The High Court is not the answer to movie and TV piracy

Film and TV studios need to learn the lessons of the music industry if they want to stop illegal streaming

It took the arrival of simple-to-use, one-size-fits-all solutions such as iTunes and Spotify to wean people off music piracy.

It took the arrival of simple-to-use, one-size-fits-all solutions such as iTunes and Spotify to wean people off music piracy.

 

One of the surest ways to save money is to stop wasting it on stuff that does not work. It’s a thought that came to mind while listening to and reading coverage of the High Court action taken by six major film and television studios to get nine Irish internet service providers to play ball when it comes to pirate streaming sites.

The studios wanted the High Court to issue orders blocking access to a number of websites which were involved in illegal streaming or downloading of films and television shows. Up to 1.3 million internet users – including many people reading this piece right now, I’d wager – are involved in illegally accessing films and television via these websites.

Mr Justice Brian Cregan granted orders and access was blocked to three named websites. And, as you’d expect in the game of whack-a-mole that occurs on these occasions, a plethora of other websites had opened for business by the time all in the courtroom sat down for their tea.

Billable hours

Think of the money the studios spent instructing legal eagles to take this case. Think of the billable hours involved and what that bill now must look like. Multiply this by the number of other jurisdictions where such cases have been taken. You’d probably make a brand-new television series about a team of dodgy but lovable ice hockey players in Finland for that. (Note: I quite haven’t finished the first draft of that script yet.)

The approach of the film and television heads reminds you of the way the record industry used to be before people such as Steve Jobs and Daniel Ek came along. Back then, the labels believed the way to stop piracy was to kick the legal stuffing out of everyone who came within an ass’s roar of Pirate Bay. Bing, bang, bosh!

Of course, it didn’t work because just as you closed down one site, another couple would crop up like ragwort in a field. The answer was not more legal action, but rather looking at why people were pirating music and then coming up with a user-friendly solution.

Innovations

It says a lot about the unwillingness of the labels to listen that the roads to the iTunes Store and Spotify were littered with obstacles and interference. The labels knew such innovations were the right thing to do – sure, they went off and did their own versions such as PressPlay which had zilch traction – but they were just too darn stubborn to give in to outsiders.

This approach made loads of money for the legal profession, but it took the arrival of easy, simple-to-use, one-size-fits-all shops such as iTunes and Spotify to truly wean people off piracy. It’s a damn sight easier and more convenient to use these entities than wander around in search of a working illegal torrent or non-buffering stream.

If the solution is to give the user what he or she wants, the one-size-fits-all thing is important too. The film and television dudes may point at Netflix as a possible solution, but it doesn’t have every single film or television show you want to see and the windowing of releases between territories aids and abets piracy.

Put the cash you’re currently giving to barristers and solicitors into building a brilliant, user-friendly site which is a Spotify for television and film. Forget the infighting and bickering and realise this is the only option. Learn from the mistakes the music business made and don’t repeat them.

After all, it’s better to treat the people who want to watch your films and television as consumers rather than criminals.

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