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  1.  (3092.1)
    Yeah, Flabyo, I have zero tolerance for entitlement bitches also.

    One big problem with most piracy conversations is that every media and IP is treated equally, which in my opinion just doesn't work. I mean, I consider pirating music to be far more acceptable than pirating movies or games. Why, because I'm not a musician? No, it's because music is something that's consumed over and over again. I pirated most of my favorite bands to those music killing C-cassettes in the 80's and 90's, and when I got some actual income, I've poured quite a hefty amount of money to those artists, plus I've heard of some of my current favorite artists only via piracy, since their stuff hasn't really been available on the Finnish radio or... well, fucking anywhere else.

    Then again, movies and games. Uhm, I don't really pirate those, for one single reason: once I've watched the movie or played the game, I don't really have any incentive to buy it anymore. For me it would be a lost sale. The same goes really with books and comics for me. I'm just not a collector and I rarely read, watch or play anything twice, unless there's a gap of like 10 years there. Or at least for long enough that I've essentially forgotten the story etc.

    But, really - we should't speak of "piracy" as an umbrella term, but more about music piracy, game piracy, movie piracy etc. Each and every one of these examples has a different financing and money flow structure, so piracy affects them in different ways.
    • CommentTimeJan 13th 2012
    @flaybo I haven't seen this particular thread get abusive or really particularly obnoxious. And I know Ariana or Si would stomp on anyone who wants to squeal about their own right to do something just because they can.

    @Vorn - YES. I definitely think the conversation could benefit by breaking down the kinds of pirating, both by the kind of content (comic book, movie, music, application/computer program).

    I always figured the Internet piracy issues as they affect entertainment would sort themselves out - never entirely go away, but the industry would adapt. However, when it comes to computer programs, once you have a working copy you're probably not going to be bothered to go back for more if you have to pay hundreds of dollars. E.g. A long time ago I whined about not having Photoshop (this was like seven years ago, four computers and two boyfriends ago) and my boyfriend at the time passed me his copy. Once I had it there was absolutely no reason to go and pay for the legitimate copy.

    Vice versa, I've got a few freeware apps on my current machine that go from security to archiving my media and are neat and helpful and made me glad to have them that I kicked over some cash to the creators when they asked.

    I think creators of content that is getting lifted would benefit greatly if they learned something about the people who are downloading their material. In particular it would behoove them to know the habits of their consumers. Because, as it happens, I regard movies and TV frequently very differently from how most people do. I don't have a "I've seen it so I have no further use for it" attitude if I liked it at all. Case in point: A couple of years ago it wasn't very hard to find Cowboy Bebop in its entirety on YouTube. I had nothing to do with putting there, HOWEVER, finding it led to watching it again after having previously seen it many years earlier. I was swiftly reminded how much I loved it, how much I wanted to share it with others and how much I hate watching anything longer than two minutes on YouTube. Buffering, computer serviceability, the interface, my laptop screen... they all go against how I like consuming TV & movies so once I had the money I ordered my own copy of the DVDs. Shows that I enjoy I get almost compulsive about rewatching; and I get impatient with all the nonsense that goes into needing to watch via my computer via an Internet connection.

    Now, if I were someone who didn't mind stealing (I am, but let's pretend) the technology is almost already here to go from grabbing a show online to watching it on my TV. It actually, is here, mostly but still a little clunky. And in my experience, the illicit copies are like bootlegs of concerts from the 80s - the quality and fidelity just isn't that good. BUT my research has indicated to me time and again that people aren't that annoyed by poor quality if they can get at the essence of the content.

    Vorn - would you, or someone with a habit similar to yours "use once and move on" be more likely to buy if first the makers of the movie or game offered a free version/sample on their Web site for you to download and right next to it was a "buy the whole thing with discount/coupon/special thanks for using the sample?"

    It's something I keep thinking about even for different musical acts, because depending on who they are and how they go about their business, their financial structure can be vastly different. Amanda Palmer doesn't come anywhere near, and possibly will never personally earn, the kind of money anyone in U2 will see in a year. There's a small army of people professionally devoted to supporting U2 - if Bono and the boys ever decided to crowdfund their work and only go where their fans set up space for them that army would SO FUCKED. But obviously on the flipside, Amanda won't boast the massive numbers of fans that U2 gets in one city alone. Never mind how many U2 albums are downloaded in a year, the institution of the industry is so ingrained in their fans that enough will straight out buy the CDs the lads, and more importantly (as finances go) the people at Island records never have to worry. Amanda *tells* her fans to download, burn, share her music and then comes back and solicits donations for tours, crowdfunds new work, asks for rehearsal space, props, sites for ninja gigs, etc over Twitter. Her support staff is maybe three people who first came on board for no pay.

    the way the two groups run their business is vastly different and neither one could continue to be themselves if they suddenly switched methods.

    Now when it comes to TV & movies, though, the artists are numerous and scattered throughout the process. If we're to appeal to the "never mind the folks in marketing, think of the artist" ethos, it's hard to show money spent on the media gets to the artist when, let's say (to pick an example painfully close to me), an American voice over actor is hired well after the media is produced and distributed in another country, but before it's distributed in the U.S. In my perfect world the process wouldn't work quite like that (I'd actually rip it inside out and make the Internet work for me to bring distribution to both/all countries closer together, but that's only after I get to ride my unicorn over a rainbow).

    How should industries go about figuring out where they would best be served? How should they learn who are their consumers and how their products are most typically consumed?

    I strongly feel that just stomping on the Internet is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Or as Rep Smith (author of SOPA) said Washington sweeping powers over the Internet is necessary to protect free enterprise. That's not just irony, that's whiplash-inducing bullshit.
    • CommentAuthorFlabyo
    • CommentTimeJan 13th 2012 edited
    @raz - oh god no, I'm not complaining about *here*. I'm just saying that talking about it *at all* can feel like such an effort after talking about it elsewhere...

    For the record, SOPA can fuck *right* off.
  2.  (3092.4)

    There's one important point to note here: up here in Commie Reindeerland we don't really have functional, cheap and sensible online services for watching films and especially TV series. No Netflix for us. Some of the local operators do offer online services for films, but it's impossible to get TV series legally online. People would be willing to buy, but they aren't selling.

    I'm an online service freak. I buy all my music digitally or stream it from Spotify, if possible I'll buy all of my games from download stores, not to mention films. When there's finally an online service where I can download the latest episodes of all the TV series I follow, I'll go bankrupt in a week.

    I'm still with Valve on the whole "piracy is not a price but a service issue". Especially in my age and social group in here, as in 30+ professional working pop culture geeks, people pirate the stuff that they literally can't buy anywhere in the format that they want. I used to buy dvd boxes of all the TV series I had watched illegally online, but now I can't bother anymore. I had a shelf full of DVDs still in the shrink wrap, which made horribly little sense.
    • CommentTimeJan 14th 2012
    @vornaskotti -

    I'm with you on the streaming. My real objection to the state of things in digital distribution these days is having to continually re-purchase the same items. If a TV program is free-to-air, I have a real problem with being expected to pay for it again and again in new DVD versions and different service offerings.

    If I buy a license for some content, I'd like it to follow the *content*. If I would like a perpetual license to, say the entire /Buffy the Vampire Slayer/ series, I'd like that content license to follow me somehow. As it is now, even if I own the entire DVD set, should one get scratched I have to pay for the content again should I want to watch it online. Amazon doesn't know I own it; iTunes doesn't know I own it, and they don't talk to each other.

    As it is now, I could just buy everything through iTunes or Amazon and know that that license will remain in the cloud, at least. But Amazon and iTunes don't coordinate, so should one of those services go away, I lose it all. Nothing ties that content back to the creator.

    What I'd love to do is subscribe to Vornaskotti productions, let's say. Somehow from that I'd own a content license to your films and music or whatnot, that doesn't depend on a distribution channel.
  3.  (3092.6)

    Heh, funny you should say that - what you described is what I was dreaming about earlier... When I buy music, I could purchase a license to an album, maybe in the form of a cool cover booklet or whatever, and that would constitute as a license to listen to that album however I please. Then again, there are genuine problems in here - after all, remastering music and films does take work, and it would be great to get people pay for it. Then again, you could contradict this by saying that a new and a better version would make more people buy the license to the product, etc... I guess it remains a question of someone being in a good place and brave enough to try this.
    • CommentTimeJan 14th 2012
    I am personally rather wary of large companies teaming up for any reason. That's when the price gouging sets in. One good thing you can say about piracy is that it keeps the legitimate providers of content more competitive about their prices and service. Some industries don't have that (such as the cell-phone industry in Canada - all of the Big Three providers are in cahoots with each other, and there is little to no difference in price or quality between them).

    Valve probably has the best anti-pirating strategy out there: ease of purchase, really good value for your money, a content management system that brings to your attention things you might not have heard of before, and a pretty dang good desktop client to tie it all together. I've definitely sunk a bunch of money in to Steam games, mostly for the aforementioned reasons, but also because I feel that the most of the games I buy through them actually depend on my money for their continued existence. I would feel much worse about pirating their games than I would about giants such as Skyrim (Bethesda has already gotten plenty of money from me, and from everyone else besides). Looking back on the past months, my piracy of games has dropped to almost nothing primarily because of reasonable alternatives (I've also played very little on my XBox, because it simply doesn't remain competitive in that regard).

    One thing that many of the big companies seem to miss is that trust is a huge part of combating piracy. If your customers don't trust you to treat them fairly, they are much more likely to either look to either competitors or piracy. DRM is one of the better examples of this. I know Apple ran face first into this issue a few years ago, but even today I am much more likely to buy my music from Bandcamp than I am from pretty much any other music provider. The success of Bandcamp runs almost entirely on trust. They allow you to listen, in full, to everything you want to purchase before you purchase it. It would be pretty easy for people to simply rip the audio without paying, but I would venture that most people don't. Not only are the prices reasonable enough to give you pause, but any given Bandcamp page is more run by the artist than it is by Bandcamp. Ripping the music seems like a violation of the trust they have collectively placed in us, the consumers. Contrast that with the monolithic interfaces and limited soundbytes that other major digital music providers have adopted, and I think it's easy to see why many people pirate music. (As an aside, basically the entire webcomic industry is based around this concept of trust: "I've given you all this great stuff for free. If you have a few dollars, maybe buy some of my merchandise?").

    This is why things like SOPA and its ilk raise my ire: the assumption that people, given the opportunity, will pirate an industry in to the ground, when there are a many examples showing that this simply isn't the case. Well, that and the implication that suing everyone out of existence is simpler and cheaper than changing their business model to adapt to a changing digital landscape.
    • CommentAuthorFlabyo
    • CommentTimeJan 15th 2012 edited
    Steam has it's drawbacks for developers though. It's a pretty closed system, they've been known to reject games and not give any kind of reason for why. And people aren't keen on how they 'favour' their own titles over everyone elses. (There was a bit of fuss when they used the service to massively advertise Portal 2 in a way that no other developer using the service is able to...)

    But yeah, as a system it does seem to work.

    Curious about the 'I don't mind pirating if they're a big company' attitude though. I work as a developer for a pretty big company, does that mean I have less right to have people not pirate my work than Notch does with Minecraft just cause 'we're bigger so it's ok' ?
    • CommentTimeJan 15th 2012
    As someone who is currently trying to break in to the indie game scene, I'm familiar with Steam's drawbacks. I have a compiled list of associated documentation around here somewhere... Honestly, though, at the back end it's fairly comparable to most other publishing deals. The real difference I am commenting on is the publisher-customer relationship, rather than publisher-developer relationship (knowing much less about the latter, I am hesitant to try and defend my opinions on that matter).

    As far as the big company vs. little company mentality that I have, it's an extension of "value for your money" thinking. Once a companies profit is measured in the millions, there's a real diminish return in the value I see in the purchase. As far as I know, most of the large companies don't have profit sharing (feel free to correct me on this), which means that once the worker's wages are paid everything else goes on to the investors, not to mention all pockets padded along the way for the various stages of getting something like that to retail (I am really loathe to support EB Games/Gamestop in any way). The more independent games, however, I am much more likely to pay money for. Not only are the prices generally much more reasonable, I feel that it is much more likely that my money is going to go to someone who really needs it, without which they might not be able to keep making games.

    This is all personal opinion, though. I'm not sure where I would stand if shifted gears into a discussion about rights (what rights a developer has is already enough of a tangled mess of philosophy, politics, and economics even before you introduce piracy to the mix). I'm just trying to set up a system where I can reward good gameplay design and discourage designers from re-making the same bland, terrible, and sometimes completely irresponsible games that are becoming the norm for the super-mainstream games. (As an aside, Skyrim was a terrible example. I should really give Bethesda some money for that game. Let's pretend I said something else in my earlier post, like Call of Duty).

    Final note: Minecraft has sold over 4 million copies, and has over 20 million registered users. While they definitely started out in the indie arena, they are no longer operating on that battlefield. I'd have a fewer compunctions about pirating Minecraft today than I would have a year or two ago (Notch's Pirate Party affiliations notwithstanding).
    • CommentAuthorFlabyo
    • CommentTimeJan 15th 2012
    I'm paid a royalty bonus for the games I've worked on that comes out of a pool which is built from the profit made by the title, so while it's only my bonus that's affected by piracy not my actual salary, it's still money 'lost' (and I put it in quotes because I know it isn't as simple as that). Not every company does it, indeed this is the first I've worked for in my career that does, but a certain amount of profit sharing does take place in the games industry.

    I sort of see your stance though, you don't want to reward what you see as creative bankruptcy. I put it that not buying it is enough, you don't have to pirate it too just to play it and prove yourself right for not wanting to support it... :)
    • CommentTimeJan 15th 2012
    Most of the time I don't buy something, I also don't pirate it. There is the rare occasion where I do, but with indie games getting better and easier to obtain, this is becoming less and less frequent. I have over 90 games on my Steam account, and I'm having a hard enough time getting through all those without adding pirated mainstream games in to the mix. This is either a sign that the industry is already adapting to the issues of piracy (for the better, in my opinion), or that I'm just getting more refined in my tastes.
    • CommentAuthorDarkest
    • CommentTimeJan 15th 2012
    I just wish it was easier to get US/etc television in the UK. We have no service like Netflix which is frustrating because you have to wait for a large time gap for it to appear on tv or even longer for it to come out on DVD.

    I am loving Spotify, Audible and Steam. Mostly because I see any of the more dodgily aquired items on my hardrives as a place holder. I probably consume more now that I'm capable of watching episodes of something back to back for free as opposed to paying £XX (more if it was when you only got three episodes on a DVD) pounds for a box set and then finding out I had kind of wasted my money.

    I too would love some sort of unified streaming cloud service a lower price and increaded reliability would compensate for the lack of hard copies and I love having hard copies.
    • CommentTimeJan 15th 2012
    Yep. This why I think laws limiting the Internet are so misguided, the Web can be the answer rather than only supplying the problem. With the Web, information can be sent throughout the world pretty much immediately. So why make other countries wait for a release date months down the road? The only thing about international trade that's on its way out is the cargo ship (when it comes to entertainment products).

    Just takes some proactivity on the part of publishers - if they want to be in that market, put in the time & effort to release in that country at the same time. If they don't care if they're in that market, don't whine when consumers in that country devise their own solutions.
    • CommentTimeJan 15th 2012
    My big wish at this point is for things like Hulu, Pandora, and to be available outside of the US. Really great ideas that could be a force for global change are really getting shut down by some really stupid laws.
    • CommentTimeJan 15th 2012
    An interesting example of a simultaneous global release would be the Harry Potter books. That was globally coordinated and it sure worked. Those books would drop on the same day everywhere and I really don't think they could possibly have sold any better. I actually don't think it likely that anyone will be able to replicate a phenomenon like that - lines for books at midnight in cities around the world.

    I think the staggered releases of TV and film globally are due largely to the mechanics of sale of distribution rights, along with plans to maximize sales by staggered pushes in various distribution channels. That was certainly the most lucrative plan at one time. It's possible it isn't any more, though I've never seen anyone yet propose a compelling analysis for why it isn't.

    I'd love to see a high profile TV show released simultaneously in all available pay channels everywhere and see what kind of income it generates. Sadly, I would be willing to bet it would be less than most people think.

    The byzantine channel labyrinth frustrates me as well. For example, I like HBO's original shows. Almost across the board, everything they produce as a series is excellent. It's got to the point that I'll watch any of it, even if I have no previous interest in the subject they are tackling, just because I know they will do it so well.

    However, I watch an HBO series on DVD/Blu-Ray the year after it airs, because I don't have cable and won't get it. I hate almost all other TV. I also don't think I'd pay for just HBO - I don't really want the movies. I just want the shows, and I'd like to be able to watch them on my own schedule.

    So HBO makes it's money off of me on DVD sales.

    I'd pay as much, probably, as $10.00 per episode to watch something like Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire or Deadwood as it was released. I'm not sure enough other people would to make that a viable economic model. I think HBO makes more off of cable subscriptions than it would off of people paying per episode, or per series. The very reason they produce good shows is to drive cable subscriptions. It's how their whole model has been designed. So I can't grudge them their model. I like their shows, and want them to keep making them.

    I don't think the new model - simultaneous, non-restricted easy global release, is quite possible yet. It is technically, but not remuniteravely, if that makes sense. I don't think it is possible to negotiate a paying channel for the whole world at the same time for a TV show, due largely to legal complications in the various countries involved. I'd love to see some kind of a distributor crack that nut. It is a nut yet to be cracked.

    Meanwhile, I think the amount of actual piracy that thrives is not really related to that. There are, I think, a small number of people who seek out pirated content because they can't legitimately get it through any other channel. Mostly, honestly, piracy exists because people don't want to pay for things.
    • CommentAuthorFlabyo
    • CommentTimeJan 16th 2012
    @Darkest - we do have Netflix in the UK now. It launched last week.

    @Morac - it's not so much laws stopping services like Hulu moving abroad, it's more questions of who owns the material. It's pretty common for rights to a series to be owned by someone else outside the US compared to inside. For example, if Hulu carries Game of Thrones, then in the UK Sky are going to not want them to stream it, cause they own it here. And so on. It's more ownership red tape than any government level laws getting in the way at the moment. (Although the mandatory BBFC thing probably doesn't help)

    @oddbill - a few games manage simultaeneous releases now as well. The norm at the moment though is for the US release to be the Tuesday and the European release that same Friday. That's about as close together as you can go without spending silly money to bypass the normal distribution channel (which is set up to drop the product into the shops on specific days, Mondays for the States, Thursdays for the UK).

    As a result, the only time it's economically feasible to do a global day and date release is when demand is going to be high enough to offset having to do a custom distribution setup.
    • CommentTimeJan 16th 2012 edited
    I can confirm at least from the point of view of films that the problem with global online release are the distribution rights. On the surface it would seem logical for a filmmaker to just release the film on his own download platform, globally, and to rake in money that way. This would of course stomp on the toes of all the regional distributors. Why are they relevant? Well, it's a little known fact that actually selling the distribution rights are a major part of the financing of films, and they are sold before the film is even finished. Bypassing the regional distributors simply means that you lose a lion's share of your films budget, there and then.

    I would imagine there's a similar thing going with TV-series. I might be talking out of my ass here, but I'd imagine the network and the distributors pay in advance for the series, either season by season or a larger chunk, which brings in the money to make the series in the first place.

    Then again, in Europe and especially in smaller countries like Finland the copyright law and the local copyright systems are a hindrance for launching online services. Every country has their own distributors and RIAAas, which are a hassle to deal with. It's not an accident that many online distribution platforms for music for example launch initially in UK, Germany, France and Spain. Get distribution rights to them -> get a huge amount of potential customers per rights negotiation.
    • CommentTimeJan 16th 2012 edited
    Oh good lord what I wouldn't give for cable channels to get unbundled. I not paying a hundred or two dollars per month to watch one or two extra shows on HBO or something. Since I don't do the illegal downloading (but um...shan't look away if a friend is playing their copy gotten through [censored] means), it just means I don't have any idea what a LOT of people are talking about when it comes to some of the (supposedly) best TV of the last decade.

    30 years of bundled channels and I'm still every bit as aggravated by it.

    Different countries have different copyright and licensing laws, so yes. It's not exactly straightforward. But it's worth the effort, if creators want access to the new markets without the hassle of pirates.
    • CommentTimeJan 16th 2012
    But it's worth the effort, if creators want access to the new markets without the hassle of pirates.

    That's just it though, in a very real way I don't think it is worth the effort. Vorn points out a big one - for film - in that international distribution sales actually form a large portion of the budget before the film is actually made. The traditional distribution channels pay for the films. It's not the audience putting money up front to get them made.

    This goes to the core of the piracy problem, I think. The audience does not want to pay. Certainly not enough to get the thing made in the first place. Small, low budget projects can crowdfund. But can a multi-million dollar budgeted series crowdfund it's budget? It would be interesting to find out, but I'm pretty confident betting against that working.

    The audience for things like film and television have no real idea how much things cost, how many people are involved, how difficult it is to do. Audiences resent paying money for entertainment, and a very vocal segment of it gleefully pirates and then claims they wouldn't watch it anyway if they weren't watching it for free. The audience thinks of itself as the customer of the production company, but it isn't. The distributors are the customers of the production companies. They are the ones willing to pay. The audience is the customer of the distribution channels, theaters, cable and network TV, Netflix, Hulu, etc.

    How is it worth the creator's effort to fight the byzantine array of global distributors when those distributors are the creator's primary customer?
    • CommentTimeJan 16th 2012
    I'll try and avoid a long rambly post, as I really need to get to bed, but there are two points I want to bring up in regards to your argument, Oddbill.

    First, there's more to the piracy argument than just not wanting to pay for things, such as availability and convenience. But most of all, I think it's about value. More than disliking paying for things, people dislike paying for things they don't feel is worth it. People will gladly pay out the nose if they think they are getting a good deal. One of the reasons that movie theatre sales have been in decline recently is that people no longer feel that the value they get for their money is worth it (especially with the price hikes that 3D movies have brought about - a theoretical family of four has to pay upwards of $50, even before concession items).

    Second, while piracy is far from the victimless crime that some proponents purport, it is much more a battle between distributors and customers than it is between creators and distributors. Even in light of piracy and the market changes it is bringing with it, I wouldn't advocate for creators to try and fight the giant distributors. After all, having the distributors take care of the getting-content-to-people end (including navigating the waters of piracy) is why the creators go in to business with distributors in the first place. That said, going with a distributor that can't adapt to the changing markets may be a poor business decision.

    Damn, that was longer than I intended. Must go sleep now.