Rantmodo: Village Roadshow's Open Letter, Doctor Who's Open Showing And Closed Doors For Fast Movie Pirates

The issues surrounding online copyright infringement aren't going to go away any time soon, but the arguments around access, positive PR spin and punishment continue to circle around in depressingly repetitive patterns. Over the weekend, three different stories illustrated these factors neatly.

Village Roadshow’s open letter on piracy

Village Roadshow won't take part in the upcoming copyright forum, citing fear of "crazies". Instead, it's penned an open letter than ran in this weekend's newspapers.

You know. Newspapers, where all that illegal downloading takes place between people folding up the newsprint to fold their pirated VCDs of The Matrix around before sending them flying down the street to the next pirate in the paper-plane-torrent world.

Oh, wait. That's not a thing that happens at all, is it?

The letter, headlined "TO AN AUSTRALIA THAT CARES" -- clearly nobody's told Graham Burke about not shouting -- revolves around the imminent release of Joel Edgerton's Felony, and how "All of this wonderful Australian creativity and excellence is in real jeopardy of being lost if the problem of piracy or copyright theft isn't solved"

Then again, as Televised Revolution points out, this isn't about actually facing pirates who operate online but not in newsprint, or indeed the reasons why a single given film might fly or tank.

It's about framing the wider media debate across print, radio and TV in a way that feels favourable to Village Roadshow and its business interests in an effort to drive up positive spin for its efforts to drive the costs of copyright compliance onto ISPs.

The letter itself uses the same terribly rubbery figures around the actual number of Australians employed in the movie business. There aren't, in actual real world fact, 900,000 people directly employed by the tv and movie businesses in Australia. With a hat tip to @Stilgherrian for the analysis, those figures conflate everyone even remotely associated with an industry that might serve movie interests as well as other ones.

Or in other words, in part of a debate that's awash with rubbery figures, whether they're torrent counts or industry "losses", these are just another set of highly dubious "statistics". As Homer Simpson once put it, "you can come up with statistics to prove anything. Forfty percent of all people know that."

Still, it's very clear that Village Roadshow isn't going to change its tune or tack any time soon.

The Doctor Is In

Meanwhile, over at the ABC, I was up early on Sunday morning at 4:50am to rewatch the first episode of the new season of Doctor Who.

Rewatch in my case because I was fortunate enough to be invited to the press screening of the episode a couple of weeks ago, but I was still keen to see it at the proper airing time.

Yeah, I'm that obsessive. It's my version of staying up all night to watch sportsball, or something.

The relevant factor here in the piracy debate, however, is that this was a show where there was absolutely no excuse for piracy, given that not only did the ABC show it concurrently with the BBC, but they also immediately made it available on iView during the day before a repeat showing last night as well. You really couldn't have it better than that without having Jenna Coleman or Peter Capaldi come and sit in your lap while you watch. I don't think that's likely just yet, but still, you couldn't ask for more timely Doctor Who delivery.

Except in a way, you could.

A work print of the episode leaked weeks ago and was widely torrented, which meant that those with very little patience could watch the episode ahead of time, albeit with incomplete visuals. I didn't do that, because I'm something of a purist, although I would be fascinated to watch the workprint afterwards as an exercise in examining television production methodology.

That's an aside, however. I do wonder what overall effect the early leak of the episode would have on the audience. A taster to view the full colour, full effects version, or enough of a meal to mean that they didn't tune in?

If you watched Doctor Who yesterday, how did you do it -- and why?

The Fast And The Furious Way To Prison

One of the big challenges to the copyright holders is that it's clearly as much a battle of perceptions as it is profits. They're repeatedly said that they don't want to chase down individual pirates per se because it's a PR nightmare waiting to happen on an individual level when the clichéd single mother on benefits is sent down for years for downloading a single Justin Bieber track. Many would say she's suffered enough, for a start.

That doesn't mean, however, that this never happens, or that the results aren't punitive. In the UK over the weekend, The Guardian reports that Philip Danks has been sentenced to 33 months in prison for camcorder recording Fast and Furious Six and offering it up for sale via Facebook for £1.50.

Let's just recap what Mr Danks is spending more than two years behind bars for, shall we?

An ordinary movie to go to the big house for, but still Mr Danks doesn't seem like a terribly sympathetic character, given he was openly profiting from his piracy, and, according to the Guardian report, continued to sell copies of the film after his arrest.

Still, 33 months is a very long time to spend behind bars for what is essentially a civil matter rather than a straight up criminal one. UK movie sources were reportedly pleased with the result, with chief executive of the Cinema Exhibitors' Association Phil Clapp quoted as saying it "gives an important message on the increasing seriousness with which our courts rightly view film theft."

I've written before about how there's no easy solution to the issues facing content creators and the way that they can make money from their content as the models evolve. But what we've had over the weekend has been one instance of old market modelling with a fresh coat of very specifically targeted PR spin, an instance of content being delivered to the market as fast as feasible but still potentially stymied by even earlier instances of piracy, and the full and rather hefty weight of the law being brought down on one pirate.

Somewhere in the middle of all of this, we need some kind of reasonable middle ground.



    Had to laugh then get mad at the Channel 10 News last night as they aired a story (read pro Copywrite) about how Piraters are making the Movie industry go broke... One sided, and completely lacking in facts either for or against..! :(

      Hasn't the movie industry been reporting record-breaking profits the last few consecutive years?
      When they aren't talking about piracy, of course. Amazing how the facts change depending on the context of the conversation.

        The point IS, that if every pirate would just shape up and pay an honest day's work for an honest hour's almost entertainment, then the movie industry could be rolling in the trillions mores dollars it justly deserves.


          Thats right because they pirated the film it means they definitely would have bought it had there been no other option available.

        You're right they are making money hand over fist.
        Guardians of the Galaxy is a prime example.
        According to Box Office Mojo it's made in the US market $251,456,069 and internationally $237,600,000. In Australia it's made $17,790,681 now those figures are probably in US dollars which means that it's made approximately $19,133,564.72 AUD.
        Disney would call that a win.

        Production budget was $170 million USD and it's made a total of $489,056,069 I would call that a tidy profit.

    For the record - I watched on iView when I woke up, watched it on the ABC in the evening and will buy an iTunes season pass (but maybe not from the Australian store) when it's available.

    Question - I used my PVR to record the Doctor Who on schedule at 4:45 am then watched it once later on Sunday. Did I break the law? Why not?

      Recording free-to-air tv isn't illegal as long as it's for viewing at a more appropriate time, as far as I understand it.
      It used to be, but the law was changed a little while ago because, obviously, it was ridiculous.

        It's still making a digital copy to be seen later. That's exactly the same thing I'm doing when I pirate a show I've seen on TV. Why is making that digital copy on my computer (phone. I always use my phone to pirate) illegal but if I used a PVR, it's suddenly legal.

          I think you're confusing legal with logical.
          The copyright act states you're allowed to record shows for viewing at a later stage. You're not allowed to download exactly the same show... because... um... because!

          I agree that it's nonsensical but I think we're beyond needing to point that out.

          Because they cannot track or stop you recording from TV and they have already received money from the broadcaster.

            So any show that has been on TV has had royalties paid on it, and that means if I pirate a movie that's already been on TV, royalties have already been paid and theoretically I have not illegally copied a version of that movie. If I tape that show from TV or from my computer should not make any difference. Yes I agree pirating movies that have not been on TV as illegal, but once a movie has hit free to air TV, then I think it should be legal to make a copy just like it would be if I had a PVR.

              It comes down to advertising.
              Theoretically if you are getting it from TV then you are being exposed to the ads that pay the way for it to be shown free to air. If you download it then you are completely bypassing that revenue stream: each download is someone not watching the ads. Less viewers on ad supported TV means companies pay less for ad slots which means less profit.

              From our perspective it's the same thing but for people in boardrooms with money on the line, theoretical technicalities matter.

    I wouldn't be surprised to learn that a large number of people torrented the HD version of the Dr Who episode, considering the iView version was pretty crappy (you think they could at least provide 720p). I know because that's how I watched it. iVew was actually an awesome way to watch it, with the exception of crap video quality. Pretty sure they could stamp out almost 100% of piracy just by offering 720p resolution. Maybe Village Roadshow should be asking them why they're not doing more to "prevent" piracy?

      Australians don't want or need HD you should know this !

      The government is cutting ABC funding, so don't hold your breathe for them to spend more money on HD streaming.

      I cant even stream 720P on my connection which is supposedly cable. Love the net here.

    Watched it at 4:50, rewatched it at the cinema at 3pm, re-rewatched it at 7:30 on ABC.
    I have not yet downloaded it. I probably will at some point, but I am satiated. Isn't that the point?

    revolves around the imminent release of Joel Edgerton’s Felony, and how “All of this wonderful Australian creativity and excellence is in real jeopardy of being lost if the problem of piracy or copyright theft isn’t solved”

    Felony is an Australian film, which means that they would have received money from the government (via taxpayers). Don't bullshit us and say that Australian movies will stop being made because it isn't true.

    Also, the claim that piracy is making the movie business non-viable is also bullshit. GoTG has earned nearly $500 million globally. I doubt that Marvel studios are running at a loss.

    And forgive me for not feeling bad for a company that "reported $45.8 million in attributable net profit after tax for the year ended June 30." but then again that was "down from $50.9m a year ago". Was that decrease in profit a direct result of piracy? NOPE.

    The result was affected by losses from material items and one-off costs related to marketing for the Wet’n’Wild Sydney and Gold Coast theme parks. Underlying profit before one-off items was $56.5m, slightly lower than $57.2m a year ago.

    Their profits were slightly lower than a year ago! Piracy is ruining Australia! We're doomed. Bullshit.

    Source: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/latest/village-roadshow-fy-profit-drops/story-e6frg90f-1227031881504

    Last edited 25/08/14 2:00 pm

      I wonder if all the contributions to the Liberal Party before the last election were taken into account: http://www.abc.net.au/news/interactives/tables/aec-political-donations-table/

    Dr Who, will be the least pirated show Again!. How? Delivery, buy the rights to a show, then refuse to air it for 1-2yrs....mmmm. I don't hold on to stock in my shop for 1-2yrs. Can not see a reason to do that. Other then promote piracy. Buy a movie and lock it up for 6mtns?
    I don't have the time or the energy to download shit anymore. I support the channels and the program's that do not play silly games. Got up at 4.30am and watch Dr Who. Thank you Aunty.

    So the film industry remastering, rehashing, retooling, rebooting stories and flogging them off as 'New' isn't considered stealing.

    All the news pieces on radio & TV, and all the newspaper coverage is aimed squarely at parents and grandparents that have never used bittorrent, but have kids that do.

    That is all aimed squarely at the next generation. Kids under the age of 13 now and in stricter households, those under 18.

    It's PR for the parents to be scared enough to really make it difficult for their kids to pirate through nagging, loss of Internet privileges, and so on.

    This current generation (ie the 18-40 year old demographic) is already pirating everything they want, and everyone involved already knows it. No amount of laws will change their ways, as there will always be proxies and VPNs to avoid those laws and even after you add internet connection + no logs VPN the cost is still substantially less per year than Foxtel.

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