alanwilliamson

The Movie Piracy Debate - Dan Glickman vs. John Perry Barlow

This morning I watched a very interesting piece from the BBC that interviewed Dan Glickman, big cheese over at the Motion Picture Association, and John Perry Barlow (of The Greatful Dead).  It was spliced together as if it were a debate each one commenting on the same point, although I got the feeling, that Glickman got to see Barlow's piece before hand.



Barlow was using many of the same arguments put forward by Lawrence Lessig in his book, Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity, that we shouldn't be using the term 'theft' when we refer to the downloading of music or movies.  It is not the same as a shop lifting, by any stretch.  If you steal an item from a shop, then you are physically leaving that shop with one less item in their inventory, they can no longer sell that piece.  But to download (or copy) the piece then you are not leaving the owner with nothing; they still have the original piece to do with as they please.

Glickman then goes into a rant about giving stuff away for free and how it would never work.  He cites "how can any industry give away their product for free and still expect to turn a profit? it would be an interesting business case study to do but only in the classroom".  <cough cough> I can only assume Glickman is completely unaware of the open source movement within the software industry.  It is no longer about the product itself, but the value add you can add to that product.  As Barlow correctly argues, its about reaching audiences that you would have gotton to in the first place.

Both do agree that the movie industry will survive they just need to adapt.  Glickman wants more bums on seats in the movie threatres as the experience of sitting in a dark room with a room full of stranges on a huge screen is something you cannot recreate at home.
On this point, let's look at this so called movie experience.  Only this week I took 3 children to the the local Odeon, and the whole experience cost me £30 ($48).  For that we got to sit in a dark room with another 5 people, have 3 small drinks and a 2 packets of sweeties.  The movie was utter garbage and I should have demanded my money back for being put through 90minutes of nonsense.  Downloading it would have been so much cheaper!
Now if the movie does indeed turn out to be a success, then merchandising is where, we as parents, spend most of our money.  The amount of money we've spent on Star Wars toys far out strips any revenue they got from us for one single DVD purchase.  This is something George Lucas figured out nearly 30 years ago when he signed the infamous merchandising rights on his first Star Wars movie.  The experience is no longer the movie threatre; that is a myth, especially when you factor in the ridiculously high prices for confectionary.

The movie industry is, in my humble view, in a state of shock.  It doesn't really know what to do. The trend in downloading content hasn't declined, yet ticket sales at the movies are up from last year, with the UK industry celebrating a bonanza.  For my own part, I am welcoming the movies industry move to sell me legal downloads, although their pricing is completely out of whack of what it should be.  At least Apple's iTunes @ $1.99 per episode is reasonable but I want my download to be cheaper than buying the DVD, especially since you have no manufacturing costs to factor in.

As consumers we're in for some interesting experiments as the movie studios figure out how best to extract our hard earned money from us for some really bad movies.

 

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