Piracy and the complex problems we face…

Pirate After posting the video of the sales event at Memorabilia last week, I have had a lot of emails on the subject of piracy, copy protection etc. This was sparked by an event which I wrote this about…

A guy I was speaking to said that he had Urban Ghost Story (a film I made) and really liked it. I asked which DVD release it was, and he said, neither, he had downloaded it illegally. Just plain came out and said it. I suggested he could now own his own legal copy and he seemed a little ‘stunned’ that I would be so direct with him. I didn’t push it.

We all know piracy is going on, at an incredible scale too, but to own up to the film maker that they downloaded their film, and then be surprised when the film maker gently suggests they should buy a legal copy tells us a great deal about the state of things. People really do expect music and movies to be free. This leads us all into thinking, how can we better protect our work (or is it even possible)? Or more likely, how can we find new models that pay us to give the film away for free or nearly for free? Blimey.

I got a lot of mails about this, generally discussing the problems from various angles, but all sympathising with the problem we face – how do we make our money back if there is no way to protect that investment?

I did get one mail though, that I want to share. The person chose to remain anonymous. I have responded to the points throughout…

I think people often forget the advantages of illegal downloading. Movies and music do indeed cost money to watch and this will inevitably restrict casual observers with only a slight passing interest in renting or buying a film. With illegal downloading however there is a far greater possibility of said person 'discovering' your film as all they have to do is press a button and then bam its on their pc. Admittedly you will financially gain nothing but you will gain a fan and someone who will follow your future work. In turn there is a far greater chance that they will purchase your project (NOTE FROM CHRIS – can you back that up with some real and not just anecdotal evidence?). Surely the film industry must have picked up on this by now, the music industry definitely have (NOTE FROM CHRIS – Film industry? You assume I am inside some huge and wealthy cash making machine. I am not, I am a sole trader struggling to survive, as are 99% of all other film makers in the UK. Only a handful of lucky film makers are in a position to not care about piracy as they get a big fee upfront.)

I'd be interested to know if the person you describe in your blog bought a copy of Gone Fishing as a result of liking Urban Ghost Story (NOTE FROM CHRIS – No he didn’t)

It’s a shame that liking Urban Ghost Story is not satisfactory enough for you and that you feel you require some financial benefit (NOTE FROM CHRIS – sorry but that's just niave). Why do we make films if not for other people to enjoy them? (NOTE FROM CHRIS – Anyone who knows me understands that I am passionate about the audience, but its two way. If I the storyteller gives you something you like, you should reward the storyteller)

CHRIS RESPONDS – Sadly, the author of this comment declined to name themselves, which says a great deal. Of course I am delighted if people like my films, I just don't know what to say to unpaid investors, cast and crew about revenue that they should be seeing. And no he didn't buy a film, I suspect he will just find a download in due course. This is a very complex problem, and I am sad that you chose to stay anonymous. It only makes your words sound empty.

So let’s hope he chooses to respond to this.

I am not naive on this matter. I don't know a single person who does not, in one way or another, contribute to the problem. Be it ripped DVD's down the pub, borrowing copied DVD's off friends (hey it was on TV last night so it's OK isn't it?), downloading from bit torrent etc… And I really understand this. I can't help but feel that when CD's and DVD's were not 'rippable', they were so expensive that the consumer felt ripped off every time they bought something (can you remember paying £25 for a DVD? or £18 for a music CD with 29 mins of music on it?). And now it's all  'free' to download and copy, it's payback to some extent. Mark Morris, in a mail to me, put it very well…

Piracy has become a massive and controversial problem and is affecting our film and music industry. Seeing this from my point of view only and I'm open to being corrected.

The trouble is the internet has changed everything! No one seems to know much about copyright rules, except where it applies to new films and music.

Everywhere on the net infringements take place on you tube my space as examples..
This is creating huge grey areas that opens it up for crooks.

People are already accustomed to having video recorders and can record and play back anything shown on TV Show their friends and family.. All recorders by nature break copyright. Should it be an unwritten rule that once sold to national TV then the public can record and watch it? As has always been the case? Should national TV pay extra then? If the public download something should they be blamed? Or is that down to the website acting illegally?

None of this makes much sense. You could record in digital from the radio any track you want and yet this is legal? But not so if you download from the net?

My instinct is the public should not be blamed but those who supply it simply because by blaming the public you alienate them and actually you cant stop them. At least not presently. The second thing is clear guidelines regarding older works that have been shown nationally should be drawn up that allows people to copy for their own use but not to download copies on a computer. The problem is many think well if I can record a copy from a recorder then why not from the net? The distinction being one person recording at home is a bit different to a download site flogging cheaply someones work. This needs to be highlighted boldly that its the same as buying stolen goods.

At the moment the crooks are having a field day thanks to the muddled confusion and lack of clear rules.

Patronus So how can we protect our movies on DVD, those of us who are burning disks at home and sending out? I was contact by a guy from a company called Fortium, who have a copy protection system for small volume users, called Patronus. You buy a dongle from them which you top up with ‘burns’. Each disk burned then costs a small fee (you can also buy a DVD burner tower form them). They have a deal with the IOV for instance, and you can see the details here…

You can also read about just how Patronus works here… They also have a great copy protection PDF FAQ whic
h you can read here .

We are going to do a trail with the guys on some Gone Fishing DVD’s, to see just how it works. I will let you know our progress.

A few other notes. Next week I am going to the Bahamas Film Festival and hope to bring you some video blogs. We are also playing in the Anchorage Film Festival and the Barbados Film Festival!

Also, David Bowen was also kind enough to list Gone Fishing on his Present Gift Ideas site… you can take a peek here…

And tonight, it's the British Independant Film Wards! Yeeehhhaaaaar!

Onwards and upwards!

Chris Jones, Film Maker and Author

www.livingspirit.com
mail@livingspirit.com

One Response to Piracy and the complex problems we face…

  1. Mark Morris November 30, 2008 at 4:11 pm #

    Wow fame at last!

    Chris, I think most who do probably wouldnt pay for it anyway!

    Many also rip off programs but how can you value and therfore learn how to use them if they are knocked off.

    Perhaps society needs to change?

    Our society has though become more accepting of crime. Thats where changes need to be made. Perhaps there is a case for the media to answer regarding public morals? Thinking of programs like East enders where ordinary people are portrayed as umm… A character like Dot Cotton being honest and christian is an oddball. All others have petty crime written into their character contract. Eastenders would say they are art imitating life but then does that work in reverse too? Eastenders Hero’s and role models are usually gangsters with often no moral resolutions except that being bad pays.

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