First the music industry went after Napster and now the movie studios are against Google Fiber. The truth, it would seem to the average consumer is that whenever anything good comes along on the internet, (that can save the little person a bit of money) the entertainment industry has got a bee in its bonnet.
So what is the truth?
Its a tough model to get your head around, but we live in a world with nearly 7 billion people and nearly all of those enjoy music. If an artist is hugely popular, the internet will spread news of their releases far and wide very quickly. Piracy is bound to happen, but not everyone knows how to or wants to break the law, and perhaps one of those people might hear an artist they like while in a pirates house. Here the intricacy of how piracy affects record sales is to be found, and is very real.
More often than not, the most popular musical acts, like Coldplay, who debuted at number one in both the UK and the USA with their latest album ‘Ghost Stories’ are the artists that suffer the least from pirating. Their material sells well through contemporary internet marketplaces like iTunes and Amazon, while also gaining broader exposure because of piracy- which helps it to spread as far and wide around the globe as possible, in turn amplifying legitimate sales.
Unfortunately lesser known acts, that have smaller and more underground followings are often the most hit victims, in such a competitive market place, piracy can make it hard for these acts to stay afloat. Of course free exposure is still a legitimate way of going up the food chain in the music industry, but for some musical acts with a smaller total possible audience (niche musical tastes that aren’t nearly as mainstream), the outcome can be quite costly. Loss of earnings. Loss of career.
Napster raised these issues, and caused a lot of debate about piracy, and that’s good because a dialogue about piracy is important and contemplating how to regulate it, healthy. After all, while some musicians can win from piracy, some, if not most, definitely stand to lose.
What of movies?
There was a day when if you didn’t go to the cinema you waited to buy the video, and if you couldn’t afford that you waited to see it on the TV. A film is a product, it requires investment and is something people want, it entertains us, it is nourishment for the soul . So why shouldn’t its maker profit?
I think there are definitely issues with piracy that the entertainment industry is correct to worry about, music and film is art, it is peoples life work and it is not fair that it should be stolen. If we did nothing about piracy, or promoted it, underground film makers would suffer and the quality of movies would go down. Huge Production houses that can afford to make movies already make films that they know will be big sellers, leading to formulaic, dumbed down plots. On top of this a younger more inspired generation of film makers either wont get in to film making in the first place (because of the lack of rewards), or might try once only to realise that there is no reward, making them quit in hunt of a job that feeds their family.
What has this got to do with Google Fiber I hear you asking?
Google Fiber (if you don’t already know) is an internet package, that after an initial 300 dollar set up fee allows the user to access the internet, unlimited, at 5mbps ( and much higher speeds at various monthly costs). When it was first trialled in Kansas city in 2012, two thousand people were given a survey about it by the film industry. Of those that took the survey that said they currently did pirate movies, a third of those responded that having a fast, unlimited internet connection probably would encourage them to pirate more.
Only a third? Really!? I suspect more! If someone is already morally at ease with pirating movies, and currently does so, then why on earth are they not likely to do so more efficiently if their internet speed and availability goes up? Its just common sense. The movie industry having a problem with this, however, is not common sense- it is completely ridiculous.
Once upon a time we needed a computer the size of a small warship to send a rocket to the moon, now we have more power in our palms. Computers get faster, the internet gets faster. Deal with it Spielberg. It is as if Hollywood would have us go back to dial up connections, because it suits them better if people cannot pirate as many movies. Absurd.
On Torrentfreak, when discussing the possible benefits for Hollywood from Google Fiber, the author said about the Kansas survey,
“For example, the same report also concludes that 39% of the respondents would use paid streaming subscription services more, while 34% would rent and purchase more on-line video. Yet, there is no mention of the potential extra revenue that will bring in.”
I agree wholeheartedly with the author at Torrentfreak that Hollywood’s stance is one of absolute power and greed. At the top end of the entertainment industry the benefits of the extra exposure need to be offset against the possible losses due to copyright theft. If Industries that rely on the sales of piratable material don’t look for other ways of stopping piracy, and if they can’t find new, innovative and engaging ways of creating sales, then in my opinion they deserve to lose their foothold in the industry.
These days there are ways for musicians to succeed, but they have to go about things in new ways, and being independent is a great choice. In truth artists can make a career for themselves with just a few thousand fans worldwide, by tailoring releases to engage with fans, and by using well-branded and well thought out merchandise, as well as producing limited edition autographed releases (and releases that combine with entry to a concert, for example). Its hard and takes work but artists can survive, and it is by moving with the times and behaving like independent artists that music labels can best avoid piracy. Hitting demographics effectively, finding their market, and targeting it well.
Digital releases are all well and good, and if people want a soulless mp3, then let them have it! It wasn’t that long ago though that bands like ‘YES’ released fabulous works of art with their vinyl. Releases were big hefty things that filled you with awe and captured your imagination: you might have even kissed one the excitement was so great, or so my dad tells me! Why should the record industry not have to provide something like that any more? Why should they not have to make people want to buy their product? Like they used to? It seems to me that the internet has made the entertainment industry lazy and expectant, like a bloated Elvis waiting at Graceland for the fans to pour forth, as if he were a god to bring offerings to.
While I’ll never be very pro-copyright theft myself, I can’t abide nonsense. Its about time Hollywood and the music industry started looking at ways to protect itself that don’t rely on stagnation of service for the consumer, because that is never going to be the solution.