Internet content piracy has been an issue for a fair while, but only lately has it really begun to hit its peak with the introduction, and subsequent failure of SOPA and PIPA, as well as the shutting down of many popular downloading sites such as BTJunkie and Megaupload.
While us as the consumer shouldn’t expect to be able to download content for free willy-nilly, with the regulation and iron clad grasp that Hollywood has on their content, the MPAA and other media bodies shouldn’t expect consumers to readily shell out the cash for their content either. Particularly at prices that aren’t even reasonable.
Perhaps one of Steve Jobs’ greatest contributions to media aside from Pixar, was iTunes and his underlying theories on content piracy – that the only way to combat piracy is to make paying for content easier and much more accessible. His thesis is unquestioned as iTunes remains the most popular online media store. However Hollywood, almost a decade later, still looks at the internet as a chaotic anarchy of deregulation where illegal behaviour is a norm and where reason doesn’t stand a chance.
It doesn’t have to be like this.
What Steve Jobs acknowledged, and what Hollywood has to acknowledge is the fact that you can’t end piracy, it’s always going to be here.
Hollywood’s off base belief is that piracy combat is a front and center war where legislation and limitations are weapons of mass destruction to eliminate a complete pirate society. No, Hollywood. The piracy war is like a game of whac-a-mol, a game that you can’t win, a game that you can’t lose but one that if you play for long enough will suck your wallet dry and drive you absolutely bonkers.
The media industry shouldn’t be trying to knock down this never-ending group of moles, but to turn the movie loving population to more appealing alternatives.
Unfortunately, Hollywood is spectacularly behind the times and are still trying to sell DVDs and Blu-rays as their primary content mediums and leaving internet content distribution to players like Google, Apple and Amazon who obviously have the technology chops. But, who are they kidding, does anyone actually still buy DVDs? Well of course, but it’s benefits are being largely crossed off as the world shifts to more digital, integrated and less vertical ecosystems.
When I buy a DVD I can shove it into my DVD player, enjoy it for two hours and then shelve it away. That’s 20 dollars of money I will never get back for entertainment I can only enjoy in one place – my living room. Can I put that DVD on my tablet? On my phone? On my hard drive? No, because of copy protection. There’s a stark value proposition issue here – what sane person would buy a DVD they can’t really enjoy anywhere, when you can pirate a free digital copy that you can enjoy everywhere?
When I buy content in this highly connected age, I don’t just want to buy the content, the expectation is that I buy the right to use the content anywhere I want, because hey, I paid for it and it’s mine. That’s what the movie industry has attempted to do with its fancy new UltraViolet system, which is really just a new form of Digital Rights Management hidden behind a pretty name. The idea behind it is when you buy content either through retail or digital services, you have paid for the right to play it anywhere, any time on any service.
It sounds functional in theory but beyond that, the majority of users have belittled the system claiming it to be utter marketing bogus since the service doesn’t actually allow you to obtain a digital copy playable on mobile devices, henceforth defeating the purpose. Not only does this show that Hollywood has no idea how to build appealing technology, but it also shows that they are clueless to the desires of modern day consumers and that DRM, as has been tried time and time again is simply not the way.
Leaving the internet to players like Apple and Amazon to deal with is a poor move; if Hollywood wants the internet to really work for them then it’s time they started putting a hand in it. Deliver a universal payment method for all content across all services, assign a universal login for movie purchases. If people constantly have to log in and log out of services, set up new accounts and punch in credit card numbers every time they want to purchase a new movie, they have every reason to drop their patience and just hit ‘Download torrent’ instead.
For consumers there’s the cost motive too, paying for content has to be a lot, lot easier than downloading it for free.
Hollywood’s problem though is that they’re not smart enough to do anything remotely logical.
Hollywood’s response to Whitney Houston’s death was to pull ‘The Bodyguard’ (a film starring Whitney Houston) from streaming services to cash in on DVD sales driven by the publicity of her death. Are you kidding me? Not only is this an unethical business practice, but it shows how short sighted they are in trying so desperately to revive their declining DVD sales instead of relaying their focus entirely to the internet.
Additionally, for the past month Hollywood’s efforts have been focused on utilising legislation to eliminate the pirates, something you actually can’t get rid of, as opposed to a much more doable and logical approach of conquering the pirates.
The way the MPAA and its head honcho Chris Dodd have attempted to influence congress to pass SOPA and PIPA is phenomenally alarming:
Those who count on quote ‘Hollywood’ for support need to understand that this industry is watching very carefully who’s going to stand up for them when their job is at stake. Don’t ask me to write a check for you when you think your job is at risk and then don’t pay any attention to me when my job is at stake.
This quote from Chris Dodd shows how corrupt America’s lobbyist political system can really be. It’s actually quite an unbelievable statement, as if Chris Dodd was completely oblivious to the potentially disastrous PR aftermath. Instead of innovating themselves around the piracy situation, Hollywood is attempting to selfishly introduce legislation that will benefit no one but them. Even though SOPA and PIPA are gone for now, once Chris Dodd gains his lobbying rights, ridiculous anti-piracy bills will be back stronger than ever.
If we handed the whole film industry to Silicon Valley entrepreneurs we’d probably be in a better place because they’re actually, you know, intelligent. Shitcan all the old fudgepackers at the top of Hollywood who only litigate, legislate and have no idea how to innovate.