I am all about Assassin’s Creed, you guys and girls. A series of games that mixes painstaking attention to historic detail and stabbing people with hidden blades? Yes, please; sign me up. Add the fact that their last game, Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, featured
African-French Assassin Aveline de Grandpré scores them major points.
Having her team up with the protagonist of Assassin’s Creed III, the English/Mohawk Ratohnhaké:ton [Conor Kenway]? Icing on the cake.
The last time I wrote about this franchise I covered the racist backlash that Aveline’s character received, and how fans seemingly couldn’t accept the fact that she was a) a woman, and b) Black. I was of course thrilled because, hey, gender and racial diversity in extremely well-made games.
I ask readers of this blog to do this all too often, but imagine my excitement when I found out that Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag would be about pirates. I was beyond thrilled. Pirates are the coolest and you [and a good number of the later Pirates of the Caribbean films] will never be able to convince me otherwise. Continue reading →
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.
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?
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!
Over the past couple years, the issue of regulating the internet has repeatedly arisen, and while there have been many issues contributing to this, there is perhaps none more well known than the contention over copyright infringement and piracy.
Now for a brief disclaimer.
I am a Marxist. I do not believe in “property” as the word would be recognized today. Every written work, every film, every piece of art belongs to every human being living. The Godfather series is just as much a part of our legacy and inheritance as the Mona Lisa, and as such, access to it should be enjoyed by all.
This is all to say that I don’t view “copyright infringement” as constituting any true offense. On the contrary, it’s simply the people taking back what was rightfully meant for them to begin with- but I’m not here to talk about that.
No, I’m here to talk about how the music and film industries’ witchhunt for media pirates is doing them (and everyone else) far more harm than good. Let me break it down for you.
I. Some People Will Never Buy
It’s a strange statement, but a true one. There may be a slim minority of people who pirates actually are keeping from the major industries through their cheaper/free service, however it ought to be fairly safe to say that there are plenty of people out there who would not otherwise listen to certain artists or watch certain shows. We’re living in tough times, and with your average movie ticket running at about twenty bucks (to say nothing of the gas getting to the theater and back), for many of us piracy is the only way we’ll see new movies and shows. Assuming there’s a segment of the population who will never, ever pay to see The Godfather, stamping out free avenues- namely piracy- doesn’t save the industry any cash. On the contrary, it just means that those people who don’t get to see the movie because they won’t pay for it aren’t talking about it, and generating buzz that might well attract people who will pay to see the movie. And speaking of them…
II. Some People Will Always Buy
Just as some people simply can not or will not pay (such outrageous prices) for entertainment, you will find people who will spare no expense when it comes to it. There are plenty of people who want to see movies on the big screen. There are plenty of people who want to see their band live in concert.The Mona Lisa is a perfect example of this.
You can see pictures of Mona Lisa anywhere; it’s one the most widely recognized images in human history. Because it’s available for free most anywhere, no one will actually go see it, right? After all, it’s been “pirated” to death. Yet that room in the Louvre is packed wall to wall with people who want to see the thing for themselves. Why? Because it’s the original. Doesn’t matter that it’s roped off, or behind glass, or barely visible, or that the guards usher you along after thirty seconds- it’s still wildly popular. The same is true of all media. 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.
III. Anti-Piracy Hurts the Audience
You may not have experienced this in the states, but there was once a time when DVDs were listed by region codes, and could only be played on players that recognized that region. In other words, a DVD from America couldn’t be played on a DVD player from Europe and vice versa. You were granted a limited number of “switches,” but seeing as how you typically only got seven, it just put off the problem, rather than solving it. The goal (one of ’em, at least) was to prevent international piracy of DVDs through cracking down on how far away they came from, but all that just came down to it being a huge hassle for everyone, regardless whether or not their purchase was legitimate. Imagine all the time, money, and manpower that was invested in that venture that wound up solving nothing and quite possibly leading the industries involved to lose more money over that debacle than they would’ve lost to actual piracy. The same could be said for those hyperbolic ad campaigns comparing piracy to car theft
IV. Anti-Piracy Hurts the Industry
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. Is it a guarantee? No, but it’s still a better chance for the industry to make some cash than by preventing the person from seeing the first film at all.
V. Anti-Piracy Hurts the Environment
Lastly, I have to point out that we have free access to most films, music, and TV shows anyways- down at the local library. Only problem with that is when I drive to the library, I’m spending gas money, creating traffic, and spitting out exhaust fumes. Now I can get most anything down there for absolutely free, and no one complains. But imagine instead that I save on gas money, I keep the streets clear, and I reduce my carbon footprint by staying inside and watching the same movie I would’ve gotten free at the library. Suddenly, I’m a soulless criminal. Does that make sense to you?
What’s to be gained from all of this? Despite the doom-and-gloom prophecies of the industries, piracy continues on its merry path and yet we haven’t seen a decrease in the quality or production values of our movies.
We have more music artists now than we did a decade ago (at least, more access to them), in spite of piracy, and two of the most popular genres of our generation, techno and dub-step (I will never stop being ashamed of that) is heavily based on remixing and sampling other people’s work, i.e., piracy.
Look- I’m not asking the media giants to be happy about piracy, but at the same time, I have to question whether it’s really even worth it. All that cash being poured into anti-piracy gambits isn’t working– if it doesn’t already outweigh the revenue lost, wouldn’t all that time and effort be better spent elsewhere? Wouldn’t it be more profitable elsewhere?