Monday, March 11, 2013

Hell Hath No Fury Like a Dramafan Scorned

I think the word above is perfect for describing this recent situation. For those of you not living under a cave, like most dramafans do (we love it in there), here is a little summary of the situation. Popular Korean film and drama entertainment blog 'Dramabeans' had been doing recaps for 'Level 7 Civil Servant', until they received a DMCA takedown notice from none other than 'Dramafever'; an online streaming site for Canada and the US which provides subtitled videos for Korean dramas. According to 'Dramafever', they own the license to air the show in the US and the screencaps 'Dramabeans' add to their recaps are therefore copyright infringement.

The girls who own 'Dramabeans' being less than willing to get smacked around by corporate bullying went ahead and removed all of their images from the recaps, let everyone know about it in this post and even apologized for the removal to visitors. And that is when the feces met with the revolving blades of the cooling apparatus.

'Dramabeans' users and dramafans around the globe unleashed a wave of ruthless, brutally honest and enraged comments, tweets, messages on social platforms, 'Dramabeans' and 'Dramafever'. Within a few hours, 'Dramafever' issued this post, claiming this was a third party mess-up and buttering up the angry netizens and Dramabeans alike, saying it will be taken care of and that the notice is not valid. As you can see by the majority of comments, ranging from "this is your last chance" to "F*** you, you f****** bullies! Stop bullsh****** us!", netizens did not buy it.

It seems 'Dramafever' has done this before and is the reason why a lot of streaming sites and blogs have disappeared off the internet in the past few years. There are a few topics of interest I'd like to mention about this whole mess.

Dramafan Community Support

Some camaraderie and humor go a long way. Illustration by javabeans, from this post.

While Asian entertainment is quite widespread, the fan community is still seen as mostly geeky by society. We're those teen-minded girlies and dudes who like soap-operas, pop songs and shallow light entertainment. Because of these very specific types of interests, we're also a community that relies a lot on loyalty and group thinking. This can definitely be bad when it reaches unfair and cruel levels in certain situations, but it also means we are very quick to defend things and people we feel are valuable.

What 'Dramafever' did has not only made people feel for the wronged 'Dramabeans' and others, but it has also disappointed them, when it came from a community and company which is supposedly appreciative of them and aiming to provide them with what they need. 'Dramafever' proved it is a business wanting monopoly and not to please viewers. It proved it wants to force users to pay, not provide them with something good enough to pay for.

Unreasonable goals and methods

Maybe I should use Iris pictures when writing about 'IRIS2'. Here's Yoo Gun and Soo Yeon.

And this is where the second topic comes in. How awful this method is for everyone involved. Blogs and streaming sites create traffic for 'Dramafever'. Biting the hand that feeds you is not a solution. Blocking everyone who does your work better than you and for free is not the answer. Not to mention how ridiculous their claim was. They produce subtitles for the series they "own". They do not own the video and even if they did, image use for the purpose of reviewing a work usually falls under fair use. 'Dreamabeans' does not make money off those images. They gain traffic from their own work.

They cannot demand that anything mildly related to them is shut down, as if they own the full rights to it and when there is no actual infringement going on. Bullying sites into closing and dreading competition is the sign of a coward. It is not smart business. A smart business takes advantage of publicity and diversity to connect with people and develop their product into something audiences will actively prefer to use over others. They don't push users to a corner and demand pay.

Unfairness of the System

Let's pretend, for a minute, that the notice was justified. Fine. They want to force US and Canadian viewers to pay them and yes, the servers for these sites they're after are in the US. The content, however, is accessible by the whole world. Why do I, who lives in Europe, have to be without sources just because they don't want their own viewers to go to the competition? How dare a US company decide on my behalf on what I am allowed to see or not? I'm sure there's legal standing giving them this right, but what I'm saying is, there shouldn't be. Instead of messing with my content, they should make theirs available to my country.

Then keep your activities there.

And then we come to a comment on the 'Dramafever' post. Some holier-than-thou user said we should be ashamed for wanting things for free. Newsflash. We don't. We want them affordable for our financial power as well as fast and easily accessible. I wrote about this a year ago in more detail. I'm sorry, but I am currently feeding myself with 10 euros a week. I can't spare much. I definitely do not have the 70 euros an average Korean drama costs to buy on DVD and I am not in Korea so I can watch it as it airs for free/almost free. I don't have money for a lot of things. Does this mean I should remain completely uneducated, uncultured and un-entertained? Because I have bills to pay and wasn't born in a rich family?

The reason why crowd-funding and places like Kickstarter work is because people want to pay, but can't all pay the same amount. If this system could be adapted for commercial use, this world would be much more fair and simple. Which is, I guess, what the people who are hoarding in money with the current system don't want.

Closing words

As I said, when you make your content good, available to all and affordable by as many as possible, it sells itself and it sells good. When the system is fair and provides users with what they need and can have, those users want and will pay and they will chose that service over others. Bullying one's way into monopoly creates only losses for the bully and frustration for the bullied.

I am not saying 'Dramafever' is a bad service that needs to close. If anything, it has made dramas available with English subtitles, it's fast and the quality of their work is relatively good. It's an important step into the right direction for making Asian entertainment easily accessible to the world. And it's exactly because of its importance that these events are so unacceptable.

'Dramafever' carries the responsibility of being a pioneer and setting an example of how entertainment can be global and affordable online. If its ethics are so lacking and its relationship with the dramafan community based on totalitarianism, it is setting rotten foundations and harming its cause more than aiding it.

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