A Collective Response To Kim Williams: What About Availability?

Yesterday we posted a speech by News Limited's CEO, Kim Williams, about the virtue of copyright protection and the need for new laws governing the theft of copyright protected material in Australia. It got a lot of you really mad, and that anger spread across social media too, with Reddit Australia and Facebook chiming in. Gizmodo Australia in no way condones piracy, but we welcome your thoughts on the subject. We've decided to combine your collective conversation around the one section Kim failed to address: the problem of availability.

Picture by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

In his speech, Kim Williams talked about overhearing conversations in trendy Melbourne coffee shops from inner-city hipsters who had downloaded shows from the US and UK that hadn't appeared on Australian television yet.

Now I know that Australia is a relatively small media market when viewed in comparison to the US and Europe, but seeing as how you think there's a rampant culture of piracy in trendy inner-Melbourne cafés, availability is a problem worth addressing.

I'd bet the dollar I have in my pocket right now that these people you overhear talking about the latest episodes of US shows they've downloaded are members of Gen Y — a generation typically regarded as the "now" generation. It's the first generation that has grown up using technology, meaning there's no such thing as waiting. These kids have been raised on a diet of instant-on, "I want it now" thinking, and that is now translating into how they consume content.

If it's not available on the spot legally, these kids will go and find it elsewhere, and because it's just as easy to download a torrent as it is to open an online streaming app for example, Gen Y-ers have no problem downloading content.

One of our commenters, MD sums it up perfectly:

While most of the arguments outlined in this article are technically correct, the article itself glosses over the primary cause of piracy. That of availability. People download TV shows because we are held hostage by the TV networks and can only view those shows when it’s considered most profitable for the networks. Part of the problem is that TV has failed to keep pace with the digital age. People know when a show has aired in the US or the UK thanks to the world wide web, yet the networks expect us to wait until they can make money from those shows before we are allowed to watch them.

The TV industry relies on hopelessly outdated ratings systems to determine when to show programs. If TV shows were available to watch within 24 hours of their first airing in their native country, few people would waste their time downloading them.

Too say that copyright laws need to be enhanced to fix this problem is a complete copout. It’s just about protecting the outdated business model. If you want people to change their habits then the industry must be prepared to make changes to. If you try to solve the problem with legislation, the pirates will simply find new methods. It’s time to evolve.

How about we meet you half way?

Muddy, another commenter, adds that more often than not, these people you've been observing as thieving pirates are probably time-poor and want to view content on their own terms using their own devices. That makes sense, too. We've seen a huge shift towards bring-your-own devices in the workplace now, meaning that people are both working and consuming content on their own terms now.

If you need a more visual illustration of why people pirate, there's a comic by The Oatmeal that could outline the issue better.

If you could forgo your old business model and maybe team up with a technology provider to dish out early release content — much like you do to airlines — to tablet devices for a fee, people would consume it happily rather than pirate?

People who read the speech are screaming for change. People like Todd:

Instead of blaming people for circumventing a broken and outdated system, maybe you (as head of News Limited) can actually start changing your business model for a new era, you need to move past the last 50? 80? 100? years of business and understand this, the Internet has changed publishing, it has changed copyright, there is nothing you can do about it except change with it. The internet isn’t full of people trying to rip you off, it’s full of people trying to fulfil a need, a need that 20 years ago your company may have filled, but because you have stayed 20 years in the past, people’s needs have changed and you no longer fill them.

I understand changing distribution models formed over decades is tough, and I don't expect it to happen overnight. Having said that though, there are ideas you can start working on right now to get the internet back on your side as a content creator.

A games company called Valve make an excellent piece of software called Steam for distributing games online. Akranadas explains that this model would suit television and movie distribution perfectly, especially if you went and made your own platform, rather than align yourself with someone like Apple, Amazon or Microsoft.

What I want is a system like Steam but for movies and TV shows. This program would have inbuilt streaming software to allow me to broadcast it from my PC and onto my device of choice. I should be able to access my media on that go and have it always ready for me to watch.

I want to be able to subscribe to different seasons of TV shows and pay something like $15 a month to watch the entire collection of my favourite show or pay an outright fee of $5-$7 to have a movie unlocked forever for me to access digitally.

People want to pay for content, and we don't live in a geographically segmented society anymore, the internet has turned the world into a global village full of content consumers that want everything now, and if they can't get it, they go elsewhere.

You'll never win everyone back from piracy, but by making content quick and easy to get access to for everyone, not just for certain territories, you'll win back just enough people to make a difference.



    All the above points are simply justifications. The fact is that an honest person could agree with every point you make but that would never justify stealing it instead.

      And what _does_ justify stealing it?
      At what point do you say 'They're abusing me, why don't I abuse them back?' if not here?
      Why would an Honest person turn the other cheek? we've got hundreds of millions of catholics/christians/etc who supposedly subscribe to Turn The Other Cheek - and we know many of them don't, so why do you expect the public to Turn the other cheek and take another face full of abuse from copyright holding companies?

        "And what _does_ justify stealing it?"
        Nothing. Your life is not threatened, nor that of anyone for whom you are responsible.

        "At what point do you say ‘They’re abusing me, why don’t I abuse them back?’ if not here?"
        No-one is abusing you in any way. You have no right to any of this stuff, just as I have no right to drive an Aston Martin or live in a luxury beachside apartment, no matter how much I might desire those things. The company that spends tens of millions of dollars creating this stuff has every right in the world to do whatever they want with it.

        "Why would an Honest person turn the other cheek?"
        An honest person wouldn't. An honest person might write a letter or email, perhaps even make an angry phone call if he/she feels strongly enough about it. (BTW, have you noticed that "she" is the first syllable in "sheeple"? Coincidence? I don't think so.) An honest person might decide to boycott that company's products or even arrange a lawful demonstration. Lobby their local member, get a petition running and get as many signatures as possible. Start a social media campaign. The courses of action open to anyone are numerous. The simplest, of course, is to just go without, which is what I usually do. I also boycott providers who stuff me around (Channel 10) and bypass them by buying things on DVD or via a digital download service.

        As an example, I might be two seasons behind on my current favourite show, Burn Notice, but eventually Seasons 4 & 5 will be $20 on DVD and I'll pick 'em up and watch 'em. My life is no less rich for refusing to watch it on Ten (or One, to be more accurate) and having to wait until I can justify the expense and find the time to watch it is no burden. I recently got the spin-off telemovie for $12 and it was good.

          So yeah, you're right, it doesn't justify essentially stealing, or at the very least, consuming content without paying for it.

          So yeah, people could go without watching it, or they could download it, with such an easy low-risk and virtually barrier-less option, why wouldn't they?

          However, that still doesn't address the reason, which is people will justify pirating, particularly given the convenience. If they could pay, they would. Consequently, the blame just as much relies on the lumbering dinosaurs of the industry for not remembering that they are meant to service the customer. The customer is not meant to service them.

          For example.

          I pirate TV shows. Why? Because it is so fucking difficult for me to pay for the god damn thing.

          I used to pirate music. Now I don't. Why? Because it's easier to purchase digital copies or stream via Spotify.

          Video Games. I haven't pirated a video game that I could purchase digitally since what.. like, 2005.

          TV is still holding on to an old business model when the entertainment industry and the associated business models have long since evolved. If they don't adapt, they will go under and people will starve. If they do, people will get paid.

          BTW. The word douchebag includes the word douche. Coincidence? I think not!

            Anybody who flies the flag of Spotify and thinks they're some kinda noble champion for doing so clearly doesn't realise artists get virtually nothing from Spotify. But if it's just cause it's easier, then sure. Morally it's no different to pirating though.

            Last edited 09/08/13 5:44 pm

              A few dollars from spotify is better than nothing from piracy.

              Spotify's business model is defensible in that the content isn't owned. It's streamed. I could buy a single song at $3 and play it 100 times. That would be at a cost of 3 cents per play. I could also play that same song on Spotify 100 times and the creator would get more than 3 cents per play.

              Live with it timon. You can't equate the pay structure under the old business model with the new.

      With all due respect, I think you're view on the subject is going to be somewhat biased because you are a content creator. Not saying you are wrong, just that you have a personal bias.

      I think there are a lot of people that download a show and then buy the dvd or blu-ray when it comes out. They are happy to pay for the content, they just don't want to wait for it.

        Don't worry, some of the biggest pirate downloaders I know are in the same boat as me. They are so self-absorbed they can't even see that they are hurting the very industry they rely on for their career (assuming you are talking about the fact I work in TV, rather than that I am in a band). But while I am forced to take work for half the hourly rate I was getting a decade ago, it is clear to me that the industry is being damaged by the current situation.

        It should also be plain for anyone else to see. Why do you think we have to put up with so much low-brow reality TV and why the NRL just managed to take a billion dollars out of the pool that might have been used to make more good quality drama? Reality TV rates OK, but not as well as sport, and "Howzat?" has trumped everything. But drama like Howzat? is exposed to pirating and that makes it very risky. Reality TV is almost pirate-proof so, whilst it doesn't rate quite as well, it is a much safer bet. So every time you torrent your favourite show from the US, just consider how long it will be before some network executive decides it would be cheaper to license The Block than to commission another series.

          I was referring to you being in a band, as I was unaware you worked in television.

          I completely disagree with your view that Howzat is exposed to piracy. Who exactly is going to upload a torrent of Howzat before people can watch it locally?

          In my ideal world I would source the content I wanted from the networks directly. If I want good quality Australian TV (drama or reality) then I would watch an Australian network. If I wanted Game of Thrones I source it from HBO (for a fee).

          Not everybody would take up that option, which gives the networks something to place around their local content.

          I think that concept would go a long way to push the Australian networks to produce better content. Their flagship programs would no longer be a comedy that aired 3 months ago in the US. Imported shows would rate less across the board, changing the ratings war from who buys the best shows to who produces them.

          @ Motormouth: Oh, you again. You're saving the world, man, a true martyr! Bend over and take it bro, take one for all of us, and then you can die happy and with a clean conscience. Meanwhile I'll be over here enjoying my life, creating content myself, taking some, giving some, it all balances out.

          Last edited 09/08/13 5:29 pm

      One of (many) things this guy said that really got to me was implying that bypassing geoblocks was illegal. I do this to use my legitimately paid for netflix account and view other online sources. So Mr Motormouth, am I still a pirate for viewing legitimate and legal content that happens to be artificially blocked for us Aussies?

      Again more of this incorrect statement.
      Copying isn't stealing/theft. As defined in Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theft) "...theft is the taking of another person's property without that person's permission or consent with the intent to deprive the rightful owner of it." Note that no one is being deprived the use of their property when a digital copy is made.
      Copyright infringement is a CIVIL matter, not a CRIMINAL one.;

        Actually if it's done on a commercial scale it IS criminal. Unfortunately due to the way torrenting works (handing out little bits of each file to hundreds of other people) torrenting is regarded as being on a commercial scale.

        The moral of that particular story is that if you're going to pirate, download directly from a single source. The penalties are much lower, and you're not broadcasting your IP for all to see.

        Personally while I download some stuff illegally, I then purchase it if it becomes available in Australia. (Yes, really.) I have DVD box sets still in their shrinkwrap because I had already watched the downloaded version.

        The original complaint seemed to be that copyright penalties are not harsh enough. The criminal provisions allow a term of up to five years per offence. As such, if you download two torrented files, you can theoretically get a ten year gaol term. This is the minimum non-parole penalty for murder.

        I fail to see how the two crimes are remotely deserving of the same penalty.

      It's not stealing, I didn't walk into a store and take something off the shelf.

      "All the above points are simply justifications. The fact is that an honest person could agree with every point you make but that would never justify stealing it instead."

      Whether it's right or wrong no longer matters. It's happening regardless. You have an entire generation of people who, for the most part, do not see piracy as something immoral, and it's too late to try to change their minds. You can either attempt to stop them -- which will be an unending (and expensive) arms race -- or you can make it so that the legal option is more convenient than piracy.

      Is this fair? Possibly not, but that's the reality that content creators are going to have to face.

    this post makes me happy inside. Mostly because It repeatedly states that the large industries are stuck in the past and need to change.

    The problem is the networks.

    Some blu-ray movies come with a digital copy. Why can't they do that with TV shows, but make the digital copy available early?

    I would love to be able to pay $60 to HBO and get a digital copy of Game Of Thrones on release (through iTunes for example), and then they send me a copy of the blu-ray. They get the money up front, I get the content as soon as possible and then I get a physical copy at the end of the series.

    I think they'd make a lot more money that way.

    I pay for a Platinum Foxtel Subscription, I pay for a BBC iPlayer subscription and I torrent half the content I watch.
    Why? Even when it's available on one of the god-knows-how-many channels I have available, I want to be able to watch it on my terms; on whatever device I choose, when it's convenient and without ads. I don't consider it stealing - I'm paying for access to the content one way or another.
    Sure, I could use iTunes and buy a Season Pass, but availability's still governed by the networks in Australia and I'm buggered if I'm going to pay twice.

    And lastly - I very much doubt News International is the largest content creator in Australia. Content purveyor? Yes. Buying TV shows from the US and UK, buying rights to every sport going, and on-selling US-made movies etc. does not count as creating content. AFL, rugby, league, motor racing, etc. was around long before subscription television, and would still be around if subscription television had never reared its ugly head.

      iPlayer? Surely they copied it from Apple.

    Not getting something you want, when you want, for the price you want does not justify obtaining it without the owner's consent.

    The entitlement mindset that you accurately describe is completely on show whenever this topic comes up - people act like they have some sort of right to media created by others, and if the owner doesn't provide it on terms the person decides is "fair", they'll just obtain it without the owners consent instead.

    I usually end up paying for it one way or another. I just prefer it when the rest of the world gets it.

    "I’d bet the dollar I have in my pocket right now that these people you overhear talking about the latest episodes of US shows they’ve downloaded are members of Gen Y — a generation typically regarded as the “now” generation. It’s the first generation that has grown up using technology, meaning there’s no such thing as waiting. These kids have been raised on a diet of instant-on, “I want it now” thinking, and that is now translating into how they consume content."

    Instant on hey? No such thing as waiting ? I can argue that Gen Y are more patient than others because we had to put up with such slow and crappy technology such as 80s home PCs/casettes, 1x CDROMs and dialup modems of various types.

    You 'millenials' are the 'instant on' generation who cant put down their iphone and whos first home PC was likely Windows XP - stll relatively modern system. Has the writer of this article even used something like a commodore 64 casstette loader or a 1x CDROM drive on a slow IBM compatible system.

    Gen Y barely 'grew up' with technology, we were the first to adopt it, it was new, shiny and expensive, we had to learn it. If something newer or better came out we switched over. Schools barely implemented this tech either. maybe 1 to 3 computers per school was common until the mid 90s, when many current 'tech experts' were born.
    Hand cranked copy machines and pencils were common.

    The author is pigeon holing GenY as the excuse for the current situation. Content was pirated in the 80s and 90s, by people of various age and employement when Gen Y were sitll children . In fact was easier back then that now as the media could be directly copied to blank media Twenty years have since passed, not much hs changed just the tools.

    PC games are still PC games, console games are still console games, Free to air is still free to air and controlled access systems (Sat,Cable) still exist.

    Music can still be copyied easily and freely. Apple have even made this easier by removing their DRM. If you do not want this situation then support DRM mechanisms or royalties/taxes on media. Some countries have a tax on blank media, but noo DRM is evil.

    HD/Widescreen 1080 Television is not a new concept either, and goes back all the way to 1990 when Philips was demoing commercial HD 1080 satelite tv systems for europe with content scramlbing - the sample move used in the literate was the 007 film 'License To Kill' ...

    Things were pirated back then and still will be.

    Gen Y was the orignal macintosh generation and are defintly not used to having things 'instanty', our patience is only masking our extereme inpatience. You would have to have been extremely rich to get an $1000 item (iphone) as a gift back then let alone randomly/at launch time.

    Complaining about the cost of local software or media ? I have news for you, when VHS tapes were new in Australia in the very early 80s a single tape could reach over $100 which was alot of money in those times. I cant even remeber if that was pre-recordered or blank too.

    When CD-R was new, writers were $2000 and blank media Under $100 each which eventually dropped to $20 ea by the end of the 90s...

    Always has and always will be piracy. Dont blame a generation. US Alcohol prohobition in the early 20th century.

      GenY supposedly started (being born) in the early 80s (assuming you believe Wikipedia's definition). The original Macintosh was released in 1985. CD-ROM was released, as a format, in 1983. The people in their teens at that point were GenX, not GenY.

      And yes, GenX pirated stuff as well. I recall we had an English class where we were supposed to bring in a music recording and critique it. As far as I know I was the ONLY person in the class to bring in an original tape rather than something recorded (AKA pirated) off the radio.

      My parents recorded stuff off the radio as well, and made mix tapes from the radio and their favourite recordings. All technically piracy. Heck, at the time recording a TV programme with a VCR was still legally banned.

      So you're right that it's not a generational thing, but there seems to be a bit of confusion about where the generations lie...

    Agree completely with your last paragraph "You’ll never win everyone back from piracy, but by making content quick and easy to get access to for everyone, not just for certain territories, you’ll win back just enough people to make a difference."

    I 'll be honest.. during the height of Napster I may have downloaded something that I should have paid for. Now I have the Appstore, iTunes store, Amazon... I can download music, movies and tv series from my phone on the way home from work and have it waiting for me on my TV when I get there. Most of the time I don't even look at the price of the download.

    Its about availability and ease of use.

    Not only will having tv shows available on a service similar to steam be awesome, but it will be a lot more secure because the company would have security measures in place, unlike tormenting which could be filled with people sharing files named as episodes but really be malware

    I hate generational stereotyping. It's pointless hand-waving.

    The networks need to change. It's obvious pirates won't mend their ways and laws are no disincentive.

    Copyright infringement has been going on for a loooong time now, and isn't about to stop. However, just like the printing press and VHS tapes before it, the Internet can be used by businesses prepared to adapt their models in order to make money from content.

    For me personally, the level of availability of content isn't so bad - it's more about price. A shitty-looking SD download from iTunes (or Amazon, or anywhere really) costs more than a BRD from JB HiFi, takes away from my download quota, doesn't include the extra features that I love so much, AND takes ages to become available. On the other hand, on a whim I checked my phone's music store for an artist I liked the other day and because the album was a neat $9.99 I was happy to forego my preference for absolute fidelity and downloaded it while I was on the bus home.

    As long as so-called content creators (they're not creators, they're agents who buy content from artists for insultingly low price and sell it for a few thousand percent markeup, the ceo of news limited wouldn't have a creative bone in his body,) are mad, I'm happy.

    Keep stealing. Keep pirating. Keep pissing off the leeches who suck at the teat of a society that looks the other way while millions starve because they can't afford food. Something stinks on this planet, and it's not the fact some silk suited bigwig is missing out on making an extra few million dollars for their comfortably well off shareholders.

    You know how much money levied in fines against people who "stole" a CD of limewire ended up back in the hands of the real content creators, the musicians? None of it. The whole copyright whine is just another way for the rich to make themselves richer by passing laws that piss on the rest of us. They can go to he;ll for all I care.

    PS I'd be able to afford medicine I need to walk, and wouldn't be in a wheelchair, if copyright laws didn't exist. IP laws are a farce and a rort. The little guy gets hurt. Every time. That means more to me than news limited's head honcho crying about how hard his life is.

    I'm a content creator, and as it is piracy causes no problems for me. I can't speak for other parts of the industry, but I know for a fact that the area I'm in (music) is not having any problems, despite what the RIAA or labels might tell you. Physical sales are on the decline, but of course they are because digital sales are up a kazillion percent. Any boo-hooing from their end is straight up bullshit, pure and simple. Ticket sales for tours are bigger than ever (and they take their cut).

    So I pirate music, and I don't mind if people pirate mine. Adapt or die muthfuckaaaaaaz

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