A New Dark Age: Shedding Light on Where the Internet is Taking Us

It’s hard to swallow that the Internet, a wondrous creation replete with promise, far from democratising culture and ushering in a new golden age, is actually doing exactly the opposite. That a kind of digital deforestation has been going on, involving the wholesale degradation and destruction of once thriving cultural eco-systems all over the planet.

All to benefit … a tiny elite – a remarkably homogenous group, composed of libertarian right wing speculators, investors, and inventors working in the tech industry.

They have built their wealth by parasitically exploiting other people’s creations, and convincing consumers that art is, or should be, free. A siren call that’s been enthusiastically taken up and turned into a bedrock sense of entitlement by a generation of freeloaders.

In the process, a large section of the population, cultural or creative workers, have seen their livelihoods shrink dramatically or disappear. This is not the natural evolution of history and society. It’s been a thoroughly mediated development, an entirely cynical and calculated strategy pulled off by Big Tech companies.

The cumulative negative effects on society have yet to fully manifest themselves. Artists have been at the forefront, the canaries in the mine, but to most people, artists are of no serious consequence.

That’s because most consumers lump artists into two broad categories – either filthy rich and overpaid, or gutter trash who deserve obscurity for not making the first category.

These stereotypes flow directly into behaviours like pirating and illegal file sharing. When you’re driven by envy or contempt, it’s easy to skip empathy.

The truth is that MOST artists belong to neither category. They are just like any other ordinary worker. They occupy (with increasing difficulty) a middle level, where art is a job, requiring hours of concentrated toil, every day, and that brings in a living income, maybe, probably, not much; but enough to get by, so that artists can focus on their art. Yes, art actually takes time, and practice – by which I don’t mean learning, I mean ‘doing’, which you can’t do if you’re trying to hold down a ‘real job’.

So real artists are people, just like everyone else, who do real things, and flourish, or not, depending on how well they do it, and how many people are interested in paying them for it.

Or, that’s how it was. Because for the last fifteen years, the crusading monopolies dominating the Internet have done their best to convince everyone that art should be free. And if it’s not for free, they have just gone ahead and helped themselves anyway.

So artists – writers, musicians, film makers, basically anyone who makes products that can be digitally cloned, are being marginalised and ruined, along with all the people who depend on them.

How? By the countless daily bad choices of ignorant or uncaring consumers, who have drunk the poison Kool Aid offered by the cynical liars in Silicon Valley. They fail to see that at the end of the road they have chosen to ride free, will be an arid desert, leading to a cliff.

The following is a short list of enlightening books on this topic. They’re highly engaging and non technical. Warning: they will make you gasp and reconsider all your prior assumptions.

All these books are available on Amazon’s Kindle store, which is a pretty thrifty and easy way to legally purchase books, so the Internet isn’t all bad!

No, like the fire of Prometheus, as Shelley said, the Internet is simultaneously beautiful, and terrible. The problem has been the unmediated introduction of a technology, without adequately considering its implications. Now more than ever we need to wake up to the true potential of this tool, and ask ourselves, who is it really benefiting, and at what cost to everyone else?

Andrew Keen The Internet Is Not the Answer

Scott Timberg Culture Crash: The Killing of the Creative Class

Robert Levene Free Ride

Chris Ruen Freeloading

Astra Taylor The People’s Platform: Taking back power in the digital age

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Time to Wake Up

This is a remarkably clear sighted and thorough summary of how Silicon Valley has used the internet to transfer wealth from creatives to themselves, and set about transforming culture and politics to suit their own aspirations.

http://illusionofmore.com/jonathan-taplin-sleeping/

Don’t care about the fate of creatives?

But wait, there’s more …

“At this point you might be asking why the loss of billions in the media and entertainment sectors is worth worrying about in the face of the benefits ubiquitous Internet technology has brought you. My feeling is that Media is just the canary in the coal mine, and that in the next twenty years millions of the jobs you are training for might be automated. The Economist recently ran an article in which they projected the probability your job being taken by a robot in the next 20 years. Citing work from two Oxford University economists they wrote that “jobs are at a high risk of being automated in 47% of the occupational categories into which work is customarily sorted.”

And this is a conclusion that begs contemplation:

“Is Peter Thiel’s idea of corporations, free to reap monopoly profits free from government regulation, what we want for our country? Thiel’s icon Ayn Rand defines freedom as “To ask nothing. To expect nothing. To depend on nothing.” How far is this from Jefferson’s great inspiration, the Greek philosopher Epicurus, who defines the good life in these terms:

The company of good friends

The freedom and autonomy to enjoy meaningful work

The willingness to live an examined life with a core faith or philosophy.”

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Conversations with Copyright Infringing File Sharers

Conversations with copyright infringing ‘file sharers’

By Costa Botes (and a bunch of anonymous freetardists)

Below is a selection of comments directed at me by people unhappy with my stand on copyright infringement generally, and online file sharing particularly. It’s an interesting compendium that offers a pretty clear attitudinal snapshot, and incidentally a neat summary of the most common beliefs and misconceptions underlying illegal ‘file sharing’.

Before going on, I’d like to just say that I have absolutely no problem with anyone who willingly shares their own creative work online. There is no legal impediment, whatsoever, anywhere, to anyone doing that wherever, and whenever they choose to do it.

Let’s pause for just a moment to quickly define what ‘copyright’ actually means, because it’s clear that an awful lot of people actually don’t know.

What is copyright?

Copyright is a form of protection for “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and other works, that are fixed in a tangible medium of expression. For example, copyright protects published and unpublished books, poetry, plays, movies, music scores, song recordings, computer software, photographs, paintings, and drawings. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, inventions, systems or methods of operation, but it may protect the way in which such things are expressed.

My attitude is based on the belief that original creators have the right to choose how and where their work is copied, and anyone who usurps that right commits an act that is at the least disrespectful, and at worst downright harmful. Not just economically, but potentially in other ways. In a world stripped of copyright protection, think of how a vegetarian artist might feel if her song was played over a TV promotion for fried chicken nibbles?

I’m not confident that the logic of my responses below will penetrate the many layers of habitual reasoning which have built up over a generation to create the faith based sense of entitlement in illegal downloaders today. It’s impossible to shift such zealots. But in the hope that I may move some people sitting on the fence, here goes …

“Get yourself a real job if you just want to make money. Real artists don’t care about money”.

I’ve been hearing that all my life. The fact is, I obviously don’t care about money either, otherwise I’d have followed my mother’s advice.

Which was something like, “get yourself a real job if you want to make money”. Snap!

Should creative people confine their creativity to being an after hours hobby pursuit? How is that right or fair? And how does it make for better art if the artist is starving or has no time to make art?

The evidence is that untold millions of people value films and TV and books enough to consume them in unbelievable quantities. They pay gadget companies unbelievable amounts for the gadgets that play this ‘content’. They pay unbelievable amounts to the data carriers.

But the people who toil and sweat to create the ‘content’ – they apparently are unworthy of a professional existence? They’re not real artists if they ask for money?

Picasso was a real artist. And he’d have had a ready response if you’d dare make such an idiot conceited remark in his company.

Perhaps this sort of pernicious reasoning will start to change when people with ‘real jobs’ eventually find themselves, like artists, being asked to contribute their labour, experience, and skill for free?

Sharing is Caring. There is NOTHING immoral about reproducing digital data.

Many creators willingly share their work. They welcome sharing by their fans. The Grateful Dead did it long before the internet. There’s nothing wrong with it if the artist is willing. And there’s nothing stopping any artist giving their work away if they want to.

But most professional creators need to make a living and sustain the quite considerable costs that may be involved in the creation and marketing of their work. When a fan just takes a work, rips it, and then indiscriminately shares it online without permission or compensation, then that is certainly immoral, disrespectful of the artist, and damaging to that artist’s viability. Stealing is not ‘free promotion’, but more on that below.

If your product is quality, I shall buy your product. If your “product” is crap, I shall send it to the Recycle Bin where it belongs. But you want to be paid in either case.

An interesting variation of the “customer is always right’ argument. Only that argument was actually based on the customer paying for their wares. Show business is a little different to buying a functional toaster. the toaster either works or it doesn’t.

‘Entertainment is more subjective. In today’s world, there are ample opportunities for customers to peruse reviews and previews. Anyone who then just goes ahead and steals a film or piece of music is a moocher, deadbeat, or plain old thief.

I am not a busker. I offer a product at a fair price, with options on how to buy. You can read reviews and watch previews. If you don’t want what I’m selling, that’s your call. We used to say, “Take it or leave it”; but that’s the problem, isn’t it? People like you are ‘taking it’, then  having the bad manners not to pay. The old ‘dine and dash’. And you have the gall to criticise me for complaining?

Don’t like the way the internet works, don’t put your content on it.. Simple as that.

It’s not the way that the internet works that I object to. It’s how some people choose to use it. I don’t have a choice about where my content goes, and how it is used when someone chooses to ignore my copyrights, steal my work, and exploit it online for their own gain.

To follow the logic of your argument, drunks in cars kill people, I don’t like drunks in cars, so I should stop driving a car?

It’s not theft if a person helps himself to his own personal belongings and then gives away copies of those belongings. You are trying to tell me a DVD i bought isn’t my property. It is.

No, actually, it isn’t.

You’ll see that it isn’t when you read the fine print on every DVD you have ever legally purchased. Maybe that’s so long ago you can’t remember.  Check out the FBI warning burned into most commercial files. Your purchase of a DVD in no way entitles you to do anything other than play that disc for your own amusement. Your purchase essentially gives you a license for said plays. You are not the legal owner of ‘the work’, and you certainly do not have the right to make copies, whether for sale or sharing. That is the sole prerogative of the copyright holder, or their licensed representatives.

Did you pay for the production of the film? Did you pay for its marketing and distribution costs? No. You sat at the end of a long supply chain and forked over a few bucks for a product that was only cheap because so many people were prepared to pay for it.

“filesharing is free promotion”

Promotion for what? The fact that someone can download a file for free rather than paying for it?

Any student of human nature will tell you that man is a selfish animal, and only a tiny proportion of people will choose to pay when the alternative is free. Without scarcity, the value of a work collapses. So the ‘promotion’ argument doesn’t wash, I’m afraid. It’s just another moral smokescreen.

With music, one might argue (and oh, they do, they do) that sharing music files is a form of promotion for the artist. Perhaps those enjoying their music for free might be moved to attend a concert. Maybe they might even buy some merchandise.

Maybe …

This year, I have attended two concerts. I have bought 20 albums (online). You do the maths.

 

“File sharing is just a form of theft”
Fine… but I have to admit…
It makes me smile to think I’m some sort of digital Robin Hood that’s freely copying from the rich to feed the poor. You just made me feel awesome =) thanks!

This is the “unrepentant sinner” approach. The exhilarating onanistic rush of doing something bad, doing it anonymously, and with the courageous certainty that you’ll never get caught. Maybe. The real Robin Hood, by the way was, ” a 13th century farmer who committed burglaries, arson and murder.”

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1372334/Has-mystery-Robin-Hoods-identity-finally-solved-Historians-claim-farmer-led-band-highwaymen.html

You want to identify with that guy, knock yourself out.

The “copying from the rich” comment needs a more detailed response, however. Much piracy and illegal file sharing involves ripping off Hollywood, it’s true, and there is an industry that gives every appearance of great wealth.

The rich might be able to sustain or recover from theft more readily than the poor, but morally, there is no difference. Theft is theft. 

If there is some proven exploitation or tyranny going on, something, anything, resembling the legend of Robin Hood, then perhaps ‘stealing from the rich’ could be said to ‘even the score’ a bit?

But as usual, when one looks closer at the facts, a different picture emerges. The reality of Hollywood today is significantly fewer films are being made, on more and more homogenous subjects, with fewer people employed; some on inflated deals, yes, but most on tighter wages. This is the direct result of damage done to box office revenues – not to the blockbuster end of the market, the success of which continues to mask the real effects of piracy, but to middle budget pictures. Noticed that they’re disappearing?

And small creative independent pictures? That have nothing to do with Hollywood? That’s where the real calamity is happening. Nobody is getting rich on those, because pirates are picking them off like ripe grapes. No doubt telling themselves they’re giving a kicking to a bunch of rich bastards on behalf of poor starving tenement dwellers.

It’s a complete myth that everyone who makes films is rich. If you really want to be Robin Hood, double check that the people you’re stealing from are actually rich. Even in Hollywood, appearances to the contrary, the corporate bottom lines are tighter than you think.

Studios appear to be making a great deal of money – how they love to tally grosses – but the gap between actual costs and net profitability is the telling figure, and it’s rather narrow.  One wonders how much longer the corporates that own these studios will continue to invest in such an uncertain and unrewarding industry.

An interesting side issue: It might be valid to criticise the seemingly obscene salaries paid to a small coterie of star actors, directors, and producers, but those people do bring in audiences. Interestingly, one doesn’t hear sports fans commonly bleating and screaming about overpaid sports stars, coaches, and franchise owners. Nor do fans criticise footballers, basketballers, or golfers who play for money. A fascinating double standard.

Fuck you, you’re the reason I copy content without remorse, sell USB sticks loaded with content and flip the cash into care packages for the ‘less fortunate’ homeless who are undeserving of your content.

Another digital ‘Robin Hood’ flies his black flag with pride …

I’m not sure what he means about the ‘less fortunate’ being “undeserving” of my content.

I definitely don’t think I should be responsible for paying for ‘his’ acts of charity. If he cares so much about the homeless, shouldn’t he be paying them something out of HIS pocket rather than mine?

You create art. People want to pay for it, good for you. People don’t. Too bad. It’s that simple. Nobody is taking anyway from you, you still have the art you created, apparently it’s just not worth what you think it’s worth, which is completely your problem.

This is an offshoot of the “digital copying is not theft’ argument.

Yes, I still have my ‘art’. And 44,000 people apparently thought it was worth experiencing for free, without my permission, or any compensation, during the three weeks some of that work was posted illegally on YouTube. So it must be worth something.

Let’s see, YouTube would have made a few bucks from all the ads they served on it, and the criminal who lied and pretended to be me in order to get my stolen work on the site, he probably collected too. In fact, he did, because he was running my film on a channel served with ads.

So during that period before I belatedly realised what was happening and exercised my legal rights, please explain to me how any kind of legitimate artistic transaction might be possible? My work was effectively robbed of value. Plenty of people chose to watch it, so I guess, artistically, it was somewhat rewarding for them; but the experience was served up to them in a way that I could not possibly participate. And you resent the fact I regard this as wrong?

Copyright infringing file sharing makes a mockery of any useful assessment of worth, as well as utterly disrupting any meaningful relationship between creator and audience.

There is NO innovative business strategy on earth that can compete with free.

Stop blaming victims for your own selfish greed.

Stop talking bullshit about wealth. Where the hell do you get that shit from. You see a fucking billion dollar copyright industry and start crying about pirates taking the wealth? What the actual fuck? Concentration of wealth is when major music and movie studios make billions of dollars exploiting artists. In a way, yes, they are digging their own graves. The richer they get the less rich the middle class gets and the middle class is eventually where their revenue comes form. So yes the overall pot is indeed shrinking and it has been like this but not because of pirates. Transition of wealth is also taking place from the movie studios to internet companies. Which is just more of the same inequality that has been around for years but that you fail to see because you don’t want to bite the hand that supposedly feeds you. Culture without copyright will blossom just as usual, or even more, because it’s not behind a paywall.

So you’re happy to see one lot of rapacious exploiters being ripped off by another lot of rapacious exploiters? Is that the nub of your wisdom? As long as you, the supremely entitled arbiter of who gets what from where, receive all the free digital goodies your heart desires, everyone else can go jump off a cliff?

Yes, the middle class is shrinking … fast. The rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer. And the neo-liberal fascists of Big Tech are gleefully assisting. Your attitude is a weird mixture of nihilism and self-repression.

If it’s good, the content itself is the promotion, the live performance (or experience on a bigger screen) and the merchandise are where the revenue comes from. People will pay for it because a live performance is not something you can copy or because one does have a 100+ inch screen at home. Stop relying on something that can be copied in a matter of milliseconds with zero cost to be your only source of income.

I’m afraid your argument falls short in the real world. You are describing a potential only 1% of artists can hope to reach.

If the Beatles had been forced to tour constantly in order to survive after 1966, they would likely have broken up before Sgt Peppers, and the ‘The Beatles’, as we got to experience them (via records that had to be bought) would never have happened. Jimi Hendrix died because of stress and exhaustion brought on by constant touring. 

Live performances can’t sustain most performers. That’s an inconvenient fact. Go and ask some performers if you don’t believe me. Touring is an exhausting and expensive treadmill. In the old days it only made sense as a WAY TO PROMOTE RECORDS. Reversing that today has led to collapsing living options, and even worse exploitation of artists.

With a tiny handful of exceptions, the only acts that make money touring are the old established legacy performers, with a history of successful records behind them. When those dinosaurs die out, I don’t know what’s going to replace them. Much smaller, feral, and opportunistic creatures with much shorter life spans I expect.

“Stop relying on something that can be copied” ? Your advice is both arrogant and idiotic. If one makes films or TV or writes books, all of which can be copied in milliseconds, how then do these creators carry on? Shall we just stop making films and TV, and quit writing books? Apparently this is your solution.

What can’t be easily copied? Giant sculptures. Oil paintings? It’s no surprise that auction values for fine art have hit stratospheric levels – ironically driven by the new wealth of tech entrepreneurs who have made fortunes stealing from artists!

Merchandise is only valuable when the work it derives from is already wildly popular and desirable. I make documentary films. Would you expect me to tour with each film for a year and a half and sell T shirts, mugs, and mouse mats? That would be damned silly, and in no way economic anyway.

Tech has allowed for artists and fans to reach out directly to each 
other. What if they manage to get around the copyright machinery. Then 
there’d be no place for us to suck out the money any longer!

I think this person is saying that creators and fans should cut out middle-men and relate directly. I heartily agree! Whenever I buy a music album for instance, I generally try to buy directly off an artist’s web site.

But consider this for a moment … we have middle-men for a good reason.

It costs far more to achieve competitive production value on any given work than most artists can afford on their own, and it may well be beyond the scope of an average crowd-funding budget as well. Especially if we are talking about films, which might employ a lot of people. So, investment from commercial sources is required to make the work. And to carry the cost of marketing it (think that is negligible in the digital age? Well, anyone who knows will tell you it’s not).

When you invest in something, do you not expect a return? Don’t blame people who have lent money speculatively when they expect to get some or all of it back, maybe with a little profit.

And God almighty, are you ever confused about ‘copyright machinery’. Far from enabling exploitation of artists, something that oppresses artists, copyright is the only protection that creators of original work have.

There is no machinery. Copyright is very simply, the ‘right to make copies’. It enables creators to have a choice about how and where their work appears (see definition at head of this paper).

Tech disrupts this right by enabling anyone to make instant digital copies and distribute them indiscriminately, potentially to millions of people.

Progress? No. 

This is not artists and fans “reaching directly out to each other”. It’s deadbeats, moochers, and thieves ‘getting stuff for free’, exploiting stolen work by selling it, or enabling ad supported piracy.

So yes, there is a good deal of money being “sucked out” alright, you just need to get informed and real about who is doing the sucking.

Ask yourself, who has actually paid for the creation of a work?

And who is now reaping an actual financial benefit from that copyright infringing download on YouTube, Pirate Bay, or Bit Torrent?

There’s a big difference between taking a physical object and copying data. How can you not see that?

I understand the difference very well. This is a hugely popular semantic argument. And it’s basically rubbish:

Under the common law, larceny required that the thing taken be tangible property. This is presumably why the skeptics think it’s wrong to refer to copyright infringement as theft. While copyright is personal property, it’s intangible property that, by its very nature, is nonrivalrous. Thus, if somebody infringes a copyright, they haven’t dispossessed the copyright owner of any tangible property, a necessary element for larceny under the common law.

To the uninitiated, the confusion about why copyright infringement is theft is understandable. But the line of reasoning that focuses on the old, common law definition of larceny neglects to take account of the fact that the modern definition of property for purposes of theft statutes has been broadened to include both tangible and intangible property.”

For a more detailed dissection of this topic, see: http://costabotes.com/2013/11/18/piracy-myths-debunked-copyright-infringement-is-not-theft/

copyright infringement … there’s nothing you can do about it. And more and more people are participating in it. Wait, the majority of the world with internet access is participating in it. So, if most people are doing it, if it’s socially acceptable, if it’s not harmful, why is it still illegal?

Because it’s wrong.

Thou Shalt not Steal? Remember that? But screw the bible. You don’t need to go to Church to see that ripping off honest people is harmful. Any point of view that ignores the economic harm, the unfairness, the sheer disrespect to creators is just plain evil.

This is a five year old child’s argument. Everyone is bullying the four eyed kid in a leg brace, so it must be OK? Grow up.

The movie industry for example is a billion dollar industry. Yet it consists of just a few studios taking the majority of the wealth by locking culture behind paywalls. Well if that doesn’t mean less wealth and less culture for the community, I don’t know what does. Culture is culture because it is free and accessible by everybody. It stops being about culture the minute you put it behind a paywall.

I’m not particularly interested in defending Hollywood. I don’t like a lot of their films, and they have historically manipulated world taste and dominated international box office. But that wealth is shared – via every cinema in every country where their movies play. Commonly about 60% of cinema revenue stays in the country where it is earned. And everywhere those movies play, that is culture, and that is sharing. I don’t know what else to call it when everyone in the world at once gets interested in the same movie about a bunch of muscled guys in funny costumes.

You might as well blame the victims of burglary for being wealthy. Does that justify or excuse you for breaking and entering? That seems to be your suggestion. To hell with the ‘rich’ movie industry, they’re locking up money and culture that ought to be shared?

Actually, no, they’re not. They’re spending ridiculous amounts of money to make entertainment for everybody. It’s expensive. And it has to be paid for to continue.

You and every other freetard in the world fail to explain why this supposedly rancid movie industry you despise owes you anything for free. And how will that industry possibly ‘share’ its products with you when you cut off the money supply that makes their production possible?

Well, every card carrying freetard knows for a fact that absolutely everyone in Hollywood is stinking rich and drives a big black fancy car. Even the grips and gaffers, and runners, and production assistants. They all have mansions in Bel Air. So they can all shut up and die, correct?

If so, how do you apply that argument to pirates who rip off content from creators who have nothing whatsoever to do with Hollywood?

What do you have to say to people who have dedicated themselves to being storytellers  to their tribe? Who have made untold sacrifices, and struggled all their lives to scrape modest livings, and now see that being ripped away from them by a bunch of selfish ‘innovators’ who have discovered an easy way to profit from the sweat of others?

Disruptive innovation, I think it’s called. It used to just be called ‘being an asshole’. I prefer that older term. It’s got a more authentic ring to it.

Culture is all kinds of things. Some of it, you should expect to pay for. Nothing in life is ever absolutely free. I repeat a statement from above:

Ask yourself, who has actually paid for the creation of a work?

And who is now reaping an actual financial benefit from that copyright infringing download on YouTube, Pirate Bay, or Bit Torrent?

 

BULL. SHIT.

You obviously have a computer & Internet access, so clearly your “economic viability” remains quite intact.

YOU are the cancer, and your “thinking” will be eradicated, no matter how much someone like you tries to purchase government prohibitions on “piracy.”

Very eloquent. I have yet to witness a more fiercely closed mind.

The excretions of a male bovine are not coming from me I’m afraid. It take a little more than a computer and internet access to achieve “economic viability”. It takes a product that cannot be legally copied, and buyers willing to buy, at a price point that ensures continuation of supply. Remove either of these factors, and you lose viability.

The only “cancer” here is the freetardist thinking which equates theft with ‘freedom’.

For a concise but illuminating history of this erroneous philosophy, I suggest this link:

http://jontaplin.com/2015/03/30/sleeping-through-a-revolution/

 

Please cut the crap about “we will starve if someone downloads from The Pirate Bay.”

If what you produce is of genuine value, you will never want for any need; plenty of customers will pay you the tribute you desire. In reality, though, you don’t want to be paid once for the same product – you want to be paid, paid, paid, paid, and paid again, ad infinitum.

Firstly, “cut the crap’? It’s not crap. The damage done to revenues by illegal downloading is real, and it’s verifiable.

Secondly, ‘plenty of customers will pay you …”?

Yeah. Right. If they feel like it. After they’ve watched or listened for free? So you would reduce professional creators to the status of street buskers, reliant on voluntary handouts? Is that how you roll in your own professional life? I doubt it. A few seconds of empathy may enlighten you.

No producer expects to be rewarded for nothing. Here’s how it works. It’s really not very complicated. I allow you to see my film, and you pay me for the privilege. That’s the quid pro quo. It’s show business. OK?

What you really mean is, some people will pay, so it’s okay if a lot of others don’t. Well, to me, that’s not ok. That’s stealing an experience I don’t want to give away. Not because I’m evil or greedy or don’t want people to see my work. But because it cost me and investors a lot of time and money and damned hard work to make the film in the first place, and I need enough of a return to continue running a viable business.

By viable, I mean having enough to pay bills and keep going. That’s kind of hard when one is haemorrhaging all over the net. Hollywood can tolerate it. Piracy to them is like a rat biting an elephant. When the rat bites me, it hurts.

You don’t accept that piracy hurts creative businesses. That’s your opinion, not a fact. Piracy has hurt my business. That’s a fact. I can say it till I’m blue in the face and point at the mathematical proof, but on past experience I know it’s a waste of time trying to shift the beliefs of faith driven zealots.

I don’t know what you mean by “pay and pay and pay …”. Do you think you should have lifelong rights to free supply of any given title, on any platform, and in all future editions? Your economic naivety is unsurprising. Lots of people think because they can copy an MP3 or quicktime file instantly, that distribution of music and movies costs nothing. Think again. It doesn’t. Even purely online transmission has a cost much greater than nothing.

Personally, I have no problem with consumers purchasing my films and converting them to different formats for their own use. I also make my DVDs zone free so they can be played anywhere in the world. For people who can’t afford, or don’t want DVDs, I make films available via much cheaper pay per view or download.

It’s just a few bucks. And it’s accessible on any online device. And still the freetards aren’t happy. They’d rather watch free downloads from a pirate site, then scream at me about how I need to change my business model.

You have two choices, Stick to the old ways and ride the whirlpool down the toilet, or adapt to new realities.

Change or die is a stirring battle cry. But it rings a little hollow here. The reality is most creative people are innovative by nature, and embrace change, and new ways of doing things (see last paragraph above).

I’m not unwilling to change. I am unwilling to give up things that matter to me, and things that determine my viability.

The problem is we are dealing with a fundamental evolution in cultural attitudes, where one sector of the economy has set out to replace the idea of buying and selling cultural goods with the idea that those goods aren’t actually worth anything. They just exist in a big swirly cyber universe, and should be available free to everyone, anywhere, all the time.

That is the great big lie behind all this nightmare. Because the carriers of all this digital bounty, ‘content’, stuff, call it what you like; the world-straddling behemoths of Silicon Valley,  of course, THEY have to be compensated; as do the makers of the shiny tech toys that play all the movies, music, books and photos; and most of all the Great God Google, that enables search for every single bit and byte. Their IP is apparently off limits. They don’t get called names for being stinking rich corporate exploiters, even though these are the most rapacious, monolithic, monopolistic, and cynically exploitative corporations the world has ever seen. 

The record industry chose the former, instead of embracing and leading the change that would have given them more control over their destiny. The concept that the music industry crapped out due to failure to embrace change has a direct and provable relationship with the truth.

Certainly. And they’re still being lashed for that – twenty years after they started to adapt. Now we are long since past the point where the charge of refusing to change has any relevence, but the abuse continues.

This is an argument about price and access, I get it, but one has the feeling that no price will suit some people, and only universal free access will do. That is not a business model you are asking of creative industries. That is economic suicide.

The movie and TV industries are showing SOME signs of accepting the latter concept, however they are being firmly blocked by the cable companies, who have no commitment to funding premium content*. They have a commitment to maintaining the status quo, and their own substantial profits.

*This is completely incorrect – US Cable TV invests huge amounts on premium content. Perhaps the reader is referring to Australia’s Foxtel. 

No one should be surprised that producers sell their goods to the highest bidder. So yes, as long as cable companies can command exclusive rights over premium content, then this argument will continue. It’s not called ‘premium’ content for nothing.

And that’s life.

Shit, I’d love to be able to own a Ferrari, and eat fillet steak rather than cheaper cuts. But I can’t afford it. Do I cry about it and go steal my meat? No. I make do, or work harder.

Some in the music industry with level heads have gone as far as to suggest the likes of Apple saved the industry by allowing individual song sales at a reasonable price when the whole world was headed to a piracy model on music.The industry could have chosen that path for themselves some years earlier and maintained profits and control. Instead we had the likes of Sony installing root kits on pcs and other doomed to fail copy protection models.

Yes, they were doomed, but this is truly ancient history. The writer is so busy flogging a dead horse, he fails to keep up with trending developments.

 Apple’s ‘saving’ of the music industry looks like being merely a temporary slowdown of disaster. Are you as enthusiastic about Spotify and Pandora? They are ‘saving’ the music industry too. Which is why, I guess, there are so many unemployed musicians now compared to 20 years ago. Go look at the figures for the total value of the worldwide music industry now and then, and tell me again how new business models are so much superior to the old ones.

But that would probably lead to a tirade about the evils of the old music labels, and frankly, I’m sick of hearing such twisted hypocritical rubbish. Yes, those big bad labels ripped off a lot of musicians. That is truly awful, yes. But in no way justifies file ‘sharing’ freetards from ripping off artists today. 

The labels and studios could all disappear tomorrow. In a world without copyright and without respect for the rights of artists, where would the benefits of creative work fall? On consumers, who get their entertainment for free, and on the ‘carriers’, who monetise ‘content’ in a hundred different ways. But the creators and workers and enablers who make and facilitate music, films, books … in this brave new world, they are expected to starve, beg for handouts, get a patron, or otherwise dream up as yet unimagined ways to make a buck?

Yeah. Right.

 

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Creative Commons for Dummies

You might have heard of Creative Commons? It’s been promoted as a pathway to universal enlightenment, freeing up information and creative work for the betterment of mankind.

Right?

Wrong.

The shabby truth is, it’s a bullshit solution to a non-existent problem. Anyone who wants to share their work for free can do it. Copyright law, as it exists, is simpler. It protects individual rights, and allows  for exceptions like fair use, satire, and educational uses.

So why do we need Creative Commons?

We don’t.

Creative Commons is a utopian mythical smokescreen invented by Neo Liberal Silicon Valley entrepreneurs (and their well paid stooges in academia) to camouflage their war on everyone else’s property rights. Their own rights, of course, remain sacred and fiercely protected.

http://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2014/04/02/does-creative-commons-make-sense/

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Global Mode is just the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning

Sometimes I think The NZ Herald is being sponsored by Big Tech. Are they even aware of the partisan twaddle their journalists are hacking out? It’s a bit like they’re employing people to piss on their own graves.

But anyway, my concern is not the print industry, but TV and film.

Here’s a link to an ‘article’ (I use the term with some disdain) thatappeared in the NZ Herald.

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/entertainment/news/article.cfm?c_id=1501119&objectid=11434436

I really don’t know whether it’s lazy ignorane or bias which informs the skewed nature of this piece, but I felt it needed a balancing riposte, or at least some comment in the margins. So here below is a copy of the article, along with my comments in the margins. My words are italicised. Hopefully some food for thought here.

Game of modes: Legal battle to control what you watch

By Geoff Cumming 5:00 AM Saturday Apr 18, 2015

The word “control” implies that the parties in this ‘battle’ wish to dictate what audiences can watch. That is incorrect. One side has paid significant sums to copyright owners for the exclusive right to show their programmes. The other side has found a sneaky ‘back door’, through which they can direct their customers to circumvent local gatekeepers.

The companies seeking to protect the expensive exclusive rights they’ve paid for cannot in any fair sense be accused of wanting to ‘control’ what anyone watches. What they want to control is unscrupulous competitors circumventing their local exclusivity, and thus eroding their financial base.

  • Back-door internet TV services this week defied a ‘cease and desist’ order from the country’s biggest broadcasters. Geoff Cumming considers what happens now.

It’s the drawn-curtain revolution allowing mums and dads to do in the lounge what their kids are doing in the bedroom.

Yes. What those kid are doing is cheating copyright holders in order to gratify their viewing desires. So we are normalising this behaviour until it is challenged.

For two years, before Netflix’s New Zealand launch and Sky’s Neon streaming offering, a clutch of internet service providers, including Slingshot and Orcon, have provided Global Mode – technology allowing customers to watch programmes on overseas video streaming sites, sometimes months before they are shown by New Zealand broadcasters.

Correct. In what any lay person would recognise to be a clear contravention of copyright law. This is obviously irritating to consumers, who want film and Tv programmes when they want them, where they want them. And there’s the rub. A big one.

In contrast to tech-savvy youngsters’ use of torrenting sites and other shady methods to “unblock” trending programmes in the United States or Britain, Global Mode came with at least a veneer of legitimacy. While the tool is offered free, viewers still must subscribe to the overseas screening site – such as US Netflix or BBC iPlayer – satisfying customers with scruples that the content creator isn’t losing out.

So, if one is paying Netflix or Hulu, albeit while pretending to be living in the USA, where’s the problem? They are legal services, showing licensed product, right?

Wrong. The problem is this – for the most part, these streaming services don’t OWN the shows they stream. They have paid (and not much, for the most part) for limited licenses to exploit titles in limited territories. The owners of the works would rapidly go out of business if they had to rely on a Netflix USA license deal for their operating income, let alone a decent profit margin to attract investors.

Nor does it require technical smarts: there’s no software to download or configurations to change.

This much is true. Sort of. You might make this work without any problems. Eventually.

The claimed world-first technology for internet service providers (ISPs) gets around geoblocking technology, which restricts viewing to the country or region for which the site has screening rights.

Devised by a couple of tech geeks on the fringes of Auckland’s CBD, it works by tricking the overseas site into thinking your internet protocol address is within their jurisdiction.

Their company name is instructive: Bypass Network Services.

So now we can be proud of a pair of internet cheats who have built a business on an utter absence of scruples.  What’s next? A handy software tool that allows you to piggyback on your neighbour’s broadband? 

Encouraged by marketing that promotes it as legal, tens of thousands of New Zealand households have expanded their viewing horizons using Global Mode, watching either on their laptop or plugging it into their smart TV, from premieres and exclusives to the latest Game of Thrones.

Note the way the preceding paragraph is phrased to virtually endorse the product as a way for “thousands of NZ households” to expand “their viewing horizons”. Meanwhile, note the immediate switch to less rosy rhetoric when the opposition is introduced …

Now, broadcasting behemoths TVNZ, MediaWorks and Sky have joined forces with Spark (which both supplies broadband and on-demand product Lightbox) in a bid to squash the upstart. On April 2, they sent “cease and desist” legal letters to BNS and its customers giving them until Wednesday to close the service down. Some smaller internet providers folded; BNS and Call Plus (owner of Slingshot and Orcon) stared them down. Court papers are due to be served and, to no one’s surprise, Hollywood studios are joining the action.

Yep. Now we are talking about ‘behemoths’ squashing plucky little “upstarts”. As a kicker, Cumming drags in the dreaded “Hollwood studios”. Oh yeah, them too. Those big mean and evil corporations who are hell bent on preventing anyone from watching their movies for free. Imagine that. How unreasonable of them to expect to break even or make a profit. They should be doing it for art!

The test case looms as pivotal not just for the protagonists: it promises to shape mainstream viewers’ in-home entertainment experience, by either hastening or postponing the rise of internet-sourced film and video and the demise of “catch-all” TV channels.

Er, no, not really. Are there not already four legal video streaming services operating in NZ? Including Netflix?

The battle draws BNS and local ISPs into the global guerrilla war between film and television moguls – we’ll call them Big Media – and internet users, which has seen ISPs in many countries forced to block piracy sites only for newcomers to emerge. The big difference here is Global Mode’s claim to legitimacy.

“Big Media” is a perjorative term, which immediately casts the producers of film and TV content, and traditional distributors – theatrical, broadcast, and cable – as some sort of evil Goliath, squaring off against … who? Who is the David in this epic battle? The author suggests, “internet users”.

And there is the single most egregious piece of misinformation in this article.

No film or TV production company (big or small) wants to prevent people from watching their work. This is an argument about the price of access. Because they obviously can’t give it away for free. Someone has to pay for it, whatever the mechanism used.

The real war here is between old forms of distribution, and new. Bricks and mortar, hard wired delivery, vs online.

But let’s not kid ourselves that the old world distributors are “Big”, and the online companies small and “plucky”. They are anything but small. Google, Amazon, and Netflix are amongst the largest corporations on the planet. Google alone dwarfs all of so-called “Big Media” combined.

And the pawns are the creative workers making ‘content’, on the one hand, who are being steadily disenfranchised of all their rights; and consumers, who have bought into the illusion of ‘free’, and fallen into a honey trap that may enslave them.

Big Media say the technology breaches exclusive rights licensing agreements between overseas content-holders and local broadcasters. They claim this breaches copyright law; that the streaming rights of offshore providers such as Netflix US, Hulu, Amazon Prime and BBC iPlayer do not extend to New Zealand.

Precisely. That is what they say, and they are saying it because it happens to be true.

Those behind the technology say Big Media need to “wake up and smell the internet – it’s called the worldwide web for a reason”.

Slingshot chief executive Taryn Hamilton says internet viewing options make the broadcasting rights model of selling the same product multiple times in different territories “completely out-of-date. The music industry were kicking and screaming about this a decade ago; they wised-up and changed their business model and now there’s a thriving economy for music.

This is an utterly outrageous distortion of the facts. The worldwide music industry has taken a catastrophic hit since the proliferation of web based pirating and illegal file sharing began in the late 1990s. The introduction of iTunes stemmed the flow, but went nowhere near replacing lost revenues. Streaming was heralded as a potential savior, but it’s been a disaster for most artists, concentrating more income into fewer hands, while the overall pot continues to shrink. The largest streaming services, Pandora and Spotify continue to operate at a massive loss, kept afloat with speculative share market floats. So, “a thriving economy?” Hardly. More like a magical unicorn economy.

“The broadcasters need to go back to the rights-holders and say exclusive geographic content is a failed model.”

They won’t do that because it simply isn’t true. Exclusive geographic content continues to be the only viable way for producers of very high value entertainment to recover their huge costs. All the huffing and puffing in the world from ISPs won’t change this inconvenient truth (of course they want you to believe different, they are invested in their own propaganda – the health of their services demands consumers access their content needs online rather than from terrestrial and cable TV!).

Hamilton and others argue the technology is the digital equivalent of parallel importing.

“Global Mode has allowed New Zealanders to watch Netflix as a US citizen would, instead of someone like MediaWorks or Sky putting a premium on it.”

Parallel importing does allow NZ consumers to access certain goods at a cut rate. This is not the same thing as saying it’s right, or a good thing for anyone else. Manufacturers and distributors of many such goods are understandably upset that their ability to distribute their goods and set prices is disrupted, perhaps even affecting their capacity to trade profitably. Like anyone is going to shed a tear for Nike, Apple, or Samsung, but actually if every country in the world allowed parallel importing, even the biggest brands might suffer.

BNS commercial director Matthew Jackson says geo-unblocking is not illegal and the product provides access only to legitimate subscription services.

At this point, if Matthew Jackson proclaimed his belief in unicorns and the healthful benefits of fairy dust, I might not be surprised; but there is no need to lend any weight to his pronouncements. Of course he says his sneaky little service is not illegal. What else would he say?

“The accusation is that we are breaking an exclusive agreement – but that’s between [the NZ broadcaster] and the content owners,” Jackson says. “We are not a party to any of their agreements.

That’s great. Now he moves onto some really thin ice. He thinks its okay for him to offer back door entry for rights that are locked in NZ. It’s classic ‘disruption’ strategy in action. Ignore ethics, scruples, and maybe even the law. Just do it. By the time anyone does anything about it, you’ll already be rich. And there will be an army of entitled consumers ready to back you up with chapter and verse on why something they now regard as ‘normal’ must also be legal and right/

We are not trying to get around some loophole in the internet or circumvent laws – we don’t need to. It’s more about the fact people can choose what they want to watch, when they want to watch it.”

The rhetorical back flips going on here might cause serious injury to anyone less adept at kidding themselves. No, Matthew, no. Actually you ARE just trying to get around a loophole in the internet, and circumvent laws. That’s exactly what you are doing. There’s no denying the fact people want to choose what they watch and when they watch it. That’s always been the driver for internet companies that offer this promise to consumers. But you can’t use consumer wishes as an excuse for violating the rights of copyright holders.

The upstarts got eyebrow-raising backing this week from Consumer NZ CEO Sue Chetwin, who branded the legal threat “simply protectionism of old content distribution models”.

Yes, it is eyebrow raising in its sheer ignorance. And incredibly short sighted. Chetwin thinks she is backing consumer rights. In the long run, consumer choice and affordability will be eroded, not enhanced, by enabling actions that attack the fiscal base of film and tv production.

Consumers could end up paying more, Chetwin warned. “Consumers will always look for the best deal and if that isn’t offered by a New Zealand company, then they shouldn’t be stopped from looking overseas for a better deal.”

No, agreed. But they should look overseas for a legal service that is licensed to offer content to New Zealanders. These do exist.

Both camps concede there are grey areas around the legality of Global Mode: it’s not possible for copyright laws to keep up with technological advances. But Tech Liberty co-founder Thomas Beagle says copyright law becomes useless if consumers can’t access things.

“Parallel importing is legal and it says New Zealanders have the right to access the same items for the same price as those overseas,” Beagle says.

It is legal for some products in NZ. Yes. But this makes NZ rather unpopular with some companies. To hell with them, right? But there is always a quid pro quo in these matters. When it comes to relations with our bigger trading partners, don’t be surprised if the terms are less than favourable.

“Is there still a real market for New Zealand suppliers to sell content produced overseas to New Zealanders? In 20 years time we won’t be having this discussion.”

It’s likely that NZ suppliers are indeed facing a sunset future. Which makes the reality of this discussion even starker. Really, what we are talking about is one lot of middle men taking over from another. Instead of TVNZ, TV3, and Sky buying and packaging overseas content, and earning a whole lot of money from advertising and subscriptions; it’ll be whatever internet equivalent is left standing at the end of a messy feeding frenzy.

Most likely, it won’t be a local concern. It’ll be the biggest, most cashed up international corporation. Netflix? Maybe. But most likely, some as yet undeveloped variant of YouTube, or an Apple equivalent. And guess what? There will be tiers and windows of service, and none of it will be free, and maybe not even all that cheap.

Industry insiders, including Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, believe on-demand screening will usher in an even shorter sunset for traditional networks but Big Media aren’t letting go just yet. One key distinction between, say, the music industry and film and TV is the vastly different scale of production costs: this transition could be even more calamitous.

Yes. So what does this actually mean? The writer sweeps it under the carpet rather quickly. At worst, it’ll mean an end to any kind of sustainable local broadcasting of scale and ambition. The cynical might chime in now and say this devolution has already occurred, and there is unfortunately some truth to that.

Sky TV and other broadcasters pay big money to secure the local rights to air overseas and local content; they admit geo-unblocking technology threatens the sustainability of their businesses. That could flow on to local content producers and to the Government tax take, says Sky spokeswoman Kirsty Way.

“This product threatens the livelihoods of the thousands of Kiwis employed by our companies and our investment in local content,” Way says. “If our investment in content cannot be recouped, we are not in a position to support the local production industry.”

This is disingenuous and self serving. Sky’s commitment to local content is minimal. License fees offered to local productions could be described as risible, if TVNZ and TV3 didn’t offer even worse rates. Sky have had a license to print money in NZ for many years. What have they contributed to local culture? Nothing. The impact of their presence on local broadcasting has been to cannibalise and split audience share, and thus contribute to the degradation of a formerly healthy broadcasting culture. In the space of a generation, we went from having the best TV in the world, to some of the worst.

So it is a bit rich for them to cry foul now, when the same morbid process is about to overwhelm them.

That raises the question of who would pay for local productions if everyone’s using a global service: “I wouldn’t expect NZ On Air are going to fund content for foreign platforms.” Way says the technology threatens local production revenues as viewers watch them on overseas streaming services.

It’s already bad enough that a lake of taxpayer money is spent annually on supplementing the revenues of commercial broadcasters, so yes, this is a highly pertinent question to any of the thousands of people who are currently employed in the local production sector. We can’t all be employed on The Hobbit or Avatar. So, yes. What about NZ stories? What about NZ news? When our local variants on “Big Media” wilt and die, what will Google Inc offer in their place? The most likely answer is, nothing. Maybe a bunch of web cams? Some keen local bloggers knocking together jazzy bulletins in their spare time?

“Global Mode is created and marketed to specifically trick software to lie about a person’s whereabouts in order to access overseas content, we believe illegally.”

For good measure, she adds, Global Mode clips the ticket just as local rights-holders do.

Using legal avenues to clamp down on competitors is, of course, a time-honoured corporate recourse and Big Media have copped a vicious social media backlash. Why single out an open target when the volume of clearly pirated traffic is far greater?

As Jackson maintains: “Global Mode decreases piracy and increases consumer choice.”

Gee, but this fellow is a whizz at rhetorical smokescreens. Global Mode ‘decreases piracy and increases consumer choice’. Both positive things. Therefore, Global Mode must be a Good Thing.

Let me say this quite slowly. Matthew … no, stop splitting semantic hairs and raising irrelevant concerns; the fact is, you are profiting at somebody else’s expense, without license or consent. This is not a Good Thing. It’s actually quite a Bad Thing.

Way: “We acknowledge other forms of piracy are of concern but this is focused on Global Mode.”

Exactly. The activities of pirates may be pernicious, but doing something that’s a bit less evil doesn’t make it right.

But even those who merrily watch and download programmes via illicit channels feel sympathy for the networks – well, some.

“If they’ve paid for the rights it seems a no-brainer to try to close it down,” says music production whiz Josh, who accesses both music and video by fair means and foul.

Josh is an elder statesman of the generation who grew up with the internet; for them, tools such as Global Mode which require a fee to be paid are anathema.

Josh is also of the generation that acts out of such a massive sense of entitlement, that even when they know and understand their actions are morally and legally wrong, just go ahead and do it anyway.

It’s become progressively easier to get around geoblocking, he says, by accessing torrent files or streaming sites. “People know it’s technically illegal but we are so used to it; it’s normal. Occasionally, sites like Pirate Bay get closed down but they soon pop up again. They can only clamp down on it so far.”

“Technically illegal” means, it’s of no concern to break this law, because we think we can’t be caught, and there wont be any consequences.

At the younger end of the internet generation, university student Murdo Mackellar downloads everything from the latest blockbusters to timeworn classics his mother likes (“It’s how we watch TV,” he says). Internet users learn to judge which sites are safe – the overriding drive is that it’s free.

Though there’s a smidgen of guilt that content producers may suffer financially, Mackellar, 18, says people are “a bit cynical about internet companies nowadays. Eighty per cent of people on the internet use ad-blockers, so the idea that it’s generating revenue [for copyright-holders] doesn’t really work.”

This boy takes the big biscuit prize for tortured circular reasoning. He suffers a “smidgeon of guilt”, but rapidly dissociates himself from any responsibility for harming producers of the work he steals by saying that they’re not getting any revenue anyway, because he and his mates use software to remove the ads that might otherwise help to replace revenue lost from traditional models of distribution.

Big Media may be defending a still-valid model; they may find a helpful clause in the Copyright Act – but it looks to be a finger-in-the-dyke stance. Tech commentator Peter Griffin says the only real option for the networks is to make content easier to access.

That has NEVER been in doubt. The people running these companies are not stupid. They’re not willfully fighting the future. They do NOT hate new technology, and anyone who says they’re against innovation is an idiot.

The problem has always been that productive corporations like studios aren’t ever going to willingly surrender profit margins to suit the aspirations of new entrants. Why should they accept a business model that has the capacity to destroy them?

As things stand right now, if a Hollywood studio releases its work simultaneously online, the potential profit from such an exercise is well south of even the most modest likely return from traditional theatrical, DVD, and territorial broadcast windowing. A glance at a recent experiment – Sony’s somewhat forced release of The Interview – bears this out.

More than likely the workings of history will push the business online, and we will see theatres, DVD, and broadcasting wither away. But on current trends, the results won’t be pretty. First of all there will be a sinking lid effect as overall profitability of the sector plummets. The music business has already been there. The worldwide value of the music business today is only a third of what it was a generation ago. The income share is also way more polarized, with far fewer artists doing well – alarmingly many of them being legacy acts. It’s a bleak prospect for new entrants.

Bottom line bad news is there is very little scope for optimism when 30-40% of consumers get their music ‘free’ from illegal sources.

There is no reason to think the same fate isn’t already overtaking the film and TV industry.

This small local spat over Global Mode is just a blip on the radar. The really significant storm is the war between Old Media and Internet Monopolies.

Old Media companies are productive and competitive, they’re profit oriented, and they employ lots of people. They try to satisfy market demand, but they also allow some creative license.

Internet Monopolies are not interested in being either productive or competitive. They have no institutional memory, so they believe that ‘content’ can be anything, and everything, and they do not need to create it. Rather, their business model is to just take it, or point at it, and clip the ticket as customers go past. Competition is for losers. These companies play ‘winner takes all’ , and they play hard. It’s hard to count much past the fingers of one hand when considering the players in this universe – Google, Apple, Amazon, Netflix …????

The likely winner, unless there is some massive change in current legislation is going to be Google, who are tracking to become the biggest monocultural institution the world has ever known, by far. The prospect of a Googleized world is frankly terrifying, if their corporate record is any indication. Never before has a company trading on media been so outrageously disrespectful of creators rights, nor so exploitative of its customers.

“The companies will say they are still the simplest way to access content, but viewer demographics are changing and viewing habits are changing.”

Griffin says the options now available with smart TVs, including streaming and on-demand services, didn’t exist two years ago. In a couple more years, accessing worldwide content could be just a click of the remote away. Even Global Mode will become redundant as geoblocking collapses, he says.

Sky’s attempt this week to live-stream the first episode of the latest Game of Thrones as it aired in the US (though thwarted by gremlins) points to where broadcasters must head, Griffin says. “International simultaneous release on both broadcast and digital platforms, potentially with the same company doing it – that is the future. It becomes irrelevant where you are in the world and what market it’s serving.”

See my notes above regarding the likely economic implications of such platforms.

Culturally the impact could be extremely deleterious for the film and TV sectors of countries outside the USA and UK. The ability of smaller and foreign language producers to adequately promote their work will dictate how any simultaneous, international release will fare. Th best that might be expected is that whoever runs such a platform (hello again Mr Google??) might curate and promote quality work. Faint hope in an ever more homogenous world, where everyone in the world wants to see the same movie or TV series at the same time – too bad for the all the others they might like, but never bother to check out.

The big question, he says, is the future of free-to-air channels. He believes their only option will be to offer high-quality local content instead of paying big dollars for overseas shows. “There could be a renaissance for local content because that’s their only point of difference.”

The optimism of this prophecy is undermined by history. NZ had no local content production worth the name until the 1970s, and then it was only made possible by an act of parliament and state funding (NZ Film Commission) and TV channels that were operating at a healthy profit, with large local audiences. That latter condition does not apply today. The local free to air channels are already trying to hold viewers with local shows that rate. It’s not working. The problem is not that people don’t want to watch local shows. They do. But the audience, already too small to generate big profits, is fractured. It’s been smashed into a bunch of micro audiences. And now anyone under 30 doesn’t believe in paying for their viewing fun. Why should they when the internet offers cheap, easy, or free alternatives that have the benefit of huge promotional spend.

NZ Herald

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The Free Internet will not set you free

A well argued piece from someone with real skin in the game.

For the Internet to progress, for society to progress, we need an Internet where businesses operate on principles that respect individuals, not just exploitation and the bottom line.”

Read more at:

http://observer.com/2015/03/dead-kennedys-east-bay-ray-the-free-internet-will-not-set-you-free/

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Inuit Sled Dogs – What Really Happened?

When I made The Last Dogs of Winter back in 2012, I had to make a difficult judgement call about whether or not to repeat the assertion that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police slaughtered Inuit dogs in a deliberate genocidal programme.

Personally, I doubted this was the case, though I have no doubts that many thousands of dogs were shot.

My conviction is that these killings were part of a sad historical process, an inevitable outcome of cultural and economic changes that overtook the North from the middle of the 20th century.

Here’s an interesting recent article on the topic:

http://fortheloveofthedogblog.com/news-updates/the-inuit-sled-dog-killings

The Last Dogs of Winter has been available on DVD from my web store at http://www.costabotes.net.nz for some time. Many thanks to all who have supported this title.

I have now made it available for online rental and downloads from vimeo.com.

Go here:

In order to access you have to sign up for a vimeo account, but it’s easy, fast, and free. And it enables access to a convenient download service that’s ethical and respectful of creators rights. The small sums we ask for go towards making a small creative business viable. Please respect this and avoid pirate and freeloading sites that destroy livelihoods.

If the link above takes you just to a trailer, then try googling this instead: Last Dogs of Winter Vimeo On Demand.

Thanks!

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