LA Times' Propaganda Piece Claims Piracy Hurts Filmmakers Without Any Actual Evidence

from the oh-come-on dept

Reader jjmsan was the first of a few of you to send over this silly piece in the LA Times claiming that independent filmmakers are being hurt by unauthorized file sharing, but it’s completely devoid of any actual evidence. It kicks off with the story of one indie film director who released a movie and insists that he’s been harmed. But what’s the evidence? Well, a lot of people have downloaded his film. Ok. So? When other movie makers saw that, they put in place smart business models to encourage people to buy something, and they did quite well because of it. By embracing file sharing and combining it with smart business models, tons of filmmakers who never would have been able to do anything with their film have now been able to build an audience and make a living.

The filmmaker in the story, Greg Carter, doesn’t seem to have done any of that. He appears to have just complained about people who wanted to see his movie, rather than giving them something to buy. And while he insists that he’s “lost $100,000 in revenue,” he never seems to recognize that there was a good chance a lot fewer people would have cared to watch his film in the first place if it weren’t for file sharing. The fact is that he failed to put in place a business model that embraced how people wanted to view the film. It’s not “piracy” that’s to blame, it’s Greg Carter not putting in place a smart business model like a bunch of other filmmakers have done.

The article also highlights a filmmaker, Ellen Seidler, who complains about spending hours a day sending emails to file sharing sites, demanding they take down her film. Just think how much better she could be doing if she spent that same time connecting with fans and giving them a reason to buy.

What a waste of space by the LA Times, who shouldn’t be misleading people like this with bogus articles. It’s articles that portray these people as victims, due to their own lack of business initiative, that does real harm to filmmakers. If, instead, the LA Times focused on smart filmmakers who are in the same situation as Carter and Seidler, but instead embraced it and are making real money because of it, they’d be helping. Instead, they’re just making more of a mess.

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Comments on “LA Times' Propaganda Piece Claims Piracy Hurts Filmmakers Without Any Actual Evidence”

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ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

It is the LA Times, after all.

There’s a culture of entitlement in Hollywood, that has permeated LA, and to some extent CA, culture as well. Some of the older generation has managed to bank a comfortable living on residuals or whatnot, and everyone has a vague hope of cashing in on that gravy train, even though it’s like planning for your retirement by buying lottery tickets.

Point being, they see ‘piracy’ as ‘residuals lost,’ which explains a lot of the attitude there.

Anonymous Coward says:

And in other news, Sintel has landed.

Another open source movie created by the Blender Foundation.

Their response for low quality bootlegs?

Well you never know… Amsterdam can flood or so. But we target at next week thursday for spreading our film online! Work on the DVD with the loads of extras still continues, when this goes to be duplicated I’ll notify you!

Anonymous Coward says:

I always laugh when people bring up the whole “it’s unfair that I have to spend so much time sending DMCA notices/whining about piracy/contacting sites.”

A rational person might realize that the point at which you have to spend so much time “protecting” or “defending” that it interferes with your life would be a good time to rethink their blind reliance on outdated laws.

Anonymous Coward says:

Here’s what’s funny. I have a copyrighted image that has been made somewhat famous around the world, because of it’s content. I decided to do two things, sell it to publications, and share it for free with others. This has been my choice. The results have been that I’ve made money from magazines, and also gained additional exposure from giving it away for free to other newspapers, websites and companies. This exposure brings new magazines who want to pay and new fans who enjoy and spread the work, including my other photographs.

The point being, is that I keep the Karma good by giving away to some and selling to others who offer, it balances out perfectly. It cost me thousands of dollars to be in a position to take this photograph, but the return is worth it.

These companies don’t seem to realize that you have to be somewhat flexible with your art, it’s not all about profit, but exposure does build profit. If these filmakers don’t get their production out to the world at large, then no one will know about it. World of mouth is priceless and there are plenty of people who can afford to pay, and will.

Anonymous Coward says:

“taking a pictures does not cost the same as making a film”

Obviously, but you’re not seeing my point. These are the kinds of responses that keep the independent film industry from thriving. Regardless of cost of production, exposure creates profit. Exposure can be greater if it’s free. If you can get 1 million people around the world to watch your film for free, then many more will pay to see it. However, as the articles states, you have to put some leg work into it and connect with the fans. People will respect you more and pay if they feel that there is a person behind a production.

B.S. Meter says:

I call B.S.

The filmmaker is obvious an idiot. He should just empty his wallet along the street as he goes outdoors.

If you’re movie, software, book, etc. is shared – YAH! If it’s downloaded millions of times – DOUBLE YAH!


Simple. I pre-ordered Ironman 2 on Blue-Ray. Why? Because I liked the movie. I COULD have just found it and downloaded from a Warez site… but the Blue-Ray is in my opinion worth the $16 I paid on pre-order because I will get alot of enjoyment out of it.


Because I saw the first movie. Now granted, I saw it in the theater too… but I could just as easily have caught it on a fileshare site. The fact is, it was a good movie – I saw value in it and so I bought the Blu-Ray… then, I went to see the sequel… and IT was good too… so I bought the Blu-Ray of it.

People pay for value TO THEM. They don’t pay for your work. You could put in 1,000,000 hours and $40 million dollars into a movie and you might think it’s AWESOME – and most directors and filmmakers do with their inflated egos – but if it has NO VALUE to the consumers… it’s a flop.

By creating value, we create desire… and desire is the basis for 90% of our buying decisions.

Stop spending time creating something and spend time creating DESIRE in your clients – either through good marketing (convincing people they NEED it) or through good, quality products (that people will inherently feel they NEED).


Anonymous Coward says:

Ok, but a photographer makes money by getting magazines, books, etc to use their photos. Those institutions are legally required to pay you, as far as the method you use to make money goes, you’re safe. How does someone in the film industry makemoney, well primarily by getting people to pay to see their films. The legal protection they have is being violated. They lose money when someone sees their film and doesn’t pay.
And here’s another point, someone who is trying to be recognized and wants to have their photos discovered, by anyone is vastly different than someone who has their films available for screening. There’s a big difference between a goal of being “discovered” and a goal of making money. Filmmakers want to make money. When people have the option of paying money to see a movie, or simply finding someone to share it, they’re going to lose money. I’d be pissed too, regardless of whether it was 20,000 or 100,000.

ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Fuck You

And brick layers make money from the thing they produce. Hollywood is based on getting people to do stuff cheap for the hope of future riches. Hey, pave my patio on the cheap and you might, just might, recoup a royalty from it.

The weird thing is that people buy into it, because a few people are actually benefiting from the status quo.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Fuck You

Yeah but more people give away their work for free than expect to be paid which causes quite the confusion among the consumers of content. If only a handful of content producers expect to be paid even though the majority of content consumers expect it to be free, well, you can see where this is going.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Fuck You

Ohh so confusing, only not really. There’s this thing called the internet, and I think you can go to the artists’ or content producer, whatever you want to call them, are they giving it away for free there? Go ahead, consume for free away. Do they have a store, where they let you purchase it. Well problem solved, not so confusing after all.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Fuck You

“Its when the person who creates something and has it taken from him, without consent. That is what pisses me off.”

But HOW do you intend to stop people from “ripping you off”?

Digital data can be infinitely copied effortlessly and very quickly. It would be stupid of me not to make use of that facility to make my own backups. And giving them to friends. That give them to friends. And so on.

It is SO EASY that NO ONE on his right mind would be STUPID enough to buy a copy of the thing for the whole family/friends.

How do you combat that? You don’t. You embrace it.

Give your movie away for free. Generate hype. Catch people’s attention. And then, once you have a sizable audience, hit them with merchandise (not hit physically, killing/injuring your hard earned audience is a bad idea) and special offers that no one can copy (hint: no one can copy your actors/crew, make use of that fact).

Bottom line is this: the age of selling movies is over. Movies are no longer a scarce resource, and economics teach you (from what I’ve learned) that it is (nearly) impossible to sell an infinite resource directly.

MrWilson says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Fuck You

If it was me, I’d feel pretty stupid for expecting a business strategy that worked in a completely different market with completely different technology 50 years ago to still work today.

Ford doesn’t try to manufacture and sell Model T parts for a reason. It’s not profitable anymore.

Further, just because someone torrents a movie doesn’t mean they would have paid to see it, so each unauthorized use is not a financial loss. You can’t lose what you wouldn’t have had anyway.

Chuck (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Fuck You

Allow me to correct your dashes:
It seems pretty obvious that a film maker makes money from the thing they produce?films. I really don’t think that needs to be spelled out any further.

Since editors usually get paid for their work, I think you should pay me too.

An illegal viewing ≠ a lost sale. Would you pay the $100 (hypothetical) that a filmmaker demands? No. But if you got to watch it free. You watched it. Does it mean the filmmaker lost $100 just because you watched it?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Fuck You

What do you do for a living? Do something, spend time doing something for a year or two, then don’t get paid fully for it. You know what happened? You’ve lost money you could have. Someone has his film on his computer, and didn’t pay for it, well if he had paid for it, money would’ve gone somewhere. Don’t read so literally. Its not a matter of dollars lost, its the fact that piracy is ripping the people who created whatever is being stolen off.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Fuck You

You know something?

If you spend a year or two making trash you’re not gonna recoup anything, either.

As for the download automagically translating into a lost sale no one, let me repeat that, no one has established a direct causal link between the two. There’s just the feeling that it might have.

As for the alleged rip off, as you so kindly put it, translating into dollars lost you forget such things as word of mouth as a result of the download translating into sales of DVD quality paid for downloads which torrent site stuff rarely if ever is. Who knows. Maybe even a shiny disk or three to go along with it.

Indy film makers are still out there making content so someone, somewhere is making money. More than enough for the “artist” to pay for the work and then some.

Try to use a modicum of sense rather than repeating endless nonsemse.

Oh, and you do know that Hollywood is in the middle of another year of raking it in at record levels don’t you?

jc (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Fuck You

I think people are being extraordinarily patient with you after a comment like this.

Who gets to decide how much they deserve to make for their work? Answer, no one. Everyone’s pay is determined by someone else; whether I work for McDonalds or the film industry it doesn’t matter – a variety of market forces determine what my work is worth.

At McDonalds my pay is based on cost of food, how much consumers are willing to pay, how much others are charging, desired profit margins, investor choices, etc.

In the film industry your pay is based on 1 thing – what people are willing to give you in exchange for viewing your film. It could be a million dollars or nothing. Your film could be wonderful or terrible, but it’s irrelevant. Unlike McDonalds you’ve incurred all the costs of producing the product BEFORE I’ve agreed to pay, but thats your problem.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Fuck You

This woman and any other Indy filmmaker or studio films will make the money that the audience thinks it’s worth.

That the movie industry invests up front on it’s product that’s not the slightest reason that they should make a profit at all.

Nor does it entitle them to somehow avoid losing their shirt if the product is crap.

From a valid argument that this filmmaker deserves a return on product sold you somehow move to the fantasy that the public at large ought to subsidize her so that she has $0 cost. That’s plain nuts and you know it.

If major releases can come close to taking a major studio down why should she be different if their consumers judge the film to be useless or worse?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Fuck You

“if he had paid for it”

That’s the crux of the argument. There’s absolutely no guarantee that he would have paid for it if the download was not available. In fact, there’s plenty of evidence suggesting that people who download do, in fact, go on to buy DVDs that they would otherwise not have bought.

Money is only “lost” if you make incorrect assumptions and think that nobody buys DVDs of movies they’ve already seen (really? You think that DVD sales of a movie drop to zero when they’ve been shown on TV?). If you can’t make back $500,000, you’re doing something wrong – most likely it’s a bad movie, it’s been badly marketed or the niche you’re selling to is either overcrowded or too small.

In actual fact, the movie in the article is a great example of this kind of problem. I’ve never heard of the movie, nor the filmmaker in question. Having been burned many, many times on blind buys, I tend not to do that any more. So, the movie has to pique my interest in some way. An independently produced, low budget gangster movie with one of the most unimaginative titles ever written (“A Gangland Love Story”) and “inspired” by Romeo & Juliet according to the cover (yeah, you and every other love story for the last 500 years, pal)?

Nah, I’d need to see something before paying. Even then, I’m picky with my DVD purchases, and this appears to be a barebones region 1 only release. That’s the kind of thing I’d pick up in a bargain bin somewhere, even if it’s a film I know I like… As it stands, this looks to be the kind of movie I’ll ignore until it’s on TV somewhere, then only watch if I have nothing better to do – I would not waste the requested $17.99 through Amazon. Looks like a lot of people agree with me.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Fuck You

What do you do for a living? Do something, spend time doing something for a year or two, then don’t get paid fully for it. You know what happened? You’ve lost money you could have.

You appear to be confusing “lost money” with “failed to make money.” Those are two different things, and it’s important you understand the difference, because it shows who’s actually to blame.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Fuck You

Failed to make money, when they could have. If the film sucks and no one would go see it anyway, why watch it then? Granted, the artist may not make a lot of money off of the content, but then maybe every cent is worth it to them. Failing to make money when you could have save the people stealing your shit, the artist probably cares.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Overinflated sense of worth.

> Failed to make money, when they could have.

Purple unicorns could also come flying out my arse too.

You can’t make any assumptions about what people do for free.
A free product represents infinite demand and the maximum
theoretical consumption under the most optimistic assumptions
possible. It is a mathematical absurdity that really has no
connection to reality.

Assuming a that a 0 dollar sale implies a 15 dollar sale should have it’s own entry in the DSM-IV.


Re: Re: Re:3 Too worthless to be watched a second time.

What this is really about is how the dreck in Hollywood is not worth bothering with. Once upon a time, there were film releases that people would see in the theaters multiple times. Sometimes it would get quite ridiculous.

If you are a director, then you should be more worried that people will not want to watch your movie a second time.

If your stuff isn’t dreck then perhaps consider encouraging people to buy rather than scolding them for mooching.

It doesn’t matter if it is “right” or “wrong”, marketing is part of your job. If you choose to be a jerk then you fail at marketing and sabotage your own goals.

As far as Indies go, most people will likely never be exposed to the work if it is distributed strictly in conventional venues.

Berenerd (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: *BLEEP* You

Actually, where is the proof that, if this person couldn’t have downloaded said film, they would have bought it. I have downloaded many many files. if I like d them enough to put them in any of my play lists or a movie I liked I went and bought the item. most people will. I honestly don’t like paying $14 to see a movie that sounded good just for it to be a horrid horrid film not worth sitting in the theater for. To me, that is hollywood stealing *my* money. So should there be class action law suits against hollywood to get our money back for “Daybreakers”? If so which do you think Hollywood would rather do? pay billions in settlements for the last 50 or so years or change their way of doing business?

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“They lose money when someone sees their film and doesn’t pay.”

Er? So, if I downloaded this guys movie and didn’t pay for it, he would lose money out of his bank account? That’s truly fucked up. How much gets deducted from his account when I download?

Psst, here’s a secret: you can’t lost what you never had….

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“So now you have a viewable copy of his/her film. Curious what you have given back to him/her in return.”

Uh, what? Do you know what the word “if” means? Personally, I don’t download infringing material out of respect for the author’s wishes, regardless of how silly those wishes might be.

But I also don’t let people make specious arguments using incorrect terminology that tries to paint an invalid picture….

jokirk (profile) says:

Actually, I think this story was very worthwhile. Look when we are talking piracy we aren’t talking P2P any more. We are talking online streams of entire films, often in HD. It’s easy to go online and find hundreds of websites whose only purpose is to drive traffic to their site via stolen movies and make money via ad revenue.

The other model are websites that appear legit and actually charge for downloads of stolen content.

Indie filmmakers provide options for online (and low cost delivery) of their films but it’s hard to compete when streams are ubiquitous and free.

It’s time to seek a reasonable solution to this issue. It’s not about infringing rights, it’s about having a legit discussion about how best to protect both the interests of content creators and their audiences.

Demonizing people on either side of the debate is not productive. I’m sure, with effort, a reasonable consensus can be reached that protects our individual rights as consumers and the rights of those whose work is being stolen.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re:

As for your first paragraph I’m assuming that you’re talking about places like the Pirate Bay. So let’s assume that they’re shut down. Do you really think the trackers will go away?

As for the alleged DVD quality they do claim that’s the quality but that’s most often a very bad joke.

Your second model is a perfect example of site owners who need to be charged with fraud. The customer, or so you say, is paying for the work in good faith but the site is fraudulently presenting itself as a licensed distributor. So that’s already covered in criminal law. And if that’s not being enforced they’re not going anywhere either.

The argument isn’t that Indy filmmakers don’t need to be paid. They do.

The argument is the demonization of legitimate technologies that articles like this propagandize for.

The argument is about silly claims that “copyleft” (really a copyright license) and Creative Commons (another copyright license) are somehow undermining creators when they clearly are not. Demonization, I’d say.

The other side of the argument, legitimate in and of itself, is that consumers feel so ripped off by an outpouring of pure trash by the recording industry at prices close to the daily final bid on gold and the motion picture industry for so long that they’re gonna sample before parting with hard earned cash.

At least Hollywood has figured out that the best way around this is to make product customers are actually willing to pay for at a reasonable price rather than monopoly extortion.

You know something? I heard an interview on CBC radio where it was pointed out that had the recording industry had been able to think out of the box just a teeny tiny bit they’d have realized that they way to go was to move to streaming. If you can get the song you want and the genre you want at a low cost and high quality why would you “pirate”? And they’d be making money had over fist. Instead they’re so tied into their current fading business model that they can’t see beyond it.

Oh well, no one said change was easy. Creative destruction isn’t all that controllable in any event. The point is that the old models aren’t going to survive and it’s about time that industries based on them adapted before they die.

Patrik (user link) says:

Re: Re:

Holy god! An actual well-reasoned and thought out response!

I agree about the demonizing on both sides. It’s abundantly clear that every illegal download does not equal a lost sale, but surely we can all see that some illegal downloads are lost sales. I can be the causal link: *I* have downloaded media I would have otherwise bought had said media not been so easy to download for free. I can admit that, and I don’t think we should expect a beautiful, expressive media to change just so I don’t feel guilty about it, or because it’s easier to let people do what they want. I said to myself that I would buy it if I liked it, but you know, sometimes things get in the way… I’d rather buy my girlfriend dinner, a different record caught my dollars instead, etc.

But, I’m a grown man now. There’s a lot of things I did when I was a teenager and in my early 20s that I regret–and I knew these things were wrong, I won’t hide behind ignorance. And illegally downloading music isn’t even in the top 10 things. This notion that just because kids are doing something now means that they’ll *never* change is patently ridiculous. All my friends were stoners, most of them aren’t now. Many friends were alcoholics, they’ve stopped. Some of them were athletes, now they’re couch potatoes. People change. We’re in the midst of a massive societal overhaul, no one knows what’s going on; that’s why it’s exciting to be a part of these moments in history. Anyone claiming to know what’s going to happen, or claims that they understand the behavior of people, or claim to have a business model for the future is someone you can probably best brush aside as, “full of it.”

I think a graffiti writer said it best when asked why he stopped tagging: “I grew up. When you’re an adult you don’t do the same shit you did when you were 16.” To quote someone whose name escapes me: we’re all still “toddlers” in this digital age. Who knows what will happen as we grow up.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Demonizing people on either side of the debate is not productive”

Indeed, although the demonising is mainly coming from the people with the muscle to change laws in their favour, despite the fact that it’s their own actions that often cause the problems in the first place. (Yes, I understand the irony of blaming one side for demonising…)

“I’m sure, with effort, a reasonable consensus can be reached that protects our individual rights as consumers and the rights of those whose work is being stolen.”

Not if words like “stolen” keep getting used to skew the debate.

I, sadly, am saying exactly the same thing that I’ve been saying for over 10 years at this point. All we need is a source of legal content that fits the following criteria:

– Reasonably priced (at least cheaper than physical media)
– Well stocked
– Easy to use and access from any modern device or OS
– Not artificially restricted either by region or by DRM (windowing doesn’t work with digital media, and provides a compelling incentive to pirate, while DRM is useless once broken)
– Choice of quality, probably on a sliding price scale.
– Redownloading allowed if the original data is lost.

Sadly, the industry does not heed this. They offer the customer so little that the likes of The Pirate Bay have better selections, less restrictions and sometimes better quality product than the “pirates”. Then, when people are driven to illegal sources to meet their needs, they scream for laws to be changed in their favour, rather than address the core problems – they offer a poor service for a non-essential good.

This may sound like hyperbole, but it’s not. From the fact that I’m region-locked out of every non-public domain legal streaming resource, to the fact that my music buying plummeted as soon as the majors caused eMusic’s prices to rise exponentially, I speak from experience. Yet, my demands above have never changed, and I’m one of the people who insists on buying legally if possible.

For a consensus to be reached, one side at least has to make the effort to listen to the other. I’ve been listening for over 10 years, but I have never been heard.

Hiro Nogano (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I realize that this response will not change your mind, and probably won’t even make you think about what I’m going to say, but I’ll put it out here anyway.

Yes, given the situation in your post, I might just download it myself to see if it’s worth my money. Or I might stream it via Netflix if it’s available. Or watch the copy the original person downloaded. But if I liked it enough to buy it, guess what? I WOULD.

Personally, I don’t download movies. it’s just not my thing. However, I download music all the time. I give it a few listens and either purchase it or delete it. (I can usually tell if I like it in 2 playthroughs or less if I’m not constantly interrupted.) I have bought dozens of albums I would never have purchased from dozens of new artists I would never have given a chance if not for this.

Does everyone play by this same rule? No, of course not. But by me downloading it, I get to see if I like it. And if I do, I pay for it, and in turn, I expose many other people to it too. And if they like it and ask me about it, I tell them where I purchased it from. if they really like it, I’ll send them links to the artist’s website and/or Facebook page.

And in case your wondering, I have connected with many of those bands/artists personally via Facebook and their web forums, and told them this. A few weren’t too thrilled about how I found them – most were fine with it – but they all appreciated the fact that I purchased and then promoted them to others.

Now think about how that could translate for indie films instead of music…

herodotus (profile) says:

I am curious, just how could one prove that they lost money to filesharing?

Seriously, I am curious, and not trying to start a fight, what would qualify as proof of lost revenue? Theoretically speaking?

I am not saying that people should worry about filesharing, or bitch about, it or do anything other than accept it, because it is inevitable. But it occurs to me that perhaps the reason there is no available proof of the economic losses caused by filesharing is not so much because there are no losses, as it is because it would be really difficult to prove them as a practical matter.

Or am I wrong?

SLK8ne says:

Fuck You

I have to agree with the other posters here who point out that they have not actually “lost” a sale, as much as failed to make a profit.

One thing about the movie industry that is set in stone is that ANY movie is a gamble. You are risking a large amount of capital hoping it will be good enough to attract an audience. Indies are making a gamble far greater than the major studios are. If it tanks in the theaters and film festivals, you just lost your money. That is the nature of the film industry. So, if you gamble and loose, either because the film is crap, or because you don’t have a clue as how to market the movie in the digital age, you took your turn with the slot machine and lost.

But, if someone downloads it illegally, and likes it enough to buy it, you just won. I mean come on, get real. Nobody in THIS economy is going to risk one dime for some film they’ve never heard of unless they’ve got a friend who recommended it, or who saw it…somewhere.

I have bought 2 movies I wasn’t even considering buying or going to see because someone showed me a pirated copy. Please reread that sentence. I had NO intention of seeing or buying these movies. So, how was the movie industry hurt by this pirate copy? Further, I have friends who saw the same pirated movies and went and bought copies. By sampling a low res version I could tell I wanted it, and it was worth my extremely scarce money. In the end, the pirated copy acted as free advertising that generated DVD sales for the studio. So, I ask again, did that pirated copy really hurt them?

Further, I’d point out that if someone does see this indie film maker’s work off a pirated copy and DOES like it they’re going to be looking for works from this person in the future. They might even become a rabid fanboy/fangirl and go to a film festival to see it.

What is lacking in your analysis of the situation is how much revenue they’ve GAINED by pirated works creating “buzz” and/or generating DVD sales. All you are looking at is the negative consequences, if the film makers are putting out good stuff, there are good consequences as well. Whether they even out I can’t tell, but, I do know they are there.

tomgray (profile) says:

Well, do the math. Given the number of download links and streams mentioned, multiply by the number of downloads/views per and it would appear, even if one is conservative, that there is a great deal of interest in the film. Seems perfectly fair to expect that the producers feel justified in believing they are losing revenue. I imagine if the film were not available online for no money that some of those who apparently want to view it, might find a way to do so that throws a few bucks their way. I checked and you can watch it for a couple bucks online through iTunes and Amazon.

PaulT (profile) says:

“there is a great deal of interest in the film”

…but would there be the same level of interest if the only way to see it was to pay for it? That’s fairly doubtful.

“Seems perfectly fair to expect that the producers feel justified in believing they are losing revenue”

Then, they should stop whining about it and find a way of translating the interest into profit. Like it or not, the marketplace is what it is today, and that includes “piracy” (as it has for several decades).

” I imagine if the film were not available online for no money that some of those who apparently want to view it, might find a way to do so that throws a few bucks their way.”

Notice your wording – “imagine”, “some”, “might”. The most positive thing you’ve noted is that if piracy immediately disappeared, the producers *might* see a small amount of extra money. Even in your idealistic, completely impossible situation, they ain’t getting rich.

“I checked and you can watch it for a couple bucks online through iTunes and Amazon.”

No, *you* can. *I* am not allowed to. Mull that over, and then consider that many of the “pirated” copies are not being downloaded within the US where that choice exists.

fastgirlfilms (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Hi, this is Ellen Seidler and I thought I’d chime in and offer a response that may help clarify some issues regarding the availability of the film in markets outside the U.S.

Our film “And Then Came Lola” is available worldwide (DVD and region free Blu-ray) via Amazon sources (they will anywhere in the world) and other retailers. It can also be found on iTunes and other VOD services in some territories. We have distribution agreements in the U.S., Canada, Israel, the UK, The Netherlands, France and Germany.

Next month we are releasing the film on two more VOD platforms (with subtitles in a dozen languages) for those who don’t have access our current slate of digital offerings. Understand that we are somewhat constrained given our various distributors and their specific territorial rights.

Also, please know that while we have been working very hard to gain access to other avenues of VOD distribution, but it’s not always as easy as it sounds. New companies/outlets are emerging each day, but most are relatively untested and some require more up-front resources than we could afford.

As most of you are probably aware, distribution models for film have evolved rapidly since we signed our major distribution agreements. Had the film been released two or three years ago we would have easily recouped costs through DVD sales with some additional income from VOD. Now that high-quality streaming has quickly emerging as a viable alternative I expect that DVDs will be supplanted in short order.

As legitimate DVD sales are fading, so too are illegitimate ones. Now, instead of being sold in flea markets around the world, counterfeit films have moved online as well and from that a sophisticated (and profitable) business model has emerged. This ain’t a your parent’s P2P network any more. Website operators rip a film, post it online and earn ad income. In another variation of the same theme, sites mimic legit sites and offer film downloads for a fee. Neither scenario differs much from that of their bootlegging brethren. Now it just happens online.

Companies like Google (AdSense) indirectly feed this market while earning a fair amount of income for themselves in the process. Of course I don’t believe Google can police all its AdSense clients on a daily basis. However, they can do a better job evaluating said clients when piracy is reported. The Google “team” claims the company is vigilant about such things but in my experience, this has not proven to be the case. Certainly, given their technological and financial resources, they could be more proactive in their efforts to discourage these illicit profits.

As for the time I spent working on this issue, I have no regrets, nor do I think it a wasted effort. Piracy of our film was at its peak when I was interviewed for this article. We had to spend several hours each day to staunch what was a pretty remarkable (and endless) explosion of streams and links. Thus far we’ve discovered well over 25,000 unique links/streams to the film. Frankly, I’ve stopped counting. This figure doesn’t include any torrents, nor does it include the streams that can be found (with subtitles) on websites from China, Russia, Turkey, Brazil, Spain, Saudi Arabia, etc. I’m sure, if we were to count, the actual figures would be much greater.

As someone has pointed out, for each of those 25,000 streams and links there can be hundreds, in some cases thousands, of downloads per link. I’ve documented specific download counts for some sites and am making a generalization based on this, but given all I know with regard to sales figures, etc. I have little doubt that the widespread availability of the film has hurt legit sales.

It’s clear there’s been an enthusiastic response to the film, particularly from our targeted lesbian audience. It’s an audience whose lives are not widely represented in mainstream cinema and we’ve worked hard to make the film as widely available as possible. Given the general dearth of LGBT cinema, I understand why some are anxious to see it.

However, I also believe that our audience understands the value of supporting LGBT filmmakers whose films they enjoy. During my online explorations I’ve made an effort to post on various forums and blogs to explain when and where the film is available. Through this effort, and via the extensive social media networks we’ve created, I’ve corresponded with fans throughout the world to assure them that subtitled versions of LOLA will soon be coming their way. I’ve also sent subtitles in various languages to fans around the world to enable them to enjoy the film if they order a DVD or Blu-ray from one of our vendors.

As you might expect, funding sources for LGBT cinema are limited, hence the “self-funded” aspect of this film. Perhaps, as some of you say, I’m a fool. However, Megan and I did, and still do, have a passion for telling stories about our lives. We’ve been thrilled with the reception “And Then Came Lola” has received in more than 90 film festivals around the world. I take great pride in the film and the fact we’ve created a work that fans throughout the world can enjoy. That’s the ultimate reward. In terms of income, at this point we are simply hoping to pay off our production debts. Perhaps, if that happens, we will be able to make another film.

Also, I would like to make mention of the fact that it’s not only the filmmakers (or studios) who lose out. Every film, no matter the budget, is a collaboration of individuals who contribute to the filmmaking process on every level from pre-production through the distribution. Those who work in the film industry-whether it be grips, make-up artists, or craft services-depend on these jobs for their livelihoods. As a friend of mine likes to say, “It takes a village to make a film.”

Obviously there’s a lot of passion around this issue. I am hopeful that people on both sides of this debate can work to find a middle ground. The polarization seems so extreme that it’s sometimes hard to hear one another. I don’t think it’s entirely unreasonable to believe that we can find a thoughtful solution to this issue.

Thanks for listening.


Ellen Seidler
And Then Came Lola

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Hi Ellen, thanks for making some clear thoughts on the issue. I would like to make a few comments, however.

“(DVD and region free Blu-ray)”

That’s a good start, but is the DVD region free? I don’t currently have a Blu-Ray player, nor any particular urge to purchase one. Oh, and yes, Amazon will ship anywhere in the world – at the customer’s expense. So, for example, Amazon US will currently ship me the DVD for $21.74 + $3.99 shipment cost + $3.99 item cost, or $29.72 with standard shipping (assuming no import duty to pay on delivery). That’s a lot of money to risk on a movie you’ve never seen. (I could buy a digital copy for $9.99 apparently, but that service is unavailable to me due to regional restrictions), and if it’s not region free then I’m not allowed to play the DVD on my primary DVD player, an XBox 360. Other retailers are cheaper for me, but still more than many would want to risk on a blind buy in today’s economy.

“We have distribution agreements in the U.S., Canada, Israel, the UK, The Netherlands, France and Germany.”

Again, nice start but this places me in the typical situation where the movie is not available in my current country of residence digitally, and it’s too expensive to buy brand new DVDs blind just in case I like a movie. I’ll still probably not buy your movie until it’s retailing for ?3 in a sale somewhere next time I’m in the UK, if ever. The Spanish postal system is atrocious, and I’ve stopped importing DVDs directly as many have gone missing in transit, so I mainly buy them when I’m in the UK once or twice a year. Note also, therefore, that if I were to buy the DVD, it would show up as a copy sold in the UK, not Spain, and so the sales figures would be skewed regardless.

Also bear in mind that rental options are limited here – the bad postal system has meant that no viable Netflix-style rental service is available so I would be limited to whatever the local video store has in stock. Thus far, I most likely have no legal way to see your movie other than to import the DVD at a cost far higher than I would be willing to pay for a movie I’ve never seen. There’s a possibility that if I saw it free of charge – be it illegally, on TV or whatever – then I’d buy the DVD if I like it, but not blind.

“Now that high-quality streaming has quickly emerging as a viable alternative I expect that DVDs will be supplanted in short order.”

I hope so, but as far as I know there’s not a single one I’m allowed to access as yet. Legally, at least, since people in my situation may have illegal access to the likes of Hulu and BBC iPlayer – though I would gladly pay for the likes of Netflix if I was offered the choice. I don’t have that choice, however.

“As someone has pointed out, for each of those 25,000 streams and links there can be hundreds, in some cases thousands, of downloads per link”

That’s a guess if we’re honest about it, but fair enough – hard figures are impossible to come by. However, so torrent sites (and often the torrents themselves) will tell you where the leechers are located. While some of these may be faked, it would be interesting to cross-reference a list of these countries to those who have legal streaming or affordable purchase of the movie available, let alone those with local laws that may prevent a LBGT movie from being sold at all.

“This figure doesn?t include any torrents, nor does it include the streams that can be found (with subtitles) on websites from China, Russia, Turkey, Brazil, Spain, Saudi Arabia, etc. I’m sure, if we were to count, the actual figures would be much greater.”

…but are there legal options available to those countries other than buying the DVD at great cost? I can honestly tell you that if I find the cost of importing a DVD too high right now, the average Spaniard who earns ?1000/month before tax *if they’re lucky* isn’t going to be able to afford it (plus 20% of the population is unemployed, and public sector workers have just had significant pay cuts). So, even if the paid-for imported DVDs were the only choice for those people, it’s doubtful you’d see a noticeable increase in sales.

Affordable legal options have to be available before people will stop using the illegal methods – as mentioned before I’ve been saying this for well over a decade now. This is why this whole thing is so frustrating. I’m constantly being blocked from *spending money* on goods I wish to buy because I’m in the wrong country. So, I don’t – I buy them from store shelves in the UK, if ever.

Again, thanks for your post, but I do like to stress that if I were to download the movie (which I probably won’t – I download very few movies legally available uncut), it would not necessarily equal a lost sale. I do support independent film wherever possible, but my tastes do tend toward the horror genre and money is tight so those are the only movies I tend to buy personally right now. Having said that, if I were to see your movie and enjoyed it then I would most likely buy a copy to support your work.

Good luck, and I hope that somebody as open-minded as you seem to be manages to get another project produced. Sorry for the long post, and I do understand that much of it is more a problem with the distribution process rather than anything you’re doing as a film-maker. It’s unfortunate that you find yourself in this situation – I would rather see a hundred independent movies made than another Transformers or other bloated cookie-cutter blockbuster – but there’s more wrong with the current industry than piracy.

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