Dallas Pirates Club

If you’re in Australia, you’ll no doubt have heard about the recent judgment for the rights holders of the movie ‘Dallas Buyers Club”. Voltage Pictures successfully sued iiNet, Dodo, Adam Internet, Internode, Amnet Broadband and Wideband Networks to obtain the names and addresses of their clients who allegedly downloaded or uploaded the film illegally – around 4700 accounts.

So, is this fair? Probably. Just how much they pay might not be considered fair though. In the US people who have been hit with infringement letters from the rights holder have negotiated settlements in the order of thousands of dollars (I heard $7,000 settlement in one instance, possibly at the lower end of the spectrum). In Australia, we’re not really sure how the dollar side of these infringements will unfold.

A couple of things have been running through my mind as I think about the people who are going to get these letters. Should they have done it? No. Let’s consider why people download, though. Because it’s free? Maybe. If it was available locally, would they purchase it? Many of those ‘pirates’ say yes. Many download it when it’s available and then buy the DVD when it is available later. As I’ve said in a previous post, I feel for our arts producers. People should be able to produce their ‘art’ for a reasonable fee and if people don’t want to pay it then they can go without. But, at least it is available.

The Dallas Buyers Club DVD was available in the US in February 2014; in Australia its DVD release was July 2014; in India February 2015. Why such delays? Consumption of movie’s is a little different from TV shows, though. Once they’ve been in the cinemas there isn’t quite the preciousness about protecting ourselves from detail, and aside from the ridiculous delays I can’t think of a justification for illegally downloading. But, we also know the fuss around Game of Thrones downloads in Australia when Foxtel stitched up Season 4 availability by only being able to see it as part of one of their plans ($70+ per month for the subscription). Season 3 had been available on Foxtel but also iTunes at the same time. Participation has become an important part of our media consumption and S4 GoT fans were left in the cold, unable to be a part of their online communities or read commentary about their favourite show for fear of spoilers, which also meant they couldn’t immerse themselves in the whole GoT experience. There is a continuity to TV shows and conversation that happens between the airing of episodes that surely has to help build the excitement around the show, doesn’t it? Why would rights holders think it’s OK treat their Australian market with such contempt to not make it available?  This model has to change.

So, should people be liable for illegal downloads? Yes. But, only if the content is made available at a reasonable price. This is where the government could step in and say to rights holders ‘yes, we’ll support your cause, but only if you’ve made it reasonably available’. In the case of Dallas Buyers Club liability should be around $12 (what you pay if you buy it from itunes), plus the cost of the rights holder’s legal fees. I’m going to take a stab in the dark here and say they were $1M for this case, which makes $1M divided by 4700 instances around $213 ea, maybe a little extra for having to pursue it in the first place. Plus a reasonable fine for copyright infringement as a deterrent, but this would go to an Australian copyright/creative commons governing body to assist in managing copyright matters rather than to the rights holder. Why? The rights holder doesn’t need punative damages – they haven’t suffered any loss. If I steal a DVD from a store, the DVD is gone. No one else can purchase that DVD once it is gone. The retailer has lost the cost of the DVD plus any profit they were going to make. And more DVDs need to be produced in order to sell them, which costs money. In a digital world, they have not ‘lost’ anything. The digital content is still there and easily sold to another consumer.

Now, I’m only talking about copyright infringement at a personal level, not where it is abused for commercial gain. That’s a whole other ball game. But, for personal infringement, a realistic fine could be $1,000 or even $2,000. Worth it for a movie? Nah.

But, let’s show a little more respect to your consumer and make content available to them more reasonably.

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Sharing of digital information – because we can

I’m part of a group, facilitated by a social media site.  The group consists of a few thousand people and it’s pretty active.  I recently couldn’t help but respond to someone who’d posted:

I doubt that [person XYZ] expected that there would not be sharing about the [person XYZ‘s paid subscription content] etc. on this [private social media] page. If [XYZ] did not want it to happen he/she would not have put us [XYZ‘s subscribers and non-subscribers] all together. It is human nature in a community like this to share and help each other as much as we can.

They were talking about a thread where some people had posted explicit information from a paid subscription and the moderator had acknowledged it.

Here’s my response:

Yes, it was probably not unexpected, but that doesn’t make anything excusable. Actually, this is a much wider issue around the availability of information digitally and individuals placing their own set of values on material available digitally. Where do we draw a line: if someone doesn’t want their photo used in advertising should it not be put one on Facebook/Flickr etc – do we blame the person who put it there if a company uses it without their express permission? If music shouldn’t be shared then we never should have gone down the path of cassettes and cds – shouldn’t we have just stuck to vinyl so that audio couldn’t be shared as easily? Then books should have never been produced digitally so that people don’t share them?

We need to stop attributing this to the user of a digital forum to facilitate the dissemination of their product (improving the opportunity for many to access it who are restricted by logistical matters) and instead attribute it to those who actually decide to breach relevant laws and legislation. The sharing of [XYZ Subscription] info is not because the [XYZ] produces it digitally or decided to facilitate a forum for everyone with similar interests in the same room – it’s because those people choose to share it without (or with) thought to copyright.

Now, there is no question in my mind that there needs to be an overhaul of current Copyright regulations/laws/legislation – it was certainly intended for a different time and media landscape. But, that does not mean that we should all rebel and share whatever information is available digitally simply because we can. People invest a lot of their time and knowledge producing material that is accessible to many, or even few who might not otherwise be able to access it. And they should be able to deliver that in a way that protects their own investment and compensates them in some way if they choose. How much? Well, that’s their call.  If it’s too much choose not to buy it. If someone only produced their product in hard copy they may well find their market is not interested. Creative Commons addresses this to some extent and perhaps more will start using it.  But, Creative Commons will not stop individuals choosing to share another person’s hard work though.

I was thinking about how you compensate someone after the fact.Yes, you’re quite right that stealing 50 copies of a CD or DVD has a slightly higher ‘cost’ than ripping an album from a friend or from a site that permits you to do it.  The cost of the digital reproduction is next to nothing, so in actual dollars it’s negligible as opposed to the cost of producing a CD which does cost actual money, starting with the printing of it, the disc itself, the casing, distribution etc etc.  I guess this is where the fines come in.  It’s important that the author gets appropriate compensation, in the case of digital that might not be the full RRP value but it needs to be sufficient, plus they should receiving some cost for having to pursue the unauthorised use of their (digital) property.  The fine is to cover costs of governing bodies and institutions as well as  a deterrent.

Now, it would be better if we didn’t have to bother with this at all, but frankly, I want to have good music to listen to, movies and TV shows to watch, art and photography to enjoy, books to read. Money gives people with the inspiration the means with which to do it and we should be prepared to pay a reasonable price.  If that seems unreasonable to us, then we will have to go without or reconsider how much we’re prepared to spend.

New news!

Vending machines that print out the bits of the newspaper you want, rather than masses of predicted sales that we now now.  You could also get back copies of them too.  And national or international papers as they’re produced.  For those who don’t care for online news, of course.  There you go, I thought of it, it’s mine.

The Muse

I just don’t get the muse.  If I read or hear of someone who declares someone their muse I feel sad for them.  Attributing an ability to produce work to another person really discredits the self; it places the responsibility for their production on the muse – hardly reasonable .  So, is the whole muse thing a reflection of low self-esteem? Is the crafter not taking responsibility for their decisions, using the muse as an excuse for a feeling of failure. The idea of the muse is the crafter’s perception of the muse.  The problem is that when the perception of the muse changes, or the muse ends (bad term, trying to thing of something generic for leaves-dies-disappears….) the crafter perceives they’ve lost their creativity.  They haven’t.  They’re going through all the common emotions to cope with the loss of someone or something they’ve depended on – the loss of craft is associated with the lack of muse.

We are responsible for our own motivation.  We use what we can to inspire us, but the talent is still ours; no-one else’s.  And expecting someone else to carry the responsibility of that is lazy.