ON THE RECORD Movie stu­dios need to learn the les­son of Spo­tify if they want to stop il­le­gal stream­ing

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC -

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 that 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 haven’t quite 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.


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 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 that works as 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.

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

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