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Yo Ho, All Together....

Pirate Bay just got the banhammer.  Four of the founders are going to prison for a year and fines of $4.5 mil, and the server has already be seized for a personal collection (not the Feds).

OneSwarm is a new app for Windows that lets P2P'ers cloak their IP addresses to avoid the RIAA and MPAA (we Linux users have had Stealth mode for years).

Downloading and such is a very sore spot when it comes to people who work in the entertainment industry.  They are trying to build a united front to stop P2P, and dissention is not welcome.  And anyone who creates original content (like me) naturally doesn't want to see a possible career come to an end because people can distribute this stuff on the web and get it without paying a dime.

However, there is an angle people are not considering, and it is exactly what the unified front the content mafia are trying to create overlooks.

Those people illegally downloading stuff?


People who like stuff want something tangible, to support what they love.  Despite the fact that I had all the episodes of Sam And Max on video CD from when it ran on Fox, I still bought the DVD set when it came out.  Some of my favorite games, like Spelvin and Diner Dash, even the weakest Google Fu on the planet can find a site with a password that will unlock the game without having to pay the $20.  I still bought my key.  I didn't buy many CD's until Napster came along.  I could suddenly explore music like never before, and my CD purchases skyrocketed.

The fact is, the content mafia is acting like, if the only option people have is to buy from them and give them their cut, then everybody downloading the latest album by Britney Spears will have no choice but to give their money to them.  But most people don't want to buy Spears' new album.  They are downloading it for free because the album isn't worth anything to them.  If their only option is to pay $20 for a CD or go without, they will go without.  Some things just aren't worth the time and effort put into them.  I hated "Down Periscope" when it ran at the theater.  Drive a half hour, wait for the appointed showtime, buy snackies, all that bullshit.  But, when it ran on cable, when I could watch it at my time and in the comfort of my own home, I started liking it.  I still waited for the DVD to come down to $6 before buying it, but I did.  But if Down Periscope were still going for $20, I'd simply wait it out.

It's all about, as the Clash said, Value For The Money.  The Stress Puppy graphic novel is 54 pages of content and lists for $12.  Now, I can explain how it's a low print run and an indy comic book (which are starting to average 22 pages for $5) to excuse the price, but buyers won't give two shits about that.  If they enjoy the book, they'll pay.  Hell, there's people paying $30 for sick crap like Softpaw, so don't tell me price is an automatic exclusion, what matters is if you can provide something people don't mind paying for.  If they think the Stress Puppy strip is just okay, they'll borrow someone else's copy or find someone who put it online or whatever.  And that assumes they enjoy the strip enough that they just HAVE TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS!!!

The entertainment industry spent years creating this culture where you have to be a part of whatever is happening.  As a result, there is an audience of people just interested in keeping up with the cultural touchstones than actually engaging in art.  And they are making it more difficult for people like me who don't abuse our privilledges to support art.  Because all their campaigns are aimed at this zero sum game, thinking that if they force P2P into the hands of criminals, people will gladly fork over $30 for a new movie.

I will simply remind everyone of some facts.  Since P2P networks started up:

1)  Pop music sales slumped, but country music and Christian music have seen sales skyrocket, sometimes by 100% from year to year.  In fact, sales of vinyl records, that outmoded analog format, increased 25% last year, despite the recession

2)  DVD's are everywhere and last year was the first year sales did not exceed the previous year.  Blu-Ray is not taking off, not because people can get the movies for free, but because they don't see the point of paying extra for such a marginal increase in quality while surrendering convenience (Blu-Ray players take a minimum of two minutes to boot and don't retain your last position like DVD players do) and embracing vendor lock-in (Sony's firmware update that crashed every Blu-Ray player except those made by Sony)

3)  Hollywood movies continue to pull in more money than any other period in movie history, even last year when bombs like The Love Guru and Meet Dave made it the worst summer in five years

4)  Book sales are still going strong, with Harry Potter And The Deathly Hollows selling 27 million copies on its first day of release, an all time record

5)  At the recent Game Developers Conference, every indy who had a hit urged devs to skip major publishers and DRM, because it's a waste of time and resources, just focus on making games people will want to pay for.  Sins Of The Solar Empire, a game that brags on the box has no DRM, cracked a half-million units in sales in less than a year.  And despite Wormux being on all platforms and having the gameplay of Worms down pat, people like me still buy every iteration of Team 17's franchise that we can play because we will gladly pay for the polish and personality they provide.  There's a reason World Of Warcraft makes money hand over fist, folks.

Given that the industry is still thriving, and is in fact raking in the cash, you'd think this would be good enough.  But no.  It's not that they aren't making money, but they feel they aren't making enough.  "We're not just doing this for the money.  We're doing it for a SHITLOAD of money!"  There's extra money to be had if we just make sure everyone has no choice but to pay us.

They overlook that many people will simply not pay and do without.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 18th, 2009 05:41 pm (UTC)
I couldn't agree with you more. Given a choice of paying for something I may not like without being able to sample or do without? I'm gonna keep my money.

(psst... don't forget about TOR when discussing anonymity.)
Apr. 19th, 2009 07:39 pm (UTC)
My stance above is based on many, many, many hours of soul searching. I am familiar with the free smorgassboard on the 'Net, and used to worry that the file sharers might kill things off. I understand a lot differently now, especially after noticing the enumerated facts above and given that, when you are in the independent market with no major company behind you, obscurity is a greater enemy than piracy. And even piracy isn't so bad, as major stars like Alice Cooper and They Might Be Giants have embraced file sharers, saying that they propel sales (and considering they control their own material, they should know). The best example is the Arctic Monkeys, a band in England that couldn't get a record deal. Figuring they had nothing to lose, they put their first album up on Pirate Bay, on file sharers, on Facebook, everywhere. They planned a tour, and sold out of every show, making far more money than they ever would have with the record industry's backing. I wonder if most of the bad talk about file sharers is more the record companies trying to make sure the artists stay in the fold and not learn how to use file sharers to get away from their monopoly. Personally, I feel more dread about my characters getting Rule 34'ed than piracy.

It's the lesson of Prohibition -- you can't legislate morality.

I usually avoid discussing file sharers because it is such a headache -- there are too many extremists who either insist all material should be free regardless and people who feel that anything without a corporate blessing and shelf space in the stores should be banned. Not a lot of grey area in this realm, at least with the ones holding the discussions. Simple takers like I described above, I don't like, but it's not like I'd be getting any sales from them if they suddenly had no choice but to buy my stuff. Many file sharers I know are sharing things legally, like hosting .iso's of Linux discs which the GPL is fine with, or things licensed under Creative Commons, which also makes it cool. I know some sharers who are circulating full cast recordings of a fantasy series (I don't remember what it was) that was made in the early 70's and, despite lawyers establishing the record company still has the rights and can issue the programs on anything from album to CD to wax cylinder, steadfastly refuses to on the grounds that they don't see a market (despite all the petitions they've gotten over the years. I swear to God, only Trekkies guarantee more sales than this thing would). Sony refused to release Mark Isham's fantastic Fly Away Home soundtrack, despite a petition that collected 4X's the number of signatures Sony wanted to guarantee a profit. I got the Radiant Silvergun soundtrack because I didn't think the actual single CD from Japan was worth $150 plus shipping, especially from someone who might not cough up the goods.

There are people who use file sharers fairly, and if it's generally available, they will do the right thing. You want your stuff to sell instead of people getting it for nothing? Step up your game and make something people think is worth more than nothing. For a lot of people who just see the market as "release something and it will sell," making something that isn't worthless may be nigh impossible. Recently, for the first time, I heard Ashley Tisdale's version of "Kiss The Girl" from The Little Mermaid. From voice to music arrangement to instrumentation, it sounded exactly like how Hannah Montana would do it, which sounded exactly like how Hillary Duff would do it.... The entertainment industry likes to describe their creations as "product". When you have something so generic that literally anyone can do it, you aren't going to get a lot of devotion.

Edited at 2009-04-19 07:41 pm (UTC)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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