Sunday, July 10, 2011
A PIRATE STOLE MY LIVELIHOOD
You may have noticed a delay in sending out this latest newsletter, but in my defence, it took a little extra time to research. Research, you say? That's right, I am not just another whiny guy with a keyboard. I am a whiny guy with a keyboard who reads.
And so, my friends, we come to that ever divisive topic of piracy.
The arguments for and against, practical and emotional, optimistic and defeatist, are widespread.
Starting with my own bias, I must admit I am against piracy. While I understand the emotions that drive it, stealing is stealing. Perhaps it is my Irish Catholic upbringing, or perhaps I have something against Icelandic computer experts. We'll never really know.
Interestingly enough, the arguments against doing anything about piracy seem to be spurred by resignation, while the arguments for piracy seem to be based on a pseudo-punk-rock idealism: "screw the world; they earn millions; nobody says anything nice about Iceland, so we'll show them.....", etc etc etc.
The pirates come at you from all sides: emotional, economic and Somalia.
In a single, albeit long sentence, they will say something to the effect of: "If the movie industry would make it easier and quicker to get the movies I would pay (EMOTIONAL), but they don't because they are all millionaires and why do they even deserve to get paid so much for what they do when teachers get paid so little (ETHICAL), and I shouldn't have to pay $22 to see a crap movie (ECONOMIC), and if I wasn't doing it someone else would so what I do doesn't have an impact anyway (ECONOMIC)."
It is very easy to respond to all of these arguments in one go: "If you don't like film professionals being paid for what they do, vote with your feet, that is, do not consume the content they produce. No demand means less money for the content providers and more for teachers. End of story."
Don't get involved in arguments about waiting times, or economic arguments, because the only statement they make that is rational is the above ethical argument. Which you have just answered in one sentence.
You don't believe their economic or patience arguments are irrational? If you walk into McDonalds and there is a wait for your burger, can you go behind the counter and take it for free? And if you eat the whole burger can you go back and say you don't feel you should pay for it? And if 30% of McDonald's U.S.A. customers were stealing like this, will it have an impact on their business?
In America, just two years ago, peer to peer (P2P) file sharing accounted for approximately 30% of America's Broadband Internet usage. Think about that number - 30% How long would any business stay solvent when a huge percentage of their product, accounting for an approximated $16Billion in U.S.A alone, is being stolen?
So, you know the problem. You are on your yacht on the Somali Coast, and the boatload of wayfaring gentlemen heading your way look a tad on the unfriendly side. Do you open the caviar and get the Brie to room temperature, or grab the nearest spork and prepare to make your last stand?
Perhaps a bit of both.
What if, instead of the current polar debates on piracy (e.g. they're all criminals!!!! VS don't bother policing it, we should tolerate it and try and make money off of piracy!) we had a middle ground, a blend of both perspectives?
The battle to win the hearts and minds (such a wonderful American platitude) of the world regarding piracy will be fought over CONVENIENCE. These days, the population of developed world is not necessarily financially poor when it comes to spending $20 on a movie. They are, however, TIME POOR. Allow the public to easily and conveniently consume the content when and where THEY want, and watch them come to you like Lepers at Lourdes.
How do I know? Because it is already happening.
In America, the over 30% P2P broadband usage pre 2009 has been significantly reduced (with some reporting as low as 8% of Broadband now being P2P), and the majority of what is left in P2P is believed to be music. What changed?
I will not spend a huge amount of time on this, but Netflix for the uninitiated is a subscription film and television content provision service in the U.S.A. They provide TV shows and films via DVD mailing and, in their booming business, "instant internet streaming".
Netflix, and especially their internet streaming, has given internet-savvy Americans a simple, convenient and relatively cheap way to get movies online. They pay one subscription fee ($7.99 a month) and can access over 75,000 movies. Americans have responded in droves with Netflix going from 10 Million subscribers in 2009 to 23.6 Million subscribers in 2011, and over $3Billion in revenue in 2011.
Instead of fighting the pirates' way of doing things, Netflix instead did it better, and charged a reasonable price. They now have 3 billion reasons to suggest they are right.
The "they are all criminals" side of things are innovating too. In the last week, a new approach has been created: INCONVENIENCE the pirates into compliance via a deal between the Internet Service Providers (ISP's), the music industry, and the film industry. This new deal, ironically inspired by the cooperation with ISPs on the war on child pornography (far be it from music and film professionals to miss a good opportunity), means that ISPs will WARN their users who are regularly downloading pirate content. If the user ignores the warnings and continues to download pirated content, their internet speed will be slowed down to a crawl. Can you imagine the frustration of an Icelander trying to watch pornography on super-slow dial-up internet? This new accord will replace the previous media/entertainment industry policy of direct, harsh prosecution of pirates.
Can you see the sense yet of blending the approaches?
Make a web service that makes it RIDICULOUSLY EASY to pay for your content, ironically pretty much using the same model and ease of usage of the old pirate websites (e.g. Napster if you remember it before Metallica brought the wrath of god on them).
Then, make it so INCONVENIENT to download pirate content that paying becomes the easiest option.
Ignore the 2% who will keep fighting on their skewed pseudo-punk principles. They will be fighting their ethical battle on internet speeds slower than you had in the 1990s.
Get everyone else hooked on the convenience.
Wave goodbye to the smiling Brie and caviar smeared faces of the Somalian Pirates and sail your yacht to the land of the sustainable film industry.
Live happily ever after.
P.S. Just so you don't have to take my word for it, a sample of my background info.....
ISPs placing penalties on pirates:
Netflix growth startling many
Netflix Broadband usage growing
Netflix reducing P2P?
- - - - - - - - -
GET THIS WHIMSICALLY OPTIMISTIC NEWSLETTER STRAIGHT TO YOUR EMAIL!!