An Interesting Proposal – And the Definition of SOPA
An interesting proposal has been brought up by Jessica at The Velvet Cafe, regarding piracy and the SOPA bill that’s going through Congress right now. Formerly Larisa of the Pink Pigtail Inn, one of the nicest WoW blogs out there, she has closed shop at the Inn, and has become the Swedish Film Critic, as herself at the Cafe. It’s a blog I highly recommend, as she has quite a different perspective, and a different selection of movies, given that her locale is in Europe. So, while I am personally saddened about the Inn, I’m glad she’s still writing – writing prolifically, I might add – and I look forward to reading more of her work.
And now, for the rest of the story…
She wrote a post regarding piracy and SOPA that can be read here. While some of it discusses what we all know about SOPA – what it does, and why it’s not a good solution to the piracy problem – most of the article is an interesting take on piracy, given that she’s in Sweden, and not in the US. What is available in the marketplace is different for the European market, and it’s not always a case of “Just go out and get it” for the people across the Pond. For starters, they are in a different DVD and Blu-Ray Region than the US, meaning that if they don’t have access to a player that is either region-free or of the proper region, then they cannot use DVD/BRs that are sold in the US. (As an aside, Sony redefined the regions for Blu-Ray, placing Japan and the US in the same region – Region 1 – instead of keeping them separate as they are for DVD. I wonder if it was for this very reason?) She feels, and not without cause, that it’s very difficult to play by the rules, when the producers of a product are not supplying the demand in your area for a product. It leaves very little other choices.
She also defines ‘SOPA’ from a Swedish perspective. Apparently, ‘sopa’ means ‘rubbish’ in Swedish.
Where she really hits the nail on the head is the idea that the independents and smaller studios are the ones really hurt by piracy. They often rely on any revenues generated to keep other current ventures afloat while they strive for the recognition needed to make it in the film industry, and therefore, the piracy of their materials has a more profound effect on the industry than the piracy of a large studio’s film, even if the numbers themselves are less. So her suggestion to those who feel guilty for partaking of said pirated materials – whatever the reason – is to give back to the film industry by supporting the independent, small filmmakers out there and helping their projects come to fruition. The film industry needs fresh blood and ideas – the recent trend of remakes being a huge indicator – and the best way to help make this happen is to support those that are trying to start out.
It’s a fascinating idea.
And my response to her:
I think your proposal has merit – it assuages guilt (a driving factor for some people) and it can get money to people who really need it (new filmmakers trying to start out on their own). It doesn’t even noticeably ‘hurt’ the large entities – one of the problems I’ve seen with discussion of piracy is the tendency for the large companies involved to speak in numbers (X millions of dollars in damages) as opposed to the percentage it cuts into their gross and net revenues. After all, if your film only made $2M overall, and $500,000 net, then $1M in piracy losses (just as a big number hypothesis for example, not for a realistic situation) is 50% of your gross, and 200% of your net. In a more ‘big film’ example, if that same $1M in piracy losses is applied to a film that grossed $100M (not that unreasonable now), and $25M net revenues, that loss is only 1% of the gross, and 4% of the net – much more endurable losses.
Part of the problem is that the film companies believe that the consumer money lost to pirating is ‘entitled’ to them – that the pirates would pay if there was no pirated material available out there. I disagree – I would think that many of the pirates, given the choice between buying a product at full price and forgoing the product, would actually forgo the product. If that’s the case, then the film company in question would have actually lost nothing, as the would-be-pirate wouldn’t give the film company any money, anyhow.
What really needs to be done to reduce piracy, is two-fold… A) The price point of the product needs to actually be adjusted to the reflect the real demand out there, with a SMALL premium for recouping piracy. B) The method of distribution needs to be rethought out – convenience means a lot to people these days.
Take iTunes, for example. There are tons of ways to listen to music for free out there without owning the songs – Grooveshark and Pandora are two popular and legal avenues. However, despite this, iTunes does very well distributing money. In fact, I am surprised there hasn’t been any griping about how iTunes cuts into CD revenues – as for most people, buying just the songs that one wants off an album is generally cheaper and more efficient than buying the whole album. Further, one has to go to a store, or wait for delivery from an online order, if one wants an actual CD for their collection, as opposed to downloading it.
iTunes takes both of these factors into account. The product is kept very reasonable in price – a buck or two to own a copy of a song for your collection, and is very convenient – online download for use on your computer, iPod, iPhone, or iPad. It satisfies many of the needs at once for a reasonably priced product in the eyes of the average consumer, and allows all parties involved to get the revenues they’ve earned.
Earned. Not are entitled to. I think it’s the attitude of big business that gets heavy-handed legislation such as SOPA in place. If the parties involved were more reasonable about their approach to selling their product, and looked at the price point and distribution from more of a consumer-oriented view, then the companies might make up the reduced profit per unit by in sales volume. And by making consumers happy, they would entice them to buy again the next time, and piracy wouldn’t be such a tempting option.
There will always be piracy, no matter what measures are taken. It’s like online security – it just takes one bored engineer to break it. People want to partake in what’s out there, and if the companies could make the legal cost to the customer reasonable enough to make the risk of repercussions due to piracy not worth it, then they can actually win this battle, and increase their bottom line.
Right now, they’re showing too much greed and too little thought. It makes me shake my head, like I do every time a professional sports league goes on strike here in the U.S. It’s striking by rich people against other rich people because they want more money, when they’re already rich. It doesn’t garner any sympathy or support from the average Joe.
Companies need to get back to working out problems by their own means, rather than running to the government every time they come across one. Each time the government has to step in, we lose a little more of the freedom that the United States is supposed to represent. Censorship is not the answer.
One other thought on your idea, Jessica – it’s a very Robin Hood-esque solution. Stealing from the rich to help the poor. I would support the idea, if I had the inclination to pirate movies, and would feel better for doing so.”
There are a lot of things wrong with SOPA, and it’s cousin PROTECT IP (or PIPA), and hopefully they will be worked out before it actually moves forward. Piracy is a problem, too, and I personally hope it gets approached in a more reasonable fashion when legislation is passed to try to attack the problem.
While piracy is not a great solution to the problems of the film industry, it should be examined and serve as indications to the large studios about flaws in their pricing/distribution/marketing/etc.
As for Jessica’s solution, ask yourself this – in the stories, was Robin Hood a hero or a villain? I think we all know the general consensus about that.
My 2 yen,
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