Distribution : Free file sharing? by Polina Urvantseva

Polina Urvantseva

Free file sharing?

There's a question bothering me so much, I think I will not die a fulfilled person until I crack it. Living in Sweden, I hear a lot about the Pirate Party which originated from this country and spread far beyond the Swedish borders. Perhaps its most famous agenda is legalization of free file sharing and copyright abolition. Of course it stirs lots of protests from the artists fearing that such policy will leave them penniless. Others argue that on the contrary, it boosts sales. The Pirate Party itself states that to make money on your artwork we have to be creative and look for other ways that traditional distribution. So what could those other ways be?

D Marcus

I guess I don't see how “free” file sharing of a song a book or a movie can boost sales. If one can get the song, book or movie for free who will buy? If anyone can copy and sell a song a book or a movie then how does the artist make money from the sales of their work?

David Trotti

Their argument about the free exchange of intellectual labor and property is flawed in the same way that Marx's view of how individuals exchange physical labor and property was flawed. People are individuals with individual goals and drives that does not fit neatly into the cogs of a collective machine. One of the reasons people undertake arduous projects, such as clearing a sewer or making a movie, is to receive compensation that allows them the freedom to do something they want. In the case of making movies or music or artistic endeavors there is also a false perception that artists work solely out of passion for their work and that they should therefore be happy in creating and having their work shared with others. Pirate Party's added twisted take on this is that somehow building a virtual Library of Alexandria out of the internet where all ideas and expressions are shared freely will lead to a utopian flowering of intellectual thought is as appealing as it is naïve in the same way as the workers paradise of Communism and that compensation will come out of the generosity of the masses voluntarily contributing to support that artistry. The truth is, humans are naturally greedy consumers and when given the opportunity to gorge freely on product will do so voraciously without guilt. Even the non-traditional models of film financing (crowd funding, National or Public endowments, private donations) are exceptions to the rule and still require an investment of capital on somebody's part. And these funds are very limited and depend largely on the donor's good will or belief that a project will serve a general good (as in the case of Public Television or National Film Funds) or private satisfaction (like Kickstarter campaigns for niche films). And they certainly cannot be counted on as ways of generating revenue on existing material (a project that already exists, under this argument, is already in the public domain and no longer needs to be supported). The Pirate Party's argument is like a bunch of college kids wanting free beer at their party. Yeah, it'd be nice, but somebody still has to pay the workers and vendors back at the brewery. And much like the college kids who can't think past getting drunk on their own mugs of stolen beer: the Pirate Party doesn't want to acknowledge there are no magic Moms and Dads with unlimited credit cards waiting to pick up the tab.

Polina Urvantseva

D Marcus, here's the link with some recent studies showing that revenues for artists have grown up in the file-sharing age: https://christianengstrom.wordpress.com/2011/09/16/studies-on-the-cultur... I guess, one of the reasons for it is that since people can download music/ video for free, they get the chance to know the artist, become a fan, and then spend money on new albums/ films/ whatever. Or, what do you think?

Polina Urvantseva

David, that's an interesting analogy. But the difference that I see right now between Communism and the Pirate movement is that Communism destroyed itself from within because of its flaws, while the Pirates seem to be thriving. The Pirate Bay is a good example. No matter how many times police shuts down the servers, or imprison its founders, the site is still up and running. Now it looks like it is technically impossible to stop file-sharing, and it is the reality we'll have to deal with.

D Marcus

A very bias POV. A study set up to prove what they already believe. But thanks for the link. What I think is people download music for free, get to know the band, become a fan and download more music for free. Same with movies. People don't like to go to the theaters so they download the movie they want for free. If they like it they will download the next movie for free. Yes, Pirates is thriving. But the artists are not. Any way of making money from their work is being taken away from them. I believe you're right, Polina, people stealing from artists is a reality. I will not steal from any artist. Ever. To me it's sad that people steal, but it's impossible to stop them.

Kristopher Rickards

The filesharing websites are working as distributors and therefore should pay the same licensing fee that any other distributor would have to pay to the original creators. Only then can they decide the value of the product they are distributing. If they can create a model that allows them to give away a product for nothing, after paying licensing, then I'll have no problem with it.

David Trotti

Thanks Polina, My analogy was a theoretical extrapolation of their philosophy if it were actually universally adopted as a legal doctrine. Like Communism (which as applied under Stalin and successive regimes was really more of an Oligarchy). Right now the "Pirate Party" and pirates in general are pretty much described by the word "Pirate" itself. They are enjoying the fruits of their thievery and distributing the booty to eager scavengers holding out their hands at the lawless ports of the internet's backwaters. It's easy for them to see themselves as Robin Hoods taking wealth from the evil empires of global media giants, but the reality is the mega corporate machines employ millions of real people involved in the production of entertainment who derive their livelihoods from those jobs and at the Indie Film level (where most of us on this board hope to make a living) pirating an Indie film and posting it for free can destroy the tiny niche market by which it might have become profitable at all. Thanks for putting up this post, as I think it's an important topic for Indie Filmmakers to think about. Protecting your work can make a big difference about whether or not you can make a living in this business.

Eoin O'Sullivan

Two things always surprise when it comes to illegal file sharing. 1. Movies that are uploaded, often come from known sources, screeners to people for awards ceremonies etc. If studios are really serious about clamping down on this issue, they need better measures of tagging and monitoring these screeners. I believe an incomplete copy of Wolverine Origins that was going through post made it onto the Internet a few years ago. 2. Targeting people who download is not the answer, deter and fine those who upload.

Polina Urvantseva

Kristopher, the website administrators are not the actual distributors, since they only provide the platform where all sort of random users can share whatever they want. Who is to be held responsible for paying licensing fees?

Polina Urvantseva

David, is it really possible to prevent your work from ending up on a file sharing website? Seems impossible.

Polina Urvantseva

D Marcus, are there any actual examples proving the opposite? That file sharing decreases artists' income? I'm checking now box office of recent popular movies on imdb, that were also shared a lot on The Pirate Bay. So far they don't seem to suffer financially.

D Marcus

I know of a dozen small distributors that once sold 1,500 to 12,000 units of their movies. They now sell in the 500 range and then the movie pops up on file sharing. The big studios have theatrical release so the impact isn't noticed as much. It's difficult to care if a movie makes $200 million opening weekend, gets pirated and then "only" makes anther $400 million. But the independent artists are suffering. I know many artists who can no longer make a living because of The Pirate Bay. They still create but they can't make a living doing it because people "share" their work for free. It's to your advantage to point out the huge corporations are still making money. It's the small filmmakers, novelists, artists and musicians who are hurting the most because people are "sharing" their work.

Kristopher Rickards

Thanks for the reply, Polina. " the website administrators are not the actual distributors, since they only provide the platform where all sort of random users can share whatever they want". I see it as a "distribution platform" & if they want to be the middleman & sell a title - albeit for the price of £0 - they should act in the same way as other legal businesses.

Kristopher Rickards

Anyway, I was thinking of this thread earlier, and I have an anecdote to share. During a shoot for a BBC drama, an actor who had been working for Scorsese on Boardwalk Empire came to visit the principle actor of the BBC shoot. He asked, "Have you seen the Wolf of Wall Street yet, it's ace?" "No" "I've got a copy on my pen drive, I'll give it to you". Two things surprised me with this. Both actors are affluent enough to afford to buy their Blu Ray version on release day & the talent hired by Scorsese seemingly doing over his boss by distributing his product for free.

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