Friday, February 15, 2008

Another perspective on piracy

Denis Price, owner of "The Picture Show Man" twin cinema at Merimula gave an insightful talk on ABC Radio National tonight, but I feel he's missing an important point.

Denis has seen a "large chunk" of his market disappearing. I have great sympathy for him and can fully understand his interpretation of what he is experiencing - but I think he's missing the point.

The estimates of lost revenue by the record companies, studios and game makers are based on an assumption that everyone who has taken a copy of their works would have actually paid retail price for that work at current retail prices for physical copies. Clearly that's not the case.

Secondly, if Denis thinks that his cinema would be full except for the piracy of movies on the Interrnet, then how does he explain the fact that DVD/BluRay copies aren't available at the same time as the movie release? Surely if everyone was satisfied with the cinema experience then surely movies would be on DVD on the same day of the cinema release.

A new movie can be enjoyed in a variety of formats: iMAX, Digital Cinema, Standard Cinema (like Denis's), High Definition home cinema, standard definition TV, iPod Touch/iPhone, or iPod Video, and many others.

Sure, the film maker would like us to see their art in the iMAX cinema, but the reality is that not all of us will.

Downloading a movie from the "Internet" isn't free - users pay for the bandwidth, and it take real effort and concentration to locate and organise the download. Users must install special software and jump through all sorts of hoops to view the content.

The fact that Denis sees lots of people doing all this doesn't mean that they are criminals, it means that there is a clear consumer demand to get the content they value in new ways. Content providers have not kept pace with what consumers want and consumers will find a way until the providers come on board.

When a new movie comes out, I want to be able to choose how I will view it. Some movies should be seen in a wonderful cinema. Other movies might be best watched on the bus on my portable digital player. The point is that I want to pay the creators of this content but currently I can't.

If we can't buy the content in the format we want, well, I guess we'll look for other alternatives. That's not a threat, it's a marketplace that is being shunned by retroactive suppliers who refuse to keep up with the age of the internet.

The old model of distribution of content, where physical copies are shipped around the world is just silly.

Denis Price says "Indeed, we've now reached a tipping point." but he's got an axe to grind and he's picked the tipping the wrong way.

The cinema experience, where we go to a place with a great digital projector, great surround sound, great seats, and the vibe of experiencing the movie with other movie lovers I hope will live on - but it's just one of many possible ways to consume content.

Often when I go to the cinema, I get over priced food, out of focus projection, way too many ads, and bad seats plus annoying compatriots.

I respect creative people and I want to pay them their dues. We live in the age of the Internet and instant gratification. There is a huge opportunity here, don't fight it, satisfy it.

I urge you to read what Denis had to say. But I think the other perspective should be expressed.

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