Game Of Thrones Director: I'm 100% Opposed To The Piracy I Just Said Helps My Show Survive

from the getting-it dept

You know, sometimes content creators can be really confusing. Take Game Of Thrones director David Petrarca, for instance. Remember early last year when we mentioned that the show was on track to become the most pirated television show of 2012? And how the success of the show might actually be a result of piracy, rather than its cause?

Well, ChurchHatesTucker writes in to tell us that Petrarca recently opined that piracy is at least partially responsible for the success of the show, providing an avenue through which more people talk about it and comment on it within greater society.

Panel mediator Rosemary Neill noted Game of Thrones was the most pirated show of 2012 and that 10 per cent of the downloads came from Australia. But Petrarca shrugged and said the illegal downloads did not matter because such shows thrived on “cultural buzz” and capitalised on the social commentary they generated.

“That’s how they survive,” he told the crowd gathered at the University of Western Australia.

Yes, in addition to allowing late-comers to catch up on episodes in preparation for new seasons, piracy helps keep the show in the societal bloodstream, keeps the buzz going, and generally creates more excitement and awareness of the product as a whole. If HBO could manage to provide a more innovative method for delivering the show to those that want it, likely the boon could be even greater. Still, Petrarca noted that HBO is doing well with their subscriber base.

He said HBO alone had 26 million subscribers in the US and 60 million worldwide, which meant there was plenty of money filtering in and allowing the channel to produce high quality content despite any illegal downloading.

While this all sounds reasonable, I wouldn’t want to be accused of not presenting the other side of the argument on whether or not piracy helps or hurts this sort of media. So, here to present a rebuttal to David Petrarca… is David Petrarca. He recently had a Twitter exchange with our own Glyn Moody, including these highlights.

I am 100% against illegal downloading. I said that downloading creates buzz but def am NOT in support of illegal downloads. The issue is a distribution system that gets content to viewers legally in a timely manner. People want to pay if made available.

While it should be noted that he certainly isn’t being belligerent here, and he in fact notes that if a great distribution option is available fans will pay for content, it’s difficult to square the first part of this statement with what he said in the article. Remember, he was specifically responding to a question about piracy (not authorized downloads) and then responded that it helped create social buzz for shows like his and “that’s how they survive.” But he is “NOT in support of illegal downloads?” I think I understand this to mean that he simply thinks the ideal solution is the kind of distribution platform that would drive nearly everyone away from piracy, by providing widely available, authorized downloads, and with that I’d agree. Still, in the absence of that great system, which HBO certainly doesn’t offer, why staunchly state that you’re 100% against piracy when you’ve already said it’s helped you survive? I assume that Petrarca likes surviving, but perhaps I’m wrong?

Or, perhaps, the sudden attention that the original story was getting created pressure for him to walk back those statements. Glyn was not the only one that Petrarca reached out to with identical statements:

Perhaps it’s possible that, like many in the entertainment industry, Petrarca recognized that infringing copies were, in fact, good for his show, but that actually saying that leads to backlash from within. We’ve asked Petrarca whether or not he heard from anyone at HBO regarding his original comments, and will update this post accordingly should we hear back.

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Comments on “Game Of Thrones Director: I'm 100% Opposed To The Piracy I Just Said Helps My Show Survive”

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Ninja (profile) says:

Or, perhaps, the sudden attention that the original story was getting created pressure for him to walk back those statements.

I’m fairly sure the pressure was enormous. I’d bet it was something said subtly in the lines of him losing his position and being barred from participating in any other HBO production. Or any other company related to the MAFIAA which could be a pretty bad hit for him. I mean, all sorts of things can be made up to trash his reputation right?

out_of_the_blue says:

Yawn. Mountain-out-of-a-molehill Mike rants again.

MUCH TOO MUCH struggling to contradict when he ‘splains:
“I am 100% against illegal downloading. I said that downloading creates buzz but def am NOT in support of illegal downloads. The issue is a distribution system that gets content to viewers legally in a timely manner. People want to pay if made available.”

Take a loopy tour of! You always end up at same place!
This is Techdirt! If you value civility leave at once!

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Yawn. Mountain-out-of-a-molehill Mike rants again.

I’m 100% with you on this one, Blue. I fucking hate it when Mike takes small contradictions and blows them out of proportion. What kind of slimy jackass does that?

Since you were so perceptive in this case, in your honor I’m going to start posting w/my own comment signature, just in the hopes of siphoning off some of your awesomeness.

Take a fucking look at what these shitheads have to say at! Sometimes people other than Mike even write posts!
This is Techdirt! If you don’t think children should be fed to wolfhounds leave at once!

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Yawn. Mountain-out-of-a-molehill Mike rants again.

^^^ Whoops. Timmy has Minor Mike’s schtick so down pat that I confuse them.

Oh, well. Another chance for my (now necessary) signature tag line (please imitate this, fraudsters):

Take a loopy tour of! You always end up at same place!
Why aren’t you fanboys helping out Mike with links back to here as I do? What a bunch of innovation-less freeloaders!

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Yawn. Mountain-out-of-a-molehill Mike rants again.

“Why aren’t you fanboys helping out Mike with links back to here as I do?”

Blue, you regularly amaze me. I say to myself, on a regular basis, after reading your comments, that what you write can’t get any more insane, yet, you regularly prove me wrong.

Okay, I’ll admit, I am a fan of Mike Masnick. However, if someone were to present cast iron proof that he is in the wrong (not just the source-less allegations you regularly vomit!) then I would of course change my stance.
However…why oh why should we “fanboys” link back to Techdirt…on Techdirt? I’m still trying to figure out why you constantly do it. Are you trying to say in some sort of oblique way that Mike’s only sources are other TD articles? Well if so, you’re wrong. His articles are full of sources from independent websites outside of his control.
And no, we’re not freeloaders. I’ve regularly linked to my Steam account here. Hell, this past Christmas, I must have spent well over 200 euro on it. I do infringe on copyright too (now that I think about it though, I haven’t so much as fired up my torrent client in weeks…) but if your wet dreams of disconnecting pirates were to come into effect, I would lose all ability to pay for digital content.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Yawn. Mountain-out-of-a-molehill Mike rants again.

I’m Spartacus!

Erm, well done, if you’re the real ootb, you’ve just identified the reason why people should log into the site since there’s no other way to identify a consistent username. Either use a login, or accept that your anonymity means that you can be spoofed – and that whatever idiocy is spouted by your doppelganger, it doesn’t seem out of place enough for anyone to have noticed.

Zos (profile) says:

i…don’t actually see the problem. yes, he knows that it helps create buzz, but that doesn’t mean he has to agree with illegal downloading, merely that he agrees HBO needs better methods of getting content to people who’d like to watch it.

it kind of sounds like he’s agreeing with you on both sides….piracy is a symptom of a fucked up delivery system that doesn’t meet consumer needs, so make the best of it as content creator.

Robert Doyle (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I think for me that I just don’t see how piracy in an of itself can be a “good thing.”

I think it can certainly lead to good things if people are observant – like other commentators have stated – it is a symptom of a bad system.

I certainly agree that so many people blow it out of proportion and treat it as the most evil and vile form of theft (yeah, I know… can’t steal it – I get it I get it… I’m just using their words).

One of the key things for me is that if the content is too hard to get legally, it probably isn’t worth getting “illegally” either. I would rather not support them in any form, being it with money or positive word of mouth. I would rather they wither into obscurity with only themselves to blame.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Let’s put your comment into the perspective of someone living in my country (it’s big, its flag is green, yellow and blue and its name starts with Bra and ends with sil).

It is incredibly hard to get lots of tv shows around here, for you to be able to watch A Game of Thrones, you’d have to shell out 175 reais per month ( 87,5 USD/mo) to get access to HBO and its online services (not counting the ISP fees) or to buy each season DVD at 60 reais/disc (30 USD).

For smaller TV shows like Psych it gets worse, the DVDs don’t make all the way to here, so no buying in shops and, the show only airs with voiceovers made in miami, yes, brazillian portuguese voice overs recorded on the US with terrible translations issues and no option for the original audio, and of course on a premium channel.

Now compare all that hassle with going to the pirate bay and tipyng “psych” or “game of thrones”.

Not to count the windowing probles of tv shows around here, with seasons taking 1 year or more to come over.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“I think for me that I just don’t see how piracy in an of itself can be a “good thing.””

People see pirated copies and buy the box set. People see the pirated version and buy the books it was based on. People see pirated versions, and it’s that which convinces them to sign up to HBO for the next season. Pretty much any action after watching a pirated copy that doesn’t amount to “well, I’ve seen that so no need to pay money like I was going to” can be classed as a good thing.

These aren’t guaranteed actions, of course, but they do happen. Add that to the fact that due to HBO’s silly business model, most of the people pirating are actually prevented from watch the thing legally at that time anyway (thus no revenue lost), and it’s not as bad as many make it out to be.

Milton Freewater says:

Re: Re:

“It seems he’s saying they help but there should be a good, legal alternative which doesn’t exist.”

But if they help … he doesn’t need an alternative.

I think what he’s saying is simply, “Yes, P2P helps, but in theory, if I could get that help and also get additional income, I would prefer that.”

So who promised him a pony? And why?

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Piracy helps boost the popularity. Actually I’d say it’s a cycle. Popular shows get pirated a lot and that makes them even more popular. There are the cases where the content is not so popular but it gets greatly boosted with piracy and others where the content has been heavily advertised by the MAFIAA but it’s garbage so piracy will impact revenues negatively as people will avoid the content due to the negative buzz. Mind you I’m only talking about file sharing. When we go to the realm of ppl selling physical copies on the street then only the popular stuff make its way to the streets. In that sense they actually harm the revenue.

Milton Freewater says:

Re: Re:

“In no way do illegal downloads truly help the show survive.”

I think P2P almost certainly enhances DVD sales and ancillary sales.

But more to the point, I don’t think anybody who pirates this show would start paying if BitTorrent was erased tomorrow by a neutron bomb.

Who’s telling this guy that revenue is being lost? And what do they have to gain by that fairy tale?

Amanda says:

Re: Re:

I’ve never read the books. I had no knowledge of this show. My family doesn’t currently subscribe to HBO (nor have we ever.) This show caught my interests based on internet buzz. Why would I, a customer, buy a channel without knowing if this show (any of their other shows) was worth it/would keep my interest long enough to make the money worth it? Illegal downloading is a way to dip my toe into the well first. To see if I actually life a show before buying. Yes buying. Illegal downloading and purchasing legally aren’t two seperate things never meeting. I may start out pirating the show online but after a few episodes decide I’ve been sucked in and decide to either A) subscribe to HBO or B) buy the DVDs of the season or C)buy BOTH.

Without piracy I wouldn’t have gotten into half the shows I watch.

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s actually not a contradiction.

Piracy DOES support the show, creates buzz, and makes the show accessable to people at any time they want, that is a good thing.

But the reason that Piracy is NECESSARY at all is due to a poor distribution system that doesn’t give people what they want. If the distribution system was there, illegal methods like piracy wouldn’t even be needed.

Piracy is basically a beneficial evil, stamping it out is worse than not having it, but having a better distribution system so that people can get current access to your show in a way they want is the even better solution.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I totally agree. The problem is the current crop of services are inferior to unauthorised services.

I’ve been subscribing to a Usenet provider for about seven years now and I’d happily switch to an authorised provider should they actually offer a service that was, at the very least, as good as my Usenet provider.

The problem is they are not even close to being as good.

When I combine Usenet with Sickbeard I can get the latest television within about an hour of it airing in the US with no more than the need to switch on my PC. I literally do nothing. It the shows I watch are automatically snatched, downloaded, processed and stored.

Do you want to know what the best part of all of this is? My Usenet access cost more per month than Netflix. Admittedly not a lot, but it’s still more.

The reason I’m happy to pay more is because the Usenet service is so good and in the UK Netflix, and their competitors, are years behind the television I want to watch.

Anonymous Coward says:

One of the reasons I get the torrents for this show versus paying for HBO like my sister is that I can watch it in HD before she can. HBO with all their HD channels refuses to have the show available for people in the west coast until 9 pm. Sure you can watch the SD show at 6pm but SD looks crummy. Minutes after the HD broadcast is done, there is a torrent for it available. Some might say well it’s only a couple hours difference, why not wait to watch it when it’s supposed to be on? It comes down to real life issues such as making dinner, kids to take care of… I would probably be asleep already due to fatigue. And that is exactly what happens to my sister. She has to wait until the next day to watch it. She cannot be in all the converasations about what happened with her coworkers.

Kelledin (profile) says:

IMO this is really a technical “legality vs. morality” argument, and whether or not a given form of civil disobedience is appropriate.

For example, I’m against illegal downloading myself, except when it’s done as civil disobedience against the current state of copyright maximalism. Even taking it as civil disobedience, I don’t think it’s appropriate unless it has a good chance of being effective. And it only becomes effective if someone is actually targeted, takes responsibility for his/her actions, and steps up to be the suffering martyr.

Jammie Thomas and Joel Tenenbaum came close to meeting the above criteria, except that by all appearances, they initially lied about their culpability. I still strongly disagree with the onerous penalties levied against them, but I can’t condone their initial conduct even for the sake of civil disobedience.

Matthew Inman’s response to this specific situation, however, was a perfect expression of civil disobedience. He admitted to what he did and described exactly why he did it, as in “this is what is broken about the existing system.” I’d like to think he would have stuck to his guns if he’d been targeted with a lawsuit.

I suspect Petrarca simply doesn’t have any room on his moral compass for civil disobedience (and that’s a failing on his part). Hence the apparent dissonance in his comments.

Anonymous Coward says:

I don’t really see a contradiction. You can be opposed to “illegal downloading” and still understand the importance of the larger distribution system.

As an example, a few years ago a freind lent me the first couple of books in Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series. I liked them so much, I went out and bought the whole series. He then lent me the first season of Legend of the seeker on DVD, and I thought it sucked (compared to the books) and have no intention of buying them. At the end of the day their is no tangible difference (aside for some fancy legal semantics) between this and downloading them off of someplace like Pirate Bay (assuming there are ebook versions of Goodkind’s books, which I figure there would be be by now).

Some percentage of people are simply going to refuse to buy before they try whether their method of acquisition is borrowing from a friend, borrowing from a library, or getting it off the Pirate Bay. Some percentage of those people are going to buy, some percentage of people never will. Placing all the fancy restrictions on content you want, or trying to criminalize sharing, is never going to change this fact.

Gregg says:


100% opposed to something that helps your business. Hollywood has to get it’s head straight. Imagine if all of the peer to peer downloading just stopped! Hollywood would have to start forking out billions in advertising so that the world will know their products. Hollywood is no longer the main player in town and the US isn’t as dominant in the Media as it used to be.

Turn something that works for you into an ally, not an enemy with benefits.

Anonymous Coward says:

I think this is a really badly phrased article. Nothing he said is contradictory, and is actually completely in line with what TechDirt writers say they believe. He says piracy helps his show, but he doesn’t support breaking the law. Hell, his comment actually read like something you’d see on TechDirt, and I could probably dig up dozens of posts from this site of the writers here saying the same thing.

He admits, indirectly, that HBO has a distribution problem, and that’s why people pirate. He says that those pirates drive more people to buy than otherwise might have. He also states that fewer people would download illegally if given a reasonable way to buy. I fail to see how this is worth mentioning, especially in the negative way Tim seems to be. This seems like an incredibly progressive position within the entertainment industry.

Anonymous Coward says:

You know, I love Techdirt, but...

…sometimes, I really get the impression you folks are deliberatly dense.

If I had to choose sides, in almost any argument I’d be on your’s. But on some articles you seem to willfully misunderstand really, really simple things just so you can make a point about copyright/civil liberties/other stuff that matters. Most often that point itself has merit, and is important, but is cheapend and weakened by the fact that it is made by exploiting something quite harmless andf painting it as Big Bad Wolf or Really Stupid Comment or whatever.

And I really dislike seeing that, because I think it is below you to act like that. It’s an intellectual dishonesty masked as misunderstanding I’d expect from the other side of the argument, but not from you.

Is it really that difficult to grasp that other people may express the same opinion a certain Mike Masnick for example expresses here often enough? Yes, piracy helps the entertainment industry often. Yes, it compensates for the luddite approach they take and often works in their favor. But it is still illegal and it is a problem sometimes, even if rarely one of any importance. And while piracy is easy to understand, and you can blame the industry as the main reason, and see the beneficient effects, that does not mean you have to encourage or condone those illegal activities.

You have soooo many valid, easy targets out there to attack for hyperbole, idiocy, dishonest statistics and a thousand other failures, you really have no need – and no excuse – for jousting at strawmen like this one.

I may be just a lurker, and one who hasn’t even lurked on Techdirt that long, but still I hold you to higher standards. Why don’t you, yourself?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: You know, I love Techdirt, but...

“You know, I love Techdirt, but…”

…I’ll just rant against it for a time, using most of the same arguments as the trolls do round here, without actually addressing why I think the article is wrong and even bring up Mike’s name even though he has nothing to do with the article I’m responding to.

Is it that difficult to go into specifics?

“that does not mean you have to encourage or condone those illegal activities.”

Name one article that’s done that. Not one that says “it doesn’t have to be a problem if the business model is right” or “these enforcement tactics are unacceptable” but one that encourages it or condones it. Just one.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: You know, I love Techdirt, but...

The guy talked about, Petrarca, acknowledges all the points about piracy Techdirt regularily makes, and later clarifies on Twitter that just because he knows this, it doesn’t mean he thinks it is ok to pirate. Which is exactly the same I read here on Techdirt often enough, and with which I happen to agree.
I mentioned Mike because he was the first one of Techdirts authors I could definitely recall making exactly this statement before.

My criticism is that for some reason, when Petrarca states this, it is turned into something to complain about and to make him (and via him the industry) seem to contradict himself and reinforce the fact that they are not intellectually honest. The industry this is aimed at is guilty as hell of this dishonesty in thousand places, but Petrarca, who is the vehicle for that point made, is not, he is painted as if too get a swipe in at the industry. And I think the industry has more then enough legitimate targets to attack that there really is no reason to twist/misunderstand people we should be cheering on to facilitate attacks on the corporations they work for.

Precise enough?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: You know, I love Techdirt, but...

Yes, definitely. Thanks for the reply and I apologise if I seemed a little confrontational, but the comments here do seem to be full of vague accusations and unfounded assertions by anonymous commenters which follow a similar pattern. I’m glad you’re not one of those people and I hope you post more often!

For me, the interesting part of his statement is the second part not repeated in the subsequent tweets:

“The issue is a distribution system that gets content to viewers legally in a timely manner. People want to pay if made available.”

Yep, that’s exactly what’s been repeated here often, usually in threads that fill with people accusing those of saying as being pirates. Nobody’s really pro-piracy or encourages/condones it (unless you have that link to something to the contrary of course), but it has to be pointed out that half the industry’s woes are of its own doing.

I think the issue is that Petrarca’s tweets left that part out, and only repeated the first anti-pirate section without the following admission that the industry needs to do more to get the content to people legally. That would appear to be a backtrack on his previous position, though I probably wouldn’t hold Petrarca responsible for that myself.

Brent (profile) says:

Someone probably said this already but i’m sure the director is misusing words (like so many do these days surrounding piracy/the internet). He is not for illegal downloads as he clearly stated. Illegal downloads of his show are any format/method you download that is not a temporary file (streaming) or a download from a source like iTunes (containing DRM).

From what I gather from talking to ‘average users’, most people (correctly) associate ‘downloading’ with basically everything on the internet. There is no way to view a file, site, page, w/e on the internet w/o first downloading it. A streaming video is still first downloaded to your browser and stored in a temp file that is deleted when you close the tab/window. I hope the director realizes that when people view his shows via streaming (which is totally legal in the US) that methods is far less detrimental to ‘sales’ figures b/c they do not permanently retain a copy and to view it again, they must stream it (again), illegally obtain a copy or pay for it. Not everyone is going to pay for it but most people who stream in the first place probably aren’t going to download it illegally later on, they’ll stream it again or buy it. Where the real value of unrestricted streaming comes in is the time-tested marketing technique called ‘word of mouth’.

Most of my friends started watching Game of Thrones only after I told them how good it was and several of them now have HBO or have purchased the DVDs. After i streamed the first couple of episodes, i bought the books – which i would not have done if i wasn’t first able to watch the episodes for free.

Tobe says:


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