The Pirate Bay: A BitTorrent Site with Balls

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Ain’t no justice like internet justice!

Last week Stockholm police raided the offices of The Pirate Bay, the web’s most popular search site for BitTorrents, as most the others have already been shut down by the MPAA.

But that’s not the end of the story. Here’s what happened next:

Kudos to the folks at The Pirate Bay for winning this important victory in the battle for copyright reform. Hollywood says that file sharing is stealing; why then does it keep making crap that isn’t worth paying for?!

Terry Gilliam: My Hero

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… If for no other reason than this quote:

“It’s hard for me to worry about the studios losing money. I’m not very sympathetic to their money problems, because they certainly haven’t been sympathetic to mine.

“When you look at one of their accounting sheets you realise you’re never going to see a penny, so if someone wants to rip them off that’s fine with me.

“If you’re going to pirate, though, make sure the quality’s good. Have some respect for what you’re pirating!”

Of course, the guy also happens to be a brilliant director. Co-inky-dink?

3 Steps to Minimizing Movie Piracy

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I’ve already alluded to this in NOW Magazine, but you studio execs just ain’t gettin’ it, so I’m dumbing it down:

1. Be Realistic

Ya know, bootlegged material has been around since long before Napster, so instead of trying to make your wares piracy-proof, why not give your customers a more compelling solution? Buying a song legally for 99¢ on the The iTunes Music Store is quicker and more reliable than searching for it on a P2P network. And the price doesn’t hurt, either!

Speaking of price, I read earlier this year that you’re combating DVD piracy in China by competing dollar for dollar; kudos for that, but how come the same DVD that sells legally for $2.65 USD in Beijing costs $30 and up over here?!

2. Give Us Our Rights

If you want to kill anything, kill the damn region-encoding on DVDs! In case you hadn’t noticed, lots of folks are using BitTorrent to trade back and forth movies and TV shows from around the world… That’s $2.65 USD that could be in your pocket for each and every unencrypted file!

While you’re at it, catch a clue and realize that while repackaged seasons of TV shows equals found money, you have no right to lock up programming that’s already been paid for with commercials… So back off our PVRs already, and instead concentrate on rolling out HDTV like you’re supposed to.

3. Up the Ante

One good thing about DVDs is that they’ve at least made the vastly-inferior Video CD obsolete. But quality alone won’t make any one format more compelling than another. Take the miniDV format, for example… Quality-wise, it’s just your average video codec, but combine it Final Cut Pro and suddenly you’ve got a thousand and one Blair Witch parodies!

So instead of crippling your hi-def Blu-Ray DVDs with three kinds of DRM, perhaps you can find a more useful purpose for that 54 gigabytes of disc space?

It’s War

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This past week the Motion Picture Association of America managed to shutdown LokiTorrent, the second-most popular BitTorrent directory on the internet.

If you didn’t know, BitTorrent is a software product designed for sharing large files like movies and TV shows across the internet. Unlike your traditional P2P system, BitTorrents are relayed across the network, so that everyone downloading a particular file is uploading to someone else at the same time.

And big surprise, movie studios and TV networks hate BitTorrents.

The TV nets really have no argument here—their programming has already been paid for by advertising. And how can you say that BitTorrents are hurting sales of Seinfeld and Simpsons boxed DVD sets when those very same episodes are still aired on broadcast television three to five times a day?

But the behaviour of the MPAA is much more troubling. Instead of seeing an opportunity for a new model of movie distribution they’re reacting in the same knee-jerk fashion as the RIAA—that is, “what we don’t understand, we crush”.

In time, this will become only a footnote in our digital history. Soon enough, Apple Computer will announce the iMovie Video Store, or some other legal means of delivering video content to computer (and video iPod?) users. But the bad blood between Hollywood and its audience will hopefully not be forgotten.

In fact, I propose a class-action suit against the MPAA for wasting our valuable time and money with shit movies…

Copywrong

In preparing a film I directed for Darryl Gold’s Hard Liquor & Porn DVD, I’ve had to put the kibosh on a perfectly good visual gag, for fear that Darryl and Co. might somehow get sued.

The gag goes something like this: A failed writer, talking about his previous dead-end projects, describes a planned series of adventure novels called “The Hanson Boys”, about a trio of blonde-haired youths who solve mysteries and sing pop songs. While the writer describes the double lawsuit that ensued, this graphic appears on screen.

I guess you could argue that the visual is only funny because of the illegal use of a celebrity’s likeness; I would contend that any figure in the public eye is fair game for parody and satire. If, like me, you find yourself stifled by copyright law, might I humbly suggest a look at Free Culture by Stanford Law Professor Lawrence Lessig. It contains many sound arguments that challenge the traditional assumptions of intellectual property — and it’s free!