Saturday, January 28, 2012

Use the Tech! - Why Entertainment "Suffers" from Piracy


With everything that has been going on surrounding SOPA, PIPA and ACTA, a lot of us are starting to think about the why's and also the solutions. Particularly concerning the movie and television industry. Some of us see solutions to piracy around and we can't help but wonder, why are they not being considered?

Someone posted an article at an online community I am an active member of and it is what inspired me to write this long post. Here is the link.

The Tech Industry Has Already Given Hollywood The Answer To Piracy; If Only It Would Listen

Indeed, there are ways for this technology to turn things into a win-win situation, for the majority of parties involved, but instead of it being utilized, they are trying to take it down.

Call me a dreamer, say I haven't thought this through, tell me it's "not that simple" or that it's wrong. I will state my opinion here, mention what I consider a possible and ideal solution and tell you why I think it's not being considered by these industries.

Someone on that forum I mentioned talked about streaming services. Such services already exist, true, and for some people, they work well. But not for all. We all know of places like Netflix and Drama Fever. They offer video-on-demand streaming services for viewers who pay a little something for a subscription. One major minus these have, is that they are for specific and only a few areas. But even if they were made available for all, there are still issues here.

Drama Fever and Viki

For one, there is the issue of quality. With streaming, you can only watch on the screen/device which has that connection established (unless you run a wire to your TV or have a TV that has internet functions). But an average viewer has a normal connection and no such fancy stuff. People with more money would enjoy something streaming in High Definition (needs a hell of a connection) and they would be able to watch it on their HDTVs, yes, but what about others?

Also, a lot of people would not want to pay good money for something they can't own and have wherever and whenever they like. Maybe they have no internet in some place they visit and still want their movies to watch. Downloaded files can be taken along. Streaming can't. No one would pay good money for something they can't even have in their hard drives. Something they can't actually own. A DVD is something you own. You can take it anywhere, do anything with it. The reason why people pay in places like Drama Fever, is because they get what they pay for. 40 dollars for 1 year of streaming media. That is really really affordable. But the quality and freedom one has with the content is the reason why it is so affordable. I say, why not have more, when it's so easy?

Having a site with legal High Definition files of series and movies to download, for a reasonable price, would be so easy to accomplish if the ones who would do it weren't too busy trying to go back in time and take the world with them. With downloads, even users with bad connections can download HD files. They can save the files and watch them through gaming consoles or transfer them to their televisions.

But the US is not the only one to be blamed on not seeing the potential. As a big fan of Korean entertainment, I see them do it too.

Queen of Reversals
31 episodes in two volumes. Each costing 90 dollars (without shipping and customs).

They make DVDs with English subtitles, but they cost too much and people with PAL televisions can't even see the whole screen. We see 2/3 of the filmed material, with the image being cut on all 4 corners and we have to view them in bad quality Region-free DVD players, on account of the different Regions. Imagine if they made portals which had Korean movies and series, to download, in HD, with each episode affordable? A 16-episode series costing 20 euros or 15 during some "sale" days or something. Or if you promoted it enough online, you could gather points and get discounts or even certain freebies.

20 euros in 2 months is affordable for a lot of people. They could even take it further, and charge depending on the country. If the country is one where the salary is 300 euros a month, they could make them cheaper for that country then. 20 euros is a lot for someone who can barely spare 5 for entertainment. I know it's hard for the rich corporate dictators to imagine such a life, but such people do exist, and not just in "third world" countries, as you like to call every place you ignore or have destroyed.

Imagine how many people would actually buy content that way. I could pay my 20 euros, get a series in HD and watch it when I want, where I want, all safe in my hard-drive. Or maybe one doesn't have a good computer or a good connection. They could simply go to a library or school or somewhere and legally download their beloved entertainment, save it to hard drives (those need to become affordable as well) and all works for everyone.

Compared to how many people can afford such content now, a lot more would buy then. And they'd make money from the sheer volume of people, even if the products would cost less than the DVDs cost now. More people are willing to pay when they see that their financial situation and needs are being taken into account and giving them something tailored for them.

If only they priced things according to country, in realistic ways for the content to be affordable by and available to most people in that place. Furthermore, a lot of of money would no longer have to go on making DVDs and bluray dics and cases and for shipping etc.

Now, a friend of mine gave me an interesting "hurdle" at this point. She said that people can't have everything they want, because if legal filesharing came into play, then the companies wouldn't be able to sell their series to channels anymore and those industries would die out. Jobs would be lost. While I feel there are ways for channels to adapt as well, and I am talking about those next, it's true that some jobs would be lost.

But that is how the world works. New ways and technologies emerge and some jobs vanish. But new jobs are also created. I mean, we used to have telephone operators that put you through to the number you dialed, but technology made them obsolete. It's sad for the people who lived and worked during that transition, but we can't keep the world standing still because the changes cause such issues either.

We thank them for their contribution and hard work, but the world moves on

Now, how channels could offer such content and keep afloat you say? Well, off the top of my head (ok, I thought about it this morning), channels could simply go online and have actual content there as well. Have series and movies, with the option to download them for a fee later on. But then, you might say, why would anyone watch the channels on television and not online? Well, they could make it so that they air the internet versions a few days after the television ones. Any fan who really likes what they see will want to watch on the television first.

The way things are now, it can take months or years before a certain work is available in a certain country and some simply never get that luxury. But people are online, they see the buzz, hear it, they want to participate in it, but their channels are dragging their feet with getting the rights to air it. In addition, each channel could have campaigns or extras, for people to be motivated. Maybe an exclusive interview with an actor or crew member, addressed to the viewers in that country. And of course, if you don't want people from abroad tuning in, make a system to only let people from within the country view it. If all countries had such channels, there would be no need to try and watch from somewhere else.

Now, I am not an expert in these things here. Neither am I that smart. But simple ideas which are at least reasonable enough to be considered came to me, the mind of a 25-year-old woman, within a matter of hours. So why is it that educated people, thinking and discussing about these things for years upon years, can't come up with such solutions and at least try them out?

I'll tell you why. It's because everyone wants a piece of the pie, without letting others touch it. It's also because they couldn't give a damn about what people want. The sheer bureaucracy and "rules" and "laws" and conflicts that make this hard to achieve are part of a dick waving contest between the industries and moneymakers of each country. Forgive my language, but that is the only way that seems perfect to describe it. We have our toys, they are better than yours and we are not sharing. And if you try and push us your own, we won't let you.

Mine is Bigger!

The reason why, even though the means and technology are there, the television and film industries don't use them, is because they are delusional and think they can go back to the times when hard copies of everything existed and couldn't be pirated (although time proved they could and did get pirated). These industries are trying to run their work and content in today's world, using old methods and having ideals and wishes for systems and ways of an era that has passed. They should get with the program. If they just use the tools they have available, we'd all be happy.

They have the most powerful platform in the world, the internet, and they are trying to stop it instead of seeing what's right in front of them. The potential to use it and make their works even more available worldwide, to willing buyers! But I guess the US corporate world doesn't like that. Because in an open internet, a lot of non-US companies can get attention. All of these channels I mentioned and any industry with something to offer could generate content, promote it worldwide and get viewers and a share of the market.

If people watched movies from all over the world online, Hollywood and its analog-means empire would crumble. The internet and good use of it by such companies would make the world more fair. More countries, industries, people would have power and they'd lose their monopoly. Think about it. Hollywood movies are in cinemas across the globe. All video rental stores and any that sell DVDs are filled with them. It's not because other industries don't exist or aren't good. It's because "The Mighty Hollywood Empire" is not willing to lose its power to peddle all its crap to us and get our thanks for it.

An example on how shameless Hollywood is and proof that this isn't some crazy conspiracy theory? In 2006, the US demanded that South Korea reduce the number of days that local, Korean movies air in cinemas, by half and make room for Hollywood movies. It was the South Korean government's way of sucking up to the US. Actors and film-makers protested and I frankly have no idea if they succeeded or not.

Screen Quota Protest
Both A-listers and less known actors took part in this

Imagine that. They were going to commit such an injustice to the local industry, an industry of good solid cinema (I guess that is why they are afraid of it). Adjusting how the industry works in a foreign country, based on what their industry wants.

And finally, to close this big big piece, let's say that Hollywood are right to be angry. Let's say that they are hurt little kittens, losing good money from evil pirates. Which, by the way, is not as much money as they'd like us to think. More on that here.

They don't exactly show us they give a damn about viewers, the very people that pay their paychecks and the people they should be working for. They whine and complain and show complete lack of knowledge about what an average viewer with an average paycheck feels like and they almost portray anyone wanting fair treatment as guilty and evil for not appreciating the fact that they want to become richer. That doesn't exactly make people willing to put any faith or money in them and their works. If you want to stop piracy, show you care for the rights of those who pirate, for their problems and the reasons behind pirating and their demands as customers. Don't say "these rotten people make Universal and its poor CEOs cry, so we can just make these laws and show them".

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