Tag Archives: Hulu

Evan and Gordon Talk: Piracy

EVAN: Ladies and gentlemen, children with surprisingly discerning taste, Gordon and I have managed to look past the weariness of a day of work to bring you a new installment of Evan and Gordon Talk.

Today’s topic: Piracy.

GORDON: That’s right- having not actually received any suggestions on time last E&G Talk, we’ve resorted once again to choosing for ourselves. Let this be a warning to you.

EVAN: This topic arose organically, actually, due to a few posts by Gordon on piracy and my not being able to fully agree with them.

And no, it’s not that kind of piracy, though we did start a new pirate-themed D&D game just this past Sunday.

GORDON: And it shall be awesome- but back to the subject at hand. I’m going to start with some full disclosure:

I am not of the mind that piracy is, in and of itself, a great and noble thing. Any indication or implication of this on my part is usually just in reaction to the mainstream media’s portrayal of piracy as a crime on par with defacing priceless art, grand theft auto, and punching old ladies in the face.


EVAN:
 And in all fairness from my part, I will admit that I’m no saint when it comes to piracy. I stream a plethora of shows for my viewing pleasure, though I have [and this is likely the voice of Justification speaking] sworn off downloading full-length films, music, books, etc.

GORDON: And Evan, I will attest, is not some twisted chaos-worshiping miscreant devoid of honor or humanity, as the major media industries would have you believe. Well, not entirely, anyways.

Now, Evan, one of the justifications I’ve heard you use in the past is that you’re living in Canada. Many- if not all- US shows are simply unavailable outside of the States through any conventional means.

EVAN: This is true. And while I resided in the States for my post-secondary education I made frequent use of the free streaming service Hulu. I even watched, and somewhat enjoyed, the ads.

In Canada we cannot even watch the episodes on the channels’ respective websites [NBC.com, CBS.com, etc.]

GORDON: And you’re certainly not alone in that. The vast majority of the world is in the same boat, forced to choose between piracy or waiting a few years for the DVDs to come out and then pay an exorbitant fee plus crazy shipping costs. Better hope your purchase isn’t damaged en-route.

EVAN: Since we have been so good about being fair, I will point out that there are options- many television episodes are available to buy via Amazon, online. Before you ask why you should pay for something you would otherwise get for free I’d point out that you pay for these shows by watching ads, and that as someone not in the States you would not “otherwise get it for free” to begin with.

GORDON: And that’s something I can actually tolerate. In spite of my muting ads and/or talking back to them while giving the corporate pigs the finger, I’m perfectly willing to subject myself to ’em if it means cheap and convenient access.

EVAN: If I recall our time together in college correctly [which we both know I can, and do], I distinctly remember you blocking said ads with Adblock.

GORDON: Even though it meant the waiting time was ultimately longer.

EVAN: Which is besides the point. But let’s continue onwards: is piracy damaging?

GORDON: The continued existence of Hollywood, as well as the ever increasing budget of films, would seem to indicate otherwise.

There are people out there who might try to argue that piracy hurts new musicians, who can’t afford to lose profits like big businesses can, but that’s a flawed argument. Truth is, musicians only get a sliver of the profits they generate, and wind up losing the rights to their own songs in the process. Working independently with the consumer is generally a safer and more profitable move.

EVAN: I will not argue with what you have said about musicians for a second. The amount they make through selling single tracks on iTunes is deplorable.

What I will point to, however, are the other areas where piracy can [and does] occur. Television series live and die based on their ratings, and buying them does nothing to help what’s perfectly good [if not great] television. Similarly, if only 1,000 people decided to download a new issue of a comic book instead of simply paying the three or four dollars, that could mean the end of that series; titles that dip below 20,000 are typically cancelled soon afterwards.

GORDON: I agree wholeheartedly. But I think that speaks the whole reason piracy exists- not malice, but rather cost and convenience. These people- especially television producers- have got to understand that their old metrics for measuring the popularity of shows are dead.

It’s the equivalent of saying communication isn’t popular because house phones are dying out. No, we’re just turning to new, cheaper, and more convenient methods. Piracy could be dealt a deathblow if these major industries would just step up their game, rather than trying to use lobbies and buy off politicians to keep us dancing to their tunes.

EVAN: The thing is, I think in arguing for “cost and convenience” you run the risk of defending those who just a) want to get quality products for free b) whenever they want.

It’s not just that people want ease in accessing what they love, the truth is that when given the choice between paying and not paying people will always opt for the latter.

GORDON: I agree such people exist.

EVAN: As I stated in your Shame Day post about the internet providers and their lobbying group, if people really love something they should be willing to sacrifice both time and money. Maybe that means working around an 8 pm show if it truly means that much to them, or paying for a copy of Captain Marvel.

Not to bring it back to comic books [who am I kidding, it’s what I do], but you putting down a few dollars means that a talented writer or artist is able to keep on doing what they do: providing you with high-quality stuff. That’s an actual case where piracy can severely jeopardize both artists and their art.

GORDON: Again, I agree. I do believe in paying for what I love. My record collection stands as a testament to this, as does my choice to spend a few extra bucks buying beer produced by one of the few ethical companies on this blighted earth.

Tell me this- you like the show New Girl, right?

EVAN: Immensely.

GORDON: Would you pay fifty bucks American to watch the show at 4:12 (and ONLY at 4:12) in the afternoon?

EVAN: I would not.

GORDON: How ’bout ten cents to watch it whenever you so desire?

EVAN: Yes indeed.

GORDON: You and millions others, am I right? Ten cents for a crisp, working copy rather than some choppy, blurry pirated version where the sound and video are out sync?

EVAN: Oh, I stream at only the highest quality.

GORDON: That’s my point, I guess. Yeah, there will always be people out there who don’t want to pay the ten cents, but overwhelmingly, that kind of price and convenience will make such a minority negligible.

I assert again that piracy doesn’t exist because millions of people are art-hating maniacs, but because the business plans of these networks and companies are painfully obsolete and short-sighted, especially in regards to the international market. Heck, I’d say such changes could ultimately lead to these companies turning a healthy profit- especially if they just included some advertising à la early Hulu.

EVAN: Here’s the thing, the US already has a working model of what you just said. As I mentioned you can purchase episodes of stuff on Amazon, and I’m talking $2 an episode. That is reasonable. I don’t think your average American would look at that price and think, “There’s no way in Hades I am spending two dollars on a 45-minute episode of television that I can keep forever.”

Yet in spite of that, people in America still download TV shows all the time. If it doesn’t work for them, what makes you think they can extend something like that to the rest of the world?

GORDON: Firstly, I disagree that 2 bucks is reasonable for an episode. That’s the cost of an entire dinner right there. How much more so is that going to be true for the rest of the world, who have even less?

I mean, we’re not talking about a book or a record which goes through an intensive manufacturing process for each copy- we’re talking digital here. Every man, woman, and child on Earth could be given every book, movie, song, and piece of art on earth if the masters so chose…

EVAN: Gordon. It’s two dollars. The average American does not spend that much on a full meal, they spend that much on stuff they don’t need, like gum or coffee or inane tabloids. As a country America is more than able to pay that paltry amount and yet they do not. My point stands.

I’d further argue that since it’s digital that ease of access adds, not detracts, from its value. You can watch it whenever and wherever you want.

GORDON: What I mean about it being digital is that it doesn’t cost money (anything noticeable) to reproduce it, unlike hard copies of things such as books or art. With that mind, charging two bucks an episode seems to me to be unreasonable. I’d cite the fact that for 20 dollars you can get a season of a show with (at least) 20 episodes as proof of this. The cost can, and should, be lowered for great consumption.

EVAN: Like I said, we’re adding availability as a variable. Sure, you can pay 20$ for a full season of a show, but that’s waiting a year or however long it takes for it to come out. People are also paying for the availability of getting it when or soon after it airs.

GORDON: That’s gonna be different from company to company, but for the most part, that’s true. But I’d jump back to my complaint about how little the actual artists get in all this. If anyone- anyone– is gonna set a price, let it be the ones producing the work.

EVAN: Honestly, though, that’s an entirely different argument.

The fact of the matter is that if a writer/artist wanted to print their own comic book there’s no way they’d be able to do it on any significant scale on their own, the cost of printing alone would wreck them.

Different industries pay those who work in them different amounts, and it’s not the topic of our conversation this week.

GORDON: Again, my issue isn’t with the fact that we must pay; we can all get behind this. My issue is with the terms and conditions we’re subjected to- especially when big companies start throwing their weight around to slow progress.

If piracy is the rampant issue that they say it is- and I seriously contest that- then I submit that the fault is on their part for adopting inconvenient, pricey, and exclusionary policies. Let me put it this way:  If you say apples can only be purchased by people who’ve climbed Mount Everest, you’re gonna create a lot of apple thieves.

EVAN: We’ve left you a lot to think about, even if you’re not someone who refreshes a website over and over waiting for a new episode of 2 Broke Girls to pop up [did you know I review that show?].

So with that ladies, gentlemen, and genius babies, we bid you a happy Wednesday. We came up with this week’s topic, but you can decide if next week we talk about . . . um . . . Dungeons & Dragons. How we’ve chosen to play it and why we think it works [better?].

GORDON: Alternatively, you may vote that we discuss the role of religion in our (relatively) secular society.

EVAN: Thank you, as always, for reading, and please vote!

 

Evan and Gordon Talk: Facebook and Privacy

EVAN: So in spite of the fact that I voted for my topic of preference on last week’s poll, Facebook and privacy and whatnot won. Having bitterly admitted that, Gordon?

GORDON: While the topic of Facebook (or all social networking) and privacy certainly isn’t a new debate, it’s not one that’s lost its relevance either.

As we rely on the internet more and more as our primary means of communication and entertainment, how do we address the issue of having every little element of our lives dissected and sold to the highest bidder?-

EVAN: I mean, really, everyone has been the target more or less of having their information used by Facebook. Log on and check out those sidebar ads; every one has been tailored using the cookies of sites you’ve visited. Which is why mine are always StarCraft related, etc.

GORDON: First thing we gotta ask is- “Is this really a problem? Aint it better to have ads that are actually relevant to you, rather than yet another ****ing insurance commercial courtesy of Geico?”

EVAN: Ugh, Geico. How many ad campaigns can a single company have?

EVAN: Moving disgustedly along, that’s a very relevant point. I’m interested in video games, so to have sidebar ads about such things is not something I can really complain about.

GORDON: I’ve got a pretty aggressive adblock, so I’m fortunate enough not to have to deal with that; but the underlying assumption with that kind of thought is that ads are inevitable. That you can’t get away from ’em, so you might as well try to get ones you like…

EVAN: Which is why, as you well know, I only thumbs up a select number of ad types on Hulu. Food, alcohol, video games, and certain movies.

GORDON: But with Hulu- you are the person in control. I mean, think of it this way: would you tolerate a guy going through your garbage so he can send you junk mail tailored to you?

EVAN: I’ve gotta think about that for a second . . . I mean, not getting junk mail about window/door services would be nice.

The whole “going through your garbage” thing definitely carries some different associations then simply tracking cookies. Maybe it’d be more like- a TV guy who follows you around when you shop, noting what you are and aren’t interested in.

GORDON: But that’s also flawed- in that scenario, you’re actually looking for stuff to buy….

EVAN: Well, you window shop, I mean- browsing, etc. Looking at what you look at, that sort of thing.

GORDON: So I’ve got this obnoxious guy following me wherever I go, listening in on my every word, and trying to sell me his wares without rest. Isn’t that one of the ironic punishments in Dante’s Inferno?

EVAN: Bringing this back to Facebook and whatnot, do we in general have a problem with the ads? I mean, they’re not the most obtrusive to begin with.

GORDON: Well, ads are only one example. What about your location?

EVAN: People want that stuff, though. It’s part of this new generation, tweeting where you are, statuses that read “I just had lunch with ______ at ______.”

GORDON: I’m not talking about when you state your location, I’m talking about when your location is pinpointed and used regardless of your awareness. Sexy Singles in Houghton being a prime example.

EVAN: Heh.

For context, Houghton is where we both attended college. It is so small it is not considered a town. It is a hamlet.

GORDON: The majority of the population- vast majority- is made up of the student body.

EVAN: Vast majority.

GORDON: Meaning that the town decreases by about 80% each summer.

EVAN: But those ads are all the same- they’re just slapping a different town [or hamlet] name onto whatever’s being advertised.

GORDON: But are you really okay with that? That not only your interests are out there, but your location as well? Regardless of your consent?

EVAN: As far as I can tell, it’s more eerie than anything else. And it goes from creepy to laughable when something like “Sexy Singles in Houghton” comes up.

GORDON: Now, as you are in Canada, this might not sound as relevant to your situation- but what about the gummint’ commin’ t’get’ ya?

I mean, there have been issues here in the States,  huge issues, with companies turning over personal information- including conversations- to law enforcement and security agencies without much (if any) process.

EVAN: Heh. “Gummint.” But yeah, that stuff has definitely happened. And seriously, what Facebook does with our personal information is very important.

GORDON: I guess it’s more or less the same for me- though I was a bit older, and having grown up in Syria (where they eventually blocked Facebook)- I never put anything on there I didn’t assume everyone could and would read.

Still do. Or don’t, rather.

EVAN: It’s interesting in that privacy settings are so much more advanced now though, in a way. If you don’t want people looking at even your profile pictures you can do that. Meaning that potential employers can’t use it as a legitimate check on future employees anymore.

GORDON: Now that  is messed up. We can all agree on that.

EVAN: Hm?

GORDON: Employers attempting to maintain control over their workers by monitoring their FB profiles, citing “character” as a reason or justification.

EVAN: Ah, that’s what you were getting at. So to some extent we’re in control of an aspect of our privacy on Facebook.

GORDON: No question. But speaking in a more general sense, what does that do to us as a people? As a society?

EVAN: Well, I for one am incensed when I want to look at a pretty girl’s profile pictures, and even though she clearly has them, I’m told that “there are no pictures in this album.” Bold-faced lies.

GORDON: You’re a pervert.

EVAN: My point stands.

GORDON: So we’re more dishonest with each other? We’re still ironing out the wrinkles in our old-world/cyber-world blend?

EVAN: Are we more dishonest with each other? I mean, if we’re really deconstructing this, the internet has made us more dishonest than we’ve ever been ever.

GORDON: Explain.

EVAN: Nothing we put online is necessarily true. Dating website profiles back me up on this.

GORDON: This is true. Are we then actually more skeptical and guarded despite the critics’ claims?

EVAN: Which are-

GORDON: The general spiel- the internet (social networking especially) is playing on our trust and making us more and more exposed for those who would make money off of us.

EVAN: Ah. Vulnerable, etc. I gotcha.

I’d say people in general are still naive enough to fall for obviously stupid ads [if they didn’t work they wouldn’t still be around]. But we are more skeptical as a generation, so really both are true.

GORDON: Fair enough.

EVAN: And we are exactly out of time.

GORDON: Remember to stop by next week for our discussion on the upcoming season of Community.

EVAN: Yes. It’s gonna be good. And I already know you’re going to end this with that Troy/Abed gif.

GORDON: I am indeed.

Some Frightening Things About Popular Technology

Frederick Jameson said that “Contemporary people alternate between states of euphoria and anxiety.”

Euphoria, perhaps, because that is one natural reaction to being in the state of perpetual stimulation and entertainment and comfort (at least objectively) that we, the middle class, experience. Every minute, 48 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube. Any thought of YouTube, really, or Hulu or Grooveshark, makes one realize how kind of horrifyingly immense is the amount of entertainment available to anyone with an internet connection.

Cyborgs are probably going to start showing up soon. Hopefully Jean Luc Picard will be among them (if we can get a non-evil version).

You could do nothing but read, watch, and play on the internet for the rest of your life and there would still be more things you hadn’t seen or read. Information has always been that vast – for at least the last few centuries – but never before has it been so readily available almost all the time. With smartphones and future developments like SixthSense, access to the internet is going to start feeling like an extra limb – something without which you will feel nervous and clumsy and limited. For some people, this is already true – think about most people who’ve owned a smartphone for more than a few months, or anyone in a fantasy football league, or the fact that a SecondLife Shakespeare Company exists.

In The Shallows (read a good reflection on the book at The Millions), Nicholas Carr speculates and muses about the various psychological, social, and cultural effects of more completely immersing ourselves in an environment made entirely out of nonphysical stimulation.

As a member of the first generation to really experience internet access (if you count AOL 4.0 as internet access) for our whole lives, I look to the future of the human brain with interest and horror.