Copyriot in Cell Block 6


One day before the screening of LET US PREY, the spectacularly bloody horror film Fiona and I co-wrote, at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival (a lovely fest: fond memories of seeing my other blockbusters NATAN and, er, CLOUD ATLAS there), the movie leaks all over the internet like a geriatric dog passed out on a modem. Prompting thoughts about cyber-piracy and what to do about it.

The producers of LET US PREY were actually pretty careful about piracy, as they were duty-bound to be — not only do they stand to lose money if the film is available free, the various participants, cast and crew, who deferred parts of their salaries to get the film off the ground, will lose out on the money they’re owed. Profit points mean nothing if there’s no profit. So, for instance, Fiona and I don’t even have a legit copy of the film we can use to show off our achievements, chop up for a showreel, or screen for prospective employers or agents. I was able to get a link to an online screener to show one interested party, after a little back-and-forth. So they’re being pretty diligent, and rightly so.


But the film is out on DVD and Blu-ray in Germany, and with an English language audio option. Basically, that meant inevitably it would be pirated, and those who are so keen to see it they just can’t wait now have the chance to grab it from a torrent site at zero cost. I can’t say I blame them for choosing the fast, free option.

I’m not a distributor or publisher of DVDs, but it seems to me that if I were, I would tackle piracy by coordinating the film’s release so it comes out everywhere at the same time. Of course, I have no idea how difficult this would be in practice, but it seems like it ought to be possible. That way, honest film buffs are not punished for their honesty by being forced to wait for a release in their country, of to pay extra to buy the thing from abroad. I mean, *I* haven’t bought the German DVD, despite it’s really bitchin’ cover art, and I co-wrote the bloody thing.

Instead of doing this, movie companies petition for harsher penalties and probably impractical policing of the web. And circulate bogus statistics about how much money they’re losing, statistics which assume that everyone who downloads a piece of video or audio illegally would pay to do so if the free version were removed. Which is clearly ridiculous. I mean, one of the joys of the virtual wild west raging online is that you can grab far more stuff than you could ever afford to buy. But I’m sure billions are indeed being lost. This is to some extent an inevitable result of technology, of moving the industry to a place where all its product is composed of little ones and zeroes, digital information which can be copied exactly with relative ease. So why doesn’t the industry do something itself to minimise the loss?

If a film opens everywhere at once, you can maximise publicity on the internet instead of co-ordinating a series of campaigns for different territories at far greater cost. You can allow people to buy the film as soon as they hear about it and are enthused, and before they have a chance to read a lot of negative reviews. You remove one of the advantages of illegal downloading, its ability to deliver the film ahead of the official release date in your territory. Your other advantages, the nice packaging and reliable quality and extras, start to gain ground in this environment.

This will in no way solve the problem, but it doesn’t look like anything will, totally. We should concentrate on more serious internet crime ahead of movie-ripping. But this ought to save quite a lot of money.

The attitude of the industry at present strikes me as equivalent to a small-town pensioner complaining of the days when one could leave one’s door open all day without getting robbed — while leaving its door open.

Sitcom The IT Crowd adroitly mocked the industry’s bathetic response to piracy.

Meanwhile, whether you are watching LET US PREY legally or illegally, I hope it gives you some kind of sick pleasure, And watch out for the bit with the fingernail. Ewww.


21 Responses to “Copyriot in Cell Block 6”

  1. Simone Starace Says:

    “I would tackle piracy by coordinating the film’s release so it comes out everywhere at the same time”. To achieve this, a SINGLE distributor should be able to market the film simultaneously on EVERY foreign country (both Portugal and Thailandia, Greece and Brasil, Israel and Finland etc.). They should know the right people in each national entertainment business, and they should survive without the Minimum Guaranted money, waiting several years to collect some bucks from each country. Last but not least, an American blockbuster would premiere in Italy on summer, when no one is going to cinema (we have plenty of beautiful beaches here).

  2. Thank you for reminding me the German DVD is out – I shall order it.

    Another thing that really annoys me is when I find myself unable to play one of my legally purchased DVDs on my legally purchased Mac – because it’s the wrong Region.

    People buy stuff from different countries via internet mail order all the time now, so surely it’s time to put the archaic but incredibly annoying DVD region system out to pasture. It inconveniences consumers who, like me, stick to the law, and almost certainly does nothing to combat piracy; in fact, if I were that way inclined, I would illegally download films I had already bought on DVD simply to be able to watch them on the viewing device of my choice.

  3. Some comments on the site are complaining that the DVD is cut. Is this true?

  4. Hmm, I hadn’t heard that. It *nearly* came out in the wrong aspect ratio but ace director Brian O’Malley got on the case and sorted THAT out.

    I’m glad to see Amazon reviewers hating on the flashbacks, though. God, we fought against those so hard. In general, most of the fan reviews, good and bad, have made solid points. Of course I like the good reviews better…

  5. Fans can spend some money here without fear of disappointment:
    The soundtrack is really something, as you can hear for free.

  6. Beautiful!

    Someone was just suggesting that it’s time movie posters printed up the number of illegal downloads, to prove how popular the movie is.

  7. I disliked that I found one of the dead canaries – a pirated copy at a little-known corner of a very public site, but the site’s been good about taking down your film, twice so far. There’s been a large uptick of very recent films and TV shows being pirated there (mostly with Arabic fansubs as in your screen cap) within the past few months.

    If it’s any consolation, the site seems to receive popular film and TV from piraters, which may be a twisted sort of praise for the film.

  8. The Internet Archive is a very good place. But I don’t know how they can maintain integrity without some kind of moderator approval to prevent brand new films and shows getting posted. And if they can’t prevent that, they may wind up getting blocked by some internet providers. Virgin Media have blocked Pirate Bay and other torrent sites in the UK. I’d hate for the same to happen for a site that is mostly benign, but it easily could.

  9. The area where the films are left I nicknamed long ago “the sewer” since literally any video can be dumped there. I’d say half of it is pirated stuff, the other half everything from knitting to porn to executions in the Middle East.

  10. Ha! “The sewer” — at last we’ve found our level.

    As Tom Lehrer puts it, “Life is like a sewer: what you get out of it depends on what you put into it.”

  11. Simon Fraser Says:

    While it’s an unhappy thing to find your work on a file-sharing site. It’s much worse to NOT to find it on one.

  12. Kind of… If someone could wave a magic wand and eradicate said sites, all those of us with a vested interest in the creative industries would breathe easier. But then we would have nowhere to steal free stuff and would have to wait months to see Better Call Saul.

  13. Simon Fraser Says:

    I pay some attention to my Pirates. They all profess to love the work so much that they are willing to spend hours scanning it ( rather well I’d have to say ) and keeping it updated and seeded. During the period when the books in question were out of print I’d say they were providing some service. I downloaded the complete Nikolai Dante myself in fact. It was useful reference. Easier to manage than a pile of comics. The people who really love the work are always going to buy it. The people who are curious might borrow it from a friend, the library or knick it off Bittorrent. There are people who only consume illegally downloaded material, but they are sad , morally withered creatures and deserve more pity than censure.

  14. I do kind of feel like if a product isn’t available commerically, piracy is a way of making it accessible to an audience — there are thousands upon thousands of movies, including some masterpieces, which are impossible to see legally, and this varies randomly depending on where you are.

    It’s a bit harder to justify when the product is GOING to be available if you just give it time, but since our culture is so geared towards the new, to the whole “Be a part of the phenomenon” thing (actual slogan of The Da Vinci Code movie), you can hardly blame people for wanting to see stuff Right Now.

  15. Advertisers and pop culture here are pretty effective in working up impatience. I’ve seen some ordinarily sane people who were champing at the bit to buy the latest iphone on the first day it was available.

  16. henryholland666 Says:

    I use BitTorrent sites for a few things such as movies that aren’t legally available anywhere (I’m downloading the 1949 “The Great Gatsby” with Alan Ladd as I type this), for TV shows that either are broadcast in the US months after they are in Europe (“Downton Abbey”, the French series “Les Revenants”) or are not shown here at all (“Banished” with my lust object Russell “Ears” Tovey) and to preview albums by bands I’ve read about but haven’t heard.

    The music industry in particular totally screwed up in the wake of Napster showing up in 1999. Janis Ian wrote about it in 2002, this is a great article:

    Choice bits: “If a music industry executive claims I should agree with their agenda because it will make me more money, I put my hand on my wallet…and check it after they leave, just to make sure nothing’s missing”. Hahahaha.

    “The only reason they didn’t react that way publicly to the advent of CDs was because they believed CD’s were uncopyable. I was told this personally by a former head of Sony marketing back around 1983”. Woops.

  17. They also sold CDs as being indestructible, which is hilarious. I remember a demo in which a TV presenter poured honey on a disc and played it.

    Maybe movies and TV should be paid for from an entertainment tax. Everybody pays it, and then they get as much video as they want.

  18. henryholland666 Says:

    Here in the US, there could be a big change in the way TV is distributed in the next five years or so. I pay about $105 for my cable service, even though I only watch 17 channel regularly (yes, I counted). There’s pressure to go to “a la carte” pricing where you’d only pay for the channels you watch, with some such as HBO or ESPN being more expensive. The cable companies are fighting it tooth and nail, the current system is a cash cow.

  19. Simon Fraser Says:

    Can I just say that popping a DVD into the player is a crummy experience. You have to wade though so much advertising crap, which cannot be skipped. In the time it takes to get though all that rubbish I can BitTorrent the whole movie and that version will be clean of all the crud. I don’t do that, but I have BitTorrented a TV show that I already owned because I couldn’t be bothered going downstairs to find the disk. There is a problem there.

  20. The unskippable crap is generally only on rental discs. Although elaborate animated menus give me a pain, and copyright warnings are a terrible idea — why should every film begin with a threat? Why should the threat be aimed at those who have acquired the film legally?

    Finding the damn things is yor problem, same as books. The physical universe is a terrible idea.

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