The movie industry are dead wood

There’s news today that pirates have been at work stealing a local movie:

Pirated copies of New Zealand’s acclaimed film Boy are circulating the internet and could affect the film’s international release and DVD sales, the New Zealand Film Commission says.

[Via Movie piracy costing $70m a year – Movies – NZ Herald News.]

A Boy trailer on YouTube:

Let me first make it perfectly clear that I do not in any way condone theft. Pirating a movie and making it available on the Internet for free is wrong. Those who work deserve a fair reward for their labours.

To some extent though, this piracy is human nature and I can see why someone may do it.

It’s time for publishers of all kinds — books, movies, music — to wake up and realise that we live in an era of global immediacy. The Internet also makes it possible to publish material simultaneously around the world.

And there are millions of honest people who are prepared, often keen, to pay a reasonable price for their entertainment.

Who’s the customer?

In the world of paying for movies, music and books it’s us regular folks who actually do the paying. Whether we see a movie at a cinema, on DVD or on TV it’s we who pay. We are the customers.

We want to see the movies on our terms. We want to see the movie at the same time as the rest of the world, to read the books on our iPads or Kindles, to listen to the music in our car or on our computers or through our iPhones.

We’ll pay a fair price

And we’ll pay.

I feel sure I speak for most people when I say I want to pay a fair price that rewards all those who have put their effort into creating a fine product, who’ve taken a risk and gambled their money on a project. Fair’s fair. I work for a living, and expect others to pay me for what I do, so it’s only right to pay others for their work too.

But we don’t much care who receives that money — whether it’s the cable company that delivers TV programmes, a movie theatre, a DVD retailer, a bookstore, an ebookstore. It’s all the same to us. What many of us find important is timeliness and convenience.

Artificial distribution systems need to go

It made sense, last century sometime, to set up elaborate systems of distribution. Movie theatres needed to show physical films to groups of viewers; hard copy books had to be shipped around the planet. It would take weeks or months to send items around the globe.

Now someone can deliver that book or movie to me in a matter of moments via my Internet connection, in a format that works for me.

And because it can be done I expect to be able to make that choice. If I want to view a movie on my tiny iPhone screen in low quality then let me pay to do that.

The payment’s the problem

The problem seems to be the payment. I want the movie. The movie’s available. The owner of the movie won’t sell it to me to watch. For spurious reasons: ummm, they want me to see it in July because I’m in New Zealand, but it’s now only June. Or they want me to watch it at a movie theatre, and I want to watch it at home on my TV screen. Or they want me to watch it on a DVD player locked to a specific region and my computer won’t let me just change regions willy-nilly.

I guess they’re protecting their ‘distribution channels’ rather than looking after their paying customers.

I’m not at all surprised that someone pirates a movie to ‘set it free’.

The good news

Yesterday I came across an independent sci-fi movie on VODO — Pioneer One:

Pioneer One is the latest project from Josh Bernhard and Bracey Smith …

The show’s pilot was shot for just $6000, raised through the micro-funding platform Kickstarter. “This production was possible due in no small part to the willingness of talented, professional people working for free,” explains Bernhard. “From actors to composers, they did this because they believed in the project and wanted to see it happen. …

This is the first episode of a 7-episode first season. What’s going to happen to this mysterious cosmonaut? Is his story true? What will happen to our agents, now operating on their own? Help the creators tell this story, along with a further 4 seasons mapped out for the future.

The first 30 minute episode was most easily available through peer-to-peer filesharing as its official distribution channel so I located the appropriate software and grabbed the download.

The movie arrived speedily, and I left my connection open for a while so I’d be making my contribution to the sharing community.

An interesting approach

Pioneer One.

Pioneer One.

I like sci-fi and it was a treat to see new material and watch on my computer.

It was clear it was a low budget movie, but that was OK. I liked the storyline and want to see more episodes.

I spotted a few small continuity problems and would have made different choices about which actors played various roles, but for a free movie I’m not going to quibble too much.

I really like this way of going about things. The movie was free and easy to obtain, but with plenty of encouragement to donate for future development. It’s also released under a Creative Commons licence.

I made a small donation and received a bonus MP3 track and a couple of deleted scenes as a reward.

Now I’m looking forward to the next episode and am likely to donate again.

Big industry are at war with us

The big industries are at war with us customers. They treat us as pirates even when we’re not. They tell us how much money we’re costing them, while they refuse to sell us their products, while they encase the stuff we do buy in the figurative barbed wire of copy protection and warnings and FBI admonishments.

I hate them every time I try to watch a DVD I’ve bought legitimately because they’ve deliberately crippled where and how I can watch it. Because they inflict their ‘piracy’ warnings on me every time and won’t let me skip past them.

Every single time I think: I bought this from a legitimate source, don’t keep telling me I’m a pirate! Or words to that effect, but more colourful.

If big industry continue on this path I hope they’re doomed. Let them die off as dead wood and allow the new growth of projects like Pioneer One through to the light.

Update Friday, 25 June 2010: Colin Jackson has written a post that complements this post very well: » Film industry fails again:

That’s what makes it strange that the film industry apparently hasn’t released the film to Australia. There are a *lot* of New Zealanders living there. And it’s not surprising, after all the promotion, that people there want to see the film however they can get it.

Colin then goes on to discuss piracy and the movie industry.


  1. I always overjoyed when someone else writes the blog post I’ve had mulling in my mind for a while. And Miraz you have written EXACTLY the post I would like to think I would have written … almost word for word :-)


  2. Thanks so much for that feedback Mike. It just suddenly all came together for me when I heard about the piracy of ‘Boy’.

    I feel we’re moving into an age where I’d rather spend my limited funds on buying Internet capacity and things delivered by Internet than on ever fading TV programming.

    I think there’s scope to make DVDs and movie theatres into value-added experiences, perhaps offering higher definition, or the Director’s commentary, or the social aspect of popcorn and dinner and groups of friends and so on.

    If big industry is smart they’ll figure out the strengths of differing methods of distribution and play to them.

    I’m not at all sure they’re smart though. The dollar signs in their eyes seem to really cloud their vision.

  3. “I guess they’re protecting their ‘distribution channels’ rather than looking after their paying customers.”

    Taika replied to this on TV3 news the other night:

    “If I wanted it to be watched online I’d have shot it on an iPhone”

    BOY is first & foremost a film, ie cinema

    its not a DVD, its not a TV show, its not a download…

    Its a work of art who’s primary medium is film
    & to fully appreciate it you must go to a theatre & see it on film

    Maybe what is being protected is not ‘distribution channels’ but the aim of getting as many people as possible to experience it HOW THE ARTIST INTENDED

    I’ll let David Lynch explain it:

  4. Thomas, I can sympathise with the artist’s intentions, but apparently they *were* planning on releasing it on DVD. If they weren’t then they wouldn’t be complaining about the ‘lost DVD sales’ quoted above.

    Once it’s on DVD people could be watching it on tiny computer screens or giant home TV screens. Not on film at a cinema.

    My specific point wasn’t about ‘Boy’ in particular though. My point was about the movie, music and book industries fighting their paying customers rather than finding ways to make the most of the current state of technology.

  5. Lawrence D’Oliveiro says:

    Theft is a criminal act, and should be reported to the police.

  6. Lawrence, you’re rather stating the obvious. I’m not sure what your point is with regard to our discussions here. None of us has advocated breaking any laws.

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