Actor Explains Why He Downloads Unauthorized Content… Including Movies He's In

from the it's-just-more-convenient dept

Captain Kibble was the first of a whole lot of you to send in actor/comedian/writer/etc. Peter Serafinowicz’s explanation for why he downloads unauthorized copies of things… including his own movies. The basic answer is convenience, but also a shifting view on media consumption. He does pay for some stuff, but only when it’s equally convenient or, as many have called it, “better than free.” It’s worth reading the whole thing, but there are a few key snippets. He notes that there is definitely promotion value in having the content up on file sharing networks — and notes that with his own show, obscurity is a much bigger threat than “piracy”:

The visibility argument certainly makes sense for my short-lived BBC show. I’m revamping my website right now and my web team asked me if I would like them to hunt down and put and end to the torrents and RapidShare links to The Peter Serafinowicz Show, which was recently released in the UK on DVD. I said no because the show is still relatively unknown and I’d like as many people to see it as possible. In fact, I’ve used the torrents myself when I haven’t had a copy to hand.

Much of it is already up on YouTube. If people like it enough they’ll want to buy, to own, the DVD, which has lots of great extra stuff, but the DVD isn’t even sold in the USA. The freely available content serves as a calling card for me, and for the other cast members and writers, hopefully enabling us to produce more hilarious stuff for the world’s discerning comedy fans.

Another point he makes is that it’s often the content providers own fault in making it so ridiculous difficult to legally get the content he wants to watch. He lives in the UK and is frustrated about TV shows getting to the UK much later, or other content that he can’t legally reach at all from the UK. And sometimes, it makes no sense at all to him, so he just fires up BitTorrent instead:

I recently wanted to show my son Disney’s classic Jungle Book and intended to get it on iTunes. Unfortunately, it is currently incarcerated within The Disney Vault. So I’m afraid I simply DL’ed a pixel-clear pirate copy which arrived in seconds. My moral justification for this? I once bought the VHS. It’s your own vault, Disney!

He also sees how annoying the legally purchased versions of things can be:

“Ownership” is starting to change its meaning. If you buy a movie from iTunes you “own” the right to watch it on certain devices within certain constraints. When you “own” a DVD, you have the right to watch it whenever and wherever you want. However: you must watch ten minutes of promos, trailers and anti-piracy threats. I’ll take the download, please.

Along those lines, he gets frustrated at ridiculous and unnecessary restrictions when he does by content — restrictions that unauthorized copies don’t have:

I own a physical copy of Anthony Lane’s brilliant collection of New Yorker reviews, Nobody’s Perfect. It’s a heavy read (around 3 lbs.) and I wanted to get a copy for my iPad. I tracked down an ePub version of the book at the Barnes & Noble site, assuming, since iBooks also uses the format, that I could tranfer it to my iPad. Only the iPad doesn’t read Adobe-encoded ebooks, not now at least. With the help of some sympathetic Twitter followers I then spent around ten futile hours installing Xcode and obscure Python scripts (not the funny ones) on two different computers in what seems to be the only method one can use to illegally decrypt Adobe ebooks. My moral justification for this? I’ve paid for the book twice.

Finally, he also has run into the ridiculousness of the recording industry. Earlier this year, we noted how insanely short-sighted it was of EMI to prevent embedding of the band Ok Go’s viral music videos. Serafinowicz came across the same issue on a video he made for EMI, which he solved by releasing it in an unauthorized manner:

I recently directed the music video for Hot Chip’s “I Feel Better.” Contractually, the video had to be hosted on EMI’s official YouTube channel, which disabled non-UK users from viewing it, limiting its audience by around 80%. Frustrated, I put it up on my own YouTube channel with no region restrictions, and at time of writing is just shy of a million views. EMI then remotely disabled embedding on my version, thereby limiting its audience again. If you’re in the business of promoting a band, why would you want to stop people watching their promotional video?

It’s basically the same story over and over and over again. People understand what’s possible and what they can do with technology, and the industry keeps wanting to restrict what they can do, because the industry doesn’t know how to deal with it. But that’s never going to stop people. Once you understand what technology enables, why would you ever purposely limit yourself? The various content industries have so many chances to get this right, and every time they get it wrong — to the point that even the folks who make their living from these industries are beginning to question the strategic aptitude of those in charge.

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Comments on “Actor Explains Why He Downloads Unauthorized Content… Including Movies He's In”

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Steve R. (profile) says:

The Concept of Sale Being Eliminated

Well others are noticing that the concept of “sale” is being eliminated. “”Ownership” is starting to change its meaning.”.

We still need to go a step further with this concept. Content producers are “stealing” your rights to use a product. It time for us to recognize that when you buy content, some of the rights associated with the content are transferred to the buyer.

Consumers have property rights too!

Hephaestus (profile) says:

“The various content industries have so many chances to get this right, and every time they get it wrong — to the point that even the folks who make their living from these industries are beginning to question the strategic aptitude of those in charge.”

They will continue to get it wrong. The monopoly mentality, short term financial concerns, and contracts (national and international) they have will see to that. They have created a puzzle box of laws, contracts, and corporate structures, that limit and bind them to follow the course they are on. Even if they wanted to, they cant escape.

Captain Kibble (user link) says:

Re: Frak You Kibble!

Ha! Beat ya!

*sticks out tongue*

Seriously though it was a very good article and pretty brave of him. Few people in his position would risk being seen as biting the hand that feeds them like that. I suspect a lot of artists share his opinions but don’t voice them because of the potential risk to their earnings/employment.

Sam_K (profile) says:

What I love about this article is that when he talks about these issues and his reaction it all sounds so simple and common-sense.

Why is it so bloody hard for people to understand this stuff? I am 100% a new media man but with all the words I’ve read on this subject even I have been lead to the conclusion that “it’s complicated” when actually it really isn’t.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

And when you have a show on BBC and direct a music video for a band on a label (which according to you means they are successful), your opinion might actually be relevant.

Of course, you’re just hypocritical anonymous TAM who won’t reveal anything about himself while whining that others won’t either.

Karl (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

the hundreds if not thousands of artists who choose not to be pirates.

Good luck finding them. I’ve never met an artist who hasn’t shared MP3’s once in a while. Even Lily Allen was a pirate.

Artists usually aren’t against filesharing. They just keep quiet about it, because their opinions could get them fired, sued, or dropped by their label or studio bosses.

When artists do speak out about copyrights, Masnick usually does a post about them. Though it may not be the post you want to see.

Jupiter (profile) says:

“Institutions will seek to preserve the problem for which they are the solution.”

Get rid of the distribution problem and you get rid of the distribution institution. If you control distribution you can control promotion too. The new problem is promotion – how to get noticed when there are a thousand alternatives. Which institution will solve that problem? The river of money is slowly changing course.

hmm says:

every performance needs a fee…

step 1: fit credit-card readers to the armrests of every seat in the cinema

step2: require a 50cent payment per advert watched

step3: a good half hour of trailers should nab about £7.50 a seat!!!

step4: cackle mercilessly and consider ways to attach a payment meter to a childs cerebellum in case they dream about the movie they saw earlier!

hmm says:

actually thinking about this if ‘promotional’ trailers etc have value, then this means the un-skippable trailers have “value”….

So how about hollywood produces “trailer-less” DVDs….which with some “value” removed would cost less?

/gloveslap to face of hollywood as challenge….betcha theres no response by them!

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