There have been suspiciously few (none recorded) notices from the MPAA (or NZFACT) to alleged copyright infringers in New Zealand since the law came into effect this week. Perhaps the tsunami is to come, or maybe they are waiting to pick the perfect case.
However no notices issued to ISPs is despite their long-time rhetoric around the incredible damage that downloading (often otherwise unobtainable) content does to their industry, and the allegedly high incidence of such in New Zealand.
I strongly suspect that some in the MPAA have done the numbers, and realise that the $25 fee that ISPs are able charge the MPAA for each infringement notice is well in excess of the value of the download itself. While in the USA the lawyers are able to bully infringers and make them settle for thousands of dollars, under New Zealand’s new regime I suspect that a more balanced result will apply, except to the worst offenders who were already covered under previous law. Perhaps the MPAA, instead of paying $25 to ISPs, can get $25 from us directly by renting or selling us a few movies? There is plenty of untapped scope to do so, as the rise of Netflix in the USA demonstrated by pushing down the relative incidence of unpaid downloading.
I’m going to wildly guess that a huge percentage of the ‘illegal’ video downloads to New Zealand is of material that is already legally and cheaply available online elsewhere, but not legally available online here. For example, the Boardwalk Empire show, which the SST mentions in an article on this topic today, is not planned to be here anytime soon (November, as @dubdotdash point out), and the Daily Show is not showing, as far as I can tell, on any NZ channel at all now.
All this is going to make the first cases that make it through the three strikes process interesting. If the infringing content were movie available on, say, the USA iTunes store for US$15, then how could the MPAA/NZFACT claim that the content is worth anything more?
It’s the same for TV content, which is available for free in the USA on TV, for a small monthly fee on Netflix also in the USA, for a few dollars on iTunes USA and sometimes even online for free. However US and UK TV content is often released very late, if at all, in New Zealand. As the article in the SST points out, some people here really want to watch US content, and are willing to fight, or pay or download torrents to do so.
So to make it very clear to the MPAA. There is a decent sized market of people in New Zealand who would like to buy your content. You don’t even have to put it on to shiny disks, or even do much beyond ensuring there is a local cache. If you let us buy the content for a reasonable price as you release it in the USA then we will do so. It’s all incremental money for you, and at virtually no cost. Yes you may lose revenue from TV stations that may want to buy the content, but they should be buying and playing that content at the same time you do.
But it’s not looking good, despite the lack of notices. The evidence is that the lawyers are in charge at the MPAA, and the business people, those who would seek to maximise their client’s returns, are AWOL.
The MPAA here is fronted by NZFACT, but the T&C’s for respectyourrights.co.nz make it clear who is in charge:
Let’s look at the site. First impressions were not good.
It’s sad to see their rhetoric in the site, and clearly absent are any hard numbers on what downloading costs their industry. Instead we hear that “It’s fundamentally an issue about New Zealanders’ livelihoods”, referring to the ‘tens of thousands’ in the creative industries here. Of course it’s impossible to link downloading to loss of income for someone working here, simply because you can’t. The global movie industry is doing very well thank-you, and NZ’s backward consumer facing version of it means little lost revenue in the scheme of things. The MPAA keeps raising the torrenting of the movie Boy as an example for dropped sales, while failing to mention that said torrents were only because of their poor release strategy, while the torrents were also great publicity for the movie.
Next up – the useful links page (remember those from the 90s?)
Conspicuously missing is 3strikes.net.nz, the impartial site put up by InternetNZ on the issue. Why is that?
Their list of legitimate sources highlight the lack of alternatives problem. There is no Netflix, nor Hulu and the iTunes store in NZ is bereft of content.
Music is no longer an issue, which is why the site is owned by the MPAA, and not with the RIAA. The RIAA should really have little interest in downloaders these days as their content is on YouTube for free and iTunes for $1.29. Their members are busy making money.
TV, as mentioned above, lacks the latest international programmes. It’s sad as we are well past the era of staged releases for big media across countries. Imagine if the Harry Potter books or movies were released later in the USA than the UK – millions of ‘illegal downloaders’ would have been created.
The MPAA’s lawyers and their retained firms do very well out of the scandalous chasing down of alleged downloaders in the USA, but the MPAA’s member firms would do a lot better here if they worked on, as they did in the USA, on giving us the ability to legally obtain their content at reasonable prices. That means taking a pricing cue from Apple’s app store and the success of Amazon’s Kindle. Both companies make it trivial to buy, and both price at a level where you don’t have to think. I’ve bought hundreds of books from Amazon for Kindles, and buy songs and apps from iTunes without thinking. Movies and TV programmes in NZ need to be so easy to get and priced so that we just buy them without thinking.
However it seems all is lost. I have not linked to the respectyourrights.co.nz website because, well, it’s forbidden. The disclaimer on the MPAA website, and I have @NZBen to thank for this, reads as follows:
The T&Cs also state that the T&Cs should be read before accessing the site.
For those not already laughing, the reason this is sad is such language is, like the MPAAs approach to date, completely driven by lawyers rather than business people that face up to reality. Lawyers want to, it seems, cover the downsides, while business people would recognise that inbound links are a good thing and more traffic is better.
It’s the internet. Sites link to each other, and this sort of lawyering is backward beyond belief. It’s time for the business focused adults and technologists to step in, and it’s beyond time for the MPAA members to make money by delighting their customers, rather than taking them to court.
The end game is clear – all content is released globally simultaneously across multiple formats with multiple price points, quality, ad supported or not and delivery mechanisms. Make it happen.
<Update: Jonathan points out that Boy is hard to find – so I tried to find it myself.>