Eating our lunch

Posted on January 23, 2012 by Mike Riddell

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?

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4 Comments

  1. Bronson says:

    Kia ora Mike.

    Love your take – and it could not be a more deeply personal take – on this internet carry on.

    Again – common sense has NOT prevailed. Those inspirational architects of art and creativity, i.e. – You, will hopefully be helped by some sort of stricter legal enforcement but more than likely our old mate ‘red tape’ will more than likely stuff it up.

    Keep it coming Mike.

    Bronson.

    January 24th, 2012 at 6:18 am ()

  2. Nigel Ball says:

    You do have a very valid point, and you have put it well. But there are a couple of glaring omissions in your description.

    Firstly, your movie has been available for some time now (I think about a year) and yet there is no link on your blog here to where I can download a legitimate copy. Thus, anyone wanting a download rather than a physical product has either to wait or go to one of the lunch stealers! Why? Because your distributors are trying to do the impossible in the belief that they can maintain a monopoly (actually multiple monopolies in different regions). All monopolies fail for one simple reason, consumers do not like theft and competitors want a share of the super profits.

    Secondly, downloading or streaming content is not the same product as a DVD containing the same content. So attempts to block soft distribution methods will have only a small impact on DVD sales, especially as the soft content is going to be distributed anyway.

    Unfortunately I have yet to see your movie which is reputed to be excellent. I have never been in the right city at the right time, and I don’t buy DVDs. Rather I have been patiently waiting to be able to buy a download or streamed version of your work from a legitimate source!

    The music distributors failed to stop legitimate downloads of CDs and they will fail to stop downloads of DVDs. The only question is, will the downloads result in lunches for the artists and business persons who create the content, or lunches for the black market.

    I wonder if your distributor can explain to us why I, and others like me, cannot pay to download a copy of your film? I’m guessing that they will not permit you to add a “Download Now” button to your site where we can pay and download your film.

    January 24th, 2012 at 7:47 am ()

  3. Mike Riddell says:

    Good intelligent points Nigel. First up, it’s very difficult to get a theatrical distribution deal (in cinemas) apart from an exclusive package that includes DVD and downloads. Thus far we’ve retained download rights in all of the world apart from the UK. We’d love to put the movie up for legitimate download, but the financial barriers for formatting and hosting are beyond us – we simply don’t have the $$.

    I agree with you that the key is to be able to make content easily available at affordable prices, and I look forward to the day when that will be possible for indies like ourselves. I see the future of movie as being through downloads, and hopefully it will have the same effect of matching content makers with audiences as it has in the music world.

    We actually have retained internet rights for NZ, so if you can help us find a manageable way of making the film available here through download, we’d be very grateful.

    Really appreciate you taking the time to comment.

    January 24th, 2012 at 11:55 pm ()

  4. Mike Riddell says:

    Thanks Bronson for the support – much appreciated. We gotta do what we can to get the film out there…

    January 24th, 2012 at 11:57 pm ()

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