Very few of us want piracy. Most of us want to play fair, pay fair prices, get fair access, and feel the creators get fair pay for their work. Piracy is a symptom of the near catastrophic breakdown of the current distribution models.
People turn to piracy as current content is too hard to get and too expensive (so i's £18 for a DVD and wait a week for delivery, or free on the internet in just 10 minutes). They also feel forced into certain distribution channels (‘I don’t want to go to the cinema tonight, let’s stay in and download it instead’).Don't get me wrong. I DO NOT condone piracy, and at it's worst, it is part of organised crime.
But, arguing against this on moral or even legal grounds is a waste of time. It’s not going to change. We cannot enforce, stamp out, arrest, cajole, threaten… this situation.
More importantly, taking that stance also clouds the vision – piracy is just meeting consumer demands. If we have not done so yet, we need to wake up to these changes, embrace them, and engineer new models for success using tools and chanels that pirates use, but finding ways to leverage it into a business transaction.
If business were to see piracy more like a competitor than a ‘thief that funds terrorism and will bring down civilization as we know it…’ I think we would all be closer to a solution that actually stamps out piracy.
Consumers demand what piracy can offer (immediate access, high quality, compatibility on most devices, cost effective and cheap). And plenty of studies show that people will pay for it too. It’s not the ‘free or cheap’ part of piracy that makes it work so well, it’s that immediate access to everything, and on almost any device. Though I think most people would agree that a great deal of stuff is simply too expensive and needs to become more competitive.
It is clear that a revolution is needed, and I believe its happening right now.
Off the back of that article, I got emailed a fascinating list from a film maker called Ted Hope – here’s how he describes himself…
I started reading his long list and started nodding in agreement with almost everything… Here are the first 20 of his points… (you can read his complete list on his blog here – the comments make fascinating reading too).
• Too many "specialized" films opening to allow such films to gain word of mouth and audience's attention.
• Too many films available and being distributed to allow films to stay in one theater for very long, making it more difficult to develop a word of mouth audience.
• Lack of access — outside of NYC & LA –to films when they are at their highest media awareness (encourages bootlegging, limits appeal by reducing timeliness).
• Distrib's abandonment (and lack of development) of community-building marketing approaches for specialized releases (which reduces appeal for a group activity i.e. the theatrical experience).
• Distrib's failure to embrace limited streaming of features for audience building.
• Reliance on large marketing spend release model restricts content to broad subjects (which decreases films' distinction in marketplace) and reduces ability to focus on pre-aggregated niche audiences.
• Emphasis on upfront compensation for star talent creates budgets that can't reasonably recoup investment.
• HP&W fringe levels at too high a level to allow low-bud production to benefit from know how and talent of union labor.
• Lack of media literacy/education programs that help audience to recognize they need to begin to chose what they see vs. just impulse buy.
• Collapse of US acquisition market requires reduced budgets for filmmakers, and thus resulting in limiting content.
• Collapse of International sales markets requires reduced budgets for filmmakers, and thus resulting in limiting content.
• Foreign subsidies for marketing of foreign film makes reduces buyers' acquisition appetite for US product.
• Foreign subsidies for foreign productions contribute greater budget percentage than US tax rebates do, allowing foreign productions to have larger budgets and thus more production value and expansive content — thus making it harder for US product to compete.
• Recession has reduced private equity available for film investment.
• Credit crunch has reduced ability to use debt financing for film investment.
• Threat of piracy makes library value of titles unstable, which in turn limits investment in content companies and reduces acquisition prices, which in turn reduces budgets, which in turn limits the options for content — so everybody loses.
• No new business model for internet exploitation at a level that can justify reasonable film budgets.
• Lack of community embrace of new creative story expansion models that would facilitate audience aggregation and participation (to seed, build, drive audiences).
• Emphasis on single pictures for filmmakers vs. ongoing conversation with fans has lead to a neglect of content that helps audiences bridge gaps between films and that would prevent each new film to be a reinvention of the wheel for audience building.
And again, here is the whole list on Ted’s blog…
Onwards and upwards!
Chris Jones, Film Maker and Author