.

Well, it depends. How do people feel about emergency room visits to hospitals? That's an area where people pay what they feel they can, and doesn't worry about the unrecompensed labor of the people providing services. Few people refuse to go to the hospital because they're not willing to pay what the hospital will charge. They simply go anyway, and fail to pay later.

One is illegal, the other is not. But there is not a huge difference between them, other than your view of which one is moral and which is not.
posted by corb at 1:29 PM on March 19, 2013


But your average Megaupload user didn't plant the seeds.

It's *distribution* that's at question here, and distribution is now ridiculously easy. Once we have a copy, making another is trivial. Once I have a seed, making many more is trivial.

For those who say that without the seed producers we'll lose new varieties, consider that, e.g., Monsanto leads to monoculture, while hobbits/small business seed growers are the vector for heirloom seeds.

I know which I'm comfortable throwing my weight behind.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:52 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, so it's like smoking Monsanto pot.
posted by ODiV at 1:59 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pretty much.

(Also, amused that "hobbyists" got corrected to "hobbits." No wonder Gandalf kept swinging by the Shire.)
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 2:14 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Actually, "hobbits" kinda made sense as I was skimming.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:27 PM on March 19, 2013


What did you think "pipe-weed" was?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:29 PM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


filthy hobitses !!
posted by jeffburdges at 3:02 PM on March 19, 2013


graphnerd: "How much would you pay for GoT? And if it's less than the going rate, do you have a right to watch it anyway?"

The problem is that "the going rate" includes a around $100 a month in most localities in the US cable subscription, precisely fuck all of which goes to HBO, plus HBO's $5 or so combined with the cable company's markup, which varies generally between $2 and $10 a month depending on how many premium channels you are willing to pay for.

I suspect HBO refuses to sell VOD subscriptions for delivery over the Internet because they feel it would be harder to raise the price they charge the cable companies if they did. If they get 50c from every cable company for every HBO subscriber next contract renewal in exchange for not selling subscriptions directly, they make up what they'd make from 5 million online subscribers at $10 a month and don't have to bear the increased costs that would entail.

The problem is that they're going to end up losing money in the long run as people flee the cable companies, who have not seemed to grasp the fact that people's disposable income has not been increasing for a good many years now, yet raise rates as if it has been. HBO lashed themselves to a sinking ship, and they're the only ones to blame for that.

BTW, if you're going to complain about the price some people are willing to pay, you ought to first make sure that the quoted price is not four times what HBO makes per subscriber currently.

ThatFuzzyBastard: "Which no one would accept as true in the case of labor– we all agree with minimum wage laws, right? But somehow it does get accepted as true with regards to the products of labor."

If I offer to pay you in exchange for work and then do not pay you after you have worked, I have taken something from you. If I make a precise copy of a thing that already exists, I have taken nothing from you. Copyright has always been controversial because of this simple difference. People like to make analogies with physical property, but they're pretty much the opposite of enlightening because they completely ignore what it is that makes information different than a physical thing.
posted by wierdo at 3:10 PM on March 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's worth pointing out what bittermensch said above - HBO is owned by Time Warner, which also owns a number of basic cable stations. So when you pay your hundred bucks a month for cable, some of that goes to the exact same people collecting your $20 a month (or whatever) for the premium channel.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 3:14 PM on March 19, 2013


If I offer to pay you in exchange for work and then do not pay you after you have worked, I have taken something from you. If I make a precise copy of a thing that already exists, I have taken nothing from you. Copyright has always been controversial because of this simple difference. People like to make analogies with physical property, but they're pretty much the opposite of enlightening because they completely ignore what it is that makes information different than a physical thing.

That's an argument about distribution and not production. And the argument is that things that require resources to produce have, by definition, associated costs and values.

Those actual costs remain regardless of the marginal cost of distribution. And someone has to pay those costs for an object--even an informational object--to exist in the first place.

So while you individually may not be 'taking' anything in the physical sense if you otherwise would not have purchased it, you're operating as a free rider.

And there are only two possible outcomes of free riders here:

1. If there are few enough, the free riders simply pass along the costs of production onto paying customers. I don't think it's uncharitable to describe that relationship as parasitic.

2. If there are too many, the costs of production become too concentrated on a small number of paying customers, the model fails, and the content is no longer produced. Alternative models may include: a race to the bottom in production costs, resulting in (on average) less quality content, and entirely advertiser-driven content.
posted by graphnerd at 4:07 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Advertiser driven content already dominates the TV landscape and has since the medium was created. It's not exactly the end of the world. The companies will shift to the business model that gets them the most money, yeah, it could be advertisers or patrons or subscriptions or PPV...we don't exactly know, but I think a market demand for entertainment will remain.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:12 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Those actual costs remain regardless of the marginal cost of distribution.

Fixed costs don't impact pricing. Maginal costs do.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:33 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish: "It's worth pointing out what bittermensch said above - HBO is owned by Time Warner, which also owns a number of basic cable stations. So when you pay your hundred bucks a month for cable, some of that goes to the exact same people collecting your $20 a month (or whatever) for the premium channel."

There is no evidence Time Warner is subsidizing HBO's original programming out of the fees charged for other TW properties, so that cross-ownership has no impact whatsoever on whether or not a show "of HBO quality" gets produced.

Also, this idea that those who make art have some ironclad claim on society's pocketbook is bizarre. Sometimes products end up being sold at a loss. It doesn't upset us when Best Buy has to put stuff on clearance because they bought too much of the wrong shit. Why does it some kind of crisis when movie/tv studios and record labels lose money when they produce too much of the wrong shit?

The evidence is pretty clear that people pay for content they think is worth paying for, otherwise they'd all have drowned in the red ink a long damn time ago. The draconian stance, after all, is precisely because it has become so easy to obtain illicit copies of media that literally anyone who can use a computer can get them. Seems like they should focus on making the content better. There has always been some breakage (friends coming over to watch a PPV, for example), so why so much protest even in the face of profits?
posted by wierdo at 12:46 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fixed costs don't impact pricing. Marginal costs do.

That is ridiculous. Do you really think that the major cost of making movies is producing prints and sending them to theaters?

From the Techdirt link:

That's not to say that the fixed costs aren't important -- they are -- but they don't factor into the pricing decision, they factor into the investment decision. That is, you don't take on a project if you don't think you can create a business model that will give a total return on investment over the fixed and marginal costs.


This is hand-waving nonsense. Pricing is about recouping costs of production, plus profit. Costs of production absolutely define that. It's true that tickets to low-budget movies cost the same as tickets to big-budget movies (though the cost of DVDs are different), but that's because the whole point of studios and movie chains is to aggregate costs of different production levels, so one can support the other.

you should never set the pricing decisions on the fixed costs, because the buyer simply doesn't care.

The buyer doesn't care about any number of things---the buyer doesn't care about whether any animals were harmed in the making of this film, the buyer doesn't care if the minerals in their phone were mined by enslaved children, the buyer doesn't care if the actual creator was simply robbed of his work by the studio---and this is a good reason not to treat the buyer's desires as the ultimate definer of price.

The market determines the price, and ignoring what the market thinks is a big mistake.

Sooooo, Techdirt really hates the minimum wage, hunh? After all, why should the government intervene to set the price of labor when the market is happily set it at the low price the buyer of labor would prefer?

It's hilarious how quickly this issue turns online lefties into enthusiastic plumpers of an unfettered market.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:25 AM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's quite a leap you just took there.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:36 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


wierdo nailed it for me.

It's worth pointing out what bittermensch said above - HBO is owned by Time Warner, which also owns a number of basic cable stations. So when you pay your hundred bucks a month for cable, some of that goes to the exact same people collecting your $20 a month (or whatever) for the premium channel.

In that case, fuck 'em. I am more than willing to pay reasonable rates for digital content (to the tune of a couple hundred bucks per month on Google Play), but if Time Warner is taking a misguided stand here in order to prop up other areas of their business, I'll just find it elsewhere, they'll get no money from me, and I won't lose any sleep about it.

That's the offer. Take a reasonable amount of money for this digital thing I want to obtain, or I will copy it from someone. Illegal, immoral, I don't care. I'm not arguing ethics or trying to "justify piracy". That's the state of the market, and it will continue to be this way until either HBO gets smarter, or people are consistently caught and fined. And I would wager good money that if the latter happened, HBO would simply lose them as potential customers rather than getting them to pay the inflated price.
posted by chundo at 10:38 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


the buyer doesn't care if the actual creator was simply robbed of his work by the studio---and this is a good reason not to treat the buyer's desires as the ultimate definer of price.

When studios rip off artists, do they traditionally pass the savings on to the customer?
posted by ODiV at 11:03 AM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure how this:
Pricing is about recouping costs of production, plus profit.


Is supposed to refute this:
That is, you don't take on a project if you don't think you can create a business model that will give a total return on investment over the fixed and marginal costs.


The argument isn't that fixed costs aren't a factor, it's that consumers don't care about them. It's why people are willing to pay more for a hardcover than a paperback.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:17 AM on March 20, 2013


That's the state of the market, and it will continue to be this way until either HBO gets smarter, or people are consistently caught and fined. And I would wager good money that if the latter happened, HBO would simply lose them as potential customers rather than getting them to pay the inflated price.

In short, if the government tries to intervene in the market, you'll simply take your business overseas? Once again, this is the logic of Walmart.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 12:02 PM on March 20, 2013


...
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:20 PM on March 20, 2013


We need radically more consumers taking their business overseas to reform western capitalism. I specifically avoid western companies by doing as much shopping as possible with companies that ship directly from China or wherever now.

Just placed my first aliexpress.com several days ago, usually Chinese ebay sellers or dx.com give you better prices with shipping, but inching slightly closer to the source felt cool, and aliexpress.com has a lot more and documents specs better.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:22 PM on March 20, 2013


Oh man I totally remember when the government guaranteed a minimum wage for creative works that was awesome

(And wait, might there be different reasoning and mechanisms in play between government action and corporate rent capture?)

Anyway, I'm done with this.
posted by klangklangston at 2:30 PM on March 20, 2013


Oh man I totally remember when the government guaranteed a minimum wage for creative works that was awesome

The government doesn't guarantee a minimum wage that you'll receive when you make creative work. But it does guarantee you the right to set the price, the right to refuse to sell it at a lower price, and the seller the right to refuse to buy it at a higher price. Just like it grants the laborer the right to refuse to provide labor for a price said laborer refuses. What piracy does is deny the seller to set a negotiating price; instead the consumer simply declares "Meet my demanded price, or I'll take it for free." It tilts the playing field all the way towards the one who produces nothing.

Now, there are many who think that's exactly how it should be. Walmart executives think it's wrong for the government to say that they can't spend as little as they want for labor, which is especially unfair when they know they can get people to work for very little. And hey, if Walmart wants to pay $2/hour for labor, and laborers are willing to work for it, why should the government intervene in the market's ability to price-set?
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 4:16 PM on March 20, 2013


Walmart executives think it's wrong for the government to say that they can't spend as little as they want for labor, which is especially unfair when they know they can get people to work for very little.

I think there may be side effects to this that result in taxpayers subsidizing a huge, highly profitable private business.

I for one am not arguing that its okay to download pirated versions of digital works, but I do think the whole legal system is tilted way too far toward protecting the profits of large corporations who are not "free market" operators, since they have effective monopolies that they have captured through the copyright system, often abusing the very artists whose work they are exploiting. It is not starving artists who are suing housewives for US$1.5M for making copies of their work. It is large corporations who are seeking rent for their monopolies. The fact that they can abuse their paying customers shows how strong that monopoly is. The whole situation is a lot more morally ambiguous than the anti-piracy side will admit and the failure to recognize and cope with this will, I predict, lead to the downfall of the wall of draconian laws they've constructed to defend their calcified business models.
posted by Mental Wimp at 6:08 PM on March 20, 2013


The government doesn't guarantee a minimum wage that you'll receive when you make creative work. But it does guarantee you the right to set the price, the right to refuse to sell it at a lower price, and the seller the right to refuse to buy it at a higher price.

What it was supposed to do was grant an exclusive right for a limited period of time. This was done as a compromise because piracy was rampant and society is in fact entitled to having works of art and science in the public domain. Entertainment companies decided to break this deal by demanding legislation to produce functionally permanent copyright instead. They looted the public domain, and it's poetic justice that they are being looted right back.

It tilts the playing field all the way towards the one who produces nothing.

The artists owe a tremendous debt to the culture society has produced for them, all of their works were made possible by the contributions of other artists who came before. Copyright is supposed to be a deal with benefits that go both ways. Access to the public domain promotes new original works just like making sure artists get a paycheck does.

I will be more sympathetic to efforts to stop piracy once true respect for copyright is flowing from the industries as well, because I do think we need to make sure artists get paid.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:58 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]




[The government] does guarantee you the right to set the price, the right to refuse to sell it at a lower price, and the seller the right to refuse to buy it at a higher price.

If that's all that copyright did, nobody would have a problem with it. It's what happens *after I buy it* that things get weird. Can I resell it? Make a copy of it? Give the copy to a friend? Preserve it for my grandkids?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:48 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


[stop the ftfy goofery]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:45 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


ThatFuzzyBastard: "Now, there are many who think that's exactly how it should be. Walmart executives think it's wrong for the government to say that they can't spend as little as they want for labor, which is especially unfair when they know they can get people to work for very little. And hey, if Walmart wants to pay $2/hour for labor, and laborers are willing to work for it, why should the government intervene in the market's ability to price-set?"

I already explained why the analogy between the labor market and the content market is off base. Keep on beating that horse if you must, but it ain't convincing anybody at this point. That said, large employers of low-wage workers and big content companies are both relying on regulatory capture to fleece the lower classes, so there is a tiny flicker of illumination there.
posted by wierdo at 3:46 PM on March 21, 2013


Fresh Calls to Congress to Make Movie and Music Streaming a Felony
We'll need another post about the internet defense league's cat signal and CISPA again at some point probably, not sure exactly what is happening just now.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:23 AM on March 22, 2013




We'll need another post about the internet defense league's cat signal and CISPA again at some point probably, not sure exactly what is happening just now.

Congressman boasts on Twitter about the money he got to support CISPA, then thinks better of it

posted by homunculus at 12:46 PM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]








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