Thursday, 24 February 2011 19:35

Film industry dinosaurs must find a new business model


COMMENT In what must surely be hailed as a victory for Australian commonsense, the Federal Court has turned down the appeal by the film industry against an earlier judgement in favour of ISP iiNet over alleged copyright theft.

This leaves the film industry, which is operating through its sockpuppet, the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT), the option of going to the High Court in appeal again. (Full judgement)

It is an indication of the lack of ideas in the film industry - or perhaps the tendency to cling to the past, similar to the behaviour of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi - that it stubbornly sticks to the well-worn attempt to collect money from the public through cinemas and DVDs.

Ten years ago, the music industry was trying similar tactics as the film industry - scaremongering about music piracy and threatening all and sundry with lawsuits. Today one doesn't hear a peep out of the likes of EMI or Sony on this count. What happened?

iTunes happened. And then a host of other music stores came along and provided proof that when the prices are reasonable and when choice is available - when you can buy a single song you like without being forced to pay for 10 others - the public is more than willing to part with its dollars and cents.

Last I heard, the music industry was making more money than ever before. Nobody talks about downloading music anymore - a big proportion of the music that is sold is done over the internet.

But the film industry dinosaurs still insist that people follow the old model. A few weeks back, my wife and kids went to see a film - and paid heavily for the privilege. It cost $20 each for mum and one of the kids, and $15 for the other kid. Add on a fee of $1.50 each for booking the tickets online - yes, you are actually penalised for using the web! - and a further $15 for overpriced popcorn and the better part of $100 has gone on a film that proved to be a dog.

COMMENT Ten years ago, the men who head the film industry (and they are mostly middle-aged and old white men) refused to accept that once high-speed internet connections became common, the inevitable would happen - films would be made available for download over the internet.

The surprising thing is that, going by anecdotal evidence, a large number of new films available are leaking online from the people who receive them for judging for various awards. Perhaps the film industry would like to jail a few of these people?

No, the average punter is the target. Understandably the internet industry is against the three-strikes option - how many customers can it afford to lose? In smaller countries like Australia, this is a bigger problem than in places like China and India.

Last week, with immaculate timing, AFACT suddenly came out with statistics which it said showed that 6100 jobs had been lost due to piracy. Not 6000, the figure was 6100. You can't doubt stats which are that accurate. And a sum of $1.37 billion had also been lost, all due to piracy in the last 12 months. There were, of course, no details. It was something like Mount Sinai - you had to accept what was doled out. Some people voiced doubts.

Even if AFACT goes to the High Court and succeeds, piracy will not stop. It will continue unabated - the main reason is the unreasonable prices that are charged. The film industry must sit down with ISPs and decide on a business model whereby films can be sold to the public at reasonable rates - the days of the cinema and the video library are long over.


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.



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