Netflix And Infringement Called Out During Australian Copyright Forum, But One Major Studio Admits Windowed Releases Are Stupid
from the don't-overlook-the-self-inflicted-wounds dept
Being a good Australian means waiting weeks or months for movies or software and then paying an exorbitant amount for them. It took all the way until 2013 for the Australian government to finally allow its adult gamers to buy games for adults, after years of deciding that if the content was too harsh for the (government's idea of a) 15-year-old's sensibilities, then no one could have it.
All sorts of IP-reform discussions by rights holders and government reps have taken place over the last several months. Not included (much): the public, which is expected to purchase content and abide by the new rules, whatever they end up being. The foremost subject is still piracy, despite the fact that the business model(s) suck. (See also: the Australian Tax.)
And it's still what's on everyone's minds, at least indirectly. ZDNet reports on some interesting comments from the Online Copyright Infringement Forum recently held in Sydney, Australia. But at least there's some admission that the business model is at least part of the problem.
First off, Foxtel CEO Richard Freudenstein complained about Netflix.This would seem to be an encouraging sign: Australians are going out of their way to pay for content. But that's not how Freudenstein sees it.
The US streaming-video giant is rumoured to be launching in Australia in 2015, and ZDNet has reported that the company is already negotiating with content owners to obtain rights for the content that would be in the Netflix library should it launch in Australia.
Until then, the common industry wisdom is that roughly 200,000 Australians are currently subscribed to Netflix, using virtual private network services to make their IP address appear in the US to get around the geoblock, while paying for the service using Australian credit cards and entering in a US post code when signing up for the account.
Freudenstein, whose company owns the licences for much of the content that Netflix would want to include in its library for an Australian launch — including Netflix's own shows Orange is the New Black and House of Cards — told ZDNet after the forum that Netflix has no right to be selling services to Australians without the rights agreements in place.While this may be a legitimate gripe, it only further highlights the convoluted travesty that is international rights management. It's not enough to get the OK from parent companies. You have to haggle with every other intermediary between your service and the end users.
"I'm opposed because Netflix doesn't have the rights to sell those shows in Australia," he said.
"It's a contractual issue. We have the rights to those shows in this country, Netflix is not paying for those shows in this country, they shouldn't be able to show them."
On the plus side, Freudenstein at least sees this as a rights holder problem rather than a government problem, saying that rights holders need to pressure Netflix and its illicit users, rather than seek a legislative remedy. But that's only as far as Netflix is concerned. Rather than allow the content industry to handle with its own distribution shortcomings, Freudenstein thinks this area needs more government attention.
Freudenstein said that shows like Game of Thrones are played on Foxtel within two hours of airing in the US, but that such responses aren't enough; the government needs to step in and encourage ISPs to help reduce copyright infringement in Australia.He also said this, which puts him squarely on the other side of the divide between the rights holders and their intended audience.
"If we sit and wait, and we don't introduce some schemes soon, there won't be an industry," he said.
"There will be a lot more cats on skateboards; we'll have a lot less Game of Thrones."Because only major companies make anything worth watching, listening to, etc. Belittling the creative efforts of others is a terrible way to create interest in your own. Those representing legacy industries continue to pretend there's a massive gap in quality between their output and the general public's. They ignore how quickly that gap has closed in recent years and how that trend will only continue. So, they create a false dichotomy in order to talk legislators and gullible members of the public into siding with the plan to turn ISPs into copyright police: it's either Game of Thrones or cat videos. There's no middle ground.
More positively, Village Roadshow's co-CEO Graham Burke stepped up to admit his company had badly mishandled distribution of one of last year's biggest blockbusters.
Burke admitted last night that the delayed release of The Lego Movie in Australia after the release in the United States to coincide with the school holidays was a mistake.Better distribution won't eliminate piracy but it can put a dent in it. Comments delivered at this forum by Spotify indicated that the introduction of its service resulted in a 20% drop in file sharing. The (official) introduction of Netflix should have the same sort of effect. Simultaneous worldwide releases will also chip away at infringement.
"We made one hell of a mistake with Lego. It was an Australian film, we financed it together with Warner Brothers, it was made here in King's Cross. Because it was so important, we held it for a holiday period; it was a disaster," he said.
"It caused it to be pirated very widely, and as a consequence — no more. Our policy going forward is that all of our movies we will release day and date with the United States."
The problem is that the rights holders pushing for government intervention have unrealistic aspirations. They want something closer to a complete elimination of copyright infringement, something that will never, ever be possible no matter how draconian the legislation. They're unwilling to accept a reality where a certain amount of infringement will always occur and that business models that decrease piracy will never carry the same margin as selling individual plastic discs.