kottke.org posts about piracy
Hyman Strachman is one of the biggest bootleggers of Hollywood movies. He's also 92 years old, a WWII veteran, and gives his movies away to American troops serving overseas.
"Big Hy" -- his handle among many loyal customers -- would almost certainly be cast as Hollywood Enemy No. 1 but for a few details. He is actually Hyman Strachman, a 92-year-old, 5-foot-5 World War II veteran trying to stay busy after the death of his wife. And he has sent every one of his copied DVDs, almost 4,000 boxes of them to date, free to American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
With the United States military presence in those regions dwindling, Big Hy Strachman will live on in many soldiers' hearts as one of the war's more shadowy heroes.
"It's not the right thing to do, but I did it," Mr. Strachman said, acknowledging that his actions violated copyright law.
Andy Baio presents his annual look at when the Oscar nominated films get leaked online.
Continuing the trend from the last couple years, fewer screeners are leaking online by nomination day than ever. Last year at this time, only 41% of screeners leaked online; this year, that number drops again slightly to 38%.
But if you include retail DVD releases along with screeners, 66% of this year's nominated films have already leaked online in high quality. This makes sense; if a retail DVD release is already available, there's no point in leaking the screener. But I think it's safe to say that industry efforts to watermark screeners and prosecute leaks by members have almost certainly contributed to the decline.
Andy Baio is back with his annual report on how many Oscar nominated films have shown up online prior to the awards ceremony (ripped from screeners, DVDs, etc.). For some reason, fewer films have been leaked this year and they are taking longer to show up online.
Are studios doing a better job protecting screeners and intimidating Academy members? Or was this year's crop of films too boring for pirates to bother with? I can't tell if this is a scene-wide trend or localized to the Oscars only.
The Millions has an interview with someone who engages in book piracy; he scans books, runs them through an OCR program, proofs the output, and then uploads them to Usenet and torrent sites.
In truth, I think it is clear that morally, the act of pirating a product is, in fact, the moral equivalent of stealing... although that nagging question of what the person who has been stolen from is missing still lingers. Realistically and financially, however, I feel the impact of e-piracy is overrated, at least in terms of ebooks.
A study from the BI Norwegian School of Management has found online music bootleggers are much more likely to pay for music online than those who don't steal music.
The Norwegian study looked at almost 2,000 online music users, all over the age of 15. Researchers found that those who downloaded "free" music -- whether from lawful or seedy sources -- were also 10 times more likely to pay for music. This would make music pirates the industry's largest audience for digital sales.
Not surprising that some people are so crazy for music that they'll *pay* for it. Crazy!
Update: Rebecca Blood thinks this article is crappity crap crap and points to a better take at Ars Technica.
An incomplete version of the Wolverine movie was leaked online last week. A screencap found online shows just how incomplete it was in places.
An online reviewer for Fox News named Roger Friedman saw the movie and reviewed it positively in his column.
This may be the big blockbuster film of 2009, and one we really need right now. It's miles easier to understand than "The Dark Knight," and tremendously more emotional. Hood simply did an outstanding job bringing Wolverine's early life to the screen.
Fox News is owned by News Corp. 20th Century Fox, the company putting out Wolverine, is also owned by News Corp. You can see where this is heading. Friedman is now out of a job and a large media company has once again made its priorities clear:
We've just been made aware that Roger Friedman, a freelance columnist who writes Fox 411 on Foxnews.com -- an entirely separate company from 20th Century Fox -- watched on the Internet and reviewed a stolen and unfinished version of 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine.' This behavior is reprehensible and we condemn this act categorically -- whether the review is good or bad.
Translation: we're more concerned with piracy than with the quality of the film as perceived by the audience. I bet the filmmakers are happy that someone really liked the film.
Andy Baio has published his annual report on how many Oscar nominated films are available online in pirated versions. A: Almost all of them.
Out of 26 nominated films, an incredible 23 films are already available in DVD quality on nomination day, ripped either from the screeners or the retail DVDs. This is the highest percentage since I started tracking.
Last month, indie game developer Cliff Harris asked on his blog: why do people pirate the games I make? That question made its way onto some popular web sites and he got hundreds of thoughtful responses. Kevin Kelly summed up the responses that Harris received.
He found patterns in the replies that surprised him. Chief among them was the common feeling that his games (and games in general) were overpriced for what buyers got -- even at $20. Secondly, anything that made purchasing and starting to play difficult -- like copy protection, DRM, two-step online purchasing routines -- anything at all standing between the impulse to play and playing in the game itself was seen as a legitimate signal to take the free route. Harris also noted that ideological reasons (rants against capitalism, intellectual property, the man, or wanting to be outlaw) were a decided minority.
The gaming, music, and movie industry would do well to take note of the key sentence here: "Anything that made purchasing and starting to play difficult -- like copy protection, DRM, two-step online purchasing routines -- anything at all standing between the impulse to play and playing in the game itself was seen as a legitimate signal to take the free route."
Last week, I tried to buy an episode of a TV show from the iTunes Store. It didn't work and there was no error message. Thinking the download had corrupted something, I tried again and the same problem occurred. (I learned later that I needed to upgrade Quicktime.) Because I just wanted to watch the show and not deal with Apple's issues, I spend two minutes online, found it somewhere for free, and watched the stolen version instead. I felt OK about it because I'd already paid for the real thing *twice*, but in the future, I'll be a little wary purchasing TV shows from iTunes and maybe go the easier route first.
Pretty amusing interview with a 9-year-old about music, file sharing, and DRM.
Q: When you started using LimeWire, did anyone ever mention that if you did certain things you might be breaking some laws?
A: Why would they put [music] on the internet and invent mp3 players if it was against the law?
Andy Baio has a report on Oscar nominated films showing up online. Out of the 34 films nominated in one form or another, 31 have been released online. "The average length of time between a film's USA release and its first appearance online is 12 days."
The WSJ hosts a DRM debate between Fritz Attaway of the MPAA and Wendy Seltzer of the EFF. "Digital rights management is the key to consumer choice." Zur? Are those irritating anti-theft packaging stickers on DVDs the key to consumer choice as well?
WSJ tech columnist Walt Mossberg on DRM: "media companies go too far in curbing comsumers' activities".
Chris Anderson argues that media companies, unable to push the piracy rate to 0%, should live with the benefits of "just enough piracy". I've heard that in the (distant) past, Adobe turned a blind eye to piracy of Photoshop because it was getting their product out into the market. Tim O'Reilly's related essay entitled Piracy is Progressive Taxation, and Other Thoughts on the Evolution of Online Distribution is worth a read as well.
Another take on why movie theater revenues are declining. The ads suck, the movies suck, ringing cell phones suck, and you can watch your Netflix at home on your widescreen TV. Again, no mention of piracy.
An unauthorized electronic version of the new Harry Potter book is now available online. Rowling won't do an e-book version of the Potter books, but one made its way onto the web about 12 hours after the hardcover was released in stores.
A man's letter to the music industry detailing what he's stolen from them and why. "I refuse to pay you to play these pointless games with arbitrary dates and obsolete borders."
Is some of the music on Bush's iPod stolen?. This is "exactly the kind of behavior the music industry characterizes as theft".
Henry Blodget goes DVD shopping in Shanghai at a fake restaurant. That reminds me, I should write up my Beijing CD-ROM shopping experience sometime.