So if you’re Australian, and you illegally downloaded the film Dallas Buyers Club, you could be feeling pretty worried right about now. That’s because Dallas Buyers Club just won a case against iiNet and some other smaller providers, forcing them to give the personal details of people who were caught downloading their film. This Guardian article gives a good summary of the situation.
I have a few issues with this case, such as:
How is it fair for a multinational company to go after smaller Australian providers like iiNet? Obviously the bigger company will have superior legal advice. They quite purposefully didn’t target Telstra or Optus.
And following that, targeting individuals who did download the film, regardless of personal circumstances, also seems more than a little dodgy.
Australia is well known for its piracy rates. But it is also well known that there are so many barriers to access in this country that its hard to count them. For example, geoblocking, price discrimination, staggered release and just generally being downright unavailable for legal purchase.
Now, I’m not saying that everything should be free. I’m more than happy to pay a reasonable price for a good product. That’s not the issue. The issue is that downloading illegally is just much more convenient and user-oriented than pretty much anything else available at the moment.
About now is probably when you’re asking “what about Netflix? Didn’t it just get released in Australia?
Why yes, yes it did.
But there’s a few problems with it as well, such as a significantly smaller catalogue.
Of course, there are plenty of Australians using a VPN to use and pay for the far-superior American Netflix. But an email leaked by WikiLeaks revealed that Sony tried to lobby Netflix into cracking down on these users. Apparently Australians are not paying for the material using the desired method. How ironic.
Truly, the lengths these industries go to never ceases to amaze me!
They are presented with an enormous opportunity (the arrival of a way to spread their products all around the world at minimal cost ie the internet), and they get bogged down with unproductive law suits and rights bargaining?
It seems a little bit childish and just a tiny bit greedy.
So, if I could get all the heads of these corporations in one room and try and talk some sense into them, this is what I’d say:
1. This is a compliment! People all around the world love your product so much that they are willing to go out of their way to view it. You have something that people want.
2. Accept the arrival of the internet. Seriously, it’s here, it’s not going away. There will always be ways for people to get your material without paying: that’s just the nature of the internet. The old methods of distribution just don’t cut it anymore. And if you don’t keep up (which you haven’t) then people will continue on without you (which they have).
3. If you provide something that’s better than illegally downloading, people will go for it. It’s not that we want everything for free, we just don’t appreciate being treated as second-rate customers. Why should we pay higher prices for things provided for us later than the rest of the world for something we may only watch once? Pirating has its issues too (viruses, mis-named material). Give us something better!
4. Stop giving Netflix (and the other up-and-coming streaming sites) such a hard time. They’re out there trying to save the industry and undermining them by refusing to provide rights will only hurt everyone in the end. This is the future! Embrace it! Just imagine if you made a dollar off every Australian for every Game of Thrones episode they would have otherwise pirated? That’s a lot of money.
5. Please, please, stop treating the whole situation like it’s just ‘those darn young people breaking the law again’. It’s not. It’s an access problem and always has been. The sooner you recognise the problem for what it is, the sooner you can set about rectifying it.
So, in a nutshell, we are at a turning point. If we keep going down this road of prosecuting the little guys, a whole industry is at risk. I’ve talked about this plenty of times before (I’ll list the links at the bottom), there’s not a lot of independent research out there on why people pirate. Isn’t it about time we do some?
This whole situation is quickly spiralling out of control, and we will all be watching with bated breath to see how the next few months progress.
Past blog links (for those interested)