Friday, October 14, 2005

  Let me clarify...

Piracy is the uncompensated act of distributing illegal copies. It's bad, immoral and even a crime...but it does not effect media sales. This has been proven in the marketplace again and again.

Bootlegging, on the other hand, is the illegal duplication and SALE of copyrighted media. That is a source of revenue loss and was a big problem in the US. I say was because, thanks to a market model known as 'sell-through' DVD prices are set at a point that is so low that only giant manufacturers can produce DVD's faster and cheaper. Back in 1996, the US almost put Chinese Laser Disk bootleggers out of business because $40.00 was about as low as they could go. In the US movies cost about HALF that.

The truth is that movies are so cheap to own that piracy isn't a factor. How could it be? I routinely pay $15.00 for a good sandwich here in America. Dropping $13.99 at Wlamart for a double-disk set of Pirates of the Caribbean just doesn't affect me. It's pocket change.

If box office dollars are being lost, look to or Walmart. They sell movies - THE ACTUAL MOVIES - for less than the average ticket price here in the US. How can a highly compressed DivX file compete with that? Even if it IS free?

The reason that box office dollars are low this summer movie season is because, more than not, the movies offered were horrible. Stealth? I paid money to see it. Thank god, because it is so godawful that I wouldn't waste the bandwidth to download that smoldering turd. It was ALMOST as bad as Batman and Robin...and that's saying a lot!

The reason music sales were low (by the music industry's estimations not the Wall Street Journal's interestingly enough) was because the major labels were putting out garbage. Worse yet, the music industry has chosen to demonize mp3 file sharing on college campuses when the DVD burner was the actual enemy. Why would anyone spend time file sharing an mp3 when they could get a copy from the guy next door in half the time? The RIAA and the music industry refuses to admit that an album is worth less to the average consumer than a movie. They routinely price albums above movies and the market is just unwilling to pay. No artist alive is worth $22.00 for thirty minutes of music. Drop albums to around $7.00 US and you'll triple your sales and double your money. Sell-through: a proven model for media sales since Top Gun.

Guys, piracy is wrong. I've never made any bones about that. But don't take the junk economic excuses and thug-arm legal tactics bandied about by the powers that be. Their plan is to create a world where we will literally pay per view - each and every view - for their media property. Such plans are on the table, believe me. I just want to know when I can stop paying for a movie or CD that I already own. I pay for Dish, movie tickets and DVD's. By the time The Two Towers (box set with bookends) arrived on my shelf, I had invested well over $200.00 in the damn thing. Don't you think that by now, if I wanted to download another copy while I was on the road, I'd be allowed to do so?

You tell me.

  I Plan To Illegally Download Serenity !

But before you get all upset with my flagrant misuse of copyright law, let me clarify what I mean by this. Ok, I actually do mean that I will download an illegal copy of Serenity. I will and I will watch it on my homemade video entertainment computer. Why am I being so brazen about admitting my piratic intentions (is piratic even a word?)? Because I intend to give Serenity every dollar it is humanly possible to give. Let me provide a step by step breakdown of how this works:
1) I already paid in excess of $60 to own the box set of Firefly.

2) I paid $24.00 for me and two friends to go see Serenity the Motion Picture

3) Find and download Serenity the moment I can find it online

4) I currently pay about $60 a month in Dish and Premium TV fees. Serenity will be available for pay per view or on HBO or somesuch within 60 days.

5) When the DVD comes out, I will buy at least one copy - 2 if there is anyone I know who needs one.

6) When the special collectors Box Set with additional nurnies comes out, I will damn well buy that one too.

So, why did I bother to pirate the marginal copy of the film while Serenity was still in theaters? Because I want it now. I want the DVD now, but that's not available. And unless a pirate copy becomes available with all the little extras that we have grown to expect from our DVD's, I'll still want the DVD (frankly, even if such a pirate copy were available, I'd still get the DVD legally - it'll be $14.99 for crying out loud). So the bottom line is - for me, the pirate copy is a stop gap until the cheap, high-quality original becomes available.

Now I tell you this because I don't think that my habits are any different form other DVD and movie enthusiasts. I don't believe that anyone views a pirate copy of a film as a substitute for the actual DVD and CERTAINLY not a substitute for seeing a film in theaters (bad films are another matter entirely). DVD's are so cheap now that piracy is only a threat to films in areas where the DVD prices are kept artificially high. In the US, piracy is a way for the major studios to convince us that dwindling box office takes are due to factors other than crappy movies and inflated ticket prices.

Ask yourself this. If ticket prices are $15.00 in Los Angeles and if DVD sales prices for the same move are $13.99, what is the average consumer going to do when deciding between the two methods of seeing any given film? Rent or own? Hmm... The simple fact is that since DVD's have become so affordable, piracy hasn't been a credible threat to American film production for years. When the studios went looking for the force driving away ticket sales at the box office, they neglected to include their very own DVD's in the equation. Also, the dirty secret in the music industry is that albums traded illegally as mp3's sell better than those successfully kept off of the net.

Add to this little scenario the FACT that each copy of intellectual property illegally distributed does not represent a lost sale. It has been a proven fact that most pirated movies were obtained by people unwilling to buy the property in the first place. Put another way, when faced with a choice of either buying the property or not owning any copy at all, most pirates choose not to own any copy at all. This choice is usually made because the pirate in question cannot afford the copy and hence has chosen to pirate the media, q.e.d...

Further, most people who pursue pirate copies either already own at least one copy of the item in question (most mp3's I download are from albums I already own) or pay into a distribution source which makes the item in question already available (I downloaded the three Lord Of The Rings movies yet with dish, I was already paying to get all three movies into my home morning, noon and night).

So, the question becomes, what harm is piracy doing - REALLY? Well, piracy on a large scale is a threat. Piracy on a large scale typically doesn't affect US sales, as DVD's here are so inexpensive and available so quickly. Most large scale piracy happens off-shore and floods markets in the Far East and Asia. Piracy does short-circuit distribution and head-off markets where a distributor would like to delay a release. Piracy can also ruin the fun of a surprise as we experienced with Return of the Sith and Harry Potter.

But more than this, piracy is trying to tell the film industry that there is no harm in releasing a product all at once. There is no evidence that the simultaneous release to Theaters, DVD and pay movie channels would change the way people view their films. Quite to the contrary, evidence is mounting that more money could be made by releasing a film on all media simultaneously.

The moral is, I'm afraid, piracy is wrong and illegal. It is NOT the profit drain that the entertainment industry would have us believe - as a degree holder in economics I can tell you that assertion holds no logical merit whatsoever. Yet the manufacturers of intellectual property reserve the right to distribute or withhold their property in any manner they see fit. It is their right. Still, when piracy is a prevalent as it is, the manufacturers need to sit up and take notice. This media is INTENDED FOR US. When the media is offered for consumption, WE BUY IT. So when they hold to outmoded retail models because they are either to old or two frightened to change, THEY DO SO AT THEIR OWN PERIL.

So kids, don't pirate movies - it's wrong...and Hollywood, get that stick out of your ass and sell us your movies - it's profitable.

as usual, I've said too much...

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


(images copyright Nintendo Inc.)

A TV remote? A freaking TV remote? Shigeru Miyamoto, you are an undeniable genius but even given the impressive true space technology hidden in your controller, it's still a TV REMOTE! Let me iterate why this control design causes me so much angst.

First, I already have a table full of TV remotes. They are all clumsy, uncomfortable and ergonomically backward in design. It is THIS ergonomic design that I detest and fear in the Revolution's wireless controller. When I'm flying my Devastator in Crimson Sky's - when I'm maneuvering the Master Chief around Covenant ambush - hell, when I'm locking onto Metroid Targets in an abandoned space platform I don't want to feel like I'm flipping channels. I want to feel like I'm gripping alien hardware. I like the Cube, Xbox and PS2 controllers because they don't feel like the other clumsy, ugly and blunt human interfaces I'm forced to deal with in my day to day life. Even the much maligned 'canned ham' of the Xbox helps put me in the mood by feeling like a hefty control interface one might find inside of a Mech. I'm sure the Revolution controller is an intuitive marvel to hold and operate. I just don't want my game experience to feel like I'm using an electric tooth brush.

(images copyright Nintendo Inc.)

Second, Why go to all the trouble of making a wireless controller if you then design such a remedial interface for accessories? Look, I get it. Japan won't produce anything unless they can also devise bizarre attachments, accessories and add-ons to sell me later. Fine. But given that the controller is wireless (an issue in itself) why are the add-ons WIRED and CLUMSY? Make everything blue tooth and be done with it!

As for wireless controllers, the issue lies with battery life. Wireless controllers work fine till the batteries die then you get your ass fragged while you scrounge the house looking for another remote from which to rob a set of double-A or triple-A batteries. Wireless controllers should recharge either on the console itself or in a charger base JUST LIKE A HANDS FREE TELEPHONE. Batteries just DO NOT WORK . EVER . PERIOD .

Look, I love the Nintendo Revolution as a platform. I'll buy one. I just don't like the fact that I'll have to wait for a decent after-market controller before I do. When I play games, I play games. A TV remote is not for having fun. It's a necessary inconvenience I endure to operate my home electronics. We all know that Sony had the right idea when they opted NOT to require a wireless remote to operate their DVD functionality. The Xbox remote is one of the worst ideas in gaming history. Hell, I'd LOVE to use my Xbox controller with ALL my electronics. The joystick and trigger are just more effective than stabbing semi-responsive rubber bumps on a stick.

(images copyright Nintendo Inc.)

So now look at the Nintendo Revolution. Think about all the time spent screaming at your DVD menu because you couldn't select the right audio track on your House Of Flying Daggers DVD. Do you want to be reminded of that feeling every time you pick up the Nintendo Revolution remote? I sure don't. When I slide my fingers around the grip of a game controller, I want to instantly be reminded of the speed, power and exhilaration these new systems provide. Flying an X-Wing should never feel like pausing Star Wars Episode IV to go to the bathroom.

Nice try Shigeru Miyamoto but give me something FUN!


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