Hollywood will regret the Dotcom trial

Hollywood will regret the Dotcom trial

Summary: The many trials and tribulations surrounding Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom may be more significant than we expected, and will probably backfire on the authorities.

TOPICS: Piracy, Security

The many trials and tribulations surrounding Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom may be more significant than we expected, and will probably backfire on the authorities.

One of New Zealand's top-rated current-affairs programs has interviewed the internet whiz kid. Helped by record online viewing, the broadcast was one of the show's biggest audience winners in a long time, with clips shown all around the world.

Coupled with Dotcom's flamboyant image, there can scarcely be a New Zealander who watches the news or reads a newspaper who cannot be aware of Dotcom or his business activities.

Of course, we in the ICT sector will have heard of Dotcom and Megaupload beforehand. But chances are that your average Joe Punter probably had not, and many may not have even been aware of file sharing and similar services. Now, of course, they do know.

And this brings me to my point.

Big Hollywood and the US government may think that by closing down Megaupload, they will have thwarted the alleged piracy problem.

But as Kim Dotcom says in his interview, much demand stems from people wanting the latest US movies or TV programs now, as opposed to typically waiting months for it.

Furthermore, there are similar sites offering the same or related content that Megaupload.com did, including sites in the US that are unmolested by the FBI.

Like a many-headed hydra, if you cut off one head, others will take its place.

The US authorities are fighting a losing battle, especially since digital downloads seem the way of the entertainment future.

Just last night at a mate's house, I noticed that he had Apple TV, and could download the latest movies. As New Zealand switches over to digital TV in the coming year, many new TV sets will be bought, some with in-built internet access, like the set my friend has.

We will see that long-awaited convergence of ICT and entertainment.

Faster broadband, as part of the government's Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) and Rural Broadband Initiatives, will cement that new reality.

And where does this leave Hollywood and the more traditional models of copyright and content delivery?

In an almighty pickle, I would say.

This makes the way that they handle their entrance into digital important. But content providers and the US authorities are coming across as heavy handed. Despite his riches and flamboyance, Kim Dotcom is increasingly seen as the little guy; David in opposition to a US Goliath. Dotcom is Robin Hood, who is "robbing" the Hollywood rich to give to the consumer poor.

Meanwhile, the focus on Dotcom and his websites is making the masses aware of what can be done. Without the global publicity from the court case, Kim Dotcom and his websites may well have remained a relatively specialist and niche entity largely unheard of by the masses, or at least the growth of such file-sharing websites would otherwise be lower.

I am sure that big Hollywood, the US government and the FBI will one day wish that they had left Kim Dotcom well and truly alone.

Topics: Piracy, Security

Darren Greenwood

About Darren Greenwood

Darren Greenwood has been in journalism, not all of it IT, since the days of typewriters and long before the web spun its way around the world.

Coming from Yorkshire, he can be blunt, and though having resided in New Zealand, as well as Australia, for quite some time, he insists he is not one of the 'sheeple!'

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  • Advanced civilizations have judicial systems to provide a mechanism for oppressed and aggrieved parties to try and get justice. In the US, Youtube now pays creators some royalties. This would have never happened if Viacom had not sued Google. US Home video sales (DVD, BluRay, PayTV, VOD, Streaming) are down 25% to $18.5B in 2011 from $25B in 2006. The first BitTorrent search engines debuted in 2004. Recorded music is down worldwide from $27B in 1999 (Napster) to $15B in 2011. Those are real jobs lost that are not coming back until the public realizes that these are your friends and neighbors whose careers are being destroyed by lack of copyright enforcement. Who is destroying these industries, ISPs, search engines and internet ad networks that profit from pointing to and distributing music, movies, software, games and books without paying any royalties. Google $44B a year, Verizon $120B a year, Viacom (CBS, MTV & Paramount Pictures) $14B a year, Warner Music Group $2.4B a year.
  • lol @ steeleword. Sounds like a schmuck from one of the head offices in Hollywood.

    After being stuffed about for such a long time the world decided to stop being FORCED to watch ads and be made to wait months (years?) to see their favourite TV shows simply because local networks want to make as much profit off them as possible.

    Sod off you flog.
  • @Steeleword.

    No-one is denying that copyight infringement (I refuse to call it Copyright Theft) is a problem, but what needs to happen is the opposite of the way things are being done now.

    Instead of coming down like a ton of bricks, first find out WHY a particular service is so popular. To use your example of Bittorrent... Why is Bittorrent so popular for downloading TV shows? Because it provides timely access to content at a rate the consumer is willing to pay, and allows the user to play the content on the device they choose. This defines the problem as three-fold. Point one is the availability, point two is the cost, and point 3 is the number of devices it can be played on.

    Point 1: Availability.
    Why, in the modern age, should countries such as New Zealand and Australia have to wait 6+ months or longer for a particular TV series, only to have them shown out of sequence or at a time that is completely unsuitable for viewing? I could understand the delay if the program had to be physically shipped across oceans, however, in this day and age, the program can be sent worldwide in a matter of minutes. Take into account the timezone and local classifications, sure (You wouldn't show NCIS at 3:30pm, for example) but that still doesn't make up 6 months of delay. I believe this is the primary reason why people download TV shows through Torrents.

    Point 2: Cost.
    I am not advocating that the content be free. Let me be clear on that from the outset.

    However, the content should be reasonably priced. A good price for me would be about $2 per episode, assuming the Episode is shown in SD (DVD quality) with 2.0 stereo sound. This cost, coupled easy and TIMELY access to the content, would significantly reduce piracy rates, since it's so much easier to go to an app on your TV, log in, and there's the latest show waiting for you, minutes after being shown in the country of origin. If you want 720p HD with 5.1 Surround), then you pay an extra $1 on top of the base cost (So the cost becomes $3 per episode) and for 1080p with full 7.1 surround, it's $4 per episode.

    Obviously, this won't stop all the pirates, but it WILL cut down on the people downloading the show because of frustration with local viewing times.

    Point 3: Device restrictions
    This is another point where I feel a drastic improvement can be made to benefit the consumer, whilst allowing the studios to make money.

    In this age, nearly every device is Internet connected, from your smart phone to your TV to your fridge in some cases. Why not use that internet connection?

    Say we have a person, Joe Blogger, who's a major fan of Dr Who. Now, he can either download it via torrent, or he could set up an account with a single website and watch the movie that way. being a concientious citizen, he opts for the site... Only to find out that he needs an active internet connection to stream the video, and he's not allowed to watch it on his tablet. Joe says "stuff that" and Torrents it. Bingo, there's a lost sale. The customer was willing to pay for the content, but the heavy restrictions meant that the delivery mechanism was useless.

    Now, lets set up an authentication system, similar to iTunes in that you need to authorise the device to play the content. In addition, all the purchases are made through a single client, which is multi-platform, to manage both purchases and the respective licences. This client software is clean, and doesn't install any nasty DRM program on your computer. The only thing installed is the client. Joe Blogger sets up his account, and downloads the client. Once the account is activated, and billing information is set up, he browses the store and purchases the entire season of Dr Who, including episodes that have been listed for the current season, but not aired. Joe confirms the purchase, and download starts immediately. Meanwhile, Joe goes to his tablet after reading that the software is (For this example) iOS compatible, so he downloads the app to his iPad, and logs in. When he logs in, he gets a prompt stating that this is the second of (for example) 10 devices authorised to play the videos he downloads, the first being his computer, and he taps accept. I'll fast forward the download, and skip to Joe copying the information to his iPad via iTunes. After syncing, the app shows that the Dr Who episode is available and ready to play, so Joe hits play. For the first time, the App pops up and requests permission to download the licence file from his account to play the video offline, so Joe taps "Accept" and the video plays, even whilst Joe is not connected to the Net.

    Yes, I know my examples seem complex, but they're not. Most of the work is all done via the back end, with the goal to allow the consumer EASY access to what they want to see, on a timely basis, for a reasonable cost, without being restricted to just one method of viewing. A combination of all these methods would likely remove the need for 3rd party sites, like megaupload was, to list the content for download. This solution embraces the consumers' ability to watch anything they purchase on any device they authorise to do so, whilst the studio makes money from repeat business. The only issue which could crop up and kill the whole thing is charging as a subscription based method. This would encourage Copyright Infringement, not slow it down. Paying per show or per season is a good method, as the consumer gets to access the content without worry that if they miss a payment of a sub, they'll lose EVERYTHING.

    These are just my thoughts on the matter. Oh, and I said a limit of 10 Devices so that it can cover family viewing as well as personal. Ideally, the app would also be available on smart TV's as well, so that everyone can enjoy it. Thats one of the biggest requirements.

  • There are many stories and opinion pieces on this subject suggesting the entertainment industry is simply trying to maintain its status quo. Which is fine, they have their rights and are defending them. But personally, they are doing it to their own detriment.

    A decade ago they fought mp3's and Napster, and when they finally shut down Napster they expected things to go back to the way they were. Instead, Apple stepped in and took over the global distribution of mp3's as single tracks, taking the profits away from the industry, and giving convenience to the masses.

    The music industry screams that piracy is costing them billions, and when you isolate specific figures it seems that way, but when you add back in how much is spent through digital means (iTunes, Amazon, etc) then they are making more than ever.

    Right now, you're seeing a similar situation with movies and TV (Hulu, Netflix, etc), where the convenience is merging with availability, and not to the industry's benefit. Instead of adapting to take advantage, they fight change. And will inevitably lose, because of their own reluctance to change.

    As Dotcom says, even if they close down every bittorrent site in the world, something else will come along. Copyright infringement is nothing new. Neither is the response from the industry.

    There are plenty of solutions too. Deals with ISP's to incorporate streaming into a monthly fee. $5 or $10 a month to be able to stream VOD or Hulu content locally would be a massive moneymaker.

    I have an extensive DVD/blu ray collection, valued at $20,000 to replace. If I downloaded a movie, it wouldnt be to get it for free, but rather to see if its worth buying. Something the industry ignores - instead, that potential download would be considered a missed sale.

    If I download a TV show, again, its not to get it for free (I have pay TV), but for the timeliness. There is a slow change towards making shows available sooner, but even there if you miss a show, you can ruin an entire season. Again, not a solution most want.

    The industry hides behind a lot of numbers, most false. Instead they should be looking for ways to profit from this technological change, rather than stifle it. Kid gloves with ISP's instead of a steamroller would see positive results far quicker than the courts will.

    My thoughts, and my thoughts alone, but the TV and movie industry are repeating what happened with the music industry, and at the end of the day thats potentially bad for everyone.
    • In Australia, one is allowed to capture any radio signal and do with it what he wishes. This means that my 3000 tapes from TV are entirely legitimate--except that I am not allowed to sell them as anything other than blank media. The same rules apply to cable and satellite TV and, indeed, those distribution companies have admitted that the only recourse they have against "signal theft" is to shame the guilty party.

      It was under these laws that police radar detectors were also protected until someone successfully argued that simply testing for presence or absence of a signal was to turn a light or beeper on and off fell short of these protections and the sale of radar detectors became an illegal act. Possessing one on your person is still legal. Selling it or operating it within a vehicle is illegal.

      Now that I have heard on the TechVine that there are 'detectors' which use your GPS to plot co-ordinates and are therefore processing the signal, it will be very interesting to see how the law attacks these new devices.

      Getting back to movies and music, I have only ever downloaded something that is unlikely ever to be released in digital form, and refuse to pay money for an mp3 because I want the full frequency range of the music. TV stations used to be allowed to play video clips as filler which was free advertising for the big corporations, until they suddenly decided that they wanted royalties from those TV stations. Now music clips have dried up on TV.

      That used to be the whole point of playing singles on the radio. "If you like this song, please go out and buy the album."

      As far as downloading movies, I was sent a download link for "The Day the Earth Stood Still", and I thought it was the Classic, but it turned out to be the remake which got deleted very quickly. Remove the few vague references to the original and change the title and it would have been a good film in its own right--I may have even bought a ticket to watch it at the cinema!
  • Let us not forget that the music, movie and tv 'industries' crying out for protection here are middlemen, 'rights' holders who charge the artists, producers and creatives for 'services' while weeping that they are losing money. Increasing evidence is emerging that some of the biggest artists in the world have been systematically ripped off by their corporate masters (Kenny Rogers for example, see link below) and increasing numbers of artists are simply skipping the 'industry' and using the net and concerts to avoid similar ripoffs. The rap industry was scathing in its condemnation of the Mega takedowns. Why? Because artists were uploading their product there and allowing their fans to download from there for free or for direct payments of a fraction of what the 'industry' were charging for their product.

    It will take time, the power brokers will rage and hit out, but the old framework appears to be creaking.

    Meantime why are the FBI, 'serious' crime squads and the poor old NZ plods doing devoting precious resources to these issues. Are there not real criminals to be apprehended? Like... say... murderers, hedge fund scammers and lost sheep (sorry kiwis!)

    • Debbie Harry also sued EMI over with-held royalties and WON. Since Blondie has regrouped, it is now Blondie Inc., and they license their music to the distributors. "No Exit" and "Curse of Blondie" were released through SonyBMI, and you will note the words (under license) embedded into the cover wording. "Panic of Girls" took forever to be released until it finally came out on a label called Future.
  • This looks set to be a debate that will run and run.
    The whole 'piracy' problem seems one largely of Hollywood's creation.
    Technology has allowed people to overcome the traditional system of copyright.
    Together, customers and suppliers of entertainment/content must devise a way of paying for such content. The suppliers must also supply in a timely manner too, as wee there are unmet demands due to their tardiness.
    I tend to take a strong property rights view on economic issues, but it is clear that current practices and policies are failing.
    Darren Greenwood
    • If anything, the copy protection method "Macrovision" was of the greatest annoyance to me. When I purchased my first DVD player, the only way to connect was through the VCR. After all, if I've bought the DVD why in blazes would I want to copy it to low-grade tape? In my view, a domestic copy is a COPY, made to protect the original from damage. A PIRATE is a product marketed to me as genuine when it is not.

      I wish I had the URL where I read of a Russian author who released a book that only managed to sell about 3000 copies. Later, on the web, he found a "pirate" version of his book, and deliberately incorporated the relevant link onto his site. Sure, many people just downloaded the digital version free of charge, but it also boosted his sales of the printed book manifold.