A young relative of mine -- who shall remain anonymous -- has argued with me about online piracy since he was a first grader. Every time I found out he had downloaded a movie on the web (like all of mine for example) I gave him the usual: "Do you steal bread from the baker as well?" speech.
Today he's a young man and he still downloads movies. What has changed is that I don't argue with him anymore.
See, this kid is wicked smart and he's way too informed to be fooled by the baker/bread line. I stopped using it when he replied with: "if we're talking about a real baker who still gets up at 3AM and hand-kneads a dough made of honest ingredients...no, I wouldn't steal from him. But if we're talking about a massive industrial chain who put all the honest bakers out of business, because they lobbied the government for permission to produce fast food trash that can hardly be described as bread...yeah, I totally steal from them.
That was the first point he scored and it was only the beginning.
Online pirates don't have a bad conscience about downloading movies and TV shows for free because what they know about Hollywood directors and show creators is basically this: http://www.celebritynetworth.com/list/top-50-directors/
As a result Hollywood decided to make it about the poor crew members who won't be able to feed their families if online piracy continues. A move that clearly portrays how little Big Hollywood thinks of today's mighty pirates. See, the kids you're trying to guilt trip are not stupid. They've been on the internet since before they could walk, do you honestly think they haven't witnessed how little Hollywood cares about the crew? Like when all the VFX artists lost their livelihood because the studios started shipping millions of dollars of digital work outside the US? Or when famed cinematographer Haskell Wexler starts a campaign for the well-being of film crews called 12on12off, which advocates for three simple things:
#1) No more than 12 hours of work
#2) No less than 12 hours of turnaround
#3) No more than 6 hours between meals
You'd think that even requesting these things, which clearly fall into the category of common human decency, would cause outrage and concern for crew members by our Hollywood elite. But no, 12on12off has not been approved, on the contrary Mr.Wexler has faced opposition from almost every organization in Hollywood, including his own union: http://www.deadline.com/2014/02/haskell-wexler-sarah-jones-midnight-rider-oscars-safety-iatse/
As my young pirate friend says: "Your hypocrisy is as obvious as a Nigerian phishing scam".
As a director/writer who's clearly enjoyed the upside of residuals, why am I writing about this? Because the hypocrisy spreads to another arena in our wonderful industry that affects me very much.
I get a little upset when I hear how hard my industry jumps into action, sparing neither time, manpower or resources, as soon as someone even hints at potential loss to the crown estate.
You know what statistics are bullshit? The ones stated by the MPAA about losses due to piracy: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2008/10/dodgy-digits-behind-the-war-on-piracy/
You know what statistics aren't bullshit? The abysmal number of people getting hired in Hollywood who are not white males and that's how Hollywood actually does lose money: http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-dollar-and-cents-case-against-hollywoods-exclusion-of-women/
How about spending some of that MPAA lobby $$ on making the movie business a more diversified industry?
Here an excerpt from a Forbes article by Paul Tassi on Piracy:
It’s just not accurate to claim the piracy is significantly hurting industry profits as the metric being used is not a fair or reasonable guess at sales lost from illegal downloads. You know what IS hurting industry profits?
I’ll show you:
Green Lantern – Net Loss : $105M
The Big Year - Net Loss: $33M
Trespass - Net Loss: $29M
Mars Needs Moms – Net Loss: $136M
And that’s just from 2011. I would argue that releasing crappy movies has a far greater effect on the film industry bottom line than piracy ever could. Similar things happen when a hyped TV show bombs or an anticipated game is a letdown. Companies don’t rise and fall due to piracy, but they do based on the quality of the products they release.
So, let's sum it up:
- Lack of diversity has been proven to hurt box-office bottom line.
- Money spent by Hollywood to remedy lack of diversity: $0
- Piracy has NOT been proven to hurt box-office numbers, on the contrary, several studies say it may have boosted the bottom line.
-Money spent by Hollywood to fight piracy: Hundreds of Millions of dollars. (It's almost impossible to find out the exact numbers, but given they spent 91 Million dollars lobbying for SOPA in one year alone, we can all assume what the total comes out to.)
Oh and PS: Hollywood is Republican now: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304071004579407254151830912
So the dilemma I have is that I'm supposed to be on one side of this battle but I sympathize with the other so much more. Big Hollywood and their Gatekeepers have only thrown obstacles in my way and obviously, there are tons of other amazingly talented writers/filmmakers/actors who feel the same way. Some even have the balls to speak out about it: http://www.bet.com/news/celebrities/2014/03/26/john-singleton-on-hollywood-they-ain-t-letting-black-people-tell-their-stories.html
Now P2P on the other hand would totally work for me. If I could make all the movies that bloggers and fans endorse me for on social media sites, I'd have the career of my dreams.
Then there is the fact that my competitiveness hasn't decreased much since my days of competitive fighting, I still like to be on the winning team. But in the battle between Hollywood and the world's online pirates, we're not looking good at all.
How do I know this? Well because, like many people in the film and TV industry, sometimes I find myself in Pirate waters. Because as an expat with two Amazon Prime memberships for three different countries, a paid Netflix membership, a paid ACORN membership, a ridiculously high DISH bill and an Apple TV box, I still can't watch most programs from back home, even though I'm willing to pay good money for it.
I'll go on the website of a German public TV channel in hopes of catching up on some (objective) news and up pops the message:
Sorry, the copyright for this program does not extend to the country of your current location.
Huh??? Are you going to distribute DVDs of German news programs to the US? Is there such a massive market for German programming in the world, that you must block all viewers outside your borders?
Of course when I'm over there, trying to catch up with a US show sets off even more alarms.
But guess what, for every IP block, DRM and who-knows-what security feature Hollywood spends thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours on, some piracy kid will undo it for free and within a couple of minutes.
And this is my favorite part: I am 100% certain that the hacking of entertainment industry's security features provides better entertainment for these kids than the entertainment we're trying to prevent them from stealing. Let that sink in for a second, then try not to bust up laughing.
Unfortunately a lot of file-sharing site owners are thieves, not Robin Hoods. They offer our content and make a lot of money through advertisement. This makes them just like the Hollywood elite -- actually worse, because we didn't sign our rights away to them.
But there are also many file-sharing sites who don't profit from other people's content and are genuinely interested in sharing culture with everybody, even the less fortunate, while at the same time supporting artist. The Pirate Bay is one of those sites. They are also promoting indie artists on their front page for example: https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-bay-launches-dedicated-promo-bay-to-help-artists-121129/
The conclusion I have come to is that there are a whole bunch of good people with decent ideas who suffer from those greedy f•••• just trying to fill their own pockets.
Those of us who want authentic art and a smaller gap between the haves and have nots, we are in the majority. Why are we always letting FAT CATS win, even if they rise up through anarchist movements?
I for one am daring to at least reach out to the other side: