Tag Archives: Hollywood

Around the World, The Oscars Bring Out Piracy In All Its Forms

The Academy Awards is the crowning jewel in the movie industry’s celebration of creativity; the peak intersection of critical acclaim and mainstream recognition, if the winners haven’t already made waves with the masses.

Every year as the Oscars roll around, however, there’s also the shadow of piracy. As much as a win – or even a nomination – gives each film a boost on the international stage, it also prompts a spike in activity on sites notorious for their copyright infringement.

 

The phenomenon represents all that is wrong with the mentality of piracy, as well as showing copyright infringement in all of its forms around the world.

In the United States we’ve become used to the year’s piracy being communicated in terms of illegal downloads. Popular shows like Game of Thrones and Big Bang Theory inevitably top the list of TV shows, while the year’s biggest box office titles show up with the same reliable frequency. The same contemporary measure and methods apply to The Oscars, where American Sniper headed the list of most downloaded movie in the run up to the awards show. Best Picture winner Birdman can expect to soar up that list in the weeks to come.

Further afield, where connections are less reliable and online access may be limited, more tangible forms of piracy persist. 

A report in the Tico Times explains how Costa Rica sees illegal copies of all the Oscar nominees spread onto the streets and into stores as fever peaks for the awards ceremony. From Birdman to Boyhood, Selma to American Sniper, all of the titles that should be gaining revenue as well as recognition for their varied creative talents are brazenly sold as bootleg DVDs.

This occurs not just on the streets, but in stores alongside other legitimate merchandise, some even with discounts for buying in bulk, making piracy as habitual as running to the grocery store for milk and bread.

Back to the original point, and the study that revealed the Oscars spike in piracy rates confirms just how global is this concern. The research by Irdeto finds Academy Award nominees and winners prompting rises in illegal viewing in all corners of the globe, with the top ten offenders including Brazil,  India, Australia, South Korea and several European nations.

Rory O’Connor, VP of Services at Irdeto confirms: “Our data clearly shows that the rest of the world is paying attention to the Academy Awards and there is significant demand for new movies… leaving room for pirates to take advantage. ”

The challenge for creators and the movie industry is to beat the pirates at their own game, getting out in front of passionate movie fans around the world and reminding them that the best way to support even more creativity in future is to pay for the films they love and the music they enjoy.

Making titles available in good time and educating viewers about release schedules is an important part of this puzzle, as is the ability of viewers to make a moral decision that piracy is an act that only undermines the very thing that draws them to Oscar winners in the first place: a desire to create visual stories that excite the senses and compel repeat viewing.

 

 

Netflix VPN Errors Raise Divisive Issue of “Geo-Dodging”

Local access, global networkIf you subscribe to Netflix, you’re probably used to the monthly search for new and disappearing titles, as well as digging into the depths of its vault for movies and TV shows you may have missed. It can be a somewhat frustrating search, but ultimately rewarding when you uncover a hidden gem to watch or catch a series that’s just about to expire from the archives.

While that’s a common activity within any individual domestic viewing market, imagine multiplying that search by every single country in which the service operates — that’s 40 separate nations, as of September 2014.

Even so, due to varying international release requirements that have existed for some time and extend beyond any one streaming service, that’s exactly what some users choose to do. “Geo-dodging” involves using virtual proxy networks to bypass geographical restrictions – violating the service’s user agreement in the process – and accessing content licensed only for certain markets. Although it’s not considered fair game by streaming services or the studios who fill their viewing vaults, the practice has been a possibility for anyone with a little technical knowhow (and a lot of time to search for the content they want across tens of different viewing markets).

Now, however, Netflix appears to be clamping down on these digital border jumpers.

 

In December many observers noticed a spike in VPN-related errors when accessing the service via these more private connections, prompting speculation that Netflix and its ilk have seen more pressure from studios to enforce the regional release agreements under which they license much of their content. Although Netflix has denied any specific crackdown on the question of geo-dodging viewers,

Being the base of both Netflix and Hollywood, the U.S. vaults of streaming services are of course the prime destination for viewers outside of North America. Each area has its own popular titles that are currently unavailable in another, though, and creators in each original country have a right to control how and when their work comes out around the world.

Geo-dodging through the use of VPN’s is an activity which, while some distance down from illegal file sharing and torrent streaming on the anti-piracy laundry list,  remains a persistent thorn in the side of studios. Their business model and marketing campaigns are based upon carefully crafted release schedules designed to maximize movie-goers and minimize piracy.

Although these can sometimes be turned into lemonade, as with the enforced online release of The Interview over the holidays, all too often unexpected changes can leave studios with a lemon. The pre-release piracy of Expendables 3 last year showed just how much this kind of thing can bite at the box office, and though to a lesser extent, online sales of a title can just as easily be cannibalized in one market by viewers dipping into another area to stream before it is officially licensed.

The legal options for viewers remain extensive and impressive. Throw in a little patience (or a little extra investment to see a theater release, as creators often intended) and we begin to move toward a global release system that balances the needs of both creator and consumer, without grating too much on either party.

As Legal Viewing Options Grow Globally, Excuses for Piracy Recede

Following a study by KMPG earlier this year that showed the vast majority of popular or critically-acclaimed movies are legally available online in the U.S., the same research criteria have been applied across the Atlantic.

The results? Very similar availability and an ever-expanding universe of outstanding entertainment for British viewers, all instantly accessible via legitimate online services.

Here are some of the report’s headlines for the UK market:

  • All of the top 100 movies at the 2012 box office are offered on at least one of the services;
  • 96% of the country’s all time box office hits are offered on at least one of the services;
  • 90% of independent films were available on at least one service;
  • 75% of top UK 100 TV shows were also available on at least one service.

In actual fact many of the numbers above could be higher as the study doesn’t take into account options like time-shifted viewing available from cable providers or similar services that act as content recorders.

All in all, the findings on both sides of the Atlantic mirror one another and encompass a trend that is inevitably going global. Thousands of services are available across Europe and the incentive for the most successful of them to expand into other international markets is clear. Legal options for the most in-demand and culturally valuable entertainment are coming online all the time, neutralizing one of the last lingering excuses for those who typically take it for free.

The hope for creative industries around the world will be that the rising popularity of legal online entertainment, which provide quick, easy access and improve the consumer’s experience compared to illegal options, will persuade those in more notorious markets to move away from piracy.

If the success of legitimate channels of content consumption continues to grow by turning torrents and illegal downloads into real revenue, the investment in that content and those who create it will be all the greater.

 

 

 

No Cold War-esque Quotas for US Movies in Russia

As many feathers as Russian president Vladimir Putin is ruffling around the world at the moment, Hollywood is not among them. On the contrary, the controversial leader is becoming something of a firm friend to the industry.

Following a commitment from Russia to block piracy sites last year,  Putin this week struck down a proposal limiting the number of U.S. movies allowed into the country. Describing filmmakers in the United States as “talented and successful people we can learn from,” Hollywood’s unlikely ally delivered an uncompromising commitment to giving Russian audiences what they want, without limitation.

Unfortunately, getting what they want when they want it is exactly the issue that president Putin must taken up with his domestic audience if his belief in creativity is to be fully realized. 

Russia ranks among the world’s “most notorious markets for piracy,” according to the Motion Picture Association of America’s (MPAA) own report. Sites based in the country include VKontakte, a domestic competitor to Facebook, and the less well-known but no less damaging Rapidgator.net, both of which are heavily used to share unlicensed content, including many of the American movies that president Putin so admires.

So while the MPAA will undoubtedly applaud moves that keep popular movies flowing into Russia without restriction, it will simultaneously be urging the country’s lawmakers to focus on protecting the copyright of those films when they arrive. This is no less important to Russian filmmakers who would benefit from greater income and legitimate exposure of their work to an audience at home, which is often the launch pad for international acclaim.

Even so, during a period of history in which Vladimir Putin will almost certainly be cast as the villain, it’s an intriguing plot twist to see him going to bat for one of the Western world’s most successful cultural exports.

Beyond Hollywood: International Movie Markets Look to Make Their Mark

For most casual fans of film, Hollywood is the first and last location name in movie making. But as tantalizing as Tinseltown is for actors and fans alike, there’s much more to production and many other excellent, if somewhat elusive film releases are made outside of U.S. borders.

Perhaps the best known of these is India’s Bollywood, a prolific section of the country’s movie industry that produces thousands of releases every year and contributes some . The Mumbai-based focus of film contributes several billion dollars to the Indian economy every year and has launched its own megastars, some of whom have crossed over to the market we in the West consider mainstream, such as Anil Kapoor of Slumdog Millionaire fame.

Bollywood Art

Image Credit: Meena Kadri

Where Bollywood is a term generally known by serious film buffs, Nollywood is unlikely to have reached such heights… yet. This week the New York Times name-checked the Nigerian film business of the same name,  citing the thousands of films produced by the country and the gritty, “bare-bones” nature of the industry as a prime attraction for domestic fans and those hardcore fans that the titles reach around the world.

Unfortunately the article also acknowledges a limiting factor all too familiar to global audiences: movie piracy. 

The box office revenues of Nigeria are reigned in, despite the huge level of production and passionate interest in what’s being made, by bootleggers. This illegal activity threatens to cut off the life blood of budding movie industries around the world, as cash is what impresses investors, and investment is what drives early-career filmmakers on to produce bigger and better movies.

Piracy is of course a problem in every country, from ripping off the big money blockbusters of Hollywood and denying them millions of dollars at the box office (see Expendables 3), to callously taking the work of rising talent without license, denying them the funds they need to get going on their next project.

At any level and in any country, widespread copyright infringement is a problem that requires both local and global enforcement in order to create an environment in which new talent can not only germinate, but bloom and grow with the funds that should be due to directors for success in their early work.