Another Rant About the Digital Economy Act

We had a bit of a rant about the Digital Economy Act back in March last year when the UK government were proposing to block websites and cut off internet users. As fans of various art forms we obviously believe in supporting artists and have the DVD collection to prove it, but don’t necessarily see all forms of piracy as objectively wrong. It’s a bit of a grey area in which you can’t assume that every file downloaded is a theft. One thing we certainly don’t agree with is anyone having the power to block websites (barring the obvious foul sites of course).

It was a relief to read this week that the government seemed to be taking a more modern look at piracy and copyright. The government is going to drop any attempts to block copyright infringing websites and there was even talk of allowing people to legally make digital copies of their CDs and DVDs for use in other devices.

What an enlightened government, which has finally realised how the modern consumer operates and that it doesn’t make sense to turn the majority of Britons into criminals. We won’t have any websites blocked and freedom of speech will truly reign as it should in a modern civilized society. I mean, we don’t want to become the next China do we?

The celebration didn’t last long as it turns out the only reason this part of the Digital Economy Act is being dropped is because the Motion Picture Association have gone ahead and gotten a judge to force BT to block a website without any need for the Act. That’s right, no need for legislation as all a company needs is enough money and they can get websites blocked by ISPs.

Funnily enough UK Music, a body representing musicians and record labels in the UK, think this is a bad move too, but for different reasons. UK Music would prefer it if websites were blocked by government without them having to pay the legal fees first.

Regardless of whether you consider piracy to be a real crime or not, surely the fact that a private organisation can effect what we can see online is criminal? BT’s CleanFeed was designed to stop the circulation of child porn, not to stop people sharing copies of Avatar.

Anything that pisses off James Cameron has got to be a good thing, right?

House of Lords Passes Piracy Bill

After that burst of culture we are going to get political as the House of Lords has passed the highly controversial Digital Economy Bill which could disconnect people from the internet and block web pages following mere accusations of piracy.

The bill has been essentially written and strong armed into parliament by the music industry and the entertainemnt industry at large. Their claim is that internet piracy is costing them billions of pounds each year in lost revenue and so want those that do pirate neutered so they will in future have to pay to get their entertainment fix.

This is a problem for so many reasons, one being that proving exactly who has been downloading what is not as easy at it might seem as many internet connections are shared and wireless networks left without password protection. Allowing courts to block websites is also a step in the direction of internet censorship for which China received a lot of criticism during the Olympics two years ago.

The big problem is of course that this is a bill written by the recording industry in order to make their flagging business model remain viable. They want to be able to make money the same way they always have in an ever changing world where bands are increasingly finding live performances and merchandising are bringing much more profit than simple studio albums. The main fallacy in their complaint about piracy is the assumption that every downloaded file is a lost sale when so many people download to test a film or song before deciding to buy. Alternatively someone might spend all their spare cash on CDs and DVDs and still supplement this illegally, you can’t say that if someone can’t get something for free illegally they will happily pay ¬£7.99 to get it in store.

Of course there are always ways to operate online without a trace which is what it is expected pirates will do if the bill is passed by the House of Commons. In fact the UK intelligence community is apparently against the bill for this very reason as it will make it harder to spy on people if internet users are forced to cover their tracks.

The Digital Economy Bill is expected to be rushed through the House of Commons before the general election with minimal debate so start kicking up a fuss now!

Alice in UK Boycott Dispute

It was pointed out to me today that I had completely missed the story of the three big UK cinema chains, Odeon, Vue and Cineworld, threatening to boycott Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. In a bid to combat piracy and have the film available for consumers to buy on DVD sooner Disney are proposing to have the DVD out 12 weeks after the theatrical release rather than the standard 17 weeks.

The cinema chains are unhappy as this will allow them less time as the exclusive outlet for the film and so predict they will lose money, and with these three owning about 60% of all British screens and over 90% of British 3D screens Disney would stand to lose millions should the boycott go through. Disney tried the same tactic with A Christmas Carol last year but eventually caved to the cinemas demands so could well do the same this time around.

From the cinema’s point of view it is clearly benificial to have the film exclusively for 17 weeks rather than 12 but isn’t having the film for no weeks at all an even worse prospect? I feel it might be worth Disney calling the cinema chains bluff as I don’t see following through with the boycott as a good business decision.

With today’s technology and the modern consumer’s demand for media content as they want it, when they want it, it is refreshing to see a company like Disney make moves¬† towards not forcing people to wait for access to a film in the medium they want. If someone misses a film in the cinema and are able to then see it on DVD they are arguably less likely to turn to piracy. As the rest of the world moves forward the entertainment industry cannot hope to stick to old outdated distribution methods. Earlier this week Bollywood film Striker was released simultaneously in cinemas and on YouTube, allowing the choice between the big screen experience and a more on demand option.

If consumers can’t get what they want through official means they are liable to turn to illegal options that are more convenient. Disney is making a step in the right direction and I hope they are not hindered by the cinema’s interference.

Jackson Fumes at Leak

A few days ago a screener copy of Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones was leaked online and, as reported here, Jackson is far from pleased. He has gone so far as to say that “those responsible for the leak will be brought to justice with the maximum prosecution of the law in mind” and that “anyone who is caught illegally downloading the film will also be prosecuted to the fullest”, while expressing concern over recouping production cost.

I won’t even begin to consider just how he plans to identify those who download the film but believe that this is hardly likely to damage the movies profits.

There is no evidence to suggest that everyone who downloads this film with give it a miss at the cinema or that everyone who downloads it would have paid to seen it otherwise. The only harm this could do to the film would be if it recieved a negative reaction, which would be the film’s own fault, though this is conceievable at reviews so far are mixed.

I would go so far as to say that sending out DVD screeners to voters before a films release and not expecting the film to be leaked is naive, especially when you have delayed the release of the film. Today’s consumers want new content immediately and if they can only obtain it illegally in the first instance they will do.

Once the film has been released I will look again at if the leak has had any effect on profit margin or if, like Wolverine and Zombieland before it, this is a lot of fuss over nothing.