Once Again: The iiNet Decision Did Not Make Unauthorized Downloading Legit
from the common-sense dept
But our industry, worldwide, is under threat from piracy. Those who illicitly copy movies and sell them as cheap DVDs and who illegally download movies from the internet are jeapordising the future of homegrown Australian TV and films. Free access to the internet is fine but not when used to access our content for free.Who gets free access to the internet?
Last week a very important case brought by the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft against one of the internet providers, iinet, over its failure to stop illegal downloads of films and TV shows found in favour of the internet provider. I am disappointed with this court ruling and believe that in view of the constantly changing online environment, the federal government should be looking at the current situation and drafting legislation accordingly.Why? Seriously. Why should it be the responsibility of a third party to get between a civil dispute between two parties? It makes no sense. And, as the court clearly pointed out (though, it does not appear Mr. Billing actually read the decision) the problem is that copyright infringement is not just something that "you know it when you see it." It's a lot more complex than that, requiring a trial to actually ascertain infringement. Simply telling ISPs that they have to stop infringement on accusation makes little sense.
But Mr. Billing implies that the ruling effectively legalized unauthorized downloading, when it did nothing of the sort. It simply said that studios should not and cannot rely on someone else to try to step in and protect their old business model. The real issue, though, is that the studios don't want to adapt and don't want to try new business models. But, in Mr. Billing's world, the old business model is the only possible business model:
In Australia, film and TV budgets are usually low and we actors often take lower fees than normal so a production can be filmed. We hope that extra income will come from residuals or royalty payments from overseas sales and sales of DVDs.Yes, that's the way the business has been done for the last couple of decades, but things change. In fact, this is not, at all, how business was done just a short while ago. While Mr. Billing insists that actors "rely" on homesales of DVDs in the aftermarket, it was just about twenty-five years ago when Jack Valenti of the MPAA warned that: "I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone."
Contrary to popular belief most movies do not become profitable from their theatrical releases. A movie depends on its full life cycle from cinema tickets to DVD sales to online distribution before producers and investors can recoup their investment.
According to IMDB, Mr. Billing began his movie career in 1982, the same year that Valenti made that speech. Thus, it seems unlikely that Mr. Billing got into acting because he thought that home sales of VHS tapes were going to be where he made his living. It wasn't the case at all in 1982, and as Valenti pointed out, the industry was incorrectly scared that the VHS would kill the movie business. Yet, now, Billing is insisting that the market can't change again and he can't get revenue elsewhere? Why must the market be frozen now when it's adapted so well in the past?
Underbelly Three, for example, could not happen unless the people that produced and invested in Underbelly Two got a return on their investment. Just like any business situation.Absolutely. But, "just like any business situation," when a market changes, it's up to the producers in that market to adapt their business model to what the market wants -- not to demand legislation that tries to hold back technology and innovation to pretend the world is the way it used to be. Lots of filmmakers are adapting. If Billing is working with those who have chosen not to, he should look for work with smarter producers.
There are lots of ways for films to earn a return on investment. But they need to provide consumers with a reason to buy. Theater showings continue to do that -- and, as we've seen, box office sales have continued to climb at a good clip year after year. DVDs might no longer be a good reason to buy, but the challenge is for the studios to come up with alternatives.
Anyone who illegally downloads a movie or a TV show from the internet is taking money out of the pockets of everyone who was involved in it. And they are making it harder for us to carry on.Neither statement is even remotely true. What about the person who downloads the movie and then decides to go see the film on the big screen? What about the person who downloads the movie, and loves it so much, he gets a bunch of friends together to go see the film? And, what people choose to do is not making it harder for the industry to carry on. It's the choices the industry is making in not adapting and using new business models.
Sorry, Mr. Billing, but just as when you got started in 1982, the world changes, markets change, and it's time for you and your friends to change to -- not demand that the government pass unworkable laws that try to stop people from doing what they want to do.