A while ago (and with great reluctance from Evan), I posted a defense of piracy.
Understanding how much Evan and I differ on the subject, I wouldn’t have written anything more about it- had the BBC not just put forth an article kinda vindicating my entire position.
Let’s start from the top.
Netflix, it is reported, has just announced that it has been tracking trends in movie and television piracy to help it decide which shows to obtain. The article cites, “Netflix’s chief executive, Reed Hastings, had previously told the site that he believed his video-on-demand product might discourage people from using BitTorrent piracy sites because it was easier to use.”
Because it’s easier to use.
Now what did I write back in 2012?
Some people- plenty of people- will part with their cash to see Avatar in 3D, rather than watching some grainy, laggy version taken on a hand-held video camera in Thailand.
There exists, I argued, a portion of the population who will always prefer the quality, speed, and user-friendliness of mainstream sources, even with a price attached. In fact, the article states that “In Canada BitTorrent is down by 50% since Netflix launched three years ago.”
Hmm- what else did I say?
And while we’re talking about the industry shooting itself in the foot, let’s not forget the fact that preventing access to one film will very often lead to prevention of access to another. Quite simply, a person who doesn’t see The Godfather is not likely to go see the sequel, whereas someone who has seen The Godfather has a far better probability of winding up trying to see the sequel, either legitimately or through piracy.
Again, this statement is bulwarked by the article, citing comments made by hit show Breaking Bad‘s creator, Vince Gilligan. In an interview with British entertainment magazine Digital Spy, Gilligan was asked if he believed that piracy had played a role in his show’s success. His response was as follows:
They probably did, if I’m being honest… it got the word out in regards to Breaking Bad. For a long time, before Netflix really had its advent, it was the only way folks around the world could catch up with the show at all. And being aware of that, there has to be a bit of gratitude on my part for that having happened.
Heck, the CEO of Time Warner himself came out in (tenative) support of piracy. Commenting on how subsidiary company HBO’s Game of Thrones had become the most pirated series in history, he stated:
“Our experience [of piracy] is, it all leads to more penetration, more paying [subscriptions] and more health for HBO, less reliance on having to do paid advertising.
“I think you’re right, that Game of Thrones is the most pirated show in the world. Now that’s better than an Emmy.”
Oh, and remember when the entertainment industry got so worked up about the supposed billions it was losing in profits that it attempted to get SOPA passed? You remember SOPA, right? The law effectively destroying the internet as we know it and giving copyright holders (not the artists, mind you, the copyright holders) carte blanche on prosecuting and heavily fining anyone they believed was using their “intellectual property.” Had it passed, this blog could’ve been shut down for me simply having used this GIF below:
Yeah, in spite of their protestations that the very core of the movie and music industry was being eaten away by piracy, SOPA was knocked back and the lobbyists crawled off to lick their wounds. While they did swear revenge, the fact that 2013 has seen the greatest movie profits in history (with profits in excess of 10.8 billion dollars) would seem to hammer the last nail in the coffin of the whole “I’m just a poor, little multinational corporation- doesn’t anyone care about me?” spiel.
That said, this shouldn’t be interpreted to be the end of the issue of piracy- not by a long shot. I fully acknowledge that this doesn’t address the issue of the truly little-guy musician in the grand scheme of things (with the industry as it is, we’re not seeing a ton of start-up film makers or tv show producers). Still, for all the arguments that “piracy takes money away from start-up artists who really do need the cash to support their careers,” I have to say that I’ve never actually seen this happen. Piracy seems to be directed towards the big fish- I’ve certainly never seen some acoustic guitarist off of YouTube fail to make it because people keep downloading her music for free. Firstly, there’s just not enough demand for such an obscure artist that avenues of piracy would even exist. Secondly, nobody- excluding Evan- cares about hearing some breathy, acoustic guitar cover of a decade old pop song, which is the real reason I think lots of these “little guy” artists never actually make it.
So there you have it. Not everything I said about piracy was vindicated, but some good chunks were (and by some pretty major players, too). It’s not a solution to the problem as a whole- and it is a problem, let’s not forget that- but, if nothing else at all, this new shift is a step in the right direction.
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