Debating with pirates – “Opposition is futile”

A week or so ago, I found a web site offering links where users could download one of my movies for free. And not just the movie, but all the DVD extras as well.

I sent them the following message:

COSTA BOTES

You are hosting download links to copyright material without permission.

Please remove these links immediately.

Thank you,

Costa Botes

The following reply came back:

PIRATE

Really? You want to stop people from being able to watch this great film? That’s evil.

COSTA

Evil?  Where do I start explaining the immorality of your actions?

I made this film. You didn’t. You have absolutely no right to appropriate and exploit someone else’s property.

Take those links down please.

Costa Botes

So began a correspondence lasting  several days that offers some illuminating insights into the freeloading mindset. The degree of arrogance is breathtaking, the depth of ignorance profound, and the utter lack of empathy disturbing.

No doubt readers will have different opinions on one side or other, but I will invite objective readers to take note of the many points of argument I raise during this debate which are entirely ignored by the other party. 

PIRATE

I find it really hard to believe that the actual director of this film would bother to take the time to contact a person who’s running such a tiny blog like mine, but just at the off-chance that you are talking the truth, I’ve respected your wishes and taken the links down.

The filmmakers who contact me are usually those who begs me to put their film on my site because they want as many as possible to see what they’ve made, so can you please explain why you don’t want people seeing such a magnificent film, that you obviously put a lot of labor and love into?

COSTA BOTES

I expect you sincerely believe you are doing nothing wrong, but if so, you are labouring under a number of false assumptions. I’d be happy to explain if you’d offer me the respect of signing your name.

Thank you for removing the links.

Costa Botes

PIRATE

My name is Kunst Elsker, and I’m looking forward to hear why you consider being honored and admired, as wrong.

Kunst Elsker then put this note on his website, in the gap where downloads links to my film had been.

DOWNLOAD NOTE: Co-director Costa Botes contacted me and asked that I remove the links for his movie. My intention with this site was always honoring the people who’s work I admire, and though I wish he’d understand that people who pirate movies are also those who spend the most money on cinema tickets, dvds, blurays and other merchandise, and that therefore he’d make more money if people could check it out for free, before letting the film show why is worthy of purchase on its own. Alas, I’ve mournfully respected his wishes, and added a link to his official site instead, where you can purchase the dvd. I really hope anyone who stumbled upon my little site hoping to see the brilliant piece of art that is Forgotten Silver, will make the extra effort and purchase the dvd on my promise that you will not be disappointed.

COSTA BOTES

“people who pirate movies are also those who spend the most money on cinema tickets, dvds, blurays and other merchandise”

What upsets me Kunst, is the underlying assumption made by freeloaders and pirates alike, that the freeloader is somehow ENTITLED to a work – and if they approve of it, they then may or may not exercise a choice to buy it.

What I say to that is, there is ample material available online, for free to audition any given title, and certainly that is true of Forgotten Silver. There are clips, and reviews, and articles all over the place. If you do not want to exercise a choice at that point to buy something, then … don’t buy it. Go away and leave me and my film alone. That’s fine with me.

You, as the consumer, do NOT have the right to just TAKE my work.

But that is what your web site was doing.

What offends and angers me is your refusal to acknowledge the moral wrong you have done in taking something that is MINE, without permission. And then behaving as if I have done YOU some wrong. Somehow, it is all my fault, and I am blind to the benefits that will fall to me if I allow you to continue giving my work away.

This is both ridiculous and offensive.

I’m flattered by your enthusiasm for the film, of course. I’m happy you like it so much. great. But look … I’ve given you a rewarding experience watching the film. How do you repay me, the person who went through all the trouble, and pain, and sleepless nights to make that film as good as i could make it? You essentially broke a window in my house, entered, and stole my film – admittedly not for personal gain – but that is actually irrelevant.

Kunst, you need to understand that if I choose to bury my film in a hole in the ground, or set fire to the negative. That is MY right. It is actually none of your business. I created this work. It came out of my head. It would not have existed if I hadn’t dreamed it up.

Now, of course I am not going to do anything stupid like burning the negative. And of course I want people to be able to access the film, to watch it at home, on their TVs, or iPads, or computers, or whatever.

But it is entirely my business how I organise that. I did not ask or invite you to get involved. Correct?

By the way. Your previous grizzles about the cost of maintaining your web site, etc are in a similar category of irrelevance. That is of no interest to me. You made your choices, with no respect or regard to my rights, and so you can’t legitimately complain about my actions now.

Okay. let’s get past this.

I offered you an option about how to get legally involved with my film – so you can still derive value from its presence on your site (correct me if I’m wrong – but I think it’s true to say that if you want some attention, then you need our films more than we need you, right?). That offer still stands. To me that seems like a constructive and beneficial compromise for both of us.

If you don;t want to do that, then I expect you will ensure that my property stays off your site, and again, I wish you well in your future endeavours – which I hope for your sake will be legitimate and sustainable.

Costa Botes

KUNST ELSKER

Dear Mr. Botes

Thank you for your long and comprehensive emails. I write to you now not to quarrel, but as you gave me such thorough replies, I wanted to return the favor, because as you have made it obvious you are not a file sharer yourself, it was also evident that you are not very well informed about these matters and am hugely misconceived about several facts. The following mail is not meant to harass or bicker, but merely to explain how these things work. As I don’t know how much or little you know about all this, I will not post links to back up everything I write, but if there is anything you don’t believe or want to know more about, I’d be happy to point you to places where you can see that I’m not making any of this up.

I understand where you are coming from, and want you to know that when I wrote you were evil in not letting people see the film, I was not aware of your personal part in making the movie. I thought you were just another lawyer from some rich copyright proprietor, who’s sole intention is making money on other people’s art. As these people’s vigilante-like actions result in nothing but suffering from those who are most supportive and enthusiastic about the artists that the lawyers are supposed to represent, they are truly the scum of the earth. I can show you a myriad of cases where people have been arrested, fined and harassed for no reason what so ever. There have been several cases where people who don’t even possess computers have been fined for downloading film and music, and where toddlers have been portrayed as linked to known terrorists because they wanted to listen to their favorite song. These lawyers have made it clear that they are one of the largest financial supporters of governmental legislators, and will promptly cut all funding of political campaigns if their wishes are not followed. This might all sound like strange conspiracy theories, but it is acutally out in the open and the reason we have so many faux laws that trample individual rights to privacy, in the name of supporting artists who’s wishes are usually the opposite of their representative lawyers. I could go on and on about the evil ways of organizations like RIAA and MPAA, and for example show you how they have attempted to link movie lovers like myself with child pornography, in trying to stop file sharing; but frankly the atrocities committed in the name of copyright makes me so angry that I’d rather not spend much time writing about it.

If you want to learn more about this, I’d be happy to provide links where you can read up on it, but suffice to say that the only reason I complied with your request and removed the download links to your movie, was because you claim to be the actual director. Had you been another lawyer, I would have pointed to the actual laws in these matters, as I have done on previous occasions. Because even though you might not like it, my site is not actually breaking any laws. As I am not the person who originally put these files online, my site is merely linking to what others have made available, and even though I have complied with your wishes and removed the links, the actual material is still out there.

Though I also understand what you mean when you feel sharing your movie will make it “worthless”, I wish you’d understand that the opposite is true. Like I wrote in the updated statement about your movie: the people who pirate movies are also the ones who spend the most money on cinema tickets, DVD’s, blurays and other merchandise. Therefore, by sharing your movie, I am actually helping you to sell more copies by making more people aware it exists. Again, I can show you links to how this has been proved time and time again, but as a simple example I will instead tell you that I have personally paid for and bought your movie twice. The reason I purchased it twice was because I found it in better quality than the first copy I had bought; but can you guess how I came about discovering your film in the first place? It was simply through borrowing a VHS from a friend back in the 90s. As you understand, the fact that I got to see your movie for free, gave you a revenue of two sold copies. And this is by no means a unique example. Only two weeks ago I downloaded a graphic novel called The Arrival, by Australian artist and filmmaker Shaun Tan (you might be familiar with him?). I downloaded the pirated version of his book and read it on my tablet, and was absolutely awestruck by how beautiful it was, so much so that I immediately ordered 5 hard cover editions that I will give away this Christmas. I also brought my tablet to work and showed the book to my colleagues, who also immediately ordered a total of 4 copies. When the package of my 5 copies arrived in the mail, I was with a friend who came along when I picked it up at the post office, and when she saw the beauty of this book, she also ordered 3 copies right away. So in total, the one pirated copy I downloaded, resulted in no less than 12 direct sales. And this is how it is with everything from novels, to paintings to movies and music.

While (the evil) corporations like RIAA and MPAA enjoy throwing around phrases like “File sharing is stealing”, the truth is of course that in reality file sharing is copying. If this might seem like two sides of the same coin to you, I will tell you they are actually vastly different, because if I were to STEAL something from you, then that would imply you ended up with less than what you had before. When I COPY your property however, you still possess the original copy, and are no worse off than before. The (very evil) corporations like RIAA and MPAA like to make it seem that one downloaded copy equals lost income for the price of one sold DVD, but this also takes for granted that everyone who downloaded your movie would have paid to see it otherwise, which is sadly simply not true. The reality is rather that people who download your movie does not result in any loss of revenue, but simply that more people are seeing your film. When the film is as good as yours is, this will cause the people who have seen it to talk about it to their friends, family and colleagues, which in turn will spread the word and cause more people to buy the DVD of your site.

This is free promotion, which, as more and more artists are doing, you should embrace rather than fear. Michael Moore is just one of many known directors who have take a pro-piracy stand, along with TV-directors from shows like Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad, that use numbers of downloads as measurement of their success and have called it better than winning an Emmy. Even executives at Netflix and HBO have publicly stated they recognize the value of piracy, and legendary director Alex Cox, of Repo Man fame, likes to encourage fans to pirate his movies as much as possible, at every chance he gets. The filmmakers behind the brilliant sci-fi drama Man From Earth sent a public thank-you letter to Pirate Bay, attributing the financial success of their movie to the outstanding word-of-mouth effect originating from file sharing. Musicians are also following suit, and bands like REM have started to give away their albums for free, knowing that this publicity will all come back to them financially. Even recording industry executives are starting to realize that their “War on piracy” is causing more harm than good, and have stated they will not pursue more file sharers for this reason.

It has been proven time and time again that copyrights on music, film, literature etc. only causes works to be withheld from the public, as I can show you endless accounts of. This “war” was won by movie lovers, and the death rattle from current anti-piracy advocates, is the last shudder from an outdated philosophy. The amusing irony is of course that Hollywood itself was built where it is, because early filmmakers of the last century wanted to get away from filmmaking patents valid only on America’s east coast. In other words: Hollywood was built by pirates. (look it up if you don’t believe me).

Like most file sharing sites, mine was never meant to gather any revenue. In fact, the file sharing community is so opposed to people making money off file sharing, that it caused a great uproar not long ago, when it came to light that a certain someone was doing so. This person is now shunned throughout the scene, and will have to work hard to disassociate himself with his previous site, should he want to start up again (again, I can provide links if you want).

Apparently you are under the assumption that I crave attention for my site, which I do not. That is why I’ve taken great care to write more than 300 short texts about these films, where I don’t so much talk about myself or my feelings about these films, but rather try to dissect them and put emphasis on what makes each film unique and enjoyable. You gave me some suggestions about my site, and while I appreciate you taking the time to do so, you should also know that other directors are seeing the value in having their movie distributed through my site. Like I wrote in an earlier mail, I’m continuously contacted by people who want me to put their films up on my site, and documentary director Ondi Timoner even tweeted happily about the fact that I had posted her movie We Live in Public.

Had you come to my home, you would see that my shelves are full of books and DVD’s and magazines, and the only reason you would be able to fit inside the door is because I’ve given away my vast VHS collection of several hundred films, to a flea market. Actually one of the reasons why I prefer having digital copies of movies and music, is because it saves physical space, and I can have several hundred movies and songs on a HD that takes up the same space as half a CD case.

Finally, although IM ashamed to admit I’m unfamiliar with your other films, I will make sure to check some of them out. I’m not gonna lie: I will pirate the ones I find, but rest assured that if any of them are even half as good as Forgotten Silver, you have made several sales already =)

COSTA BOTES

I’m more interested in making friends than enemies Kunst, but I am forced to conclude that it’s very unlikely we can ever be friends.

A friend does not say to someone that they intend to abuse them. So know this, if you pirate (your words) any of my films, I will consider that an extremely low and dishonorable thing to do.

Your choice.

I’ll end our conversation here after making a few more points.

If film makers want to get work on your site, fabulous. That’s their choice. I’m all about choices. You gave me none. That is neither fair, nor moral. I won’t call it evil, but it comes close.

Copyright and the law

You are actually in breach of copyright law by hosting links pointing at infringing content – even if you did not rip that material in the first place, and are not directly holding it on your server. You are vulnerable to prosecution.

The RIAA and MPAA are evil.

No, they’re not. They represent creative people who are trying to make a living. You might not like the fact that studios exist to make a profit for their shareholders. But that is how business works. To be sustainable, a business needs to make

things that people want, and are prepared to pay for. This allows the business to continue employing people and making things. Do not be surprised if you interrupt, or damage that business when they seek legal remedy. Your talk of greedy lawyers

masks the truth – you are the problem here, not them.

File sharing isn’t stealing

Yes it is. When you make an unauthorised copy of my work, it’s not only copyright theft, it’s a form of theft worse than stealing tangible goods, because you are alienating a creator’s rights over their work, misappropriating it, setting yourself up

as a publisher – when I have given no consent or authority for such an action. This is precisely why copyright laws exist. To protect people like me from people like you.

Yes, agreed, studios and record labels can be greedy bastards, and they can rip artists off, but NO studio or label does anything without an express agreement from an artist.

In fact, the file sharing community is so opposed to people making money off file sharing

Again you are pathetically confused about the real implications of your actions. You are either naive, or completely ignorant to imagine that the vast majority of illegal file sharing is not conducted on sites that either charge subscription fees for access, or collect advertising fees, or both.

It’s a BUSINESS.

Where is the value for the product that consumers are actually after? Apparently ‘content’ (how I loathe that word) is completely worthless. UNless down the line, a pirate or freeloader decides out of the goodness of their heart (or simple acquisitiveness) to purchase some kind of tangible item.

We can argue about how often that happens. I do not believe your choices are typical.

If you do ‘pirate’ any of my films (you actually use the word ‘pirate’, not me – which is interesting), then know you are making that choice absolutely against my wishes, and I will damn you for it.

It is NOT up to you to decide what is best for me. Can I put it any more clearly? Even if you’re totally sincere and selfless, you do not have the right to facilitate the illegal downloading of my work.

The fate of my films is none of your business. How I choose to distribute my films is none of your business. If you think you have a better way, then you need to make a business case, and present it

to me, and get my written permission – before you can do anything with my property. Or else you are breaking the law. If you think you are not, I suggest you consult a lawyer.

For the record – if you buy a DVD from me, I have no objection to you sharing that DVD with a few friends. I have no objection to you making a digital copy for use other devices, or backup. That seems fair to me.

I know that the big studios don’t like this, and I understand their logic, but I don;t agree.

But when you buy a DVD from me – that does NOT give you the right to upload it to potentially millions of strangers. It’s true that hard statistics are hard to come by, but it would be insane to think that such an action could enhance the value of a work.

It doesn’t. It destroys value. And that kills livelihoods. You think you are exposing a work, somehow promoting it? To what end? Promoting it to oblivion, actually. The only parties benefiting are the consumers getting the work for … nothing. And, more especially, all

the pirates and freeloaders who add value to their advertising revenue and subscription fee earning web sites by hosting links to films.

Who loses?

The people who made the movie. The people who paid for it. Sometimes, as I have explained in my case, that is the same thing. There are no cigar chomping greedy filthy rich Hollywood studio bosses and lawyers in my world. Everything I have done, I hve done with my own hands, and it’s not an easy life. Try it sometime if you don;t believe me. Make a movie, and see how it feels when a bunch of strangers run away with it.

The sort of exposure you offer, I do not need, or want. There are hundreds of thousands of artists out there now who are dying of this kind of  ‘exposure’.

I’m done, thanks for your time.

Costa Botes

KUNST ELSKER/COSTA BOTES (comments/responses in italics)

You claim that RIAA and MPAA are not evil, but then I’d love to hear what you consider more evil than a group of civilians taking the law in their own hands and spending vast resources on making innocent people out as terrorists and pedophiles? Short of actually murdering and raping children, I can’t think of a single thing worse.

Well, that is not really the whole truth, is it? You are merely repeating very one-eyed internet gossip.

It’s not without reason these vigilantes have acquired the nickname MAFIAA, and even if file sharers were guilty of theft, surely you can’t condone such revenge from the people who were stolen from?

No, indeed, I do not believe that two wrongs make a right.

I believe in the rule of law, and I believe that people who steal ought to be punished appropriately. 

The MPAA stole nothing from anyone. Pirate Bay are habitual, incorrigible thieves.

You have Kim Dotcom in your own backyard, and I’m sure you’ve noticed that even your own prime minister has publicly apologized for what has happened to him.

Kim DotCom’s treatment was richly deserved. He deserves to be exposed for the lying, thieving, fraudulent con-man that he is. This is a guy whose business model absolutely depends on misappropriating other peoples property, and faclitating the illegal sharing of copyrighted goods. For which he exacts a premium in the form of subscription fees and a good deal of advertising revenue. He has now moved onto a new approach, which is essentially parasitical on larger online ventures like Google, so it will be interesting to see what happens next. It won’t just be the MPAA and RIAA after him.

You are also mistaken about the legalities of all this, because even though sites like the Pirate Bay are wrongfully deemed illicit;

Wrongfully deemed illicit???

What planet are you living on?

They were tried and convicted – justifiably. They are scum. Heinous, filthy, arrogant scum with absolutely no regard or respect for anyone’s rights. How rich that you now stand up for their rights – when their rights were never threatened by anyone. They chose to cross a line, and they have paid the price. Not martyrs. Nasty little idiots.

typing the letters www.piratebay.se is in no way illegal.

Two clicks later, when you start downloading copyright infringing content = that IS illegal. Like I said, consult a lawyer.

Otherwise we would forfeit all rights to free speech, and even though you and i differ on several points, I’m sure you must agree that freedom of speech is the most crucial right we have as human beings?

Freedom of speech does not imply the right to break laws, and abuse other peoples rights. It does not imply the right to spread falsehoods either. 

You’re probably aware that the MPAA are actively trying their best to stop the documentary TPB: AFK (about the people behind Pirate Bay)

I am aware that some misguided idiot has made a film hero-worshipping the despicable brats behind Pirate Bay. Yes.

I am also aware that they made quite a big show of launching that film for free, available to all for free downloading on the internet.

I am quite comfortable with that. And I think it is hilarious they asked for donations and have got chicken feed back. Gloriously appropriate.

If the MPAA are seeking to take action to suppress this film, then on the face of it, yes, that would be a move injurious to the exercise of free speech, and that would not be a good thing.

However – bearing in mind that I do not know the facts of this case – it would be my suspicion that some or much of the content of this film might contain hysterical innacuracies, up to and including legally actionable defamatory statements. If it is typical of the discourse one sees emanating from freeloading sources, then I’d guess almost certainly it is full of – how shall we say – utter bullshit. And if it is defamatory bullshit – then that might explain the MPAA’s actions. As I say, this is only conjecture on my part.

and since you seem quite upset at people who are sharing your film; imagine how it would feel if a huge organization tried to censor your work and do their best to stop people from seeing it?

Oh, I think I can hazard a guess. It would not be pleasant. But that’s not really the issue, is it? How many films is Hollywood or its representatives trying to stop at any given moment in time.

One or zero?

How many movie are currently being pirated? Thousands??? Hundreds of thousands????

Mate, nobody in Hollywood gives a flying fuck about some shitty little lying sack of shit who has made a documentary about some other shitty little lying sacks of shit.

The MPAA exists to protect the bottom line of its members. Freeloading, file sharing, piracy … that all has a measurable impact on profitablity. Maybe the studios are ultimately going to be defeated and ruined by the internet, but don’t expect them to go quietly.

And anyway, what I don’t get, is this – You really want to ruin these studios? They make the stuff you enjoy, right? Yet you draw this arbitrary line between the film makers and the ‘suits’. This is incredibly naive, ignorant to a criminal degree. The film makers in Hollywood are part of a machine with many moving parts. All parts of the machine are needed to make the whole thing work. So bring down the studios, and the greedy lawyers, and the agents, and all that business … you actually destroy the very complex and productive industry required to create movies of scale and ambition.

So welcome to the future – home movies shot on iPhones.

People must be allowed to talk, write and make movies about other people’s crimes, without being prosecuted themselves.

They can, they do. Hundreds of them, every year. But nobody has the right to spread hate, and falsehoods, and ugly propaganda with no basis in fact. 

Otherwise you’ve already lost anyway, because if you want to fight a war by making everyone pretend the enemy doesn’t exist, you will not stand a chance. Even if you ask people like me to remove links for the rest of your life, you will not stop your film being out there.

This is a very familiar argument.

“Resistence is futile”

I understand that there are a LOT of assholes in the world, and that assholes will be assholes, because that’s what assholes do. But this does not oblige me to accept it. When I see an opportunity, I’ll have a word with people like yourself, and I will at least try to get my viewpoint across.

Once again, I appreciate that you have chosen NOT to be an asshole, and you have done the decent and right thing in respecting my wishes. I know that is not easy for you, given your views, but I’m hopeful that one day you might see things differently and understand that keeping illegal download links to my film off your site is actually the honourable thing to do once I have told you I don’t want it there.

The best analogy I can make is rape.

If a girl says “no”, and she means “no”, then “no” ought to be “no”. You can’t go ahead and fuck her forcibly and then pretend it isn’t rape.

Sorry to be crude but this is exactly how i see it.

This is way bigger than the both of us, and rather than clinging to outdated market strategies like selling DVDs, you have a tremendous opportunity here.

Oh, I am so tired of hearing this twaddle.

I am not clinging to outmoded market strategies.

There are actually – believe it or not – people who want to buy DVDs. They prefer this. OK? I could make quite a nice income selling just DVDs if only I did not have to see 90% or more of my potential audience bleeding away due to piracy.

As I explained in a previous email, I am not stopping with just DVDs. I am working on VOD outlets, and this will happen in the very near future. This costs me money, and a lot of time, and I do not appreciate having to then compete with some complete stranger who puts copies of my work – or links to download it – up on their web site, for free.

Perhaps you’d like to explain to me exactly what opportunity it is I am missing by resisting such unsanctioned links? What novel, innovative, sparkly new technological strategy can there be that will magically convince the average person to pay for something that they can get for free somewhere else?

Perhaps you’d like me to hit the road giving concerts and selling T Shirts?

Because lets talk about why we’re at this point in the first place: When the CD started to become the standard for recorded music sometime in the late 80s, it originally cost somewhere around 15/16 of your New Zealand dollars. Much of the reason to the format’s success came from it being affordable, but the industry quickly started pushing the prices upwards, and within just a few years it had risen to 40 NZD. As with anything else, overpriced goods will always work as springboards for bootleggers and moonshiners, and it was obvious this extreme price was not sustainable. That’s when the whole file sharing community sprung into being, and caused the whole music industry to choke on its own tail. Now that we have iTunes and similar services, where music albums are available for 16 NZD again, people are more than happy to pay the price. Especially after they removed all DRM-limitations, the market has flourished, and recent years has marked the first time the music industry has seen a rise in revenue from sale of music, in over a decade.

I have no argument with any of that. I agree, in fact. With everything except the alleged rise in revenue. A highly dubious statistic. I am more concerned about the PROVABLE statistic which says that since 2001, there are now 40% less people earning a living as professional musicians.

The loss in investment in breaking new artists, recording them, and distributing their work has made amateurs of people who used to be able to make a living. this would not be the case if the available models of renumeration in the music business were fair and proportionate to the money being made by online companies exploiting ‘free’ music.

You complain about the unfair pricing practices of old recording labels, but have nothing to say about the even worse exploitation perpetrated by Spotify, Pandora, and many others.

If you want to get rid of file sharing, the solution is actually remarkably simple: offer a cheap, easy to use, DRM-free alternative.

Again, I agree. But they are already here – not as widely as they might be, yet. But people like yourself deliberately ignore them. I watch lots of movies on Vimeo and iTunes. I buy lots of music via iTunes, or other web sites, and especially directly from artists themselves. It’s easy, convenient, and affordable. So why does piracy and file sharing continue to account for 30% of internet traffic, and climbing???

One likely answer … because people think they can get away with it.

This is fast changing. 

That is not an attack on free speech.

It is an attack on freeloading.

The tide has turned, Kunst. Artists, film makers, writers, musicians … we have all had enough. And that’s why we are now saying, “pay, or go away”. The law is on our side. And the law is changing too. Have you noted that there have been a rash of successful prosecutions lately? It’s only the beginnining. The Wild West was tamed, and the Internet will be tamed too. It’s history. 

This won’t break the internet. But it will make it more civilised.

Free speech will continue … because it is protected by legislation too. The law protects the innocent, and punishes the guilty. Get used to it.

Pirating of music plummeted to an all time low when solutions like Spotify came to the market, and though services like Netflix are starting to look better every day, it still has some way to go before it’s a worthy adversary. In fact you can thank file sharers for these innovations to be available in the first place, which you must agree is a good thing? (You’re welcome 😉

Are you aware of how much in the way of royalties to artists and investment in new production these services you name offer?

FUCK ALL (that is a technical term, meaning very, very little)

Like less than a couple of percentage points in comparison to the ‘old, outmoded’ models you are so keen to consign to the dustbin of history.

The topic of Spotify’s disgusting royalty returns to artists has been well canvassed in internet forums. It’s a scandal. Their business model is unsustainable. It is like a snake eatig its own tail. Same goes for Pandora. Until such time as they recognise that the input cost of their prime product is not just a few fractions of a cent, they will continue to do more harm than good.

Netflix??? God help me. You know nothing of what you are talking about. Try selling those bastards a movie and you will learn. But I will never sell them a movie again because I have seen what happens once they get hold of it. It instantly kills demand anywhere where Netflix is a player.

They have invested in a couple of shows in the last year or two. They seem to be waking up to the fact that they cannot just go on raping and plundering old product and that they must return something to the business. But i suspect they will go out of business before too much longer

But do you know what is currently holding streaming services back, and are keeping people from flocking to pay? Good old copyright laws, limiting the amount of content.

Not true.

What is holding straming services back is that they are not prepared to pay what that content is worth, or not even anything close to it. So content owners are – sanely, and unsurprisingly – trying to hold the line. No company is crazy enough to give their stuff away and see the value of their business collapse.

These is a huge historical force at play here, and it’s complicated by piracy, aggravated by piracy; but not helped by it. Piracy makes the content creators and copyright owners poorer, and angrier, and I also think it demeans the people doing it. It poisons the relationship between artists and consumers.

You assume I don’t know how much work it is to make a film, but actually I’ve made several films myself. They’re all available for free online, and nothing makes me more happy than when people see them and post a small comment about how much they liked it. I’m also a musician and have a few hundred tunes available for anyone to listen to online, and I think the most happy I’ve even been was when I saw someone preform one of my lyrics at a concert to great cheers of the audience. You see, it’s not about making money, but about the joy of creating art that other people enjoy. I always assumed this was the reason why anyone wanted to be an artist, but I guess, like you say, I’m tremendously naive.

You are also tremendously arrogant and patronising, if I may say so.

I am happy for you to make whatever choices you like about life, art, and the way you spend your leisure time. As you say above, you have made movies, and music, and you have shared them freely. So where is the problem? If that’s your bliss, go for it man. Knock yourself out making your free movies and free music.

I hope you are happy at whatever day job you do to pay the rent and feed your kids.

That is not my choice. I want to make a living pursuing my art. I have been a working film maker for 35 years. I take it seriously. It is a vocation. 

I am good at what I do. My films have had an international impact, and enjoy a good critical reputation.

I don’t make a lot of money at it. In fact I live in a constant state of insecurity. But I have managed by hard work and careful planning to create a niche that works for me, where I can make films independently and with great creative freedom.

Now I see a situation where even the modest toehold I have on a professional occupation is being threatened … by people who can’t or won’t accept that entertainment is not a right, and that they are not entitled to things they have not paid for.

I would like to know what your response might be if you turned up for work tomorrow and your boss said, “sorry Kunst, we’ve decided not to pay you any more, you ought to be satisfied just doing a job you like, it’s not about making money, but the joy of doing things that other people can enjoy”

This has been an interesting debate, though I am sure we are no closer to agreeing on anything!

Would you have any objection to me publishing it (verbatim) on my web site? I suppose I could just take it, and repay the favour, but I prefer to do the polite thing and ask first.

Best regards,

Costa Botes

KUNST ELSKER

I agree this has been a very interesting debate, and I have greatly appreciated reading your responses. I’ve learnt a lot about how actual anti-pirates think, which is valuable to file sharers everywhere. It’s obvious that you will find proof of whatever suits your purpose, and simply deny and ignore anything that doesn’t. This is not news to anyone, but like I said, I can post evidence supporting everything I have written, but you are not interested in that.

I must say I’m flabbergasted at your response to documentary TPB: AFK though. I thought you would have some sort of support and companionship to your fellow documentarians, but you’ve made it utterly clear that you feel it’s justified to suppress the truth, on the off chance that it might somehow mean more income for you. Had you actually seen the film, you would know that it is actually not glorifying in the least, and that the Pirate Bay people do not come out of it very well. If anything the film puts them in a terrible light, as one is proven to be an outspoken racist and another a junkie. Instead of seeing the film for yourself, you’re more than happy at dismissing even the filmmaker as a “shitty little lying sack of shit”, which actually degrades your own reputation tremendously.

I love the idea of putting this whole conversation online, and would like to do the same. The only grip I have with this is that people will see all my embarrassing typos and linguistic mistakes, which I know nitpickers will have a field day of. This is why I would like to end this by noting that English is not my first language.

I wish you the best in your continued career, and hope your will spend more time making movies, and less time harassing your fans in the future.

While I wouldn’t know how the actual financial part of it works, I think you might be interested in checking out a service called

http://indieflix.com/

It’s the only thing I have ever advertised for on my site, and I did so while refusing payment, because I really love what they are doing. Maybe it would be a possible, legal outlet for your movies as well? They gave me 10 free subscriptions to their site as thanks for the ad, and I can pass one of these subscription on to you if you want to try it out, and see what it’s all about. If you are so agitated that you will not accept this from me, I’m sure they would be more than happy with letting you have a look inside, if you contact them yourself. I have to make clear that I am in no way affiliated with them, and that they were the ones who originally contacted my site, requesting to advertise.

Hope it works out! =)

COSTA BOTES

I am well aware of Indieflix.

They are an offshoot of Indiepix, with whom I have had dealings, and I will have nothing to do with them again. They are very dishonest operators.

Their business model is similar to many online ventures, in that it basically treats films as largely worthless. 6.95 a month is a great deal for subscribers. And the site makes a tidy profit from dealing in marginal returns from a very high volume of titles. But if you did understand the finances you’d know this just can’t work for individual producers. The unit return for single films is terrible, and availability on such platforms ruins any other potential market. It’s a form of slow assisted suicide.

This is why Hollywood and the studios are so resistant to online models of distribution. It is like cutting their own throats. Your view of their motives is wrong, simplistic, and incredibly selfish. But you knnw what? I couldn’t give a fuck about Hollywood either. I don’t even like most of the bullshit they make. So I don’t know why I’m bothering trying to explain their business. They will eventually find an accommodation with Google and Apple and other big players like Hulu. They have the capital infrastructure to survive while they adapt.

For small producers like myself, it is much harder to change the way we do things. And deal with the fact that the promise and dream of the internet has actually turned into a nightmare.

Can it be a dream again? I think the answer is self distributing, and using our own web sites to sell work. Cutting out all middlemen and talking directly with audiences. The means to do that have finally got easy and affordable. It’s taken a long time, too long, and all kinds of horrors have developed in the meantime, but the possibility to use the internet as an opportunity rather than a threat exists. I agree with you there.

The limitations are (a) publicity. How many people will ever know about our work? And (b) piracy, how many places offer free alternatives to buying the work?

The more piracy there is, the riskier it becomes. And worse than risky, pointless, because it s almost hopeless competing with something that is free. Hence my “harrassing my fans”. Not fans – unlicensed competitors.

And promotion? I know your answer. But actually, making stuff free in the hope that people will pay for it later is a terrible idea. Once you collapse value – it never comes back. Read a book on  marketing in the digital age. Your ideas are very old fashioned and not supported by real world experience.

I’m glad there are still people in the world who do want a genuine and honest relationship with the films and music and books they consume. They understand that if such work is stolen without compensation they hurt the people who make films, music, and books, and they make it harder for such work to be made. And they hurt themselves too – hollowing out the pleasure of experiencing work, knowing that they ripped it off. Art should be a transaction carried out with mutual respect.

You may wonder why I have had such a long and detailed conversation with you. The reason is this – the people I deal with when I engage in educational talks explaining the real world effects of piracy on working film makers often find it hard to believe that the online world is full of people who actually believe it is OK to steal. Not only OK, but desirable, and somehow beneficial to the people they are stealing from. I get looks of incredulity when I try to explain this mentality.

Now it’s easy. I will simply refer them to my blog.

Cheers,

Costa Botes

KUNST ELSKER/COSTA BOTES (comments/responses in italics)

After reading your last email, a certain thing has started to become apparent to me. I don’t mean to offend you by saying this, but it sounds like you might actually be valuing your own films a little too high. I by no means mean this as a personal attack, but rather as a comment on how the market is. You said yourself a product is only worth as much as anyone are willing to pay for it, and though you have probably understood that I do love to watch indie, arthouse and generally weird films from all over the world, the majority of the population have no interest in such endeavors.

One man’s value is another man’s waste of money …

Niche, or marginal titles actually ought to cost more, because you can’t sell as many of them. the unit cost is still the same, and actually higher, because the more you make of something, the cheaper it is to make.

Or, that is the case with physical products. With digital products, most of the cost is in production. Manufacturing and marketing are not free, but the cost is much lower.

So anyway, while i think 35 bucks is a fair price for a comparitively rare DVD, all but hand made, I certainly don;t propose to charge anything near that for VOD. I think more like 4.99 for an HD viewing is pretty fair, and comparable to equivalent services.

You have mentioned multiple times how streaming services are really screwing independent filmmakers and giving them squat back, but at the same time it is impossible to ignore that a lot of people are actually making a living from such sites.

Yeah, the shareholders of Google principally.

It is one of the incredible myths of our age that people are actually making a living from YouTube. Some people make pocket money, yes. A few who are particularly enterprising convert their YouTube channels into revenue earners on a larger scale. 

One of these guys stole my film, rebranded it, stuck a little sign saying “Creative Commons” on it, and posed as the copyright owner. YouTube did not question it. And then he got a whole lot of major brand advertising directed onto his site. Very clever. Totally illegal. 

The most viewed video EVER – Gangnam Style. Billions of views. What did it earn its maker? Psy and his team cleared, around about $800,000. FACT.

Most contributors to YouTube make nothing. Zip. Nada. Google makes money from everything. Including the hate speech, Johad videos, ads for illegal substances. “Don’t be evil”? My arse.

I hope that some of YouTube’s competitors eventually grow and compete more evenly. But it’s not easy for them. They behave ethically. They require contributors to prove that they are legitimate copyright holders. And YouTube occupies a monopolistic position. Not healthy.

Youtube is to a large degree dominated by people making short snippets where they try their best to entertain, and while I personally agree that your feature is worth 35 bucks (heck I bought it twice), most people don’t even have the patience to sit through something that long, and there really isn’t much money to be made at anything longer than a few minutes.

I’m not sure why this is relevant to me? Are you saying I would get more attention if I made short. entertaining, and accessible pieces for YouTube?

I have made some bits and pieces and shared them free on YouTube. I don’t see this as a particularly rewarding endeavour. Just for fun.

I feel your pain and I understand you are struggling to make ends meet, but to me this is only another example of how when someone comes along and produces something truly brilliant, there simply isn’t any interest.

If i thought that was true, I’d give up. Yes, it’s not easy to get the world’s attention. It never was, and never will be an easy matter to trade simply on quality. Luck, timing, accessibility, business sense, and other factors always play a role. But I do genuinely believe that “good is good”, and that the prime job of an artist is to stay true to their passion, regardless of material success.

Which is NOT the same thing as saying that I do not seek material success. At the risk of repeating myself … I do want to continue making a living, and piracy is one of my prime obstacles in doing that. In ways that I have explained repeatedly, piracy damages my business. That has nothing whatsoever to do with how good I am or  not.

And what does it mean when my film is viewed several thousand times on YouTube, and unknown times on pirate sites? Doesn’t that give the lie to the notion that there “simply isn’t any interest”? There’s interest, clearly, but many of those interested know they can get what they want without paying for it. If only a small fraction of the numbers currently illegally downloading my work were willing to pay for it, then I would not need to work a part time job to supplement my income. I could concentrate on my vocation.

This is what got me started on my tiny blog in the first place; simply to broaden the horizon of movie lovers who have “seen it all”. I’ve got a bunch of steady supporters who are really enthusiastic about whatever I dig up, and every now and then I receive praise for promoting gems that very few have seen, which makes me really happy, but you’re probably gonna be relieved when I let you in on a little secret: I usually get no more than 5000 unique visitors a month. As I’ve said earlier, the site was never meant to make money or give myself any fame, but what bothers me is simply that so few appreciate quality in filmmaking!

I have no argument with your mission. I applaud it. But why do you have to give other peoples work away? Why not just promote it, talk about films intelligently, and offer links to where people can access the films legally? Then a lot more film makers would be willing to engage with you and offer you free content. With that kind of direct access to exclusive content and contact with the film makers, you would attract more traffic.

From being in the movie business myself, I quickly learned that the emphasis was on business, and that if you want to be a financial success you basically have only one option: Make movies for children.

There is no magic bullet. yes, the prime MOVIE market is kids under 20 and older than 12. But actually, there is a large and growing opportunity in the ‘boomer’ audience. People over 55 now account for 30% of cinema box office.

The problem is … everyone in between. A lost generation – who have grown up believeing that entertainment is a magical right, and that they must control and dominate everything they consume, and that their rights to have everything when they want it and how they want it are more important than the rights of the people who make films to be compensated for their work.

There is no safer bet in this game, and every filmmaker that are able to go out and make their dream project, like your own friend Peter Jackson, were only allowed to do so after making a big kids movie.

No. That is really patronising, and wrong. Peter did not ever make fllms for children. Have you seen Bad taste, Meet The Feebles, and Brain Dead??? Let alone Heavenly Creatures? He worked really hard through many years of tough times, and he only ever stayed true to making the films he wanted to see.

Peter is lucky that his passion intersects with mass popular taste. Most of us are not so lucky. But I don’t sit around complaining about that, or blaming other people for the fact that my taste is not mass market. 

Top grossing movies in any country, are always made for children even though they might be the 4th, 5th, or 8th sequel, because things like storytelling, acting and camerawork are not issues to take heed of when catering to those who would be just as entertained by looking having a keychaing wiggled in front of their nose.

One does not need to be top grossing to make a successful film. The key issue is profitability. Profitability = sustainability.

Piracy damages profitability because it not only takes potential buyers out of the market, worse, it reduces the perceived value of films to … zero.

I’m sure you know much more about this than me, but most documentary filmmaker I know (and I know many) live off various grants and scholarships and governmental funding of some sort, but that also means they are tremendously limited in choosing the subjects for their films.

Life is all about limitations, and how you transcend them. Of course I know about this stuff. How do you think I have survived and made films for 35 years? But you’re wrong to say that government funding causes any more limitations than other forms of funding. Rather less, actually.

Limitations are a function of ambition divided by money. The more ambition you have, the more money you need. 

I try to be ambitious in modest ways that I think I can afford to handle with low budgets. ha ha.

I also know a bunch of directors who freelance in advertisement and television, and are much freer to make the films they want, when it suits them.

Self funding? yeah I know people like that too. They are tremendously frustrated 95% of the time. If you believe in something, you just go out and do it. I edited a feature film earlier this year. 12 weeks work. I got paid nothing. I did it because I believed in the project and I wanted to support the film maker. She will try to release her film in cinemas and on DVD and online next year. She will be destroyed by piracy within a week. It’s just disgusting. But the film is fantastic, and it was worth making.  A shame she will never get back what she is worth.

The only truly independent filmmakers I know, who are able to live off it, go to Asia to make their movies, because apparently that market is much more susceptible to movies wandering off the beaten path.

No, that is another romantic myth. Asia is a TOUGH market. And very constrained by genres. Though there has been some very creative work by a few directors there, subverting or transcending genres. Asian cinema is reaching out because their home markets are so damaged by piracy. It is really bad there. China, with the biggest potential market in the world, is utterly corrupt and dominated by piracy.

I see from your bio you have worked in television, and I listened to your radio broadcast where you mentioned maybe going back to that

No. What I said was I am going back to making drama. By which I meant, I am working on a feature film. 

but have you considered any of the other options I mention above?

My mission is to be independent, make creative films with creative independence, and cultivate an audience that can support me – albeit at a modest level, but I have always been content to live modestly.

My strategy is to self fund work, or seek government funding in the form of loans or grants. The difficulty for me has been seeing all the traditional markets for my work – TV, and small theatrical, and DVD – all collapse in the last few years. This is not just for me – it’s a worldwide phenomenon, brought about by the internet fracturing and cannibilising audiences.

Yep, things have changed, and they will continue to change. New technologies always usurp and destroy old technologies. But underneath that, there is an ancient code of conduct which bind civilisation together, and which must not change. And that is, “treat other people how you would like to be treated”. Don’t steal. Don’t abuse other peoples rights. Respect the law. Yes, I know the law can be used to privilige the wealthy, but it is also a protection for the poor.

I will change to meet these challenges. I don’t care how people see my work. As long as they pay for it, I can continue.

KUNST ELSKER

While it’s obvious that working with movies for 35 years have given you tremendous amounts of experience, it is also just as obvious that it has made you incredible set in your ways. Even though you like to pretend it’s just a myth, I personally know several people who are in fact living off making videos for youtube and produce webTV for various sites. They make short movies, skits, talkshows, travel shows and dating shows, and one guy even made a documentary series about different types of parties. Most of it is pure fluff, but the amount of views on their clips have given them moderate celebrity status, enough to be guests on mainstream shows on traditional tv, like “Cooking with celebrities” and the likes, which in turn gives their own productions more views that again generate more revenue. Their productions are paid for by a mix of internet ads, sponsorship and product placements, the latter of which to a large degree has become one of the most easily accessible ways to finance film and television. I know one director who financed a whole feature film, through including a scene where a certain off-road vehicle went through some rough terrain. Is this selling out? Sure. But without it he would not have a career, and as the movie was a standard horror flick about a bunch of horny kids going on a weekend trip into the woods, the scene didn’t feel forced. Even Errol Morris, who I consider one of the greatest documentary filmmakers of all time, took a job making a commercial from IBM. I also have talked to many people who work as content managers for various webTV-sites, and they all say the same thing: Web content needs to play at a much more rapid pace, and should be much shorter than traditional film and tv (hence the youtube-style of editing where every gasp for air is cut away), but the possibilities for being experimental and doing unconventional things are also much greater.

About Peter Jackson: Of course I’ve seen all his early films, and I wish he would go back to doing more things like them. Still, maybe it’s just promotional jibberjabber, but in all the interviews I’ve seen, he always talks about King Kong as his big dream project come true. And he was only allowed to make that, after his Lord of the Rings endeavor, which although very well made, are still movies for children. It was the same for Robert Rodriguez, who could only make SinCity after having made hundres of millions with Spy Kids, and Tim Burton who could only make anything at all, after having earned his keep with Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, just to name a few.

While Asia might be constrained by genres, it is also much more open to “adult cinema”. By that I don’t mean porn, but movies that actually cater to adults, rather than focusing on the PG-13 market, and all the restrictions that come with that. Gareth Evans is one of the most interesting fresh directors out there, in my opinion, because he managed with The Raid: Redemption, to create something as rare in these days, as an adult action movie that is actually violent.   The films of Takashi Miike needs no introduction, but while he has had great success with his genre-bending Japanese films, the one time he tried to make something for American audiences, with his short tv-feature Imprint, it was withheld from airing.

To blame the collapse of the DVD market on “cannibalizing audience” is laughable! DVD (and CD) was a badly designed and terrible format when it first came out; big and clunky and easily ruined by just the tiniest scratch. Their period of dominance in distribution of media has long since passed simply because it was not a very good solution, and most people I know have traded inn their dvd-players with AppleTV boxes and the likes. Personally I’m way to impatient to bother opening a dvd cover, taking out the dvd, opening a dvd player, putting in the dvd, waiting, waiting, waiting for the menu to come up after a barrage of “important messages”, before finally being able to see something in terrible quality. Even though I own hundreds of dvd’s, it’s easier, in higher quality, and faster for me to download a movie I own through torrents, than manually having to search through my collection and wait, wait, wait for my movie to start. Sure there are some people who will cling to DVDs, just like some still cling to laserdisc or betamax, but this is more out of nostalgia and hipsterism, than any interest in quality and user-friendliness.

My point is that the possibilities are out there if you’re willing to work with the system, instead of touting like an old man about how things used to be so much better, and blame your struggles on the people who actually want to see your films.

COSTA BOTES

Okay, I give up.

I think the facts are … I am actually doing something with my life, and making stuff.

While you are sitting back and doing a lot of talking.

Impress me Kunst. Do something tangible. Do something that involves risk. Special insight. Something beautiful, or profound, or just fun.

I don’t really care. Be more than an idle fan boy spouting opinions. You know, opinions are like assholes. Everybody’s got one.

That’s not original. I pinched it from a Clint Eastwood flick.

Good night.

KUNST ELSKER

Meanwhile, your oh so heroic RIAA organization just stated that they want to put a stop to the whole bitcoin currency. But of course, not even this is evil in your book. Or it didn’t happen… Or it is justified… Or whatever excuse you come up with to support these copyright fascists.

Good bye

COSTA BOTES

They’re not my RIAA. But yeah, anything that controls runaway theft is fine in my book.

Protecting your property and business is not fascism.

Free entertainment is not a human right. 

Nothing comes for free Kunst. It’s just a question of who pays for it in the end.

I was contacted yesterday by a tech company that is developing anti-piracy software. Sounded quite promising. I will be helping them with it.

C.

KUNST ELSKER

Wow. Just wow.

You actually support shutting down a whole currency and hurt millions of people who haven’t ever downloaded a single film or song. You say you are for protecting property and business, but apparently that only entails your own business.

You’re not against piracy. You’re clinically insane!

Was war das? Just following orders, you say? Javoll komandant. Open the chambers and lets kill of some women and children! It’s all worth it if you can sell another dvd! Sieg heil!

PS: You disgust me. Welcome to my spamfilter.

POSTSCRIPT

And with that the conversation comes to an end.

I expect this rancid little twerp has now either reinstated his download links to my film, or tossed me out of his paradise of pet favourites forever – which I’d be more than happy about.

About Costa Botes

I'm a freelance film maker based in Wellington, New Zealand. I make mainly long form independent documentaries about characters I find interesting.
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25 Responses to Debating with pirates – “Opposition is futile”

  1. Scott says:

    Well I just read this all and it seems like that guy is a bit of an ignorant prick, and the conversation has certainly changed my views of piracy (towards your side), for it is very rare to see the side of the filmmaker over the ones who sit in front of their computers all day buying fan boy merch. I have been watching a lot of NZ TV shows recently (Outrageous Fortune, Almighty Johnsons, Sunny Skies, The Blue Rose, etc.) and am a bit sad that our country’s culture is so that these shows are not getting the TV viewership (be it because of piracy or ignorance) that the networks want to fund more of our local content.

    • Costa Botes says:

      The sort of local content you mention is not funded by local networks. It’s paid for by the taxpayer through NZ ON AIR. It’s less vulnerable to piracy, actually, as it is comparitively low budget and the funding and broadcast model used sees these programmes available to view online pretty fast.

      This is not the case for single programmes that are self funded or paid for by investors – I.e the kind of things I make, or most feature film producers make.

      We are incredibly vulnerable to the kind of market sabotage that.can occur when a pirate rips off our work and makes it indiscriminately available to illegal downloaders online.

      Ultimately if this goes on, it will discourage and silence independent and creative film making, except for those who choose to practice their art part time or as a hobby.

      What I cannot understand is the contradiction in ideology and practice of most pirates and freeloaders. They effect to detest the ‘greedy fat cats’ of Hollywood, yet they greedily devour all the products of the system they say they despise and want to tear down.

      And they also make no distinction between the’greedy fat cats’ and small Indy film makers. From whatever source, if they want it, they take it. It’s all worth the same to these imbeciles – nothing. We make, and they take.

  2. Frank says:

    Contrary to the previous comment reading all this has changed my views to be pro pirate. Like this Kunst guy I also recently saw that the RIAA wanted to kill off bitcoins something that worries me greatly because bitcoins are the main source of my income. The idea of a huge organization wanting to stop an international currency simply to hinder one single person from acquiring funds is terrifying. When you brush this off as justified you are shooting yourself in the foot and suddenly you are not the innocent victim any longer.

    • Costa Botes says:

      I love the breathtaking hypocricsy of Frank’s comment. He is worried greatly that the “main source” of his income is threatened? Well, actually, I too am worried greatly that the main source of MY income is being throttled by pirates and freeloaders. The fact is, the RIAA wouldn’t give a shit about Bitcoins except for the fact that they are being used to fund Pirate Bay, the most egregious and pernicious pirate site online. It’s more than “one person” with their fate at stake. What about all the hundreds of thousands of content creators – musicians, song writers, film makers, writers – who are being daily ripped off? So Frank, logically, if there was less piracy, your Bitcoin enterprise would face no threat at all from anyone. I don’t like any business that threatens or bullies or exploits others. That cannot be honestly said of the RIAA action. They did not steal from anyone in the first place. Pirates and thieves shouldn’t expect sympathy when their victims come after them. To expect a productive industry to sit on its hands while it is bled dry by opportunistic parasites is preposterous.

      • Frank says:

        So the pirates are eating you therefore it’s ok for you to eat me even though I have never been a pirate?

        Now who’s the bully?

      • Costa Botes says:

        My comments were made in response to your position, explicitly sympathising with a self confessed pirate. IN fact, didn’t you declare yourself “pro-pirate”? Sorry for your troubles Frank, but you should look for the cause somewhere other than my door. Try those who are abusing Bitcoins to support illegal enterprises and trading in stolen goods.

      • Costa Botes says:

        That’s interesting, thanks Frank for that information. I apologise for being deliberately provocative on a topic I am not fully informed about.
        It actually looks to me like the RIAA is indulging more in PR sabre rattling than actual punitive legal action against Bitcoin? On the other hand, they are actively seeking to have a list of rogue sites proscribed. This may or may not be a hopeless enterprise, at least internationally.

      • Danilo says:

        I don’t consider piracy to be generally bad, but I would definitely stream from Vimeo instead of downloading it for free, as long as the price is fair. 4.99$ is definitely fair. I don’t know the movie that the original conversation is about, but I will watch it once it’s on Vimeo.

        First of all, to support the film maker.

        The second reason is that watching the movie on Vimeo is simply easier than downloading it. Never underestimate that reason! You don’t need a special software, you don’t need a special operating system, you don’t need a special TV (as long as it supports Vimeo). It just works, instantly. People pay for that. Bittorrent may be easier than buying some DRM protected movie that needs speical software to watch, but it’s more annoying and time consuming than buying a movie and watching it in great quality with a single click in your browser.

        A nice, paid, ad-free, high-quality movie watching site with great content will always beat crappy streaming sites like kino.to with dozens of porn-popups and spyware. At least for people that can afford 5$. Those that don’t won’t buy a DVD either.

      • Costa Botes says:

        Thanks for that perspective. It’s encouraging.

        I would need about 100 paid views, at 5 bucks each to break even on the annual cost of using Vimeo On Demand. Not many.

        Given the number of times my movies have been viewed illegally, there might be some hope in thinking that I could scratch together the minimum number of paid views.

        This is the first service I’ve seen that seems to offer some hope of balancing the needs of film maker and audience. It’s cheap for both, and apparently functional. The prime obstacle then remains pirated alternatives, but as you say, perhaps these might be less attractive for some consumers. I hope so.

        I have been snowed under with various tasks lately so I haven’t had time yet to do the paperwork etc required to get my work onto Vimeo. But I intend to make this happen soon, hopefully this side of Christmas.

  3. Thanks for publishing this, it was a fascinating read, and for what it’s worth, as an impartial third party, you both come across as completely stubborn and arrogant, at extreme ends of the spectrum, neither of which helps the art of filmmaking. That’s your right though, of course.

    In the meantime, as a fan of Forgotten Silver myself, may I suggest that in order to capitalise on doing what you love, you consider digital distribution of your older works in some form, be it iTunes, Netflix, Amazon Instant, or all of the above. Making money is largely about supply and demand, and the demand is unquestionably there and growing every day.

    Reasonable access to great films will defeat piracy far more effectively than insulting email chains will.

    • Costa Botes says:

      You say making money is about supply and demand? What do you think happens to demand when there is an endless supply of free stuff? Any economics student could probably join the dots on that. I dispute that my position is “extreme”. IN what sense is condemning theft “extreme”?

      Unfortunately, the average returns from some of the conduits you mention – especially Netflix – is so negligible for content owners, the benefit is almost as one-sided as piracy. Of course I have considered digital distribution. It’s not as simple as you might imagine, nor has the cost-benefit ratio been very motivational to date. Some new options are developing which hold out more hope. But largely, the online market is a morass, with operators keen on quick exploitation of masses of undifferentiated titles, and very little attention paid to promotion or quality control. I live in hope that this situation will gradually improve. I expect it will happen as a result of consumer demand. But this process is being retarded by piracy and illegal file sharing.

      I might come across as stubborn, but arrogant? Where does that come in? Impatient with flummery, abrasive, rude at times? Yes. I do love to call a spade a spade. But please detail for me where the arrogance is in my position? I am asserting a fundamental human right – the right to ownership and control of my intellectual/creative property. That’s not arrogance. That’s self defence. The other party, meanwhile, is asserting what he believes to be his right to behave like a pig.

      • I agree with your point about Netflix in particular, it was just an example (as it’s a service I do pay for, as is iTunes). I am against Spotify for similar reasons, mainly their horrendously low renumeration for independent artists, to the point where I consider them worse than most piracy (as they offer similar benefits for the artist as piracy, but profit on it). The difference here is that there are now an abundance of incredibly good options for digital, legal, music downloads.

        You’re stance is extreme in my mind in the way that I do not believe your existing view of the world, considering the changes it’s gone through recently, is sustainable without extreme measures (his are also not). Extremists of any stripe usually are not aware that they’re extreme, and always believe strongly that they are right.

        The thing I find arrogant, is to assume that it’s a fundamental human right for you to have complete control of any creative work you release for public consumption (to the point of completely destroying it if you wish). It is absolutely your legal right, however, to do so, and I don’t dispute that. At the point at which you release something to be consumed by an audience, the film also becomes part of film history, part of New Zealand history, and can even be a factor in forming people’s world views. It equally doesn’t give him the right to pirate, but it does for instance open it up to fair use laws for instance, which can be legally out of your control.

        If you so badly want complete and utter control, I urge you to not release your films at all. This will completely eliminate the problem of piracy.

        If you care about money, I suggest making movies about large robots hitting each other.

        If you live in the real world of shades of grey, rather than black and white, and want to continue to make a living doing what you love (and are mighty good at, I should add), you should have a strong understanding that this can not happen without an audience, and that by alienating your audience rather than understanding them, you’re unlikely to be able to continue doing this sustainably.

        Make it easier to buy your films than to pirate them, or at least support other services that are trying to do this on your behalf. The people who pirate are hugely skewed towards teenagers with zero income. Plenty of well off, entitled adults with plenty of spare cash are waiting to give it to you. They have entitlement issues regarding being able to watch things where they want to, and they want it now. Why not give it to them and charge them a reasonable amount for the privilege?

        Apologies for the essay, after calling you out I at least owed you an attempt at an explanation. I’ve got no real wish to continue with the current tone of the conversation here, but I appreciate you at least approving and engaging with the comments of people here, it’s appreciated, and I wish you the best in your endeavours 🙂

        (As a side note, you appear to have a fundamental misunderstanding of Bitcoin. I mirror Frank’s sentiment in the comments above.)

      • Costa Botes says:

        Thanks for your thoughts Steve. All points well made and noted.

        Some brief responses.

        As I said, I am looking at constructive ways to make my films more widely available online.

        It will always be a problem for me that search engines will deliver potential viewers to a few places where they can pay for a legal download or streaming view; and thousands of others where they can view the same thing for free.

        I’m sympathetic to arguments about Fair Use. But ripping an entire film goes way beyond fair use.

        I have a very superficial understanding of Bitcoin. I’m guilty of being provocative on that topic. But it is true that Bitcoin is being used by some users to keep Pirate Bay running.

        Making movies about giant robots is not really a matter of personal discretion. Please note, I have nowhere complained about my work not being massively popular or successful. I have been very content with the trade-off of being able to make creatively independent work with small budgets.

        I simply don’t like moochers and thieves helping themselves to my hard work. If you think that makes me an extremist, well, okay, whatever. Tell me a good time to come burgle your house.

  4. Laura R. Costa says:

    Dear Mr. Costa Botes,

    Having a great cause and explaining it properly are two highly different things. Although I’m also contrary to piracy and, therefore, feel sympathetic towards your desire to protect your own intellectual properties against the dangers presented by unauthorized uploads, I would certainly be dishonest if I was to present your approach to someone as even remotely satisfying. First of all, as shown in one of the above comments, you seem to believe your discourtesy is somewhat excused of being considered an arrogant trait by the simple fact your cause may be considered justified and is in accordance with the law. Well, that’s false. A reasonable motive does not excuse an irascible and irrational behavior, even if such a behavior is brought up in opposition to an equally inappropriate attitude, and even if such an attitude is exhibited in defense of a damaging cause or of erroneous facts. Of course, you do possess, just as anyone else, the right to be irritated, but, if your feelings provoke a bias in the way you present your views, it’s just natural that you’re going to come up as arrogant.

    That would be negative enough, but I’m afraid the bias provoked by your irritation was not restricted only to the way you expressed yourself, but also to your message itself. After all, even though you defended the ethics of copyrights in your debate with Kunst, you did not hesitate to disregard all ethical arguments after replying to Frank’s comment, which was primarily aimed at your negligence about his right of living his life according to legal means. I fail to see how you could miss the arrogance of that response – even if you were right, after all, why didn’t you answer his reasonable query with a rational argument? That was not only arrogant, but outright inconsistent of your part, even more so when you accused him of hypocrisy. Calling Kunst names does not help either, and that comes from someone who does not feel any sympathy for his attitude or for his position.

    In the same way, your insistence in using your despise for theft – and I acknowledge it’s theft according to the right to intellectual property – as a sufficient response to most arguments against your position, including those which question the ethical justification of RIAA’s actions, tends to come out as a merely emotional and subjective response, which would turn off anyone looking for logical and objective arguments. In the end, besides the fact the law protects intellectual rights, and besides the fact you need those rights to be respected to receive what you want from your work, your replies held very little argumentative value, as most of them were logically undermined by emotional influences. Of course, you are still in a far better position than Kunst, since you at least were right about most of what you said. Notwithstanding that, however, the fact remains that you presented your views in a very unpraiseworthy way and lost part of the objectivity needed in an argumentation due to your emotional attitude. I praise your will to fight for your rights, though, and I hope you can realize your errors and improve your approach from here on.

    My sincere regards,

    Laura R. Costa

    • Costa Botes says:

      Thank you for your erudite explication of my failings Laura. I do have to plead guilty to getting too emotional at times. But you seem to appreciate why that might be. And you acknowledge that in many respects my arguments, albeit emotional, are factual for the most part. I have never pretended to be an objective participant in this discussion. I am not uninvolved. So of course there’s a large component of the personal in any comment I make. That’s the main value in my contribution. Speaking up, from the heart, as someone whose livelihood is directly hurt by piracy and freeloading. The intention is to provoke some self reflection in others about their beliefs and practices, and to chastise the guilty. Both aims appear to be working.

      • Laura R. Costa says:

        I understand your motives for being taken by emotion, Mr. Costa Botes, and I’m sorry if my reply came up as somewhat patronizing, what was not my intention. English isn’t my mother tongue, so I’m not always effective at displaying the tone I’d like to in my writing. I don’t think, however, that your defenses should be completely devoid of emotion, but I do think it would be a great advantage for you to be more courteous and attentive to your arguments while presenting your points. As Steve suggested above, your audience may feel alienated if you sound arrogant, and, as I stated myself, it may also be damaging to the message you’re trying to spread. One of the posters here said you changed his opinion, and, in my view, your chances of changing the opinions of more people would be far greater if these errors were not committed. Of course, we’re all humans and don’t have the obligation to be completely consistent with ourselves, but I just thought it might be worthy it to call your attention to these points. Rereading my last post, I do think it sounded somewhat patronizing and, at least in tone, possibly offensive. I sincerely thank you, however, for writing a polite reply in spite of that, and I apologize if I offended you in any way.

        My sincere regards,

        Laura R. Costa

      • Costa Botes says:

        Never offended by honest comment Laura. it was a helpful reminder not to get carried away by my own outrage into making statements that alienate uncommitted readers.

        To other commenters who feel the need to persuade me that the earth is flat, I’m not persuaded. Please go post your certainties on Torrent Freak where you might feel the comfort of being surrounded by like minded souls.

    • Costa Botes says:

      Hi Karen Jiles,

      Thanks for your comment.

      You can’t extrapolate from the huge success of just a few titles to assume that the whole industry is healthy.

      Try drilling down into box office numbers for a wider range of films, and a different picture emerges.

      I did not say Hollywood was being destroyed by piracy. Their profits are being reduced, yes, but they can cope with that. Though their corporate shareholders aren’t happy, Hollywood and large media companies are still doing fine, despite piracy, thanks to making less films, and taking fewer risks (i.e dumbing down, and ramping up spectacle and technical delivery). That is the status quo at least for the time being. Longer term trends are unclear.

      What is being destroyed by piracy is small, independent, national, and art cinema.
      What is being destroyed by piracy is the ability of independent film makers to make a living from selling their work.
      What is being destroyed by piracy is the means and motivation to create new avenues of distribution online that give consumers what they want and enable a fair return to content makers.

      This is the focus of my activism.

      Perhaps we are in an evolutionary phase, but at this moment in time, the capacity of online distribution to replace previous forms of distribution is exponentially less valuable to professionals in the film industry. Translation: Lots and lots of demand, but very little will to pay what entertainment is worth (forget making a profit – I’m talking about just breaking even).

      Anyway, something to think about, unless you really believe that it’s okay to take other peoples work without permission or compensation. In which case, we unfortunately have no common ground.

  5. Ola says:

    Amazing that you would post this yourself as if it was something to be proud of. You’re publicly degrading people you have never met for the most outrageous reasons and are liable for a lawsuit. You owe Simon Klose a huge apology!!!!!

    • Costa Botes says:

      I refer you to our friend Kunst’s loud proclamations about freedom of speech. I have degraded nobody that wasn’t already degraded. I owe Simon Klose nothing. But in the interests of fair play here is a link to some information about him and TDK.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TPB_AFK

      Be warned, as this is a Wikipedia article, nothing in it is absolutely trustworthy.

      My critical assessment of Klose is based on his own words.

      “One reason for making this film was that I couldn’t relate to the media industry’s claim that sharing files was a threat to creativity. To me, the unrestricted access to culture was the very spark in the online revolution, where every imaginable artistic expression exploded with creativity.” (Director’s Statement)

      I think he is deluded by misplaced idealism.

      Creativity and freedom are worthy goals. But truly creative people don’t need to steal. The Pirate Bay isn’t exploding with creativity, it’s exploding with stolen property.

      Unrestricted access to culture? Try visiting a library.

      There isn’t enough free stuff online? We have to make heroes and martyrs out of guys who think ripping off film makers, musicians, and writers is culturally acceptable?

      I also note Mr Klose is trying to sell his film, while simultaneously giving it away. Good luck with that. I’m sure the results have been educational.

  6. Danilo says:

    Regarding your stance on Netflix & co, what about Vimeo On Demand? https://vimeo.com/ondemand That certainly seems to be a fair offer towards both consumers and producers. Fixed prices by the producers, no base subscription fee for the consumer and a great viewing experience (in contrast to Netflix for example, where you’re forced to use Internet Explorer in order to comply with their copy protection software).

    • Costa Botes says:

      Thanks Danilo,

      I completely agree. Vimeo on demand appears to be an ideal option. It’s new. I’ve not tried it yet, but I plan to. The limitation will be publicity, as always. One doesn’t get far by hoping to go viral.

      And … again … competition from pirates.

      Imagine googling my film because you’re interested in seeing it. Do you choose between 4.99 to stream it from Vimeo, or … 0.00 to download the whole thing from Pirates Inc?

      So technology can be a blessing and a curse. When 3d copying really takes off, life for people who make things for a living could get even more ‘interesting’.

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