Sat Jan 02 2010

On the new french piracy law

Starting off a new year under the gloomy cloud of censorship and an all-seeing-eye is all but right, but it seems like it is exactly what France is going through under their new anti-piracy law. It is now well in effect, and one can only feel sad for the french and hopeful that other countries do not take France’s lead on issues such as these.

Sure, the law is about protecting the rights of the movie, music and publishing industries but while I definitely understand the concern some media companies - certainly unaware that there are other, better, content monetization strategies for the current times - have about protecting their bank accounts, the dark undertones of this story are problematic.

Think about what the french government will have to do in order to enforce this new law. How will they know what people are downloading? And given the obvious answer - that they’ll be monitoring each person’s traffic for “flagged content” -, how can the french live in such an orwellian scenario? I’m not sure their government enjoys being put in the same basket as the chinese (who keep blocking more content people can access in a clear violation of their people’s right to knowledge and information), but they’re definitely thinking along the same lines. It reminds me of the ending of an album by Boards of Canada, where you can hear:>Now that the show is over, and we have jointly exercised our constitutional rights, we would like to leave you with one very important thought: (…) It would be wise to remember that the same people who would stop you from listening to Boards of Canada may be back next year to complain about a book, or even a TV program. If you can be told what you can see or read, then it follows that you can be told what to say or think. Defend your constitutionally protected rights - no one else will do it for you. Thank you.

But I digress. Deep down this whole situation is motivated by the inability for old media to understand the consequences of free speech and the free flow of information throughout the internet. So how can the studios, record labels and publishing houses solve their problem?

Easy. Create better experiences.

I paid about 8eur to watch Avatar the other day. I could have downloaded it - everyone knows where to find movies these days -, but the cinema experience (particularly in the 3D version) was worth it. I wouldn’t be as inclined to spend the same amount of money for a poorer movie. If movie prices were set according to the movie’s rating on a site like IMDB, it’d be perfect. We’d pay big bucks for the big productions and the great movies, and smaller amounts for the filler romantic comedies. Here’s a few pricing examples: 8eur for Avatar, 5 for Where the Wild Things Are, 3 for Terminator IV and 0.2 for Airbud (because I can’t imagine paying over 20 cents for a movie of a dog that plays basketball - even though some might).

People pay huge bucks for the right music concert. The ways in which a live performance beats a recording are numerous, so how haven’t record labels realized that the money is (or can be) in other places than cds? There’s a ton of ways one can monetize music (Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails has been writing and talking about this for a long time now - tip of the hat to you, sir), so why aren’t these people in the creative industries err… creative?

This is a tough subject one can ramble on for days on end. In the end, however, this all boils down to a need for these industries to redesign themselves according to the way people consume and access media today and not 40 years ago. It’s 2010. People will download content illegally. Think of better ways to monetize that content and you’ll be okay. Don’t, and you will probably keep complaining and coming up with ideas to piss people off - like messing with the french.