Saturday, April 25, 2009

Digital Piracy: Menace or Marketing Tool

While reading today's Toronto Star, I came across this article:"Could piracy really kill the thrill of the movie theatre?". The article examined the fall out over the recent 'leak' of the movie X-Men Origin: Wolverine. Apparently a copy found its way onto the Internet and onto various Bit Torrents, and now it's available to everybody. Hollywood is shaken by such a "security breach". The movie, it should be pointed out, is not the finished product, the article points out:
Superhero Wolverine gives a ferocious howl as he is pushed to the edge of a precipice by an arch villain's powerful optical blasters. Luckily, he has wires holding him up.

That's the first clue that the full-length copy of X-Men Origins: Wolverine leaked on the Internet and available in Toronto-area malls isn't the final version. But apart from a few unfinished computer generated renderings, it is pretty much the complete product.

So you can see the wires and obviously a few other CGI aren't in this product. Somebody in some lab or some studio obviously left with a copy of it on his or her flash drive and immediately uploaded it to the Internet. Now Hollywood is all upset because they fear with the release of this major blockbuster onto the Internet and hundreds of thousands of people having a copy of it on their computers or burned to a DVD won't be interested in watching it on the big screen. I suppose there is some justification; with large Hi-Def televisions and Home Entertainment units with Dolby Noise Reduction and Surround Sound, plus all the comforts of home, why go to a theatre? Save yourself the forty dollars it would cost you and another person to go to the cinema.

Obviously Hollywood is upset wants to crack down upon this sort of thing, even the Canadian equivalent of the MPAA, the Canadian Motion Picture Distribution Association says piracy in Canada is costing the industry millions of dollars and costing jobs. Plus they all point out that camcorders is the greatest threat facing the industry. Okay, let's take a time-out to laugh. Yes you will pay good money, up to at least $3.00 to watch some blurry, shaking copy of a movie, where you can hear people talking louder then the dialogue on the screen. Oh yes that's exactly what you would do. You could do that, or buy or better still download a crystal clean copy that has come direct from the motion picture studio.

Now as you know from reading some of my blogs I am a copyleftist, however that does not make me a pirate (arrrg). A copyleftist believes the creators and holders of copyright should make money off their creation, it's just we believe there should be limits on copyright, the original was 7 years, now its 50 years after the death of the creator. Consider most of the return on the investment will occur immediately; I just purchased a book from Amazon for $0.01. Yes for a penny. How much will the copyright owner get on that? Nothing.

Let's be honest, the genie is out of the bottle; BitTorrent is the new method of distribution. You can download any number of clients that can be used to find media. A search of the Internet will reveal a large number of them such as Frostwire (I've ordered the stickers!). From there you can search and download all sorts of media, some of it legal, some of it not so legal. You can download programs, music, videos, television programs, movies and the lot, or so I've been told. On top of it, you can download web browsers which allow you to search for torrents. One in particular is wyzo, which is based upon the Firefox Browser. With this browser you can download all sorts of content, some legal, some illegal; or so I've been told.

Much as been made and written about the recent Pirates Bay Trial. The result was that the creators were found guilty of copyright infringement and have been sentenced to prison terms and fines. Of course this is something that will not go away, now it has been revealed the Judge in the case had a conflict of interest. He is a member of a number of pro-copyright groups and organizations. So much for impartiality. There are strong calls for a retrial. So this is not over yet.

So piracy; the question that should be asked is 'who leaked the Wolverine print'. While some will say that 'organized crime' is behind it, and I wonder why would Organized Crime be involved in something like digital piracy, this is unlikely. Was is a disgruntled employee? Perhaps someone accepted a bribe and handed it to somebody.


Is this a new way to generate buzz for the movie. Think about it, you have just spent $130,000,000 to make a movie, you are desperate for it to be a blockbuster right out of the gates. You try the usual methods of blanketing all media with the trailers and posters but nowadays we are so inundated with advertisement we turn it all off. How about this; release something like the final print onto the Internet and turn people who download it into your buzz producers. They've seen it and if it is good, have told all their friends how cool it is and how much cooler it will be when it's finalized. "Dude, we got to see it when it comes out!!" will be their comment. For almost nothing, you have hundreds of thousands of people cranked into going to the theatre to watch it with their pals.

Of course the critics will say, why go and pay all that money when you can watch it for free. A recent article in The Guardian reports that a study found out that people who download music buy music. In fact they buy music ten times as much as people who don't pirate. They are the music industry's best customers. I suspect the same holds true for people who download movies. So it's may sound like a paradox, but it is the reality.

With this reality, it makes one wonder if the Movie Industry may have learned something from the debacle of the music industry, use the medium. But why not, some may think, do that and tell everybody you're doing that. Ahh, simple grasshopper, throw a bit of illegality into the equation and everybody is searching for it. Thus the buzz continues.

As I conclude, I want to give a link to the article: Is Google the New Pirate Bay?

I'm going to read up on this one.

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