Video piracy on the high seas
Sometimes it’s hard to be Quentin Tarantino. I mean he’s one of the world’s most well-known directors, on a critical and commercial high after the double whammy of Inglorious Bastards and Django Unchained. But this must come as small consolation when your movie gets leaked to the internet. Twice.
Tarantino's latest film, the mystery western 'The Hateful Eight' was last week leaked online by the online group known as Hive 8, responsible for a string of screeners including most of the current Oscar hopefuls. For the beleaguered Tarantino, It's not even the film's first leak.
Last year, an apoplectic Tarantino threatened to cancel the Hateful Eight project entirely, after an unfinished draft of the screenplay was released and promptly devoured by the eager internet.
Whether the allure of the box office, the chance to revisit the Wild West, or sheer bloody-mindedness, he went back on his word, and to much delight, resumed work on the movie, released in cinemas this week.
The problem is, most of us will have already seen it.
As someone who works in the media industry I should, like most of my colleagues have a distinctly unambiguous stance against piracy. It threatens my livelihood and takes money out of the pockets of creatives. You wouldn't steal a car, so would you steal a movie? We've all seen the interminable anti-piracy tirades by FACT which began every DVD. I know lots of people who have never committed grand theft auto, but have stolen many a movie.
The Hateful Eight leak shows what happens when a hungry and impatient audience get first dibs on a creative work.
We are the Now generation. Try listening to frequent moans about waiting a WHOLE WEEK for a new GoT episode and tell me that we haven't lost our patience. We need it now, to be consumed immediately, possibly in a small window of our laptop while we book flights, check Facebook and order a pizza. As the proliferation of online streaming sites (malware alert!) merge with Netflix (the legal/safe/cuddly one), legal and illegal becomes simply a domain name. All that matters is that we don't have to wait!
It's not enough blame the fans, the people who often go the extra mile and see it in the cinema anyway. Twice.
The relationship between torrents/free on the internet and a creative's success is not set in stone. Major-label artists can release albums, (In Rainbows) on a pay-as-you-feel price scheme. This sees many downloading for free, some paying average price, and some being overly generous. In this case, the album made Radiohead an estimated £3 million. Not bad for a free album.
What about the upcoming directors given a shot after being spotted in a viral video, or the bands whose song goes viral in an ad and their money comes from touring? The internet provides them with a platform, and there's good and bad on both sides.
Just because someone steals, doesn't mean they won’t pay later, or find a way to contribute to the artist directly.
The truth is the piracy argument is long and multi-faceted, and not easily distilled down into trite 'piracy is bad' slogans. Piracy is bad, yes, but not always. And it’s not going anywhere, The more the government tries to stamp it out through antiquated IP blocking, firewalls, and ISP filters, the more tech-savvy pirates invent new ways to circumvent them.
When you're a busy civil servant trying to juggle municipal concerns, road closures, and the tax deficit, what hope do you have against a worldwide army of volunteer pirates? They have all the time in the world, and most have a degree of technical knowledge unfathomable to those without a degree in computer science. The people who take the pulpit and preach the anti-piracy gospel rarely have the knowledge or insight, often embarrassing themselves with ludicrous grandstanding.
If you want to fight the pirates, don't try and out-tech them.
Instead of trying to outsmart them with firewalls and filters, waging an eternal unwinnable war, give the consumer a more viable option.
The success of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Google Music and Spotify, show that most people will subscribe if it's the easy option. The pay now and forget about it approach that means that fans can mindlessly click, pay for convenience, and their conscience remain unblemished(-ish)*.
Simply accept that this is the new model of entertainment, and if you make people wait, they will resort to whatever means necessary to avoid spoilers, keep up to date with the crowd, and stay relevant.
HBO Go, please go international and we can all finally stop downloading toolbar extensions from watchtvshowfreewithsponsoredgamblingwebsitepopups.ru
*(The debate about music subscription services and their dubious artist payments schemes is ongoing, I'll get back to that one.)