So, for the time being, SOPA and PIPA are dead. Both the house and Senate have postponed consideration of their respective legislation and that is all thanks the work you did, Internet. Of course, the MPAA and the RIAA—in traditional Empirical fashion—are already well on their way in development of their next Death Stars. If you haven’t heard of either OPEN or ACTA I strongly urge you to click on those links. That shit is far more important than any half-baked thought I’m going to write here.
I personally feel that these blatant attempts at lobbying in order to maintain their control over how media is shared is one of the death throes of our current entertainment industry. Television and music companies have gotten far too large, to the point where they think that they’re more powerful than they really are. A good example of this would be MPAA’s Chris Dodd publicly threatening to cut off any “Hollywood” funding to politicians that do not side with the entertainment industry. There is currently a petition looking for signatures to have the Obama Administration investigate this public attempt at bribery. The Obama Administration has pledged to respond to the petition if it reaches 25,000 signatures. I personally think you should sign it, since at the time of writing this there is already less than 5,000 signatures needed to reach its goal.
Alright, enough political jib-jab. Although I feel the topic of Internet censorship is incredibly important it’s not really what I wanted to discuss today. What I really want to focus on is two-part. The first part, which can be summed up nicely, is don’t fuck with the Internet. It is larger than any government. It is more important to our global society than any other human invention. It is our job as users to continue to protect the last true entity of free speech and communication.
The second part of this soap-box rant will hopefully be less preachy. I’d like to discuss the problem brought forth by both SOPA and PIPA, that being Internet piracy. I understand Hollywood’s desire to maintain control over their content. I also understand the Internet’s desire to freely share information. The fact of the matter is, something has to change.
In my opinion, the MPAA and RIAA are currently half-way through the age-old proverb “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”, they just haven’t quite given up on the thought of beating ’em. In its current (and hopefully constant) state, the Internet is too large for anyone to properly control. It’s a digital wild west. In this glorious cyber-world of ours, the old forms of distribution are obsolete. As The Pirate Bay wrote in its very own press release, these bills were formed “based on the fact that we’re competition [for the MPAA]. We’ve proven that their existence in their current form is no longer needed. We’re just better than they are.”
And that much is true. Pirating is fast, convenient and free. Is that fair to the companies who are shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars to create this content? No, not really. So how can the struggling entertainment companies compete with these pirates?
They need to adapt.
I, for one, am a lazy individual and—despite what a majority of the mainstream media claims—pirating can be a bit of a hassle. As a lazy American, I would much rather pay for something that is convenient rather than work at all for that same thing. I feel as though this concept may resonate with others, noting how media websites such as Netflix and Spotify have made millions by supplying large amounts of content for minimal cost. Some entertainers, namely Louis CK, have recently made over one million dollars by cutting out the middle man and supplying a DRM-free $5 download of his most recent stand up special.
The underlying theme of this is convenience, something of a four letter word in the entertainment industry. Television has been making revenue by only allowing you to watch a certain show at a certain time in order to sell ad space during that show. Movies require you enter a local facility and pay exorbitant prices to view the product. Their revenue is cut when consumers realize there is better way to obtain the content.
Now, Hollywood has attempted adaption through streaming content online, but the problem there is their desire to continue their restrictive tendencies. They only allow certain episodes to be viewed at certain times. Some channels only provide enticing snippets in attempt to get you to tune in during their scheduled television air times. That is so twentieth century. With subscription services such as Netflix and the ability to purchase full seasons of television has created a consumer group eager to marathon through whatever the new hot show is. If the ability to plow through every episode of Breaking Bad is not available on AMC.com, it’s only a few short clicks to thepriatebay.org.
If television companies want people to watch programming through their online channels, they need to provide all of it. Not the last three episodes. Not season 1 of 6. All of it. Throw a couple commercials in between. People will watch them.
Motion picture companies have a different problem. To ensure return on their investment, they’re putting large sums into “guaranteed” films (remakes, sequels, adaptations). They are quite used to receiving the majority of their income through ticket sales. What they refuse to understand is that is the way of the past.
As a culture, we are all become more introverted with each passing year. You would rather look down at your phone than talk to the person next to you. Combine that with the fact that a majority of Americans have home theater systems that rival the theaters (I would say “beats” when you consider the lack of loud people/cellphones/exorbitant popcorn prices) and you have a new generation who doesn’t want to leave the house.
So what would I suggest to Hollywood? Stop releasing things in theaters. Well, not really. There is something great about seeing a movie with friends in a dark room filled with strangers. What I really think the solution would be is simultaneous release both in theaters and digitally. Streaming video is the future. Hell, it’s practically the present. Entertainment companies need to adapt in order to survive, and allowing people to legally download your film (say at half the price of a movie ticket) on the same day as release (or even before) I would expect to see grand results.
Are some jerks going to keep pirating everything you make? Yeah, there are. That is something that I don’t personally think will ever be stopped. Some people just like free shit and you won’t be able to stop them; not with laws, not with threats. However, as I said, a majority of America must feel your distribution methods are outdated. All you have to do is give them the proper option to support you.
So I just rambled on like a jackass. Sorry if that got a bit too preachy. I would really like to know your opinion. How do you feel about SOPA/PIPA/et cetera? If you had the chance, how would you change the way media was distributed so everyone got a fair deal? Leave a comment with your thoughts!