Does Batman Need Copyright Protection?

from the maybe-not dept

With the release of the latest Batman movie, Jeffrey Tucker makes an interesting point: does the movie really even need any copyright protection to make money? It’s almost guaranteed that the film will be both widely available in unauthorized forms online… and will make an absolute ton of money:

We all know that in a matter of weeks or even days, there will be streamed copies online. There could be hundreds and thousands of them. At first, the quality will be terrible. Later, the quality will improve. By this time next year, you will be able to download an HD copy of your own without too much trouble. And this is despite the millions and billions of dollars, and the gigantic apparatus of the state, plus all the warnings and jails, dedicated to preventing this inevitable thing.

And yet: what does it matter? “Dark Knight Rises” will still make a zillion dollars. I like millions of others will shell out to see it in the theater of course. Like everyone else, I want to consume it sooner rather than later. Sure, I could save $11 bucks by waiting but there’s a time-preference issue. The movie makers are going to make a mint with clever management, clever marketing, and a high-quality product. In other words, they will make money the old-fashioned way: getting people something they want in a form in which they want to consume it.

I can easily imagine that not much would be different about this scenario if there were no IP — except that a major element of fear and force would be purged from the system and consumers would no longer be treated as the thieving enemy.

It’s possible that without IP certain aspects of the marketing and monetization plan would be different, but it seems likely that the movie would still bring in a ton of money. As we’ve seen over and over again, people pay for what they like (and to support creators they like), if offered in a reasonable and convenient package. And yet, there’s this myth that goes around that without aggressive IP laws and aggressive IP enforcement, it’s impossible for content creators to make money. That just doesn’t seem to be supported by reality. As some copyright holders have noted — often derisively — paying today has already become somewhat voluntary. Whether or not we agree with this or think it’s a good or bad thing, it’s basically a fact. And, it’s also a fact that an awful lot of people are handing over cash to watch this movie via official channels.

Filed Under: ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Does Batman Need Copyright Protection?”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Tunnen (profile) says:

Re: Re: Once again for those in the cheap seats

Why bother though… Even if they were to concentrate solely on maximizing profits, the movie still wouldn’t make any money, according to the Hollywood accountants…

They could stop all piracy, increase the price 100 fold and they’d still find a way to show the movie lost money… I’m guessing they’d need to find a new scapegoat though… Hmmm, I guess since we got rid of the pirates, it’s now all the fault of the ninjas!

Tunnen (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Once again for those in the cheap seats

That is something I always find funny. The ticket ripping… A lot of the time when I go to a theatre I fold the ticket along the tear seam before getting up to the ticket ripper, flash it at the guy, and I still get in without issue. I’m wondering how many people have managed to sneak past these guys by just flashing old tickets.

There was one guy that actually did stop me to inspect the ticket, saw that it was folded and then ripped it while giving a sort of “Ha, I got you” look… but that’s only one out of a few dozen times.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Once again for those in the cheap seats

What does that gain you?

I’ve long thought that the only reason for ticket-ripping is… well, I’ve never understood it. In the first place, I’ve never had anyone look at my ticket stub, ever. In the second place, the ticket is good for a particular showing, the date & time of which is shown on the ticket. So, even unripped, it’s not like you could use the ticket again.

Tim Griffiths (profile) says:

Re: Once again for those in the cheap seats

But… but… If it wasn’t for piracy it would have been the HIGHEST grossing movie of all time. I mean just look at all those downloads! Think of all those lost sales!

The point being of course that no matter how well something does these days all those in charge see is this fiction of how much better it would have done in a world with out piracy. It’s kinda of like if you get a cake that is awesome, if you get a cake but have the idea in your head that you should have gotten two cakes then just having one cake suddenly seems less awesome.

The legacy industry is always going to focused on what they perceive they have lost because they feel entitled to it, regardless of if there’s really any “it” to be entitled too. It’s built in to the way they’ve done so well in the old model and it’s why in the end that the legacy industry is going to be replaced rather than reshaped.

Anonymous Coward says:

“They’re going to make ‘a zillion dollars,’ so piracy is OK!” A pirate-apologist says what? If you really believe “piracy is not OK,” Pirate Mike, then why don’t you ever write articles where that is your message? We only get articles like this. It’s almost like you’re lying about your true feelings about piracy. Nah. No one could be dishonest on the internet. I don’t believe it! A zillion dollars everyone! Nothing to see here.

MrWilson says:

Re: Re:

Drop the ad hominem and address the issue of the article. We already know you hate Mike and you’ll intentionally interpret anything he writes as being pro-copyright infringement regardless of if he’s even talking about a copyright issue at all.

What is your honest opinion about the article’s content, regardless of who wrote it? What do you think of the idea that movies are making more money than ever despite the moral panic over copyright infringement?

Hint: It’ll be easier for you to respond honestly and thoughtfully if you refrain from including phrases like “pirate Mike.” Heck, don’t mention Mike at all since we already know what you think of him.

On a side note, what do you hope to accomplish by trolling other than making copyright maximalists look like petulant douches so that if anyone actually felt the need to justify copyright infringement, they can use your attitude as proof of how out of touch the maximalists are?

Do you realize you’re making your side look bad and are merely amusing to the people who can see through your tirades?

Machin Shin (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Well, I guess I’m a bit bias as I for one am not a “pirate-apologist” but I am a highly accomplished pirate.

With this experience I have I can tell you that fighting piracy the way they are currently is totally useless. In fact it is worse than that. They are actually hurting their customers and doing nothing to the pirates.

They put all these restrictions in place on how you can use the product you have paid for. They then threaten you with HUGE fines and jail time if you dare steal THE ITEM YOU BOUGHT. Those “warnings” are stupid and the first thing that pirates toss when they rip a video. So the only people who see them PAID FOR THE MOVIE.

So lets see. I can pirate a movie and get it quickly without leaving the comfort of my home. It will be in HD and in a format that I can use across all my devices. There will be no threats of fines or jail. There also will be no commercials or other unneeded trash. OR I can buy it. If I buy it then it will be locked onto one particular format. I will be threatened with fines and jail time. Then forced to watch commercials.

Is it really any wonder why piracy is so bad? You treat your costumers like trash and guess what? They will not respect you and ignore your bitching and crying. Now if you treat your customers with respect and sell them what they want, then you will be filthy rich and the “Piracy problem” will solve itself.

As a side note, my experience with “piracy” is pirating the good copies of things I already own.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I agree, I turn every BlueRay I own into digital copies. (kids destroy physical media, and I can play it on anything)
I find it frustrating with the physical movies that I have to sit through previews and content i cannot skip thought before watching the movie. All my rips start right away, and are in perfect little AVI containers that I can do as I please with.

Not an Electronic Rodent says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I agree, I turn every BlueRay I own into digital copies.

Of course in any sane world, turning something you own (and presumably bought?) into a digital copy wouldn’t be considered “piracy”, just like it wasn’t before the vastly and stupidly broad “anti-circumvention” provisions.

Not an Electronic Rodent says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

That you might have to break a different law (anti-circumvention) to perform the legal act doesn’t make the underlying act illegal, or piracy.

Uh huh… and the semantic difference makes it sooooo much better when you get arrested and/or sued for it? Besides, the law and what the studios and labels will assert is the law and sue you for can be different, but if you can’t afford the price tag to fight it in court, what’s the difference?


Re: Re: Re:4 Punish the paying customer? Really?

You already have the problem that police don’t want to enforce IP crimes because they really have better things to do. They want to work on more interesting cases that will further their careers.

“copied a floppy” just doesn’t cut it there.

Now whether or not studios want to sue paying customers is another matter. They may find such defendants much more sympathetic than the pirates they have vilified so far.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“They’re going to make ‘a zillion dollars,’ so piracy is OK!”

Effectively, yes.

The point of copyright is to encourage new works are created, correct?

The justification is that in order to create new works, creators need to be able to make money, correct?

Therefore, once the creators have made piles of money off their work, copyright on that work becomes moot.

Of course, maybe I’m just saying all this because I’m sleep deprived from seeing a really awesome movie last night at the midnight opening showing. Yes, I’m a pirate. That’s why I paid my $11.50 for a ticket to go see a movie at midnight. If my parking experience is anything to go by, they may already be in the black.

fogbugzd (profile) says:

I think it is fair that a movie like this has some copyright protection. It would not be fair for another company to make a copy and show it in theaters or sell DVD’s or streams of the movie on a commercial scale. That is the limited type of protection that copyright was intended to protect against.

Piracy will not hurt the movie too much in the US because people are willing to pay to see it in theaters. There will be some piracy while people wait for it to make its way to DVD, Redbox, and Netflix (if it makes it there at all). The amount of piracy in the US is likely to be directly proportional to how long the studio makes consumers wait and how many hoops they have to jump through to watch the movie at home.

International sales will probably suffer quite a bit from piracy and from illegal commercial production in places like China. Again, that will be proportional to how long the studios try unsuccessfully to make people wait in those markets.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Agreed. If there were literally no copyright protection, then once one copy was produced, all theaters would use that copy and not pay a dime for it – so it wouldn’t make “an absolute ton of money” as the theater wouldn’t be paying them.

I think that copyright protection for commercial use makes sense. But not for non commercial, personal use. I suspect Mike would agree with this (though I don’t believe I’ve seen the distinction on Techdirt before), but its a distinction that Tucker doesn’t seem to make in his article.

Milton Freewater says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Agreed. If there were literally no copyright protection, then once one copy was produced, all theaters would use that copy and not pay a dime for it – so it wouldn’t make “an absolute ton of money” as the theater wouldn’t be paying them.

I think that copyright protection for commercial use makes sense. But not for non commercial, personal use.”

Yes, exactly.

On top of your point, without commercial copyright protection, every studio would put Batman in every movie. Demand MIGHT not go down for a Chris Nolan Batman but its value as an investment would certainly be compromised.

Copyright is good and necessary. Unfortunate misapplications of old law to digital media have rolled back our rights to communicate and to own our personal property, and that’s a problem we’re fixing, but we need reform, not anarchy.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

wow, I wholeheartedly agree with this discussion. I’m completely for copyright (and trademark and patents since we are at that) to protect from commercial abuse yes but it’s obvious the current system is broken.

I invite the usual shills to comment on that. Pirate apologists from pirate Mike’s crew saying copyright should exist must be mind boggling for them =/

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“On top of your point, without commercial copyright protection, every studio would put Batman in every movie. Demand MIGHT not go down for a Chris Nolan Batman but its value as an investment would certainly be compromised.”

To me, that seems like less of a concern – I don’t have a problem with something like Batman going into the public domain (after, say, 20 years, in a reasonable world), and allowing for anyone to write their own Batman script. At that point, the market will pick which movies are good and which are not, independent of their use of the iconic Batman.


Re: Re: The letter and intent.

Yes. So if it’s not “promoting learning” then it needs to be tossed out or scaled back. Anything that does not serve the purpose of encouraging creativity needs to be tossed straight out the window.

In this regard, non-commercial copyright infringement should probably be completely ignored.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Companies would still want to remain in the studios good graces for distribution though. Assuming there was no copyright you’d still have to deal with the fact that if you took the copy you were given by the studio and used it to run competing commercial ventures the studio would be very unlikely to work with you again. There would be a strong preference, I imagine, for working with the studio to maintain access to their next title. That said there would likely be a lot more leeway than currently but IMO that would be a good thing.

Francisco (user link) says:

Of course it does!

Without IP protection Kim Dot Com could upload a legitimate copy to Itunes, Google Play or the Amazon Store. My local TV channel could stream a bootleg copy tomorrow and a local restaurant could use it for its marketing campaign.
As it is now you can obtain an inferior copy in Pirate Bay and, in a couple of months, a DVD rio.
Batman will surely make a ton of money in theatrical but not all movies (TV shows, books, etc) are Batman. Of course the author of that article knows that.

Kaega (profile) says:

Re: Of course it does!

“Batman will surely make a ton of money in theatrical but not all movies (TV shows, books, etc) are Batman.”

This is one of the things I hate about movies. Do you think Batman just sells because Batman is popular? There have been other Batman movies and shows, this one sells because they’re good. Not just because it’s Batman. Maybe if making a movie like The Dark Knight Rises is what’s needed to make money, creators would take the time to make better movies.

I for one am getting sick of Hollywood making shitty movies just because it will meet the bottom line. More movies like Dark Knight and Avengers please.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Of course it does!

More movies like Dark Knight and Avengers please.

You & I differ on what constitutes great movies. I would love it if we had a lot fewer movies of the Batman and Avengers type.

I’m not disparaging your taste at all, but using our difference to make a larger point:

I wish Hollywood would stop trying to make blockbusters. Blockbusters are designed to appeal to the common denominator. In other words, they must be vanilla. Not that there’s anything wrong with vanilla — I find it delicious myself — but there are so many other delicious flavors out there as well, and they won’t get made because the studios need blockbusters.

This is one of the main reasons why I would love to see the major studios go away. They would be replaced by hundreds of smaller movie makers, and we would see a much greater variety in movies. There would be something to please everyone!

Then, perhaps, we could have movies that you love as well as movies that I love.


Re: Re: Re: Of course it does!

A blockbuster doesn’t have to be dreck. In fact the last successful blockbusters demonstrate that you can’t just put dreck in a pretty dress and call it a day. You actually have to deliver a good movie.

The ART of movie making can’t be ignored. Doesn’t matter if it’s a “snooty” type of movie or not.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Of course it does!

Actually, you pay for the opportunity of watching the movie in an environment you can’t properly replicate at home in an impossibly big screen with impossibly high resolution. Whether the movie is shitty or not is not really into question. And the cinemas pay the creators (or rather the copyright owners) to use their content commercially.

If I like the movie or I’m highly expecting it I’ll just pay and watch but sometimes there are movies that I either don’t think are worth watching in the cinema (but I’m not willing to wait them hit the video rentals/Netflix) or I’m wary of watching it in the cinemas because of either bad reviews or simply because I’m neurotic. The latter will most likely end up being downloaded for confirmation and might get watched in the cinema. Or not.

Point is, you CAN’T pay for all content available that you’d like to check. Simple as that. So you either download it or don’t watch at all. Except that by downloading it you might like and end up buying.

Of course there are the moral issues that are preventing me to buy anything original related to the MAFIAA for 2 years now but if it wasn’t for that I’d follow that logic. Unfortunately I couldn’t ditch cinema completely from my life yet.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Of course it does!

“Batman will surely make a ton of money in theatrical but not all movies (TV shows, books, etc) are Batman.”

You’re right there.
The interesting thing you’ll then note about the less popular titles are that they are less populare with “pirates” too.

Find a title that isn’t pirated at all and you’ve found a title that no one is buying either.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: and when you goto the theatre bring body armor

what hasn’t come out yet, is that there was a guy in the 3rd row that was illegally recording the movie. The shooter was just enforcing the MPAA’s new one strike policy, pirate a movie and we kill you just like they used to do to real pirates back in the day

MRK says:

Re: Re: Re:

The complete elimination of copyright on a movie would allow me to take a perfect digital copy of the movie and show it in my own theater for $5. its pure profit for me, since I don’t have to give a dime to the studios.

The only think that would limit the quality of showing would be the money spent on the hardware.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Given that a standard theater gives me a pretty bland experience at best, I wonder what real competition in theaters would do?

And the idea to sell a copy of the movie, as I walk out of the doors is pretty exciting to me! Hell, with the experience in my mind still, I’d buy cool speakers for my TV.

In no way does the at home experience even marginally match the big screen and big sound. But I’d be really excited to see the movie again at home too.

I know there are cam vids of the Avengers on any P2P site I visit. But the video quality and sound suck. I am waiting for the DVD release, to really enjoy the movie again.

Batman does need some IP, I agree. Just to keep the cheap, awful copies popping up and sold legitimately but I’ve never had a problem with the spirit of IP. Just the horrible, draconian, deep time implementation of it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Yeah, laws can’t change, which of course is what would have to happen for copyright to be taken away.

There was a reason they had to give up their cinemas, now the bulk of money from a film comes from DVDs, TV and Downloads/Streaming.
A perfectly good argument can be made for studios to have cinemas again, especially in the context of doing away with copyright.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...