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Inside Popcorn Time, the Piracy Party Hollywood Can't Stop (wired.com)
238 points by mmastrac on Apr 27, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 267 comments



There would be less incentive toward this kind of piracy if content producers and distributors could get their collective acts together with more liberal licensing. Popcorn Time is winning because it's easier to use and find content than any pay service. Like anything, you compete by making a better product/service -- not by complaining that your competitors are unfair. Of course, they are certainly unfair here, but the rules of competition are the same.


This is true to the point where you can barely believe services release the products they do. The experience on Popcorn Time vs HBO GO isn't even comparable. HBO GO serves their content through a laggy flash player that you can't even force to play HD. Why would anyone watch non-HD content in a terrible browser player that wastes additional battery when they can open Popcorn Time in the time that it takes for the HBO player to load and start watching in HD immediately? Some services like Netflix get this and give the end user a better experience than Popcorn Time, but others only seem to exist for the hour before shows get uploaded as torrents.


I completely agree re: the quality of streaming service apps. The Amazon Prime Video player is a joke. HBO GO is one of the buggiest apps I've ever used on Android. Netflix has gone a long way to improving their service and is probably the most satisfactory of them. Generally speaking, though, the experience of using these apps and the predictability/accessibility of content is not going to outcompete free & easy.


The saddest part is that if they wanted they could adopt a hybrid central seed/P2P model, too, and be able to offer HD content without overwhelming their servers (in fact there more would people watch a certain episode at a given time, the better it would work).


From elsewhere i have gotten the impression that some central legal figures within the business have some kind of stuck up idea about counting copies.

There was a company trying to offer cloud based DVR service, and found that the only way they could get big media legal approval was to not use deduplication of any kind. This meant that their storage costs skyrocketed.


I think this is to do with media controllers (the managers of the megacorps) predicating value on number of copies reproduced. Shows are not to be allowed to be given only the value of production but must be talked up to have a value according to the number of copies - the more expensive the copies can be made to appear the more realistic it seems that a copy should cost more.

Charging $20 per viewer for content that cost $0.20 per viewer to make is hard; you have to pay off politicians to maintain that sort of control.

If content creation is pushed to a point where the actors, production team, etc. just get a seriously good wage and no further profits are produced then there's no place for media magnates. They must do everything to push against the concept of economy of scale.

I'm imagining a utopia in which a $50M movie takes $100M, everyone gets a bonus (down to the caterers and toilet cleaners), the people who front it get 10%, the rest is fed back in to other projects and the movie is now in the public domain.

We need to support content creators not make those who control the media even more ridiculously wealthy.

Then we have people like the car manufacturer controllers not happy to make piles of money from the effort of the people who work beneath them they want to cripple the product and make cars impossible to repair ...

If you ever buy a supercar society should have you stripped naked and left to beg for scraps in a favela whilst all your personal assets are liquidised to feed the poor.

/rant

[Dammit, I'm really ready to go off on one, enjoy the rants of an over-tired slightly drunk person. Free at source! License: CC0!!]


This is a very risky business. People won't put money if reward is only 10%. And you are talking about successful products. The overall return would be far lower.


Actually, it's risk / reward that drives people.

Low percentage returns aren't anywhere near as sexy as high ones are. Right?

But then again, a sure thing carries a lot more weight than it does sex appeal.

The people making blockbusters won't be happy with that, but the people telling stories totally will. Serial programming that pays consistently is attractive to those people wanting to tell stories in exchange for a nice life.

IMHO, if we actually did go down this road, we might be surprised at what people would pay for and why.


Along those lines, if you're interested in the legal history of distribution and "copies," Ars Technica put out a great summary article during the Aereo fight last year.

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/04/20/antennas-for-u...


Well yeah, counting views, or more recently copies, has been a central tenant of show business since its inception in antiquity when minstrels played on stage. No wonder the media business is resistant to changing on that point.


> not going to outcompete free & easy.

The ease of setting up the TV in my living room to watch Netflix far outcompetes the difficulty of setting up a whole system that involves Plex and bittorrent/direct-dl, especially for someone non-technical that just wants to buy a box from Best Buy that "just works".


I feel the same applies to physical media releases too. Trying to watch a DVD is an absolutely miserable experience with menus and restricted actions. It's for this reason that I have the majority of the content I own ripped and stored in an iTunes library where I can access it quickly from my Apple TV.


Yep. Way back in the day, I happened to setup the Open Source OGLE DVD player software. I think it was Mandrake Linux, running on some PC with a Matrox G400 card --the one with nice 2D, and great DVD support.

Insert disc, press T, then P, and you are watching the movie, no BS. Took maybe 5 seconds tops after disk mount.

Turned out to be popular, so I bought a real DVD player for the family, and we hated that thing.

"Aladdin" is talked about a lot, but it's true! Every single time the kids wanted to watch that thing, it was something like 15 minutes of previews for all this other cool stuff, over and over.

That was the first DVD I ripped. Couldn't stand it. And once setup for that, I ripped 'em all, and also got the benefit of younger ones not destroying fragile media at some considerable expense all the time too. That and losing it, or swapping with friends...

For a number of years, I replaced that "real" DVD player with OGLE setup to just play the movie no matter what.

Was great OSS advocacy. Suddenly, a whole bunch of people knew who a "geek" and "hacker" was, what software was, how it can impact lives, and all sorts of other good things just because DVD media producers just HAD to annoy the crap out of people. Funny that!


And ripping is actually more effort (in my limited experience) than just torrenting the damned thing even if you own the physical DVD.

It's magic


It's also rather bizarre that you have to go to a provider's app to get their content. All the content is siloed and walled off by each provider, so you have to remember whether a show is on HBO or Netflix or whatever. The old TV model of "channels" doesn't work with streaming.


Reminds me of what Gabe Newell said about piracy: It's not a pricing issue, but a service issue.


That's easy to say when the products you sell aren't as easy to pirate as movies and music.

Let's say a content provider created the perfect media service, exactly to your specifications - super easy, DRM free, etc. etc. Done and done; the service issue is gone.

Tomorrow, you want a new movie. On one hand, you have Provider X's new service, and on the other, you have piracy, which gives you pretty much the same content it always has but now is relatively less convenient in comparison to the service. Which are you going to choose? Oh yeah, by the way, piracy is still free, but Provider X is charging $19.99 for a movie, because that content service cost them millions. More importantly, they don't want to devalue their content. They don't want to live in a world where the street value of a first-run film is 99 cents.

Piracy is a value issue. The only reason it looks like a service issue is because there's a reasonable solution to that part of the problem and it's easy to point at content providers and blame them for not fixing it. But the reason they don't is because if they did, it would simply surface the other side of the problem, which they're not going to do anything about.


I would say its both, a value and a service issue.

I used to pirate a lot of music, but nowadays i rarely do it. Because in my opinion, it's just so much easier to quickly buy them. With only 3 accounts – Bandcamp, Soundcloud and Spotify – I can cover almost all my needs in this regard. This wasn't possible only a few years ago.

Compare that to the state of tv series. I wanted to watch some HBO content recently an typed "HBO GO" into search. First result says:

"HBO GO. It's HBO. Anywhere."

Anywhere, great! click

"To access HBO GO, you must reside within the fifty states of the United States of America."

I didn't even bother trying to circumvent that and went straight for a torrent site …

Of course, a lot of people use a lack of service quality as an excuse, when they just want free content. But for those who are willing to pay, service and availability is a problem.


Agreed!

There will always be people who will go to any length to pirate content, and there is nothing you can do about them. They are not, and never will be, your customers.

But for others, it is absolutely a service issue, and I am one of those people. I pay monthly for Spotify and I spend money on Bandcamp and iTunes because it's convenient and value-priced.

And it's actually easier than piracy, which is probably more important than the price..


> But for others, it is absolutely a service issue

Absolutely? So if the price was $50 per movie, $100, or $1000?

There has to be the balance in next equation:

Affordability + ease of obtain versus feeling of guilt for pirating.

If there is no feel of guilt, little can be done, example: Russians pirating everything, and they are not as poor as you might perceive.

Ludicrous price? Oh to heck it will be pirated even by Americans.

Ease of obtain - at least we are not arguing over this (now) obvious fact.


Movie price should still be subject to market pressure rather than the false valuations of the content owners. Having every provider create their own competing digital standard for media distribution is as absurd as expecting them to all produce their own hardware for playing DVDs.

For efficient media distribution you need a common medium through which to publish it. Leave the creation of those platforms to others and charge a licensing fee for the content but let those services carry any content they can pay for. The customers will decide which services they prefer and you don't run the risk of funding a losing platform.

Popular movies will still be able to pull in millions on top of the box office earnings through licensing and a lot of also ran movies will likely make more than they do now as they are picked up by later audiences after they've come out from under the shadow of the big hits. I'm sure you could come up with some creative licensing terms that take viewership into account or go up for renewal on a regular basis so that they could be adjusted.

They already debut their content in the same theatres, why not a common home theatre?


Then why are so many Steam games pirated?

I'm not doubting that service can be a cause. But I think it's crazy to pretend getting something for nothing isn't a good motivation.


There will always be people who will pirate no matter what. You can't do anything about that, and they will never be your customers. And for games, the percentage of the audience is probably higher than elsewhere because it is a mostly young and tech-savvy audience.

But the explosion of indie and smaller games on Steam should be evidence that their platform works, and that it makes economic sense to distribute digitally in that fashion because there are tons of us who want it, even with the ongoing piracy (that has been around since floppy disks and will never go away).

My Steam library has over 100 titles in it. I mostly buy during sales and via Humble Bundles mostly, but I also occasionally buy full-priced launch games that I really want to play. I can't remember the last time I bought a boxed game for PC.. Probably 2006? And before Steam I bought maybe 4-5 games per year? The service absolutely works.

One last thing: games piracy also has the added layer of protection cracking, which is pretty much a social contest in itself that incentivizes the activity (and leads to distribution as a measure of recognition etc).


I'd play a pirated version of a game before using the Steam version. Steam implements DRM and is generally obnoxious, trying to force itself all over games (popups), showing sdverts, etc. It just shows how terrible things are in game-buying-land. Look at the Xbox 360. A marketplace UI so laggy, you wonder how they technically able to make it that slow.


I'm surprised. Steam has been quite successful because for most people the intrusion is acceptable, the portability/redownloadability useful, the social side works acceptably, and they regularly offer big discounts.

It never ceases to amaze me how slow the steam store browser is, though.


GOG is a nice DRM-free alternative. I've been trying to buy as much as I can through there, in order to support their DRM-free initiative.


At least in steam you can turn off the popups :

Settings -> Interface -> Uncheck "Notify me about additions or change ..."


Are you using a computer? I think most people watch TV on a TV, where "legit" apps aren't based on Flash.


The HBO GO apps for things like Roku are also laughably bad. One of the best examples of truly not caring about UX is their default sorting of episodes. All shows sort episodes by most-recent air date, including shows that have fully aired, so if you want to get to the first episode of a show you have to scroll through a full season's worth of episodes. This is after having to scroll through all HBO shows alphabetically to find the one I want with no concept of recently watched. Again compare to Netflix where it takes a single button press to start watching a new series on every platform. There is a clear pattern that some companies just don't care about customer experience.


> The HBO GO apps for things like Roku are also laughably bad.

I'm working on an app for DirecTV boxes right now. The experience on that won't be much better. They are horrible platforms for development. I'll never do a project like this again.


To be fair, there's good reason why a "newest first" (LIFO, I suppose) approach would make sense (namely, if it's assumed that most users have already been watching the series in question and just want to jump straight to the newly-aired episode that they haven't seen yet).


Which is a fair point, but NETFLIX KNOWS WHAT I'VE WATCHED.

They even added profile selection so different individuals using the same account get a better user experience.

Watching a show at a friend's house (and thus on their account) should be considered the degenerate case. LIFO order also has the added problem of showing screenshots for the latest episode which may contain spoilers.

Even if the service (Hulu) doesn't require users to login, cookies can still be used to track which episodes have been watched.


> I think most people watch TV on a TV

HBO Go is an online service for people with an HBO subscription through a Cable/Satellite provider that's billed as making HBO content available on other devices; while you might get some utility out of HBO GO on a TV (e.g., for streaming back catalog content that isn't available through HBO On Demand), its not really the primary use case.

OTOH, neither is using it through a browser; I think the mobile app (which does support HD) is the main vehicle. I'm somewhat surprised if the browser version doesn't, but not that surprised


I think that further proves his point. It shouldn't matter what device I'm consuming the content on.


i have a sony bravia at home and using its interface with the provided apps simply sucks. it's slow and cumbersome, while in contrast it's so easy to plugin a PC with wireless keyboard / controller / remote and just use regular applications, a state-of-the-art web browser and so on.


This was our experience with a Samsung Smart TV.

The TV apps are crappy, with the exception of Netflix, which is actually quite good. Best thing on the TV itself.

Over time, my family has consistently preferred either a PC for viewing (laptop), or a game console or a PC connected to a TV for viewing.

The little boxes are crappy, and using a TV remote is too.


> Are you using a computer? I think most people watch TV on a TV, where "legit" apps aren't based on Flash.

Not too important, but quite a few legit TV apps are Flash based. YouView and TiVo in the UK are both entirely flash (AS3 for YV, TiVo was AS2 last time I worked on it). Roku I think were AS2. Samsung TVs used to support flash but that might not be handled any more, I think their browser is pretty decent now.

Most TVs have moved to HTML+JS though, that's true. Thankfully many actually moved to sensible browsers too, there used to be massive inconsistencies between devices.

Actually a bit of a shame. Although flash can be really annoying, you can control when frames are drawn and position things accurately. You also had much better control over the memory (which things are cached, what's still a vector), which is important if you've got only a few megs of RAM and you're sliding around 1280x720 images.

Flash could have been hugely better, but the compiler was terrible (thanks to motion-twin though, you saved my sanity so many times on AS2 projects) and the runtime needed a lot of work on slower devices. But for animating things when you know the exact resolution you're always going to be running at? Brilliant.

Source: worked on apps for smart TV and set top boxes.


old, not most. Old people watch commercials with occasional break for content on tv


Until a younger one shows them what streaming is.

No joke.

Commercials are so goddamn brutal now. Just about anyone will do the work to get a better experience.

Same with cord cutting. Just show 'em. They weigh that monthly $150 or so, commercials, etc... against just buying stuff they want and it's a no brainer, save for sports.

That's the reason ESPN is brutal. They know they are an anchor for much of the Cable TV business. Anybody who can ditch that probably is doing so right now.


HBO NOW isn't built by HBO and is much better than HBO GO.


One of the incentives is ironically, the ability to actually pay and get access to the content - regardless of price.

If you're not in a prioritized market (Or maybe it's fairer to say "privileged market"?) - you can't even pay for the content and see it in a way you want. (Like, pay immediately and stream it).

"Sorry, this content is not available in your region :/"


Exactly, this has happened before, the entertainment industry needs to learn their lesson. Remember when Napster was huge and the music industry was in a big panic for a few years? They finally got it shut down, but by the time they did there were several alternatives out there. The thing that finally made a difference was iTunes downloads. It was a reasonable alternative to piracy and people appreciated that. Instead of trying to insist that people keep buying physical albums they met them halfway. Sure you had to pay, but you could do it all from your own computer, you could pick only the songs you wanted, and there was no risk of malware or sleazy ads that you could get from the illegal services. People will pay if you try to give them what they want, trying to fight these battles legally is a game they will never win.


Oh, there is a much bigger lesson there.

Not only did they generate very serious incentive to create alternatives, but each one was an escalation of forces!

At the time Napster was running high, something like 40 plus million users were on the thing. Might have been more.

And this is in the dawn of broadband too! Nothing was as huge as Napster was, and it was spreading like wildfire too.

At one point, blanket licensing was discussed. Something like 2+ Billion annually, to be sourced by monthly subscriptions.

Add up that money from that time, and all the pain, etc... through today, and that's one hell of an opportunity cost, and for what?

Only to center in on streaming today? Yeah, that's working, but what did it cost to get there?

Had they taken that deal, much would be different today, and they would have a centeralized source for marketing, huge mindshare, and who knows what else?

iTunes was born out of the basic realizations you mention.

Nobody talks about the cost of actually getting there though.

Similar costs are happening right now for video. Painful.


> they met them halfway

iTunes' success was a bit of a fluke. The music execs didn't really think that it would amount to anything, so they threw Steve Jobs a bone.


I call bullshit. Absolute bullshit.

If I gave you a credit card that gave you unlimited access to digital content you probably wouldn't be complaining. Certainly not if you live in the US or much of Europe.

If you have a $69 AppleTV then iTunes is a spectacular user experience. Search for almost anything you want and hit play. If it didn't cost $5 to rent a movie it's superior to torrents.

This is where someone chimes in with something snarky related to offline viewing (airplane) or not living in the US and having access to less comments. This is true. It's also largely irrelevant. If you think those are the primary reasons users torrent then I'd challenge you to back it up with statistics.

For Americans in particular the primary reason to pirate content these days is selfish greed.


Wow, that was harsh.

Why is the rationale for Americans pirating 'selfish greed'? People, in general, pirate because it's free and really, really easy.

There are many cases where services like Spotify and Netflix have reduced piracy. People are lazy, and if you can make it easier and more seamless than pirating, most people won't mind shelling out a couple of bucks a month for paid service.

http://www.slashgear.com/netflix-piracy-rate-goes-down-when-... http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/04/21/canadian-tech-leader...


I love music and I used to download music a lot. Since I can use Spotify and listen for as much music as I want for less than 10$ a month, I don't see the need to pirate music.

I am still waiting for that to happen with films and series.


That would be Netflix. :)


Not even close. The user experience is good, but you can't go to netflix and search for a random film because 90% of the time it won't be there.

This is where popcorn time comes in, every time I search there I get results.

I'd happy pay for a better service if they media companies got their asses in gear and had a common platform, but they're actually going in the opposite direction - I'm certainly not going to pay "just $10 a month" 5 different times on 5 different platforms that I'll have to trawl through and still not have a guarantee of finding a result.


I usually search on Netflix, if it's not there, I go to Popcorn. The experience on Netflix is amazing and I would happily pay more for a larger catalogue.


I would also pay $10/month for all music content ever created. And another $10/month for all TV content ever created. And another $10/month for all movie content ever created. Go ahead and add $10/month for all video game content ever created as well.

It turns out this isn't viable business model. Darn.


Except that Netflix has a really bad selection of movies and it's getting worse and worse as they seem to be focusing all their money and energy on producing their own content. I'm hoping someone can come along and do Netflix right now that Netflix has decided to go all HBO on us.


You seem to imply that Netflix gets to pick ad libitum what movies and shows they offer, while in reality they have to negotiate with the studios. From the point of view of the studios, a legal platform where content can be freely streamed for a modest amount of money, leading further down the road to nobody wanting to pay much money for expensive shows probably does not sound much more thrilling that fewer sales at a higher price point in exchange for more piracy.


Who have less than 2000 combined TV show episodes and movies in my country (Germany), and only launched here 4 months ago.


"People, in general, pirate because it's free and really, really easy."

So's smashing car windows, but most people resist the temptation to do it.

It's actually not that easy to pirate stuff. You have to make your way through a minefield of malware and seo spam and figure out what sources are trustworthy. Compared to that just signing up for Netflix seems pretty simple.


Yes, people are very lazy. iTunes is great for lazy people. It's easy to use, extremely high quality, and has the vast, vast majority of pirated content (for Americans). The only thing missing is free. If iTunes were free there would be almost no reason to pirate content. Certainly not in the majority use cases. Therefore the only reason to pirate over iTunes is money. Therefore people are greedy and selfish.


Or because your opinion that iTunes is "easy to use" and "extremely high quality" is just that - an opinion - and is not an opinion which is universally shared among all people or even a significant majority of them (myself included).

Now, with that said, between Amazon Prime and Netflix I haven't found many reasons to pirate things, but right now that involves jumping back and forth between two different marketplaces because of the fragmented content. This is where Popcorn Time (for example) reportedly shines, and thus might be a compelling reason to at least investigate that particular avenue.


High quality isn't really an opinion. Their encoding is fantastic. Better than blu-ray re-encodes which were the primary torrent source just a few years ago. They're encoding off raw source so it's exceptionally good.

Easy to use is pretty factual in a relative sense. A mere 15 years ago you had to drive out to store to rent a disc and then take it back. Those asshole rental stores made all their money through exorbitant late charges. There are perhaps user interfaces which are easier to use than iTunes. But with an AppleTV almost everything that is pirated can be found, bought, and streaming in under 3 minutes.

Here's the process for computer:

1) Start menu 2) Type iTunes 3) Hit enter. 4) Click iTunes Store 5) Click search 6) Type 'Interstellar' 7) Click 'Interstellar' 8) Click rent

I don't feel like renting this movie right now because I've already seen it. But from this point forward there's probably a confirm dialogue or two and then it starts streaming. The whole process takes about 15 seconds. On an AppleTV it might take 3 minutes due it being a little slower processor and inputting text being a little slow on the remote.

It's literally never been easier in the history of time to legally acquire content. Even if piracy is slightly easier or a slightly better user experience that's not sufficient justification. Just admit you're a selfish twat and would rather pirate content than pay for it. It's fine. You aren't alone. Tons of people pirate content. Maybe even most people. Just call a spade a spade and say you'd rather get it for free than spend a few bucks.


While your tone is - let's say - 'direct', I don't disagree that people are lazy and maybe selfish if they pirate content.

It's not like we're talking 'pirating bread to survive' here. We could just ignore the content if it's inaccessible. Maybe we should? I'm a selfish twat, I guess - at least at times.

Reasons for me:

- TV shows, undubbed

- Movies, undubbed

- 'Legacy' stuff that isn't on air anymore/harder to find

Now, back to your solution though:

- Where's the iTunes Linux client? There seem to be alternatives, but .. would it be the same 'great' experience?

- Given that I see no use in an AppleTV: Can I stream stuff from a Raspberry PI? [1] The reason that I cannot consume the legal content that I might be allowed to was the reason for me to cancel my Amazon subscription. Yay, legal content. Oh no, unfortunately the service sucks unless you buy the hardware that works with it.

I just wanted to complain about content providers generally considering the German market too stupid to listen to the original - but it seems iTunes gets this right at least. Although people complain now that you purchase/rent a specific language. If I pick a kids series and want to show it to my son I'd go with German. But I might enjoy hearing the english version: Purchase it twice?

So - no, iTunes doesn't seem to be that polished solution either. Maybe it's the best solution right now. But it heavily caters to people that go all-in, from what I can tell from the outside. Buy an iPhone, an AppleTV, probably go with a machine that runs OS X so that iTunes itself doesn't look completely out of whack and you're all set up?

(I expect that you consider this as just making up excuses. Maybe I am. We're back to square one: I'm lazy on the couch, called it a day, want to relax. The easiest solution wins. And I haven't even tried Popcorn Time. Yet.)

1: I only briefly checked and it seems that doesn't work. At least I've only seen 'AirPlay on a PI and then sit in front of your laptop and stream content from there, maybe' non-solutions


>It's literally never been easier in the history of time to legally acquire content.

So? It's never been easier to 'illegally' acquire it as well.

It's interesting that you're happy to call users selfish twats but you don't seem to bat an eye at the exorbitant prices on iTunes to rent things. Why is it that redbox is like 1/4th of the price and that involves a physical disc?


> High quality isn't really an opinion. Their encoding is fantastic. Better than blu-ray re-encodes which were the primary torrent source just a few years ago. They're encoding off raw source so it's exceptionally good.

I'm sure one could crank out better quality with Handbrake or raw FFMPEG when used correctly.

> Easy to use is pretty factual in a relative sense. A mere 15 years ago you had to drive out to store to rent a disc and then take it back. Those asshole rental stores made all their money through exorbitant late charges.

By that logic, then, literally every streaming service - including the shitty ones like HBO Go - is "easy to use".

> 1) Start menu 2) Type iTunes 3) Hit enter. 4) Click iTunes Store 5) Click search 6) Type 'Interstellar' 7) Click 'Interstellar' 8) Click rent

That's nice, but now we're going into the desktop client, which further proves my point. I was more or less giving you the benefit of the doubt by assuming you were referring to the Apple TV variety (since I don't own an Apple TV), but now that it's clear that you're referring to the desktop client, I can now speak from experience that the iTunes you're referring to is easily among the shittiest media players ever made. It makes Windows Media Player look like a timeless masterpiece in comparison. Slow and buggy (especially on Windows), and a user interface that looks like it was designed in 1995 (probably because it was designed in 1995) and never improved.

I'd certainly rather get it for free than have to pay to use that pile of bovine manure.


Regardless of your motivation it's stealing.


Actually, it's infringing.

And yes, that distinction does matter. When somebody infringes, nothing is lost. The opportunity for a sale still exists, the property is still owned by those who own it, and so forth.

For there to be theft, there needs to be some meaningful loss on the part of the person claiming theft.

We have the word infringe for this case, because nothing is actually lost. What actually happens is somebody does something they aren't supposed to do, which is a different thing, and not inclusive enough to be theft.

Now, citing theft is nice, because it's easy, clear and very negative. People identify with theft easily, and that's potent. Advocacy centered on theft is understandable, but it does as much harm as it does good.

Why?

Because theft and the direct equating to lost sales does not reflect the realities in play. Where we make law on that basis, we tend to get crappy law that is ineffective.

People see stuff like $150K / infringing act and or proposed jail time, and it's laughable compared to something like rape or real theft that carries far lighter penalties, and that actually is theft as opposed to infringement.

I submit we really can't make progress on this without also entertaining a rational discussion, and tossing theft in here really isn't rational. It's too coarse and inaccurate.

Infringement is wrong. And it's a harder discussion, but a necessary one. Until average people get it, and understand all of it, we will continue to see a big disconnect in both the discussion and law, leaving the door open for more piracy and fewer solutions that can compete with it, etc...


I can't comment on why other people copy digital content, but I use eg: youtube-dl to save content from being banned from youtube - most likely due to dmca takedowns. That's for music. I also buy some music via bandcamp. As for streaming services, I was an early Spotify-user -- and the experience was pretty bad: it was a roulette to see how much was left of any given playlist each time I logged on. To be fair, Spotify has gotten better, but they don't have anywhere "all" music I want to listen to. As far as I know Apple don't serve my platform (Linux) in any reasonable way. And at any rate, if you need two or more services for "all you can eat", it's no longer "all you can eat", it's a mess. And you'd need third party apps to creat playlists that cover the content you want.

As for tv series and movies, Amazon has some, Netflix has some, HBO has some. Many independent/international movies can't be found in either place. Amazon won't (legally) let you watch all content outside of the US -- so I could pay for Amazon prime, and use a proxy to circumvent the geo-proteciton -- but then I'd still be breaking copyright law.

For the hypothetical user (ie: not me) that lives in the US -- is there really a service that provides access to both national tv series, as well as foreign-language content?

All that said, I'm sure a lot of people simply enjoy getting stuff for free. But at least for me, the freedom to lend a copy of a good show I watched a couple of years ago to a friend is at least as important as the "no cost" bit.

As mentioned, if you give me access to high-quality (encoded) content without DRM, I'm willing to pay for it. If not, you're simply charging for an inferior product.


Another point on DRM: good music, books, films, tv series become part of who we are. I want to be sure I have can show something that shaped my world-view to young kids in 20, 30 or 50 years time. If I had my music trapped by MS' zune that wouldn't work so well. If Amazon loses the right to some books, they dissappear from my Kindle. Who knows what happens if Apple buys Netflix? I do not want to rent access to my own culture. I want to buy access.

Edit: if it didn't look like nothing will ever enter the public domain again as a result of copyright expiry -- this wouldn't be as much of an issue.

Edit2: It is tragically ironic that Disney, a company founded in part on access to public domain fairytales, is at the forefront of killing the public domain. I imagine our collective digital culture would have been much richer if the terms were still 14+14 years after publication.


Would you support a government-run cultural fund which buys all rights to work from the author at market value for taxpayer money and move it into public domain? E.g. the billboard top song for 2014 was by "Pharrel Williams". Should we pay this Williams e.g. $500,000 so this particular song cannot be locked up by whoever owns the copyright and can possibly hidden away like Disney did with some movies, but returns to those people who enjoyed it in 2014?

Alternatively, this fund could be run by a private entity. What would you pay to outright buy irrevocable permissions world-wide for e.g. "The Capital in 21st Century" which sold 1.5 million copies? It seems like you cannot measure the impact of a book until after it has become a bestseller, so negotiations may be problematic, as the more popular books will end up being expensive.

The "copyright foundation" could I guess, keep selling the books but would need to pay for their future value to the current copyright owner.


I would prefer to just make it illegal to hold private ownership of intellectual property for an unreasonable length of time (eg: longer than 28 years after publication).


I would accept a compromise of some sort of compulsory licensing. You still retain ownership, but after N years you are required to license your IP to anybody who asks for a fixed, predetermined licensing fee.


Would the world really be a better place if Disney had had to pay (nominal or otherwise) license fees for "The Little Mermaid"?


Amazon won't (legally) let you watch all content outside of the US

Because in many cases they have only purchased US rights. Someone else may already have the distribution rights in other countries. As I have explained before, films are often financed by using pre-sales agreements with foreign distributors as collateral for a production loan.

For example, If I am developing a film I might go a film market and say 'hey, I am making a film about X with a budget of Y, and I have an agreement from film star Z to participate.' Suppose film star Z is very popular in South East Asia; so distributors from China, Japan, South Korea, and a few other countries all say 'oh, film star Z! We would pay $10 million each to have the rights to that movie.' So then I'd get them to sign an agreement to that effect and open up bank accounts in those countries. Then I would take those letters to a US bank and say 'look I have $30 million in presales commitments, so give me money.' In other words the foreign distributors are entering into a binding contract to purchase the film at a certain price by a certain date if it meets certain agreed-upon requirements about delivery format, quality, and content. Those contracts are good enough to borrow money against, and that (in a nutshell) is how many films get made.

Amazon is usually buying a limited set of rights because they buy already-copleted films for the most part. They're not in the film-financing business in a big way so far, so they're not in a position to bid on worldwide rights in the first place.

As mentioned, if you give me access to high-quality (encoded) content without DRM, I'm willing to pay for it. If not, you're simply charging for an inferior product.

Oh, DRM. What about all the people that will take advantage of the absence of DRM to just copy it about freely and untraceably? Fine, so you're not one of them, that's nice, but it doesn't solve my problem as a film producer. I'm not sure the value of (sales lost to anti-DRM purists) exceeds the value of (sales lost to rampant casual copying).


>Because in many cases they have only purchased US rights.

That's not my problem, its their problem. My problem is access to content, and I have many solutions available, some of which are not legal.

If they want me to choose their solution, it has to be lower friction than the alternatives, and they have consistently failed at achieving that.

Edit: and be careful not to fall into the trap of counting everyone who downloaded X as a lost sale. Just cause someone downloaded X does not mean they have the funds available to have purchased it if it wasn't freely available.


My problem is access to content, and I have many solutions available, some of which are not legal.

Your problem? Is something bad going to happen to you if you don't get to watch any program you desire at any moment? If I understand you correctly, your big existential risk is that you might be...bored? That's very interesting. I'm going to worry about it in every available moment I have in between trying to finance, produce and distribute a low-budget film in pursuit of profit so I can enjoy things like keeping a roof over my head, buying food, and paying utility bills.

Since your apparently endless desire for convenience and low cost means ever-narrowing options for monetization, ever-less predictability of revenue, and ever-increasing downward pressure on budgets, I may not be able to get around to worrying about your problem for some time. I apologize profusely for my failure to provide you with a perfectly frictionless global content delivery network for free while I've been wasting all that time learning to how to make the films you so desperately need to watch.

I don't like expressing myself in such a sarcastic fashion, but honestly, the attitude of entitlement that comes from comments like yours is depressing. It's like you don't even consider the possibility of waiting until you see the movie you want become available on a channel you are willing to pay for.


> My problem is access to content, and I have many solutions available, some of which are not legal.

True.

> If they want me to choose their solution, it has to be lower friction than the alternatives, and they have consistently failed at achieving that.

They are working very hard to rectify that. Admittedly, the most efficient means they see of doing that while preserving the ability to make their alternative profitable is to raise the friction of other (particularly illegal) alternatives, but just as you are seeking to maximize the value you get out of it, so are they.


I'm not sure there's any working DRM for movies currently. DVDs and BluRay can be copied. Streams as well. DRM for DCP "works" but no one was copying 35mm film either - and the old analog hole is still open. All the DRM makes it more complicated to master and distribute legal copies -- I'm not convinced it reduces copying.


The DRM for DCP lets you audit who played your movie. It's not that expensive (I think $7500 or so plus a small per-copy fee), but if a film gets any kind of release at all this is a lot cheaper than paying someone to get on the phone and call around to every theater that booked it to get a written report of how often it was screened etc.


It roughly doubles the price of the digital projectors (granted, a more-or-less one-time fee of an additional ~13k USD). If auditing was all that was needed, I'm sure you could just tag the digital audio track of 35mm as well (or any non-drm'ed digital format).


Yeah, but a lot of the digital projectors for existing theaters were installed with the aid of financing from the major studios on pretty decent terms for the exhibitors, plus (I've heard) you can get away with paying the projectionists a bit less because they don't have to do as much.

The thing is that striking a copy of a 35mm print would have been a) slightly technically inferior compared to doing so from a negative and b) costs a lot, like $35k, so while there was a little 35mm print piracy it usually involved shenanigans like fraudulent damage claims or somesuch.

With digital distribution, you're giving people a copy of the film in 4k which is as good as the state of the art in Hollywood a few years ago. If you didn't have all the DRM on there the incentives to make a copy are almost overwhelming. It doesn't even need to be a perfect copy, ProRes is so good that most consumers wouldn't notice the difference.


I have used Spotify with success on Arch Linux. It may not be symmetrical to the Windows or OSX clients, but I have not had dealbreaking issues. There are bugs here and there, but now the Windows client has its own set of problems with new updates...


Just to clarify: I said Apple (iTunes) doesn't cater to Linux. The (not so bad anymore) issue with Spotify had/has to do with content rights.


There has been more than one study showing that people who pirates content are ususally the group that spend most on content.

This is for the simple reason that people that pirates stuff are the one that are interested enough for the content.

So study show that people that use piracy are also the same people that buy the legal content. Why ? For many reasons, it might be easier to pirate than getting it in legal ways, it might not be available legally yet, or it might, obviosuly, cost more than they are willing to spend.

There are people that only pirate stuff and don't pay for anything, sure there are, but most pirates are just interested people that for one reason or the other can't get the same thing legally (money is only one of the reasons).

And that also is one of my biggest problem with the argument against piracy. They treat each pirated copy of something like a missed sale, and that's just stupid.

If my budget for movies is 100$, i'll spend that 100$. After that, if I want more content, my option are pirate the other stuff or simply not consuming it. Not increasing my budget.

I don't have one research to show you, because there has been more than one, so I'll leave you this link: http://lmgtfy.com/?q=pirates+spend+more


Try finding Star Wars on iTunes. Or many other movies or series. And what if you don't live in the USA? Then it's just Too Bad (TM) right?

I really do not mind paying $3.99 to rent a movie. Many times I find myself simply unable to find it!

And don't get me started on the latest HDCP racket. I have a 1080p projector but there is NO WAY anymore for me to play HD movies that I PAID FOR using it, because it doesn't support DHCP in the latest way. So I am simply prevented from watching movies in HD on my home theater system. How do I get around it? I bought a chinese made splitter that doesn't support HDCP protection, and that seems to work. Wow I'm such a bad boy, wanting to use the hardware I bought to watch the movies I rented! With Popcorn time there is no issue.


If you ever have quality issues with the splitter, check out this product, works like a charm (but a bit pricey): http://www.hdfury.com/


the primary reason to pirate content these days is selfish greed

You're right. But the consumers aren't the greedy party.


Selfish greed is also the reason why people buy movies instead of donating their money to charity or using that time to plant a tree. People want stuff, and they want it to be a) good and b) cheap. And you're totally dismissing the first category.

You exclude a whole lot of use cases to make your point. It's a disaster for Europeans to do many of the same things. Netflix and Apple have different libraries depending on where you are. Many people don't have credit cards and these services often don't link up with foreign banks. I'm in the train every day and there are always many people within eyesight watching movies (I don't know how they get their content, but it's not Netflix).

A lot of people in Holland pay for Spotify. A lot pay for Netflix. A WHOLE lot pay for cable television. And yet many of these people still use Popcorn Time or torrent. Why? Clearly they're willing to pay for stuff. Netflix is cheap but cable television is not... so they're even will to pay quite a lot for content!

It's sad that content providers have to compete with free, but the genie's out of the bottle. And it's partially the fault of the content provider's not being able to compete on other areas (quality, convenience).


I ignore Europe as a preventative conversation tactic. It's really hard to talk about things on the internet. For any debate there are a ton of edge cases. It's easy for discussions to go off the rails focusing on them. Content not available. Average income of Country X significantly less than Country Y. Bandwidth caps. Unstable connection. Etc etc.

So for discussion sake I throw it out. Not permanently, just for a moment. It lets me focus on the good ol United States. Where people are relatively rich and the vast majority of content is available. Basically it's a best case scenario. If in the absolute base case people still heavily pirate content then the edge cases don't matter. Once that best case scenario is resolved then you can start fleshing out and covering all the international edge cases.


I own an AppleTV with iTunes. It sucks. AppleTV has the worst interface of any of my streaming devices.

As an American, I try NOT to pirate. I'll try Netflix, HBOGo, Comedy Central, and cable tv. If i can't find it on any of those, then I'll consider going through the hassle of pirating it.


Agreed. Free is the best feature of piracy. Once the paid options get to parity on quality and UX soon, it'll make it completely obvious that the only reason to still pirate is because its free.

EDIT: Bring on the downvotes. It's ok, we all want free stuff.


>it'll make it completely obvious that the only reason to still pirate is because its free. //

I've been watching a show recently on UK terrestrial TV (via a watch again, don't have live TV). The adverts are mind-numbing. Seriously, I have to leave the room now. Every damn one has animated/puppet talking animals in, none of them sell the benefits of any sort of product they're just attempts to manipulate. Dammit, if the point of those adverts is to make people willing to pay for media without any ads they're sure doing it right ... thing is when are they going to start making that media. Even films that you pay £10+ to see are laden with adverts. It seems impossible to buy audio-visual media with a good UX: which company is advertising a pay service on the basis of "no additional adverts, just the content you paid for"??


What films do you watch that have ads in them? I'm not sure I've ever come across that, in any region.

TV: If you didnt pay for it, they are including the adverts to pay for the production. Just because you don't want to see those adverts doesn't mean it's "right" to go pirate the content.

It's more a form of protest than anything.


I don't go to the cinema often but there is always 15-25 mins of adverts from the posted start time for the film and usually the film includes product placements. You take your kids to the cinema, pay for the tickets, buy the ludicrously priced popcorn .. I've actually no problem with this provided they post a start time for the movie so I can come after the ads.

The point for the TV shows is that you can't pay to watch them without ads.

Ads that tell you about a product, fair enough; every other advert is just an attempt to trick you in to buying something.

>Just because you don't want to see those adverts doesn't mean it's "right" to go pirate the content. //

It doesn't mean it's wrong either. There are good arguments for why it's wrong, but that doesn't really feature; if we start from a point of agreeing that most advertising is psychological manipulation that has no place in a well-formed society, then we add that engagement with popular culture is a [low grade] human need ...


iTunes is missing real-time release of TV, and timely release of movies.

For instance, I have a season pass to Mad Men right now, which airs on sunday nights. I don't get the iTunes release until midnight, so I end up not watching it until Monday (even though I pay for it!). If I used torrents, I could watch it Sunday night with everyone else. Other shows have it far worse!

New movies usually enter the iTunes market in a buy-only mode for the first month after release. I'm more than happy to pay $5 to rent a movie, but I'm not spending $20 to buy it. So I wait weeks or more after release of a new movie before I can rent it online. If I used torrents I'd probably be able to watch it for free weeks before release.

iTunes has a good catalog (so does Amazon, and others I'm sure), but movies/TV are not the same as music on iTunes and still have farther to go before they're truly competitive with piracy in terms of user experience.


>> "For instance, I have a season pass to Mad Men right now, which airs on sunday nights. I don't get the iTunes release until midnight, so I end up not watching it until Monday (even though I pay for it!)."

Shit. We've actually gotten to the point where waiting a few hours for something is considered a good reason to pirate. Just when I thought self-entitlement couldn't get any worse.


While I'm inclined to agree, perhaps the grandparent poster looks forward to a lively discussion of the plot at lunch with colleagues. It's not my passion in life, but I could see it being an act of community for some.


My parents have an AppleTV. Besides the crappy UI and dumb remote, it often (~1 in 20, sometimes more) refuses to play because it can't setup HDCP with their Toshiba TV.

Then there's the issues of subtitles. Good luck finding them for any particular language you want.


American Pirate Here. I pirate things for many reasons I suppose. When it comes to video games I actually prefer to buy games on steam rather than pirate them. But if the game is not available on steam (like some of EA's big games that they only release on origin for pc) then I will instead pirate them. If origin had the quality that steam did then I wouldn't mind installing it, but that is not the case. I also pirate game of thrones, which for a long time could only be viewed legally with an HBO subscription. I think it is silly to have to subscribe to something and pay a yearly fee just to watch 10 episodes of a single show once a year. If HBO wasn't so greedy then I would have gladly paid them; but as a service that I feel is overpriced and offers poor quality in return, I refuse to pay them a cent.

>This is where someone chimes in with something snarky related to offline viewing (airplane) or not living in the US and having access to less comments. This is true. It's also largely irrelevant. If you think those are the primary reasons users torrent then I'd challenge you to back it up with statistics.

I don't think it is fair to leave it to the other side to come up with statistics. However, I think torrentfreak has done an excellent job reporting on piracy over the years. Here are some stats you may find interesting:

[1] https://torrentfreak.com/file-sharers-buy-30-more-music-than... [2] https://torrentfreak.com/find-out-whos-using-the-pirate-bay-...


Now you can get an HBO Now subscription, there's a 30 day trial to watch game of thrones. You can join and watch it now, or wait for the entire series is out, then sign up for the trial and watch it all for free, legally.


Sample size 1, but: I don't pirate music, I don't pirate ebooks, I do pirate videos. It's not like I can't find music/ebooks (and indeed I do pirate books that aren't available for Kindle), it's simply that the paid UX is great: I can find anything I want on Amazon, pay for it easily, have it easily on my (non-Apple) computer and phone, and play/read offline.


I think you could have made your point without the diatribe and profanity.


It's fascinating that people are arguing so vehemently against you and yet iTunes (and later Spotify and friends) did exactly that. My friends who all subscribe to Spotify or Rdio now say they haven't downloaded a single song since (anecdote is not data etc, yes I know).


Exactly this. Since I switched to Spotify, and then Google Play Music, I haven't downloaded a single song. It's honestly easier to use these services than to go through the process of downloading.

Now what I don't get is the friends that I have that refuse to switch because they like "owning" their own music. I have immediate access to an entire cornucopia of music and they're stuck with what they have downloaded.


I came here to say this, more or less.

Maybe when streaming services offer what I want to watch in better than current quality I'll consider stopping.

Until then I'll be using Canadian Netflix for 10% of my viewing and other methods for the other 90% that I can't pay for because I happen to not live in the US.

Copyright laws are killing the industry.


I'd argue that region based licensing is killing the industry, along with the reluctance for content producers to serve content through Netflix or something comparable.

Netflix just launched in Australia. If it had all the shows I wanted, I'd sign up in a heart beat. But it's still missing a good chunk because of the licensing deals that already exist over here.

I want to support the Netflix model and content producers that support them. I've considered signing up and not using it at all because my combination of usenet/sickbeard/kodi is far superior to anything else available. I pay about $150 a year for that setup, so I'm not adverse to paying.


Your $12.50 per month is not paying for all of the content you consume.


Correct. I'd be happy to pay more for a decent service that had all the content I wanted, or even for multiple services. But paying $100 a month for non-HD cable is about my only option at the moment, and that's not on demand. Again, region specific licensing to blame.


This question is for you and everyone else: why don't you simply not watch something if it's not legally available? It seems like almost all pro-piracy people act and talk as if there's some unwritten and unspoken right and need to consume all media.


Copyright law is there (in part) to encourage people to pay the legitimate copyright owner so that it can continue creating content.

If there is already no way to pay the legitimate copyright owner, the law is pointless. It's still illegal, but the reason for it being illegal is invalid. At that point it's not running a busy urban intersection, it's crossing at a 4-hour red light in the middle of nowhere at 2am with no cars around for miles.


There is more media produced than people CAN consume for one.

There is extreme pressure to consume for two.

For a ton of people, money is a problem, entertainment budgets are modest, and they lack options.

Those things said, yeah! I just don't consume much anymore. I could be coding, learning, talking (as I am right now), and doing any number of other things besides watching stories.

In fact, this is why I love audio. I can do lots of stuff and still be entertained, and for some drama type programs, will just listen to them rather than watch the video.

Truth is, the video content producers really don't want to start down this road, and are aggressive about it. For them, having this discussion is nothing but a loss as they then compete with people doing something else.

And nobody wants to talk about that very much, do they? Funny, how having rampant piracy keeps this stuff far more relevant than it would be other wise.

In that perfect, no piracy world, a whole lot more people would care a whole lot less about buying movies.

I made that commitment in the mid '00's. Just stopped. I rarely infringe, and the product of that and my entertainment budget means I really do consume a lot less, and I buy a lot less now.

It's hard to commit three hours to passive entertainment. So many other things to do.

Highly recommended BTW. But you won't see the content industry advocating that. They know better.

And that right there is a huge value proposition associated with piracy that is a really hard discussion.

Relevance and mindshare. They need both to maximize revenue. Being relevant is hard. Giving it away to improve relevance? Totally justified, and up thread I mentioned AMC and "Halt and catch fire" and how it's there for the taking.

I watched that one. They gave it to me, and I talked it up to a bunch of people, some who paid, some who pirated, some who watched on cable, etc...

If too many of us tune out, or really do consume according to their pricing, they are going to find out the pricing really isn't aligned with consumption and or ability / desire to consume.

Better to have massive consumption and focus on improving revenue, I suspect.


Why would I do that? They don't lose anything and I get to put pressure on the producers to get their heads out of the sand.


Amazon Instant and iTunes work pretty well and have almost anything that Popcorn Time has. I really doubt people are doing Popcorn time because it is easier.

Not paying anything is a huge feature.


I'm not going to pay for revocable licenses, jailed ecosystems or DMRed media.

Give me high quality flat files with good metadata, and I'll pay.


Amazon Instant Video on PS3 and on my Vizio is pretty bad. Slow, unresponsive interface, very difficult to accurately skip ahead, not a great selection. Netflix does a great job interface wise, way better than Amazon Instant Video.


Unsurprisingly, I've had the opposite experience with Amazon Instant Video on my Fire TV, while the mobile experience is a bit mediocre (though not terrible). I guess it varies greatly depending on the device.


How good is the Popcorn Time interface on the PS3?


The Internet broke the whole idea of charging for a digital copy of something. We’re seeing a struggle of powers as old power tries to cling on to the idea of charging people for digital copies but it will end sooner or later. One needs to think outside the box of capitalism being an appropriate system for all aspects of society.


Well do get in touch when someone sets up a postcapitalist film company that's willing to pay for camera rental, meals, wages and all the other expenses that go into making a film, because the fixed costs of making the original work haven't gone away. I find discussions like this one really aggravating to read because there seems to be total indifference to the fact that producing a movie to entertain you for two hours while you sit on the couch or wherever involves a massive amount of time, hard work, and risk from a large number of people.


And the hand-over-fist profits from box office earnings, merchandising deals, content/trademark licensing, etc. have been insufficient since... when, exactly?

Those are the places that the Internet Age hasn't really usurped yet. The old "record a theater showing with a camera" trick is nowhere near desirable quality for most people, and piracy does nothing for those hoping to use a particular trademark in order to make money on some product based on Elsa the Snow Queen or Luke Skywalker or Winnie the Pooh or whatever other character one wants to plaster on a backpack or notebook or turn into an action figure. Those are the realms where the future of capitalist film production lies (TV is a slightly different story; merchandising is still an effective monetization strategy, but box office earnings are nonexistent unless you make movie spinoffs (se also: My Little Pony), yet are replaceable with ad revenues in both online streaming and conventional broadcasting, both of which are incredibly popular).


Hand-over-fist profits? Only at the very top of the market. If you're producer of one of the top 50 or so films, yes people are shoving money at you. In the top 100, you probably broke even and people will be shoving money at you when it hits the home video market. In the top 101-200 films, You'll most likely make your money back and enjoy a modest profit.

Outside of the top 200 films? Then your box office takings were certainly under $1 million (except for about 10 films), and more to the point most people haven't heard of your film. Have a look at yearly box office #s on a site like boxofficemojo, and look at some of the other 6-800 films that get a US theatrical release each year. Many good films have box office numbers that are measured in thousands, and remember that box office numbers are gross - as a rule of thumb, only 1/3 of the box office goes back to the distributor, the rest stays in the theater.

What you seem to be overlooking here is that while some films do indeed make money hand over fist, for the many more than don't, piracy is just as big a problem - not because so many people are pirating an obscure or somewhat unpopular film who would otherwise have paid for it (although this is a problem for quite a few films, eg Terry Gilliam's last film had dreadful box office because they didn't have much money to advertise, but was very popular on file-sharing sites), but because piracy makes it increasingly difficult to come up with any kind of meaningful estimate about a film's long-term earning potential. that in turn makes it much harder to raise financing for a film. It's definitely tougher than it was 10 years ago when I got into the business.

http://www.boxofficemojo.com/yearly/chart/?page=1&view=relea...


Right, but it's the makers of the big, top-50 films that are the ones that are ridiculously vocal about piracy, not the ones making the small top-200 (or less) films (unless they're flops by the big filmmakers). And the makers of those films can still monetize by licensing broadcast/distribution rights (i.e. to Netflix or to a non-profit for its "Movie Night" or what have you); from there, one can still get a very good estimate of an earning potential that's actually reliable, rather than one that's entirely dependent on an obsolete business model that's crumbling right before everyone's eyes thanks to the Internet.


OF course it is, they're the ones with the big platform to tell people about it.

And the makers of those films can still monetize by licensing broadcast/distribution rights (i.e. to Netflix or to a non-profit for its "Movie Night" or what have you); from there, one can still get a very good estimate of an earning potential that's actually reliable, rather than one that's entirely dependent on an obsolete business model that's crumbling right before everyone's eyes thanks to the Internet.

That's a nice idea, but you're putting the cart before the horse. You can't license a film that hasn't been made yet unless you have a very bankable package(of stars and other talent), and you can't easily get estimates of earning potential for other films because Netflix and other digital distributors don't publish that stuff - it's much harder to get information about the home video market compared to box office data. Licensing to broadcast or other distribution channels isn't something that just happens automatically - there's a huge, exacting, and expensive list of deliverables requirements, and it costs money to go to a film market or work through a sales agent. Even when everything goes smoothly, it usually takes a small picture a couple of years from when it starts looking for money to when it gets sold, and the sale often simply covers the costs of production.

Frankly, I don't think you grasp the economics here very well at all. Everyone knows the existing industry paradigm is on the way out, and has known that for a good long while. The problem from the industry standpoint is that the internet/tech sector loves disrupting things but is not that smart about monetizing them - witness the large number of tech companies that don't make a profit, and the fact that the main revenue stream for internet companies that do make a profit is from advertising. You know who has taken that to heart and uses that business model in the movie world? Adam Sandler. His films involve a bunch of highly-paid famous people, very cheap production, and crappy wrote-in-a-weekend stories with massive product placement opportunities, for which he takes a salary of about $20m a picture. Unlimited distribution works fine there because the film is basically an elaborate commercial, but it's hardly a good industry model.


How much is the Frozen franchise worth in terms of merchandise? Much more than the tickets, no doubt.

For the normal movies, perhaps move to a prepay model.


Good grief you guys. How many films do you think make that kind of money? Billion dollar film franchises happen about as often as billion dollar startups - often enough to be something you might get lucky with, but the odds of that happening for you are staggeringly low. And even then, those films have as much or more spent on advertising as on the production, which is part of why it's such a high-risk business and major studio offerings are so conservative in terms of storytelling, casting etc..

A prepay model is what we have now. The largest 6 studios have the resources to open a film globally if they really want to (eg this will probably happen with the new Star Wars movie, and most likely the new Avengers one coming out in a few days), but generally international distributors sign contracts to buy a film in advance at a certain price and those are used as collateral in obtaining financing, but this model is falling apart under pressures from piracy, Netflix, and other factors.

If you mean prepay as in Kickstarter, that model doesn't work for features. Well, I should qualify a little - it can work for feature documentaries, because there is an existing community for many interests and people are very interested in seeing their pet interest/issue treated in movie form, without being too picky on quality. And of course it works well if you have a book or a comic or an unfashionable old TV show or something that has a small number of very dedicated fans, eg the Veronica Mars project last year, or fans of a particular actor. I call these 'fanservice' films - they're basically franchise properties, but franchises too small for Hollywood to care about. You can also get some mileage out of community fanservice, eg if your story appeals to people of an under-represented demographic like people from a particular country, LGBT people, or similar.

But if you just want to make an ordinary narrative film pitched at a broad audience - a drama, thriller, whatever - it doesn't work well at all. Dig through the major (and some minor) crowdfunding sites, and you see hardly any feature projects meet their funding targets. This should (I hope) change a bit later this year or early next, when the SEC finally opens up the possibility of crowdfunding equity under title III of the JOBS act, because while the risk is high at least there's an incentive to invest, whereas under existing crowdfunding models you have to come up with a mix of merchandising swag (which is not free to provide) and weird high-ticket rewards like getting a hot air balloon trip with the lead actor or something to land a couple of big donations.


I was refering to what you call "unfashionable old TV show". Specifically I was hoping somehow to use this model to resurrect firefly...

That said if that model cannot sustain huge movies like we see them today, that may mean we end up with smaller movies.


Ah, this model works very well for that use case, and you should definitely read this: http://www.buzzfeed.com/adambvary/joss-whedon-on-kickstarter...

It is easier to do a feature film and a whole TV series, because while your props, costumes, sets etc. can be reused and things do speed up a bit with familiarity you're still looking at spending maybe $200,000/week in salaries and overhead. Drop me a line if you really want to know more about the production side. I'm thinking of writing up an e-book or something, partly in anticipation of the SEC opening up proper investment-style crowdfunding and partly to put together cash money for a film I want to do.

On smaller films, yes and no. What you'll see is more of a bimodal distribution - the big megastar films like the Avengers or anything with an A-list cast (eg 2 big stars and a few small ones) are not going away - those people know what they are doing in terms of story, production, marketing and so on and the people that work on them are the cream of the industry. Even when the results feel forced (eg some of the Star Wars prequels) they still make their money back many many times over.

And there will still be lots of small budget films, partly because it's more accessible due to technology, partly because people need some way to get onto the industry ladder, and partly because it's addictive. But times are tough budgetarily; to quote on industry exec overheard at the last Sundance, 'what used to be a $10m film is now $5m, what used to be $5m is now $3m, $1m is the new $3m....').

It's important to remember that costs don't scale linearly, but they go up in fits and starts, depending on which guilds and unions the production company has signed contracts with. So if I'm doing my first feature film, I can pay some writer a few thousand for a screenplay, or better, write it myself. But if I want a budget above a certain size I'd be better off with a Writer's Guild of America member (not least to tempt investors, who don't actually know from reading a script and a budget whether a film is going to be any good), and the minimum price for a WGA to turn in a feature script is $92,000. That's even if you write it yourself, eg Quentin Tarantino gets paid to write the script, direct the film, and produce the movie (as he should, because each of those is a full-time job in its own way). So when you make films in the tens or hundreds of thousands budget range, it's OK to ask people to work for free or pay minimum wage and buy worker's comp insurance, but once your budget is over a million your crew costs jump substantially because now the unions want a piece. And while I'm not that big a fan of unions it's mainly because they bring a lot of extra administrative bullshit and some obstructive work rules. The jump in expenses because of extra pay is just what people deserve, because of the inherently unsteady nature of the work, the very long hours and elevated physical risks, and the fact that virtually everyone in the industry does a huge amount of work for free or stupid cheap.

The basic problem from internet distribution, legal and illegal, is not so much the actual downloads in many cases as the fact that it makes revenue very unpredictable for producers and investors, and so the lower end of the market faces constant economic pressure because investors are understandably wary. I expect this to stabilize a bit as Netflix, Amazon, and others start doing more global buys, and equity crowdfunding is finally allowed to take place. But the practical reality for people in the industry has been that internet distribution and the culture of working for free that goes with it have broken a lot of the lower rungs on the ladder. I expect to see demographics within the film industry skew a bit older over the next decade because of this.


Mosfilm--back in the USSR


Hehe. I have a quasi-nostalgia for the Soviet film era.


What does that even mean? We have to switch the entire economic paradigm we live in so that people can be paid for their work?


The problem is having to be paid at all. There ought to be a system whereby people can exist at a reasonable standard of living and still do the work they want to do, i.e. Basic Income. There's enough food, shelter and medicine to accommodate everyone on the planet right now, but the top 10% hoard way more than their share. Do they deserve it because they work harder? No, they're just born into luxury, and there's nothing capitalistic or meritocratic about it.

You ought to be able to make a show or a film without having to leverage everything you own. You ought to be able to work on making cameras and stages if you like to do that stuff. You ought to be able to watch one of these shows/films made using those cameras/stages for free, and then go to your house and work on a project of your own, and not worry about whether that project will be profitable enough to allow you to eat or be housed. The key point is we have the resources.

Eventually we'll get there, but it's gonna take a long, long time.


I'm not sure where to begin with your comment and all the strange and inaccurate things it says... but this kind of idyllic utopia (which to me seems like some horrible mind-numbing lifestyle) will never exist. Economic incentive is the cornerstone of modern effective society.

Basic Income might work but it's far more complicated than you make it seem and it's not something that just lets everyone do whatever they want, it's a way to raise living standards and equalize some of the disproportions in power and wealth but there will need to be industry and incentive to create the income in the first place.


Well yeah I mean, I'm not gonna write a dissertation on HN. I like to think the future is more Star Trek (do whatever you want, free food/shelter/awesomeness) than Star Wars (pretty much what we have now with some new toys and psychic powers).

But I disagree that "there will need to be industry and incentive to create the income in the first place". I think people largely just do stuff because either they're coerced, they need to survive, or they think it's cool. Open source is a good example of #3, and I think that's gonna be the chief motivator as the world continues to develop.


I did immediately think "Star Wars" when I read your original comment. This is very off topic, but something I've been thinking about lately. Will basic needs ever be taken care of for everyone, so we can work on whatever we want? I get that economic incentive is the "cornerstone of modern society", but what about the society of the future? It's hard to imagine, but then again I also have a hard time imagining only 150 years ago (in the US) we were lining up and shooting each other for the right to own other people.


Yeah it might happen sooner than we think. Maybe with the advent of really cheap power (fusion) we'll start to let up on things... but I'm guessing all that will mean is the rich will get richer. The problem, unfortunately, is both technological AND political, so that's why I'm leaning towards "long time".

But you're right though, 150 years ago the world was unrecognizable so, who knows what will happen in just the next 50?


Excuse me- Star Trek.


This wouldn't be the first time. It probably won't be the last.

All that's required in this case is a shift away from traditional per-copy earnings toward more modern earnings via content/trademark licensing and streaming/broadcast rights, supplemented with box office earnings (for movies) and ad revenues on free streaming/broadcast services (for television shows).


That I'm fine with, and consider more of a business model change.

I'm taking in regards to the other comments with the "capitalism is no-good/evil" nonsense.


At some time pirates will need to address the convenience of being free. I use amazon video, which has had a grand total of three films I wanted but could not find. These are extremely convenient, easy to use services. The argument that piracy is more convenient may still hold water, but less each year.


Amazon Instant Video doesn't work on GNU/Linux. It also doesn't work offline. It also requires proprietary software at every turn. None of these problems are the case with p2p sharing.


The number of people who care about those things are a rounding error.


However the people who care vehemently about such things are the ones with the motive and means to set up a global convenient alternative content delivery network.


Amazon Video doesn't work in Australia


Or anywhere else in the world that isn't the US.


Same over here, it can be as convenient to use as you want, I'm not going to use a VPN to use a paying service.


Given how much energy people spend defending their moral right to free entertainment as a reward for going through the trouble of being born, I'd be interested to see if you're correct about that.

I mean NSA et al spies on the entire world with no restriction? Barely matters, people go on about their lives. Some lawmaker proposes getting ISPs to enforce copyright? INTERNET ARMAGEDDON!


If the NSA really is tracking all internet traffic, maybe we could just build a "media tax" into the federal budget, and distribute the revenues according to NSA-verified download numbers.


This is a slight tangent to the usual piracy discussion, but I seem to be the last person watching (well, recording) broadcast TV and I'm at the point where I have far more recorded than I'm able to watch. I'd need to make a serious commitment to watching 3+ hours of TV every night for months just to clear the backlog.


I'm with you. I don't have time to watch anything else. I have a PVR connected to a satellite dish with only free to air channels. I tape more movies than I can ever get around to watching - all you have to do is wait and everything appears. A new free channel just started showing Breaking Bad a couple of weeks ago. I didn't have to search any torrent site for it, I was just patient.


You are asking for the impossible, people are not going to pay for what they can always get at better quality for $0. Fans are happy to curate the art the like and will always do a better work , and for free.

The only thing that might make sense is if they distributed an original instead of a copy, i.e. a different movie to every user, a different song etc. Copyright is just not compatible with the digital world, it worked for a while copies were physical, but now we re going back to the pre-copyright era where culture was spreading freely. We can blame piracy for that, but it's not just piracy. The Entertainment industries are largely based on building hype and celebrities, while the cost of production keeps falling thanks to digital production. There is an oversupply of creativity which obviously should drive their profits down. Even without piracy these industries would face big problems.


> people are not going to pay for what they can always get at better quality for $0

Sure, but I already pay Netflix. If I had to pay a bit more and it included everything that's on Popcorn Time, I'd do it in a heartbeat.


Then download the torrent and tip the producer somehow. Why pay for another service that is clearly not needed? I actually thought someone should have already built a startup selling 'virtual tickets'.


tip the producer somehow

The most anyone has ever raised that way (following a particularly egregious leaking of a film before release in Russia, albeit probably for political reasons) is $14,000. I don't personally know anyone who's made any money from tips, and it's not exactly a promising business model.

https://meduza.io/en/news/2015/02/02/leviathan-collects-1-mi...


There are actually a number of ways to monetize filmmaking without selling the copies themselves (at least not directly to consumers). There's a reason why film success is measured in "box office" earnings, for example. And then you have things like merchandising deals, licensing of content/trademarks to other content creators, etc.


Box office earnings are a barometer for home market sales...in fact I'd go so far as to say that the theatrical release is, for most films, the advertising campaign. Most films lose money at the box office but that's OK, because the purpose is to establish the perception of the film in the public's mind as A Movie, so that it can make an actual profit in the secondary market.

Merchandising and other ancillary income is nice but doesn't amount to much for non-blockbuster films. Your R-rated drama isn't going to make tons of money from novelizations, t-shirt and poster sales, even if it's a hit...maybe 2-3% of your budget. Some films have lots of marketing/product placement potential (or are put together specifically to meet that requirement) but most don't. seeing a major reliance on that in a film's business plan would be a huge red flag.


You'd have to pay a lot more than 8/month to make "every movie ever produced, instantly available" viable.


I'll settle for "whatever's also available on DVD".


It's easy for people making money off of distribution to do a better job than fans. But they're largely stubborn or lazy.

Hell, they could copy popcorn time and provide some beefy servers, as a simple example of how it's not anywhere near impossible.


>>people are not going to pay for what they can always get at better quality for $0

This is precisely why I think Apple won't last much long in the mobile/watch battle. Android is like the Windows of the 90's and early 2000's. Available for free, with hardware largely being a commodity, and all Google caring about the traffic and market penetration. Apple will have to growingly fight to push their products into the market which is flooded with cheap android devices offering the same features/capabilities.

In fact this is already happening in India and China.


> Available for free

Windows wasn't ever free (until very recently, and even that isn't exactly the whole story). A big reason for the sheer quantity of bloatware on Windows PCs even nowadays is because that bloatware subsidizes the cost of Windows.

I know (and agree with) what you're getting at (that inexpensive commodity products dominate more easily than expensive niche products in a given industry), but comparing Windows and Android isn't exactly a perfect analogy.


Legally it wasn't free. But illegally it always was, at least it was as good as free.

In fact Microsoft itself wanted people to do it. Because if students and ordinary people pirate their OS, they will be trained to use it in everyday life. Later on, they would sell the OS to enterprises when the same people would eventually work there. That way they can always claim their OS was the most widely used OS in the industry.

Plus if they hadn't let people freely pirate their OS, Linux would have eaten their lunch big time.


Free as in legally free is what I meant; otherwise, we can argue all day that OS/2 and Solaris and OS X and IRIX were "always" free since it was (and indeed, still is) possible to pirate them.

You're also significantly overestimating the number of folks who actually installed Windows themselves, let alone who did so with a pirated version. Most Windows installations are OEM preinstallations, and Microsoft has been well aware of this (and actively encouraged this, albeit being dinged in the process for violating the Sherman Antitrust Act).


yes it was

One had to infringe to get it, but it was totally easy to get it for free.

Notice the improved licensing really didn't happen, until saturation did?

Being lax on licensing meant running Windows was possible for everybody, and that bought a lot of share.

If we were to return to that early era, and Windows had the licensing it does today, or even something potent, what do you think would have happened?


> In fact this is already happening in India and China.

This might happen at some point but they certainly haven't reached that point yet. Apple revenue is still growing tremendously YoY in China. [0]

[0] http://techcrunch.com/2015/04/27/apples-revenues-in-china-so...


Fans are happy to curate the art the like and will always do a better work , and for free.

LOL no. Sure there is no shortage of little YouTube videos that replace some kinds of TV content but most people don't have the creative skills required for high quality narrative content. It's precisely because this is in such short supply that popular shows are pirated in such enormous quantities. If there were so much great creativity about, where are all the great indie/ micro-budget/ fan-based/ crowd-sourced films and TV dramas? There are tons of little short films and imaginative trailers to be found on the internet that were filmed for small sums over a few days, but relatively little long-form content because that involves way more time and effort.

The Entertainment industries are largely based on building hype and celebrities, while the cost of production keeps falling thanks to digital production.

That's not true. Some parts of production get cheaper because of digital methods, eg I don't need to pay the same money for film stock, chemical development etc, I can just buy a bunch of hard disks instead, which will be quite a bit cheaper. That's great - instead of spending $100/minute on celluloid every time we run the camera, we can build a set of multi-terabyte arrays and set up a modest asset-management pipeline for a few thousand $.

But that's only one part of production. People still need to eat, lights still need to be put up and equipment moved around, locations still need to be rented, costumes still need to be made, actors need to be paid and so on. You can try and do all these things for free, but if you do it will look ugly, the camera angles will be bad, the subject matter won't be interesting, the actors will looks badly dressed and the performances will be poor. Of course big Hollywood productions are all about marketing glitz and paying huge sums to very famous people (mainly because they predictably attract audiences who want to look at them). but even small-character-driven dramas require a great deal of time and effort to manufacture. It's very very difficult to make a basic 90 min. film that meets basic consumer expectations of technical quality for less than a few hundred thousand dollars. It's possible, of course, but the vast majority of films made for substantially lower budgets are of really bad quality.

There is an oversupply of creativity which obviously should drive their profits down.

But creativity is only one input to a film. You can't solve every problem by just throwing more creative people at it, not least because the more people you throw at a problem, the more they get in each others' way and the lower productivity becomes. Screenplays can often benefit from the advice of additional creative people, but they're really better for being written by committee. Likewise, a lot of what goes on in and around the film production process is just logistics and grunt work.


A few typos in there...should have said the subject matter won't look interesting, and of course screenplays are rarely better for being written by committee.


I would take these arguments more seriously if they reflected the actual market. Films are licensed to distributors in different countries on a case-by-case basis and license periods typically run for 10 years. Only the 6 major studios have offices on every continent and even they don't run distribution operations in every single country.

compete by making a better product/service -- not by complaining that your competitors are unfair. Of course, they are certainly unfair here, but the rules of competition are the same.

I'm pretty sure I could outdo you in competitive economic terms if I could just help myself to any of your assets that I feel like using whenever I feel like using them. If you would find that situation unfair, would the solution be for you to just work harder?


You're right, of course, the studios will never be able to compete with pirates on price, and they're never going to get people determined to pay nothing to sign up.

However, there are a lot of people who are willing to pay for what they consume, and it's not in content providers' best interest to make these people feel like fools by delivering a product that's inferior to the illegal one.


I agree about the quality issue, but I was answering a comment that was specifically about licensing terms.


I'll respond to this because I think you're missing the point. I'm saying that the "market makers" have made the "actual market" in a way that is self-defeating when technology no longer favors their historic distribution model. Like you say, the market is hobbled by artificial barriers, like geographic restrictions, that don't really exist on the internet. A significant factor in the inferior experience of streaming services is the content licensing hurdle, which makes the availability of content a moving target. You can complain day and night about the fact that technology no longer fits your business model, but that isn't going to solve the problem.


It's not about technology fitting the business model. People who complain about availability don't seem to realize that a lot of existing film properties are subject to long-term contracts that can't simply be torn up. I don't see anyone organizing film and TV lovers together to buy out the contract rights and make the film they want to watch available worldwide, do you? Nor do I see people putting their own money at risk for extended periods to provide financing to get the film made in the first place provided it's released globally, simultaneously, without DRM but with a cherry on top and so on.

The reality is that people really really want to consume the product, and then invent all sorts of reasons about why they shouldn't have to pay or wait for it. Copying doesn't deprive the owner of a film or other media property of the original, but it does deprive them of the right to sell the product they own at the time and place of their choosing, which is a basic economic right of producers, and by producers I mean anyone who makes something as opposed to the people who simply consume it.

You don't need to explain to me how the internet works, I was discussing the changing face of IP on people back on Usenet before there was such a thing as the WWW. You know why distributors are still around? Because they put capital at risk in return for licensing rights. It takes a lot of capital to make the original owrk, even if the marginal cost of distribution is zero or near zero. Internet solves the distribution side but does little or nothing to help the actual production process.

I'm very tired of this attitude of technological entitlement. every proposal I see for from film producers about how to monetize their product is deemed unacceptable in some way or other. I can't help drawing hte asme conclusion as the other poster who says that a large number of people are simply selfish and want something for nothing.


> invent all sorts of reasons about why they shouldn't have to pay or wait for it.

> a large number of people are simply selfish and want something for nothing.

I can tell you're solidly in the relevant industry, since you seem to ascribe quite a bit of malice toward your own consumers. If I can try to change your mind, one final time, it would be to say that this strong demand for your product arises because consumers greatly appreciate your product, but they don't appreciate your business strategies. (This could be said about many industries, but let's stick to this one for now.)

That is a mismatch, and in the presence of dramatic technological changes, it suddenly is very much about the business model fitting the technology (not vice versa, as you put it). Finding a way to renegotiate licenses for the new world is something the music industry has slowly found a way to do. Publishers are not there yet. Nor are films and TV. The result in music has been a fairly large-scale change in how that industry works that other content sectors are not ready to accept. In the meantime, consumers still have the demand and the technology clearly exists to fulfill it outside of your revenue model. I'm in no way justifying piracy; I'm simply explaining in a factual way why it's getting worse for you. I'll just leave it at that.


Honest actors can't compete with people who ignore the law though - you acknowledge yourself that the competition here is unfair. Yes, by ignoring copyright and not compensating content creators at all, you can create a service that offers vast amounts of content for free. A legitimate business can't do that.

Saying 'well, sorry, the market has spoken and the price they are willing to pay for your content is $0' is just not reasonable. It's like pointing to a guy selling stolen iPhones for $20 and telling Apple they need to adjust their prices to the new reality.


They can.

There are a few use cases here:

1. Massive pirate. Won't pay for anything. If we made it a perfect world, they would just mooch off other people in the extreme, never paying for anything.

They won't be customers. Ever. But they do talk about stuff, make recommendations, etc... So they can be leveraged in that way. Show them an AD, or have them do some other minor league thing of value, and trade on that for some value. Good as it gets.

And it's important to factor these people in. Their copies and views don't devalue anything. Ignore their $0, and consider anything of value derived from their mindshare as a bonus.

2. Casual pirate. These people will pay, but don't want to be annoyed. Good service, making it easy, etc... all counts, and massive numbers of them will subscribe to lots of things. Cord cutters fall in to this bucket too. Cut out the $150 cable bill, and sign up for a few services, then buy things on top of that. Big cable loses a revenue stream, but content creators and service providers gain one.

3. Buyer. They typically have more means than most, and just pay because it's not a big impact to them. Upper middle class and above here mostly.

What people make, and what $10 means to them is absolutely a factor in how to compete with free works. The difference between #2 and #3 here is important.

Secondly, entertainment dollars are largely fixed for many people. Actually, my experience is this is true for most people. There is some flex in it, but there aren't billions laying around unspent somehow as most entertainment centric arguments imply. Most people have a coupla hundred bucks to spend. And the various forms of entertainment compete too. A summer of good movies? Yeah, maybe buy one less game.

Recognition of this means understanding price points, incentives to spend and how / when / why to compete with other entertainment forms to optimize revenue. Very little is being said about this, but we are seeing flat rate services compete fairly well while delivering consistent revenue.

All of this is particularly relevant to #2 above.

Considering all of these together highlights some ways to compete with free.

Be the free source. Pirating has some negatives attached to it. So side step those and give people options that can send value your way.

Increasingly, it's possible to stream now. I am a fan of AMC "Halt And Catch Fire" and do not have cable. I can't go and buy AMC just yet, and they didn't put the show on the services I do subscribe to.

On a quick check, there it was! Right there on the AMC site, and they want me to watch an AD, maybe participate in the little activities and potentially do other things in return for my eyeballs on the show.

Result?

Incentive to pirate goes way down. I've got a path in, and would gladly have gave them money for the views too.

Cory Doctrow does this with his books too. If you want to read 'em, he's the source for that. Grab and go. If you want to translate, or do fan derivatives, he will source that too.

I did that with "Down and Out In the Magic Kingdom", and really liked his work. Bought a lot of hard copies of his stuff since then. Had it not been that easy and obvious, I might have gotten some PDF, or other, or more likely, not done anything and would not know the guy at all.

Mindshare matters. Buying it with views to compete is a perfectly valid business model. And giving people options like sharing / recommending / gifting means those who can pay with dollars will, and those who can't or won't, can do some work that leads to dollars. It's all dollars in the end, done right.

So there are a couple of ways right there. Both compete with free, both leverage mindshare to get some value while at the same time offering purchase opportunities.

The more of this there is, the less people will pirate, leaving us with just that use case #1 above, and there is nothing to be done with those people, other than to leverage their mindshare somehow.

Maximizing revenue is all about the other use cases and recognition of the nature of entertainment dollars and pricing on that understanding, IMHO.


Casual pirates and cord cutters aren't the same. At all. I don't get how you can erase the moral line between freeloading and just not being a customer.

Car rental companies don't look at people who just break into cars and steal them and think 'hey look - setting aside the hardcore boosting crews, and focusing on just casual car thieves, there's clearly a market for people who just want the convenience of taking any car they walk past for free! We need to compete with that on convenience and price!'

There's simply no excuse for being a casual pirate. I'm sorry, but it's just not right or fair to access the work of a content owner through a channel they don't endorse. Just because they haven't figured out a way to give you access on terms they agree to doesn't give you the right to take access on your terms.


Regarding the line between infringing and being a customer...

You know, this has another aspect I've been thinking about, and that is there is so much stuff...

Can't possibly consume even a fraction of it.

Maybe they should pay me to pay attention? It's worth thinking about. I really don't give it much attention now. When I decided to not infringe at all, I found a lot of it isn't worth the price. I also found there are a ton of things to do besides watch passive entertainment.

It's really hard to get me in front of a TV doing nothing for a couple three hours. I just don't do it.

So then, I might be talked into doing it, and I might be talked into sharing my experiences, recommending, etc... and that might come with some benefits too, like I might give a rip about some brand or other, or allow an AD impression to sink in.

None of that has to happen for me. Often it doesn't, yet there it is, massive piles of stuff out there, seemingly useless, easily ignored.

My mindshare is valuable. Maybe it's worth it to not just hand it over so easy. Maybe they should earn it, and that starts with some sort of investment or incentive for me to give it a shot, whatever it is.

Many cord cutters are finding this out. Just use less TV overall. It's not a bad thing at all.

So there are aspects here not always discussed, and depending on how things go, those aspects could turn out somewhat ugly, if unintended too.

So what does being a customer really mean?

Just some thoughts there to balance this discussion some.


No, they aren't the same. But they are similar in that a lot of members of both will pay.

I lumped them in to the same bucket to highlight how mindshare can translate into value other than direct pay per view.

As for there being no excuse?

Sure there is. It's possible to do.

End game is really simple:

a. We make it a perfect, closed, trusted computing only world. That's draconian, and very likely not possible.

Suddenly, mindshare goes way down. People only get what they can actually pay for. What do you think happens with pricing, etc...?

b. We recognize that it's possible to do.

Mindshare stays high, and people compete for revenue, and or ways to leverage mindshare for value / revenue.

I'm in the latter camp, and am not judging people one way or the other, instead focused on getting the maximum value out of the activity and mindshare.

And here is the hard truth. They don't like infringing. Who does? But they absolutely do like the massive mindshare their work got them. So it's one or the other.

In the perfect world, getting mindshare might involve what? Say giving it away? Maybe allowing people to share it?

Interesting, isn't it?

Simple as that.


c. We recognize that individuals need to take some moral responsibility for their actions.

The issue isn't that it's possible to do. All kinds of things that are bad for society are possible to do but people don't do them because they will get caught and punished. The issue is that it's possible to get away with doing it.


And I submit it's always going to be possible to get away with doing it

, and

that it's possible to get away from doing it is actually important for all the business models to compete.

Go back to the closed, perfect, world. No infringing uses happen. What's the end game on that, pricing, getting mind share, etc...

I'll tell you what happens, and that is a lot of give aways and a ton of pricing changes. First one to move on that gains huge share, forcing the rest along. One will say, "go ahead, share it" and it's game on.

And who really wants that closed perfect computing world? I sure don't, and look at all the abuse where it does exist?

Open needs to be an alternative to that, if nothing else, to keep people somewhat sane and honest.

If open exists, so does infringement.

So then, how to maximize revenue? Sales is one way, leveraging mindshare is another.

The farther we go down that road, the more productive the discussion is.

And it's about the harm too. People do all sorts of things that are possible to do, and they do them under the threat of being caught and punished.

We make the punishment a remedy and recompense for harm done too.

So how appropriate is 150K / infringing act, compared to actual theft which carries significantly less penalty in most cases?

It's crazy! People are wanting to make it criminal and impose very significant terms too. That will also be crazy.

We need to have a talk about harm. Somebody watching a movie they aren't supposed to isn't that big of a harm.

And it can be a benefit, depending.

That dialog needs to be continued and continued rationally.

Frankly, I've stepped away from a ton of this. When I boil it down, choose to not infringe, I find the value of it all highly dubious, and there are lots of other things to do.

So I'm mostly out.

The little kid mooching software, movies, games, programming tools, whatever seeking to learn and grow might be on the moral bad side, if they have means. If they are poor? Trust me when I say they don't care, and are just seeking opportunity and skills.

It's not as black and white as you frame it.

And it's a control issue sometimes when it shouldn't be too.


Secondly... your analogy to theft is part of the problem.

Up thread, I wrote this. It's infringing. It's not actually theft.

Theft based advocacy is understandable, but not inclusive enough for a productive discussion.

And in that is the moral line being blurred quite nicely.


Okay, let's not use a theft-based analogy then. Climbing into empty houses through open windows and sleeping in people's beds isn't stealing, it's infringing.

Since that is so easy and convenient, why would anybody use the products of the old-fashioned 'hotel' industry? And with new players like AirBnB enabling bed providers to monetize their beds so much more easily, really there's no excuse for bed providers to restrict access to their beds. The market has spoken - beds are freely available for anybody, and anybody who is hanging on to the old-fashioned model of bed-rights management needs to get with the times.


Actually, that analogy breaks down too.

And it does for obvious reasons all related to the difference between physical things and information.

This is an information conversation, not a physical one.

Two things:

1. Infringing is wrong. You seem to be attempting to sell me on that it's wrong.

No need for that. It is. Well, until it isn't, and that's up to the content creator really. Some choose to allow infringing uses and will actually source them, thus transforming them into non-infringing uses more than they are infringing ones, and they get value for doing that.

It's important that model be possible. See Doctorow, Lessig, et al. for how and why that works.

Some content creators are opposed, and infringing on them is wrong.

But how that actually works is where the discussion is.

Sometimes we allow infringing for fair uses, despite opposition from content creators too.

The dialog is more subtle than these "it's wrong" physical analogies account for, and where that continues to be true, we have an incomplete discussion, and with that, an ongoing mess and I submit, non-optimal revenue and opportunity for same.

2. Where we are clashing and that is information does not operate on the same terms as physical things do. You seem to be attempting to get me to equate the two, and I'm just not gonna do that.

They aren't the same and they don't operate in the same ways.


I'd be interested to know how the piracy of music compares to the piracy of video.

Which industry has better (legal) streaming options, and does this correlate with lower piracy?


Music streaming without a doubt. Spotify has claimed a massive drop in music piracy over the last few years since its widespread introduction.


Everyone who I knew used to pirate music (think of p2p programs like Ares or Limewire) now uses either youtube or spotify.


Former such pirate; can confirm. While downloading music from YouTube probably still counts as piracy, my needs are effectively met between that and the various legal options for unlimited streaming (particularly Amazon Prime Music as of late).


I like rdio.com.


There will be less incentive when developers are raided and brought to court for their high crimes against the industry.

Why not have the FBI go after the pirates instead of changing the structure of their business?

It works well for them when it comes to unlicensed reproductions and hardware that facilitates piracy.

If Popcorn time could turn a dime while playing the game legally, and become a threat like Netflix was, I'd believe it.

It's easier to crack a few skulls legally when pirates start getting flagrant than it is to treat them like a legal competitor.


This is a great strategy. As the dozens of popcorn time forks have shown us it not only does not work, but it is also taking intelligent nonviolent programmers and ruining their lives in prisons around the world. The MPAA and friends couldn't look more evil if they wore a fake mustache and tried twirling it.


It works great if your intention is to intimidate and fragment communities that promote widespread piracy into irrelevance.


The last ten years have shown that to be false.


That is was is happening in a world where we allow monopolies and oligopolies to exist. The price of new entrance is too high, and the conservatism of the existing actors is detrimental to bringing any additional value to technology and to the consumer market.

Just a thought.


It seems a little weird that the fork Wired is promoting in this post is the fork alleged to have malware http://www.reddit.com/r/PopCornTime/comments/2lyxnm/time4pop... (also known as Time4Popcorn). I don't know why they didn't promote popcorntime.io instead which is the more popular and open fork ranking higher on Google etc.


Agreed. popcorntime.io is fully open source and under active development https://git.popcorntime.io/groups/popcorntime . The other one is a rip off site.


I always had the impression that someone ( or some group ) actively promotes confusion in the bittorrent world.

If I am right, this is a powerful tatic, to raise noise ratio and keep non technical folks away.



There are many instances of people reporting boomcheap malware after installing Time4Popcorn (popcorn-time.se): https://www.reddit.com/r/techsupport/comments/2l3d4t/boomche...

Time4Popcorn probably had to rebrand to popcorn-time.se for these issues. It is not properly open source, while on popcorntime.io you can see the latest source at git.popcorntime.io, on popcorn-time.se you can only get tar balls.

Time4Popcorn (popcorn-time.se) does not even include the node-webkit viewer in their app. The executable itself is just a iframe to http://app.popcorn-time.se/.


That report means very little. The guy actively admits he doesn't even know what to look for, and ran his tests on a default virtual machine without any anti-anti-debugging techniques at all. It is extremely common for malware to detect standard virtual machine setups and not activate their payload.


Does anybody know what it would require to fork Popcorn Time to only support Creative Commons and public domain content? I've spent a lot of time boycotting copyrighted works and I'd like to have a nice user interface to do this.


I really like that idea. I don't know what the goal of Popcorn Time is (maybe they want change in the industry, maybe they just like free stuff) but if the goal is to make access to content even easier than it already is then running the project with only CC/public domain content would be a good way to go. Show that it works and start getting bigger creators signing on (kind of the way BitTorrent does legitimate stuff now).[1]

[1]https://bundles.bittorrent.com/bundles/a1e9a2153051b92d00b27...


BitTorrent Inc. is fine and I respect the work they're doing negotiating with major labels/ studios.

But I can't support DRM on my torrents.


What about opt-in to non CC/public domain content? Does this solves anything?


A little but when you're screwing these people you're negotiating position is always going to be hurt. Show them the tech works without screwing them and you may get them to come around.


Popcorn is two things: A bittorrent streamer, and a frontend for an api serving film/torrent info. At the moment it uses yify as the backend.

For your project you would need to have the media published as torrents and a backend api that points to the media you want instead of the current one.

You can drop a torrent file into Popcorn and it will start streaming, if that makes things clearer.


OP would need some sort of distributed hash table metadata that matched file hash to license.


Interesting. Is yify or any equivalent open sourced? could I fork that project?


Being pedantic: CC works still have copyright.

Depending on your country I think it may be impossible as a creator of something to give up your copyright. Based on what I have read here on HN before.

But CC comes with permissive licensing, which I guess is what you are filtering-in with your boycott.


This is a good point. I guess my issue is creators (or more often, studios and labels) who are using copyright to restrict modern tech.

Isn't a CC-0 license the equivalent to a public domain dedication, though?


More or less, yes. But most CC-licensed works are not CC0.


Somewhat related, if drm-free, pay-what-you-want, torrent-distributed original content is your thing, check out vodo.net. Eg:

http://vodo.net/joshbernhard/pioneerone/


Vodo is awesome, and Pioneer One is an awesome show.

I highly suggest everyone check it out and support the creators.


Why fork it? Just add support for the necessary metadata to search and filter by.


What better boycott than to pirate it?


Infringing the copyright implies that you want it, which is, at least to a certain degree, the opposite of boycott.


I wonder if studios cite piracy numbers when negotiating product placement rates.

If movie piracy became particularly common (I do not believe that it currently is, despite what the MPAA claims), I bet they would. Increased product placement to offset revenue lost in ticket sales.


A better framing would be product placement to better leverage infringing uses.

Not every download / view is a lost sale. In fact, the more we look at this, the more we find the majority of them are not lost sales. There aren't enough entertainment dollars out there to fund it all.

But they like the views. Who doesn't?


I'd rather support artists who aren't using the copyright empire in order to monetize their art.

I think any adult should be able to give up The Avengers for moral reasons.

You don't need movie franchises that much.


...a legal boycott?


Many here talk about how Popcorn Time violates copyright law of the United States of Central North America. Please note, not all countries were already bullied into enforcing these laws. Also, there are people who just don't agree with this specific approach to copyright. If need be, development can go into the dark web.


Don't worry, we have the TPP do bully your country to US laws. /sarcasm


If I were going to download copyrighted material, I certainly wouldn't do it over BitTorrent. When the software architecture ensures the only target is the end user, surely end users will end up targeted. When that happens, that single download which would have fallen below the $1,000 threshold is now actually criminal distribution of a work being prepared for commercial distribution.

Your VPN provider's IP address is public information. A quick subpoena is all it would take to reveal your identity. Seems like a risky way to watch Game of Thrones. At least on Usenet a download is just a download.


At this point there are tens to hundreds of millions of pirates in the world. Current policy in the US is six strikes to lose service with your ISP, not criminal prosecution for seeding downloads. That happens of course, but it is blisteringly rare and is a blatant attempt at fear mongering. The proverbial cat is out of the bag, and it will take a lot of stick to put it back in, and even then you will never be able to put a lid back on considering how technology has effectively digitized all information so well.


"Your VPN provider's IP address is public information. A quick subpoena is all it would take to reveal your identity. Seems like a risky way to watch Game of Thrones. At least on Usenet a download is just a download."

A subpoena can only work if the VPN services keeps logs of its user's transactions. Some do and some don't. Without logs there is nothing to subpoena. When evaluating a VPN it is very important to find out whether or not they do. As of now U.S. VPN's cannot be forced to keep logs.

A well regarded resource for such evaluation is:

  https://torrentfreak.com/anonymous-vpn-service-provider-review-2015-150228/
A non-logging VPN with end to end encryption is absolutely required for safety using anything that transfers copyrighted material without permission. That includes both versions of Popcorn Time. Not taking this precaution is very, very expensive.


A bit more caution: if using a VPN's client application it is very important to ensure that they have a kill switch option which shuts down all internet traffic should the VPN connection drop. Many don't. Without that, your machine will continue to babble the copyrighted material in the unencrypted clear after a drop. Unless you are attending the transfer you may never know that is happening.

Alternatively, most all VPN services in addition to offering their own client app also provide URL's that you can plug into standard Windows VPN connections. Then you can use the VPNCheck application which provides a global kill switch that will stop all traffic if any Windows VPN disconnects. That's the route I choose.


So how do you ensure that they don't keep logs?


There really is no way to ensure that unfortunately. You can only go by reputation and their own statements in that regard. The resource I linked is a good place to start an investigation. At least it weeds out those that don't even make the claim and there are many of those.


Could you elaborate how this is more secure?


Its not more secure, you are just less liable. If you DL via torrents you automatically share the content as well. So you are not just DL illegal content, but also distributing it.


Only if you seed right?


most client will upload while you are downloading. I believe in BitTorrent terminology it is only call seeding when you keep uploading after you have downloaded everything


No, if you participate in the swarm with any upload activity at all. You know, the whole P2P thing...


More secure? Not necessarily, but usenet is download-only, so usenet users could not be charged with uploading/distribution.


Popcorn Time doesn't anonymize BitTorrent participation, right? Just makes it easier?


Yes, it's just a BitTorrent client at the end, nothing is changing on that. The improvements are mostly on the UI and the ease to find things.


Right, and that is the biggest issue I have with the unstoppable claim. I understand that they talk about the service, but even when they mention potential personal liability for the developers in the end, end users are ignored.

This is as 'stoppable' or dangerous as torrenting content is in your legislation and this product/service doesn't protect you from prosecution.


Correct. You'd still need a VPN proxy to be anonymous.


I just can not let go of the thought of somehow having a completely decentralized internet. It would be so extremely powerful. I am aware of those who have tried, but IIRC they usually have some centralized component.


The nick "pochoclin" seems to be based on the Argentinean word for popcorn, pochoclo


its time for them to change. triple win is hard, but worth trying - http://soon.thanks.ly


What happened to the plans of an I2P integration?


it would be great if an html5/JS interface existed for MP4 videos. I think it's possible


so what is the liability of users who watch movies on popcorn time?


Depends on the local regulations...


How about (a) USA, (b) Canada, (c) UK?


It's incredibly risky taking on a project like this. In the u.s. copyright violations at this scale are now a criminal offense. And the u.s. has shown no qualms about enforcing their internal laws outside the u.s. And there have been recent examples of the NSA sharing information with the atf and so it wouldn't surprise if the nsa also shares info with the secret service or whoever is enforcing copyright these days.

And what do you get out of it? No money. No bragging rights since you're desperate to keep your contributions secret. And you will inevitably be caught.

And I'm speaking as a plex user. I state this in public because my plex use is easily trackable.


I worked on this for about 9 months, well the actual fork (popcorntime.io, not T4P). Was the leading contributor (probably still am). No one on that team was from the US, we did get calls from the MPAA though to try scare us.

I definitely didn't try to keep my contributions secret


They get money out of it. The Pirate Bay makes a huge margin from the advertisements on their website.

Edit: apparently they do not currently have ads on the website or in the app, so they do not currently make money.


I guess you didn't read the article. There are no ads on Popcorn Time and no source of revenue for the developers.


I did not read the article.

Is there a website to get popcorn time or the 'torrent' files for them?

This would be the place for ads.

Edit: I have now read the article in full. Question about financing below.


Here's an idea: read the article. If you still have questions after you've done that, then maybe ask them.


I just did this.

It is not that ads are not possible, it is that ads are currently not shown.

So here's a question: do we expect that to continue in perpetuity? My expectation would be that of the root comment: the website will in the future support its traffic and hosting costs with ads and make huge margins. Is there some reason why this expectation is foolish?


Popcorn Time is at its heart just a torrent client using streamed torrent download to pipe the result into a media player.

You can just feed a torrent file or a magnet link into Popcorn Time and it will play.

There are lots of torrent clients and media players that are free software which you can use to get the same result.

Your expection is baseless because said facts.


Right, but if you look at the large torrent sites they make large amounts of money from ads. They are 'free' but they make money (they don't make money from you - they make money by you).

Since popcorn time is effectively the same thing, I would expect the same thing. That's my grounding.


Popcorn Time is _not_ the same thing, as I've described in my previous comment. You seem not to read very well.


I think you should consider the possibility that he is not participating in this discussion in good faith.


> Popcorn Time is at its heart just a torrent client using streamed torrent download to pipe the result into a media player.

> You can just feed a torrent file or a magnet link into Popcorn Time and it will play.

This is what I intended to mean by 'the same thing'. Can you expound on technical reasons why it is different in such a way that advertising is not possible or is not likely?


The described technology is independent of the source of the torrent. Their relation is similiar to the relationship between a program and an OS. Yes, the OS permits the usage of the program but the OS is not responsible in any way for the program nor does it imply that the OS wants to make money off the profits of the program.

The moment Popcorn Time adds Ads, there will be a fork without them.


> The described technology is independent of the source of the torrent.

This also applies to bittorrent.

> The moment Popcorn Time adds Ads, there will be a fork without them.

I understand what you mean. You're thinking I'm claiming the ads would go inside the client? If you look up the chain of conversation, I said that the ads would go on the website that hosts the magnets/torrents.

We see the same thing with bittorrent. Ad free clients. Ad bannered websites. We should expect the same with popcorn time websites.


> Ad free clients. Ad bannered websites. We should expect the same with popcorn time websites.

This is what you're not understanding: There are no "Popcorn Time websites" (except for a source to download the client)

Popcorn Time is a combined torrent-client/media player/search engine. You don't have to go to any websites (with ads or otherwise), you can click on nice pretty movie-poster images or search from within the program itself. There aren't any ads in Popcorn Time, and you don't have to leave Popcorn Time to go find media. It is one unified, seamless user experience, equivalent to the Netflix app.


I see. I did not get that from the article (it looks like I misunderstood).

Thank you for clarifying further (without more downvote nukes).

It appears that adding ads, so long at there are many competing clients, would be difficult.

I was very wrong.


You don't need to access any website to use Popcorn Time.


Is the idea that the program has a means to search, verify and download torrent files outside of centralized magnet/torrent websites? I did not get this from the article.


I think you should try Popcorn Time. You know, for research purposes. ;)


It's an expectation without proof. We have no evidence suggesting they will do that, nor any suggesting they won't. So it's a pretty academic conversation. They could turn Popcorn Time into a Bitcoin mining outfit without telling anyone, too.

With the advent of S3 storage and the like I would imagine their hosting costs are very small, and almost all at download time, not run time.


All expectations have no proof? Yes it's speculation.

Re: evidence. The evidence we do have is from precedent - former file sharing services that have made money from similar types of technologies (notably bit-torrent). It is an established fact that money can be made via advertizing and given both that CPUs are terrible at mining cryptocurrencies and that it would dramatically degrade performance the bitcoin suggestion is unlikely.

Agreed that it is speculation. But this is what the OP asked for at the top: speculations as to why the developers would invest in the project.

RE: costs being relatively low. Agreed. Revenue from ads are similarly small. The calculus is performed at scale - which is exactly what this technology hopes to be. The relatively low costs are what makes large margins with advertizing possible.


Does Popcorn Time sport ads?


No


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