Thursday, November 3, 2011

Fighting Online Piracy

Online piracy is rampant for films. Even our small indie films can be found for free online. It sucks.

As it is, indie filmmakers struggle to earn a living making movies. With piracy, we are losing out on major revenue that could allow us to be financially stable and pay our investors back so we can keep making more films.

We aren't huge studios with deep pockets. Every film sale or rental helps us keep the lights on. Should producers of quality product be forced to find temp jobs to survive when their films could be supporting them if only they weren't being stolen?

To rub salt in our wounds, web sites like Pirate Bay actually think it's funny that filmmakers want to protect their work that they spent millions creating and now have to spend years recouping. They go so far as to ridicule anyone who sends them Takedown Notices. Here are some choice quotes from their responses to Takedown Notices (from their Web site here):

  1. We would like to refer you to our Legal Threats section, on which we, while having much fun, ridicule people like you. Thank you for your contribution.
  2. Hello and thank you for contacting us. We have shut down the website in question. Oh wait, just kidding. We haven't, since the site in question is fully legal. Unlike certain other countries, such as the one you're in we have sane copyright laws here. But we also have polar bears roaming the streets and attacking people. 
  3. ...and I would like to refer you to the relevant court cases. Unfortunately, our legal team partied quite heavily last night, so the only reference I can provide you with is Hogsta Domstolen (the Swedish Supreme Court) NJA  1996 page 79.
  4. Damnit. You got us there. Now I'm scared I pissed my pants. Where should I send the invoice for cleaning them?
  5. You have scored 10 out of 10 points on our Legal Threats Entertainment scale. You win the grand prize: A lifetime of ridicule on our legal threats section (! Congratulations!
  6. Please also note that I'm not currently out of toilet paper, so you may wait a while before sending legal papers.
  7. Please don't sue us right now, our lawyer is passed out in an alley from too much moonshine, so please at least wait until he's found and doesn't have a huge hangover...
  8. It is the opinion of us and our lawyers that you are ....... morons, and that you should please go sodomize yourself with retractable batons.

These responses are ridiculous. A professional Web site will honestly call others morons and tell them to go sodomize themselves? Sane copyright laws means it's okay to help content be stolen? Now who's insane?

These sites mock content creators and act as if they aren't culpable in copyright infringement. That's like saying you shouldn't be charged as an accessory to murder because you didn't actually pull the trigger.

Well, it's time to fight back. I have spent hours tracking down links that offer our films for free. But recently my biz partner Jade found this site that helps us find the pirates:

We've signed up and so far, it's found almost 500 links that should come down. That's a lot of links!

I have no idea if this site will really work but we're giving it a try and I'll report back. All I know is we need to fight for our films and revenue. Our livelihoods depend on it. And no, we aren't morons. We're victims.

A call for change: For anyone who thinks it's harmless to use torrents and watch content for free from illegal sites, please think about the filmmakers who made that film that you are enjoying. We are just like you with bills and families to support. We can only survive and thrive and make more films for you to enjoy if you pay for our work. Independent filmmakers often work for free to make their films because we believe in entertaining the world with stories above and beyond what the studios can provide and we RELY on our earnings from rentals and sales to live. I understand entertainment can be expensive, but it's very costly to make as well. We can't keep providing entertainment if it's going to keep getting stolen. Please stop using these sites and help us survive.


Anonymous said...

How about making your films easily accessible so people don't have to pirate them?

Or pricing them on a "pay what you want" model. You will find an audience will be more than generous in supporting you if they like your work. I've personally done this with dozens of indie films and video games.

If you find that more people are pirating your movie than paying for it, or the percentage is really high, I would take a long hard look at your business model before you go and blame the downloaders (who are, in fact, also your audience).

And the pirate bay being professional? I don't know what planet you live on, but it never has been professional. It's run by activists.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, you are wrong about possession. When I purchase something from someone else, I own that object, and can do as I like with it.
Resell it, destroy it, mash it, make a billion copies and give them away.

You cannot own an idea; no matter what fancy paperwork you cite, ideas are free. Likewise, you cannot sell something, and claim to retain ownership over it.

You sold it.

Yeah, you can buy this car, but you can never drive it to Chicago, or let others drive it.

janekk said...

A business model that allows people to pay $1 to $20 for a movie to own and then allows them to upload it to the internet and "share" it with thousands of people they don't know is not sound.

If people want to kill the careers of others through reckless downloading then that is their prerogative. And my blog post will certainly not change their minds. My hope is that my appeal can reach those who care about supporting the careers of those who do entertain them.

Those who use torrents etc can make claims that what they are doing isn't wrong but when these actions can lead to the demise of an industry then there's a major problem. Sure the studios may be able to make it through but independent companies who make about one movie per year cannot handle that kind of hit. How can a filmmaker pay off his/her multi-million dollar budget with $15 from one person who then shares it for free to the world?

Oftentimes, the films are easily accessible through iTunes, Amazon, etc etc. And priced appropriately. And many people do pay for the films. But just as many do not. This message is to those who do not.

Anonymous said...

Industries are born, die and reinvented all the time. I don't lament the failure of the current entertainment model, it's not very old and has been built of a very significant imbalance of power between producers and audiences.

People don't pirate your movies because they just want to steal, they're doing it because they like and/or are interested in your movie. Stop thinking of them as external to your audience and try to harness their potential. Go on TPB, comment on the torrent on how people can support you financially. They've done it before and they'll do it again.

A lot of the time it's simply a lack of knowledge on how to support indie films. Unless you live in a city with a theatre that plays your limited release, you won't have access to the film. You need to start promoting how people can support you better, so that the second thought in the downloader's mind is you've worked hard on this film and they can go *here* to show their support. I will often download a movie, like it and then go and purchase a digital copy. Or I will purchase a DVD and then download a copy for my computer.

This isn't as simple as you think it is. Making the wrong assumptions is straight up the best way to kill any project you are trying to succeed with.

janekk said...

Anonymous, I think you're assuming that I don't understand and appreciate your argument. I'm sure there are well-intentioned people who pirate our films. In fact, if they email me, I will probably mail them a copy of the film myself for free.

I think there is a lot of room for discussion on this topic and thanks for participating!

Anonymous said...

There are no wrong assumptions. People who use torrents are conveniently circumventing the chance to pay for a film, etc. so they can get it for free, PERIOD. They do not care that they are stealing it.

"Pay what you want" is not realstic in this world son, one reason being people will never pay enough for anything if given the opportunity, but nice try. Go out and spend thousands/millions and months of your sweat and tears over a film (with others) and then tell us how much you think your film is worth to buy. Adopt that policy for your films and then see how long you make it in this business. You won't. And you don't care anyway so...

Stephen M. Cook needs a lesson in what "possession" really is with regard to copyrighted entertainment. Jane is talking about people downloading her film for FREE instead of paying to own it like every other law abiding person out there. Once you buy it, yes you can resell it, destroy it, yadda yadda but you cannot get it originally for free without breaking the law and you cannot make it free to others as well (i.e torrents).

Telling people common sense things like they should be paying for something that they already get for free is opening the door to rude ignorant comments like these.

Anonymous said...

I think that there is one thing that we can all agree on here. The entertainment industry is in desperate need of change. Whether it's the producer-audience disconnect or the exposure (or lack thereof) that up-and-coming filmmakers are able to get (there are tons of other aspects that I am omitting, I know), the most responsibility falls on the shoulders of the entertainment industry.

Placing the blame on a few organizations that host torrent files or other means of filesharing is absurd. These people are not responsible for the problems in the film business (nor are they responsible for the problems in any other part of the entertainment industry).

Also, why should people, such as the founders of thepiratebay take such threats seriously? It needs to be understood that internet pirating is not solely responsible for the inevitable collapse of our entertainment industry. As has been stated, "How about making your films easily accessible so people don't have to pirate them?".

Perhaps filmmakers should be more proactive in relating to their audiences. They should register on sites such as thepiratebay and talk with the users who downloaded their work. Once again, as was posted previously, people who download will gladly provide financial support to need it. The lack of communication between those who create entertainment and those who enjoy it is arguably the biggest flaw in the industry.

janekk said...

I'm really surprised at the support of people pirating movies. I don't know how much more accessible we can make our movies when they are available on all the major sites for download and sale and rental? We go out of our way to make our films accessible even when distributors make it hard on us.

Plus there are many ways to reach the filmmakers and ask them for free copies etc. I really think excuses are being made here to allow people to be lazy and cheap.

I really don't think our audience is going to be people who think it's okay to steal films. That's like stores going to shoplifters and trying to find out why they steal and trying to rehabilitate them. Shoplifters are broke or have a compulsion. They are not the store's patrons. I would rather focus on the audience that sees a value in my film - not the audience who could care a less that they are pirating.

Anonymous said...

I understand what you're saying, but the problem with your argument is that those who take part in filesharing are not at all similar to shoplifters. If you look closely at these sites you will see that they have a strong following of registered users that are quite public about what they do.

This being the case, there is actually an opportunity for filmmakers to connect more directly with what has become a huge counterculture in society. This is actually the perfect chance for filmmakers to be more philanthropic with their work.

This is great because it provides a new conduits for filmmakers to get direct communication from audiences, which would be beneficial for both parties in the advancement of the film industries.

janekk said...

Philanthropic? Do you realize that we indie filmmakers are hanging on by a string? We have no money and what money we do have goes into making movies so when people watch them for free they are taking away from our livelihoods. But then you feel we should turn around be philanthropic to those who take from us. Not buying this argument... Sorry.

Dan said...

So instead of moaning about piracy try a different approach. i download movies myself yet i do buy them and donate, Look at many Film makers they offer the film for free by torrent or whatever and they have a donation option on there site. Your fighting a loosing battle. the RIAA etc are too stupid to see there current attitude towards anti-piracy continues everyone will go anon. via vpns etc

janekk said...


I think everyone should be allowed to moan once in a while...

If I put my films up for free, no distributor who has projections of how much they should be able to earn off our title and will for sure make me money, will not want my movie. And no investor will invest in a movie that doesn't have sales projections or will only be offered up for donations.

I hear what you are saying and thank you for being the kind of person who donates money to filmmakers. That is very cool of you. Unfortunately, the majority of filmmakers really aren't in a position to try what you are suggesting.

So we moan... But hopefully discussions like these may lead to some ideas that have the potential of working for both torrent users and filmmakers.