Saturday, March 21, 2009

When Piracy Is Perfect For Your Business

By Darryl Mason

Underbelly II becomes the first Australian TV show to get into The Pirate Bay's millions-mega-viewed Top 100 :

(click to enlarge)

The so-called 'leaking' of nine episodes (some unfinished) of the first series of Underbelly last year to The Pirate Bay introduced the show to an immediate, international audience in the millions.

In the next couple of days, the latest episode of Underbelly, via The Pirate Bay, will be downloaded, or 'pirated', tens of thousands of times, ultimately meaning millions will see the episode on their laptops or on burned DVDs from friends, before it is screened internationally.

The Top 100 at The Pirate Bay is viewed between 10 million and 20 million times every day, by alleged copyright violators in dozens of countries.

You cannot buy this kind of publicity.

If the producers of Underbelly are not already putting torrents of their show, along with unaired special features, or extended scene packs, on The Pirate Bay, they should be. This is the most inexpensive and effective way there is today to introduce an Australian TV show to an international audience. The 'piracy' of The Pirate Bay, and other torrent sites, will build the audience for Underbelly 2 across the world, as the producers of the show no doubt already know.

The first series of Underbelly was the most pirated TV show in Australian history, yet it still sold more than 100,000 box sets, in a matter of weeks after its release. If people were 'stealing' Underbelly by downloading allegedly illegal torrents, then burning them to DVD or watching it on their laptops, why would some then go and buy the DVD box set of Underbelly Series One?

The Dark Knight was the highest grossing movie of 2008, it was also the highest selling DVD, and yet it was also, easily, the most pirated movie of the year, if not of all time.

If tens of millions could and did watch The Dark Knight for free, when it was still in cinemas, why did The Dark Knight still sell so many cinema tickets and DVDs? If people are getting something for free, then why are are some of them also buying it?

Because if you give something away, something good, something entertaining, to 10 million people, you will always get more than 100,000 (maybe even a million or two) who will want to buy a proper, well=packaged copy of what they've just enjoyed so much. They want to buy it as a gift, to keep themselves for that awesome looking box DVD sets collection that fills the shelves where books might have once sat. Or maybe they buy that DVD or box set because the want the creators to be rewarded for their hard work and they just happened to have the money to buy that special DVD pack that looks so much cooler than an inferior quality home burn.

Every time someone uses The Pirate Bay to download a movie, TV show or album, for their own personal use, or to share for free with friends, this does not mean a potential lost customer. That is a music and movie industry fallacy, an outright lie, meant to trick you into thinking that piracy is costing them money they would have otherwise earned if piracy didn't exist.

A lot of Australian TV shows are now winding up on The Pirate Bay, and occasionally someone fluffs up, and posts an episode that hasn't been aired yet. Whoops. Yeah, let's all Fight Piracy.

It's pretty obvious that many of these supposedly 'stolen' TV episodes, like a lot of new albums and some movies, are being posted to The Pirate Bay because producers or distributors know that, despite their public 'anger' at piracy "destroying our industry", they know that having millions across the planet enjoying that show, album or movie, for free (no distribution costs), means that when it comes time to sell that DVD box set, or that concert ticket, the potential customer base is all that much larger.

The Pirate Bay, like Bittorent, is one of the websites that will probably be blocked for all Australian internet users (those who don't know how to get around government censorship anyway) within a matter of months.

This fundamental caving in to the established, and few, major entertainment industries will severely damage the ability of many young bands and independent moviemakers to get their creations in front of a potential worldwide audience in the millions. The greatest and most inexpensive distribution system for unsigned bands, and self-funded moviemakers, will be stripped away, because the entertainment giants don't want to lose control of what they have spent so long dominating. Distribution.

No record company or movie distributor can match The Pirate Bay for getting something entertaining, or more importantly ground-breaking, in front of such a large, potential worldwide audience.

The monopoly of giant entertainment corporations is now busted. They've lost control of distribution. Without monopoly control of distribution, the entertainment giants are without power. At least, the kind of power and control they've enjoyed, sometimes brutally, and sometimes deadly, for more than six decades.

This is why the entertainment giants don't want The Pirate Bay to exist, or for you to get access to it. They are blaming those who love music and movies and want to share what they've found and enjoyed with people who might also love it.

While some in the mega-entertainment corporations are screaming, pushing hard for The Pirate Bay to be blacklisted, there others, younger others, in those very same megas who are trying to tell their superiors that if worked right, The Pirate Bay is the greatest world audience builder in the history of entertainment.

Radiohead, Metallica, Nine Inch Nails and AC/DC all released new albums in the past two years and, sometimes unofficially, allowed mass piracy of those new albums weeks before the real thing hit record store shelves. They all sold millions, and they all have, or will, sell out entire countries' worth of gigs without spending the once-necessary millions on publicity and promotion. The publicity and promotion have been taken care of by those who got it for free, early, and shared it with their friends. And raved about it to everyone else.

You probably won't read about any or much of this in the mainstream media, but rest assured the producers of Underbelly are absolutely stoked that episodes of the new series have been 'pirated' and that one of those torrents has now cracked The Pirate Bay's Top 100.

They're happy because they know that this piracy of their show will lead to more interest and probably bigger sales to TV stations and cable channels across the world, along with another mega-selling DVD box set.

The rest of the Australian entertainment industry is slowly waking up to what The Pirate Bay can do, for free, for them.

But they'll probably only realise the truth once they've succeeded in getting the Rudd government to blacklist the site, and then it will be too late.

In many ways, the current fight against torrent piracy, and The Pirate Bay, is something very close to a Last Stand for the entertainment giants.

They can either embrace and learn to (commercially) exploit the world's greatest entertainment distribution network, or continue to watch their empires crumble, tumble and fall.

Or they could just stop charging thirty fucking dollars for a new album or a five year old movie.

The smart people of the new entertainment industries, like Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails, know that the best way to counter the dilution of earnings from piracy is to take control of it and then offer something of quality and rarity for those who are prepared to pay.

It's pretty simple stuff, once you finally realise that all the old rules have been shattered and scattered.