Following the theatrical release of April Showers it had been predetermined (largely because I set it up), that the film would debut on iTunes and then later AmazonVOD. The window between the film’s theatrical release and its digital premiere was but a few weeks if memory serves me correctly. I tried for day-and-date, however that is still a concept many, even the most progressive, cringe at. It wasn’t until April Showers hit Netflix and Amazon DVD did things become complicated. The day April Showers was released in its physical form, i.e. DVD, the term pirate became the only thing anyone could talk about. Why?

Pirating, or stealing one’s intellectual property is a big problem, though there are arguments for and against it that are compelling, if not also a little entertaining. For an independent filmmaker like myself the thought of having my work pirated has always seemed kinda cool, but for those on the business side of things it was the stuff of nightmares. Since I was already the harbinger of the devil for collapsing the theatrical to digital window in the eyes of AMC and other national theater chains, I didn’t really see the need to get worked up over the idea of piracy since, well, it was going to happen regardless. Maybe I should have cared more, but it has always been my view that those hell bent on doing something wrong are going to do it anyway. Hell, I smoked for nearly 15 years knowing full well there was a real chance I was effectively ending my own life each time I fired one up. So, do I think pirating is a big deal? Yes and no. I think it’s a big deal when the MPAA and government agencies see it fit to prosecute 13 year olds to the fullest extent of the law for sharing a copy of LMAFO’s “Sexy And I Know It”. I also know that every “study” into the economical damage of piracy can be largely refuted with little effort. Like with any business there is a certain amount of loss one must be willing to accept in exchange for profits. But Hollywood has never been about sharing now has it. But that’s their failure.

You see, if you want to stop pirating you don’t come up with draconian laws that seek to punish the meek in order to make an example of them. You also don’t shut down sites that make file sharing possible; doing so only martyrs them and causes two more to rise in their place. To stop pirates from stealing your work and thus your precious revenue, you have to reach out them. And by them I mean the viewers.

Maybe it’s a generation gap that is keeping this message from hitting home with content creators, but for too long audiences have merely been pandered too as opposed to being included. It happens at every step of your entertainment experience. Bought a ticket for the latest blockbuster? You have sit through the stupid anti-pirate message. Paid for your DVD or Blu-ray, here’s a giant notice letting you know that you’ll go to jail for doing anything with that disc other than watching it. What if I want to use it as a coaster? What is that a misdemeanor?  I kid of course, but you see my point. But it goes further than that. For all of our connectivity it has actually become MORE difficult to enjoy anything nowadays because the powers that be don’t trust us. They’ve become less a wealth of creativity and more of an annoying neighbor who goes through your trash wondering whether or not you were on America’s Most Wanted last night. I’m of the mind that if you pay money for something I have created (thank you!), well, then it’s yours. If you choose to make a copy of it for your tablet, smart phone, media server or what have you then it’s your right to do so for you bought it.  Before the age of the Internet we didn’t have to worry too much about content being shared for there was only one place to watch or share content -the living room TV and VCR. Even when DVD first came out piracy wasn’t too big of an issue because, well, who knew how to rip a disc? Now with so much data flying around everywhere you can literally grab movies and music out of thin air.

But what drives certain people to do it? I think it’s the condescending, asshole tendencies of the powers that be that drive people to do it. I’m not talking about the artists or directors themselves, but instead the studios and record labels. From iTunes to Paramount, we’re constantly told that we are free to enjoy content on our terms and yet we still have to suffer the idiocy of DRM and the insult that is lesser quality digital copies for our tablets or streaming devices. It’s silly. Just this morning I purchased the anniversary edition of Spielberg’s Jaws on Blu-ray disc. It retailed for $24.99 and came with the Blu-ray, a DVD and a code for a digital download. First of all this film has more than made its meager 1975, seven million dollar, budget back, second, it’s clear the Universal is okay with giving me multiple copies of their film -hell, they gave me two discs and code for a download. As they should, I just paid $25 for the damn thing, and yet I didn’t get three copies of the film to enjoy how I see fit. The digital download will only work on sanctioned devices and only when those devices have been approved by the controlling software (iTunes), which is anything but your way, right away if I’m honest. Plus the digital copy is protected by iTunes silly, dare you to steal me, DRM. As for UltraViolet, again, you don’t “have it”, you merely stream it. That sounds good, until you realize that streaming a movie to your tablet or smart phone on the go is one data sucking mofo, which for those of us without unlimited data plans is an expensive proposition. As for the DVD, if you’re buying the Blu-ray why do you need the DVD copy? You can’t give it to a friend to borrow because that is technically illegal for they didn’t pay for it. The DVD isn’t going to play on your tablet, and if the DVD is for traveling, say on your PC or Mac laptop, then what the hell is the digital copy for? The whole thing is stupid, not to mention completely wasteful. So now you’ve pressed millions of superfluous discs in the form of DVDs, while printing countless index cards of paper with instructions on how to obtain your digital copy, not to mention the Blu-ray disc itself and for what? So people will continue to pirate anyway? Smooth. Real smooth.

I believe that if treated fairly, and not like a dog forced to listen to a high pitched sound, that people are going to take the path of least resistance and generally do the right thing, or at least the thing you want them to do if you encourage, hell, show them the way. Give ‘em a Blu-ray disc and instructions on how to make their own digital copy and see where it gets ya. Who knows, maybe the cost of movies will go down enough that the need to steal becomes irrelevant. Are people pirating movies from the $5 bins at Wal-Mart or are they trying to get around paying $30 for War Horse because Disney is one greedy mother? Seriously, why is that the most expensive Blu-ray in history?  I’m just suggesting that if the studios would stop looking at viewers (aka fans) like criminals and start looking at them as people I have a feeling the ship would begin to right itself. But since the studios aren’t looking to make amends, only excuses, the vicious cycle will only continue.

So in the meantime, please support my film Love In Training by contributing today. No point in stealing it when it comes out because you will have already paid for a copy. Even if you don’t contribute to Love In Training beforehand I still don’t plan on punishing you, which is why I hope to keep this film truly independent from start to finish so you and I don’t have to deal with stupid half measures like DRM and other BS copy protections. If you want to watch my movie I plan on making it available to you in the format of your choosing. Will it cost money? Sure, but as Louis C.K., Radiohead and others have found out, it’s not about peoples’ unwillingness to spend money, it’s about their unwillingness to put up with bullshit. If I promise to keep the BS to a minimum, can I count on you to maybe pay a buck or two for a movie…in HD? I think it’s a fair trade.

Anyway, I apologize for some of the language, as you can no doubt tell, piracy is an issue that gets me going -even though I think it’s silly. Still, I thank you for reading and for your support. Until next time, take care and stay tuned…

Andrew

  • DanM

    No reason to apologize for expressing yourself in what I believe is a fair assessment of all the ways we get ripped off these days. We’re constantly getting our pockets picked by those that think it is ok to steal. Either legally or not the fact remains that it’s open season on our billfolds. I have come to dread going out to see a movie due to the expense. It really is annoying to pay all that money to see a show and have to go through twenty minutes of commercials or previews of everything except what you paid the big bucks for. As far as copying discs I think as long as you aren’t making money selling them and it’s just a few to offset the costs of getting multiple originals then it just evens the score. So way to tell it like it is.

    On a lighter note I must say the picture of you beneath the elephants ear is an eye catcher. If I end up getting a wild life photo that’s the one I would select.

    Dan

  • AndrewRobinsonOnline

    Thanks. And to your second note I believe your contribution does get you a photo. If it doesn’t I’ll send you a copy anyway.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Andrew.P.Robinson Andrew Robinson

    Ever googled your own name and profession and come up with something totally unexpected, yet strangely relevant?

    Three years ago, I took a practical stand against DRM, and the studio’s ‘customers are our enemies’ stance, when I set up the British version of the Pirate Party, a political movement aimed at bringing copyright laws up to date with things that happen in the real world (as well as fighting government surveillance, arguing for more government openness and a few other ideas). While I didn’t get elected in the 2010 general election, it’s still early days for us. As a new political movement, we are doing very well, we have 2 people in the European Parliament, and we are polling at about the 10% mark in Germany.

    While I’m probably a bit more outspoken than my namesake, I’m struck by how little distance there is between the article above and my own views. I’d probably have made the point that copying isn’t stealing (because you still have the original), but apart from that your thoughts on how to treat customers, and the business model you are using for Love in Training strike a real chord with me.

    Yes, we are indeed people too, people who are just like you… and for anyone coming here expecting this to be an article by me, rather than a comment, there’s a lesson for our side here: film-makers are people too. We can and should work with them to get movies made.

    I wish you the best of luck with your film, and I hope you have fun explaining why
    you’ve put what appears to be your own name in the $25 donation credits!

  • AndrewRobinsonOnline

    Andrew,

    Thank you so very much for your contribution and support. I’m glad I’m not alone in my feelings towards piracy and the studios’ greed. I hope with your government ties you’re able to make headway in meaningful ways since all anyone around here wishes to do is bury their head in the sand and do whatever it is the studios and the MPAA say. Thanks again, and, if I may, your message was a nice pick me up this morning. So thank you for that!