At the risk of getting flamed, caned, and disdained – it’s about time we talked about internet piracy. All the buzz at the moment is about PIPA and SOPA and other random collections of letters. Not to mention the arrest of Dr Megaupload himself, Kim Dotcom. Libertarians are rightly alarmed about the intrusion of draconian legislation aimed at regulating the last free space on the planet. Facebook is aflame with outrage, and conspiracy theorists are experiencing shudders of delight as they predict the end of life as we know it. There’s no one so outraged as frustrated narcissists.
I’ve got no truck with sledgehammer legislation that will be about as effective as the US war on drugs. But let me just offer another perspective for a minute. Someone’s eating my lunch. Look at the picture of the man above. I suspect he’s had more lunch than his own. He lives in a $30m house, with 15 Mercedes among his collection of cars. He parties internationally, spending an estimated $10m on one bash alone. That’s not a crime of course. But what really rips my nightie is that most of his income is derived from providing infrastructure for people who are stealing my lunch.
Oh I know we think it’s all about big US studios who deserve to be ripped off for making such crap in the first place, but sadly internet piracy is not selective in that way. For all the bluster of bit torrent freaks about respecting artists, it seems that thieves don’t discriminate. Let me illustrate with the story of The Insatiable Moon.
It was 8 years of hard slog to get the film to the screen. We believed in it, and so everyone made sacrifices to make it happen. None of the producers got paid one cent. The director worked for nothing, and the only thing she received was a dose of shingles at the end of filming. The writer (moi) who had worked consistently for 8 years, and ended up being one of the producers as well, got – you guessed it – nothing. The cast and crew all gave above and beyond what they were being paid for. A bunch of fantastic private investors ponied up with close on half a million dollars to get the film made. After two years of distribution, including international theatrical, pay television, DVD sales and airline screenings, the total received back from that half mill is $25k. Read it and weep.
In the meantime, our film is available on pretty much every free movie download site on the web. If we had a dollar for every download, we’d be laughing. Who’s making money out of this? I have my suspicions. I get a tad angry when people get rich by stealing my stuff, ripping off the passion of genuine filmmakers and artists.
What’s the solution? Not legislation, that’s for sure. Easier access to legitimate and affordable download sites would help. Whatever you think of it, iTunes has been a boon to indie music. But also, perhaps a little morality. An attitude which doesn’t regard Dr Dotcom as the hero of freedom. A passing glance at the victims of apparently victimless crimes.
Anyone seen my lunch?