Last week Kim Dotcom — the notorious king of piracy — unveiled Mega, his new, barely legal file sharing site that is sure to be a haven for illegal video sharing. Film distributors are up in arms and a renewed cry for harsher consequences has reached the ears of Congress.
Yet there is no legislation, lawsuit or technical restriction that can stop piracy. In an industry riddled with conflicts of interest, many leaders of media companies are reluctant to speak frankly, but every single one of them knows they cannot protect against piracy in any absolute way. We can put up roadblocks, we can scramble data, but there is always a way around digital security.
So how do we defend against piracy when there is no way to secure content?
Kim Dotcom himself provided the answer in this tweet a couple of weeks before launching Mega:
@KimDotcom: How to stop piracy: 1 Create great stuff 2 Make it easy to buy 3 Same day worldwide release 4 Fair price 5 Works on any device
This is the same core message that online media companies have been trying to get across to the film industry for several years. Anyone who has worked on digital distribution knows without a doubt that the root causes of piracy are actually on the supply side. Even media executives who won’t admit to it publicly know that the core problem behind piracy is the user experience of legal purchase and viewing.
Ironically, last week the MPAA — creators of the FBI warning on DVDs and champions of digital rights management systems that prevent purchases on one device from being played on another —accused Kim Dotcom of damaging the consumer experience. But citing consumer experience as an attack on piracy only points out how flawed and out of touch the MPAA approach is. Most pirated titles available in crisp HD of course (shaky 8mm footage captured in a theater is now a rarity) and the consumer experience is also about the entire process of finding a film, paying for it, and watching whenever you want. In that context the pirates are often providing a user experience that competes very well with most traditional options.
So deal with piracy head on, distributors, filmmakers and studios at every level need to stop complaining about the ethical and commercial problems of piracy and begin competing with it. Media executives have long argued that they “can’t compete with free” but the marketplace consistently disproves that notion, and the huge success of systems like iTunes utterly destroys it. iTunes, Netflix, Hulu and others have succeeded precisely because they compete directly with piracy by providing better accessibility, ease of use and instant gratification.
Viewers can now watch almost any widely released film, in HD, on any device, almost immediately. Whether they choose to pay for it or not is largely up to the distributor.
Rob Millis is the founder of Dynamo Media and one of the creators behind the Dynamo Player, the first online pay-per-view platform freely available to independent filmmakers. Rob was an early pioneer of online video production and distribution, and has been a founder, investor or advisor with several online media and industrial technology companies. You can find Rob on Twitter at @robmillis or learn more about Dynamo at http://www.DynamoPlayer.com.
SF Film Society Blog
Thrilled to announce our 2015 SFFS / Hearst Screenwriting Grant finalists. Eight amazing projects in contention for a $15,000 prize. Pictured: Maris Curran, a former SFFS / KRF Filmmaking Grant winner (#FiveNightsInMaine) and a current Hearst finalist. Head over to blog.sffs.org for full details. #SFFSsupports #WomenInFilm
Stoked to see the Academy Do The Right Thing: #SpikeLee — along with actress Gena Rowlands — will receive an honorary Oscar this year. Lee is pictured here at #SFIFF 50, where we presented him with the Festival's Directing Award. Photo by #TommyLauPhotography.
"Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn't matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we've done something wonderful, that's what matters to me."
Not saying that IBM hasn't done wonderful things, too. But Apple's Steve Jobs was irrefutably one of the most innovative minds in tech in the history of the industry. See Alex Gibney's doc on Jobs & other #SFIFF alumni on the big screen this September. Full list at blog.sffs.org. #SeeMoreSFIFF
No need to leave the weekend's adventures behind: Lots of amazing films currently rolling in Bay Area theaters. Trying to get transported? Catch #SFIFF alum #Meru at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas or at Landmark Shattuck Cinemas over in the East Bay. #SeeMoreSFIFF ⛺️
Ready to get wild this weekend, but not before marking our calendars; #ToddHaynes is coming to town! The filmmaker — known for provocative stories that subvert narrative structure and resound with eroticism (Velvet Goldmine, Far From Heaven, more) — will chat with SFFS Executive Director Noah Cowan September 24 at JCCSF. Hopefully both wearing boas. Tickets at jccsf.org.
Haynes pictured here with #ChristianBale in a shoot for #VelvetGoldmine.
“It’s hard to pinpoint a specific moment from my evening at Pixar because there were just so many things that left me awestruck. Being in the very building where many of my dearest friends were brought to life was such a moving experience... I got my first real taste of my dream job and it was incredible.”
—High School Essay Contest Winner
Summer school is sadly out of session. We had a *such* a great time hanging with (read: learning from) Bay Area youth and students from far & wide over these past few months. Head to blog.sffs.org to see what we all got up to. #SFFSeducates
#WCW: Crystal Moselle, a smart & sensitive observer. See her #SundanceFilmFestival Grand Jury Prize-winning doc #TheWolfpack at the Castro Theatre TONIGHT! It double-features with fellow Fest alum #LoveAndMercy. Photo by Pat Mazzera. #SFIFF #SeeMoreSFIFF
Just ONE MORE DAY to apply for Film Society internships! We are gearing up for an exciting Fall Season and currently crewing up in our Communications, Development, Operations, Programming, Filmmaker360 and Youth Education departments. Hang with this crew and gain nonprofit arts management skills, event production experience, behind-the-scenes exposure to the world of film exhibition and more. Details at sffs.org, apps close TOMORROW at midnight. Photo by #PamelaGentile, throwback to #SFIFF 52.
"A Hollywood executive famously quipped, 'He's just another California blond — throw a stick at Malibu, you'll hit six of them!' That was before said blond went on to become the most bankable international male star of his time: An everyman matinee idol, at once accessible, impenetrable, untouchable, transforming blinding male beauty into box-office success." —Writer Andrew Bailey on #RobertRedford
Happy 79th to the Sundance Kid. Recipient of #SFIFF 52's Peter J. Owens Award, a prize given each year to honor an actor whose work exemplifies brilliance, independence and integrity.
Missing that (surprisingly) beachy San Francisco weekend weather. Luckily, surf's still up at the #CastroTheatre, where Festival alums #LoveAndMercy and #TheWolfpack will screen together TOMORROW night. Vibrations: very good. #SFIFF #SeeMoreSFIFF