In 2010, the movie ‘AVATAR’ was reportedly downloaded illegally some 16.58 million times. The proliferation of online copyright infringement has resulted in substantial losses for the movie industry. The large numbers of online copyright infringement needs to be stopped or at the very least reduced, because the movie and other content industries cannot sustain continued losses and rely on traditional revenue models much longer to cover such losses and therefore stay in business.
A key strategy to reducing online piracy is that copyright owners and Internet intermediaries need to find new and innovative ways to deliver content digitally and legally on a multitude of platforms simultaneously. An example of this strategy to reduce piracy was seen this week with the launch of the Australian-made movie ‘the Tunnel’. The movie was premiered on Wednesday night via a simultaneous release on BitTorrent networks, a cinema release, 2-disc DVD set and an Australian Pay TV broadcast through Showtime on the FOXTEL and AUSTAR platforms.
Executive Producer of the movie, Ahmed Salama said,
“Allowing our audience to own the film in as many ways possible from day one was a primary goal from the start. By going out on multiple platforms simultaneously, The Tunnel fans have the ultimate power to experience the movie in whichever way they choose. Even if it means, free.”
By enabling the viewing audience to access the movie simultaneously across numerous platforms and thanks to BitTorrent throughout the global market, the effect will hopefully see a reduced desire by the public for the movie to be copied illegally and therefore to the detriment of producers as its unseen value is reduced the more times it is illegally viewed.
The question that you may raise reading this article, is if the movie is released free over BitTorrent and the producers are promoting its free download via this service, how can the movie recoup its production costs and make a profit?
The producers of the low-budget feature adopted an online financing model. By distributing the movie for free online, this created buzz for the movie across news sites and social networking services, which hopefully has the flow-on effect of consumers purchasing the DVD or heading to Hoyts Cinemas to watch to movie during a limited release. The producers also sold $1 frames of the movie to help pay for the film’s production costs, however according to the Sydney Morning Herald this raised only about $36,000 of the $135,000 budget.
In light of the need to try and turn some profit from releasing the movie for free via torrent networks, the start of the BitTorrent version of the movie features the following message:
“This free release of The Tunnel was made possible by all the supporters of the 135K Project. If you enjoy it, show your support for the filmmakers by heading to www.thetunnelmovie.net and by buying a frame, a hard copy DVD or simply by telling your friends about it.”
What does the film’s copyright licence impose on consumers who download it for free over BitTorrent?
Copyright licence conditions:
- It is the “peer to peer” version only.
- Attribution — You must attribute the work to The Tunnel Project.
- Noncommercial — You may not use the movie for commercial purposes.
- No Derivative Works — You may not alter, transform, or build upon the movie. You may not edit, cut up or use excerpts from the movie.
- Repackage — If you repackage or redistribute the “Peer to Peer” movie file, you must state that it is the “Peer to Peer” version of The Tunnel and you must make clear to others the license terms of the movie. Preferably by having a clearly visible link to this license: (www.thetunnelmovie.net/license)
Whilst at this early it is difficult to estimate the success of the BitTorrent platform as a primary means of distribution for a new independent feature and whether the above copyright licence conditions will be adhered to by consumers. However at the very least this Australian first has generated strong buzz online as a method that should be adopted in the future by film producers as a means to reduce online piracy.
The recent Beyond the Box Office report from Screen Australia found that there is a migration away from the purchase and rental of physical discs to online services and therefore there is a need to better monetise the home entertainment market. According to the Report, since 2008 the participation rate of Australians streaming or downloading online video via computer has doubled.
The proliferation of online infringement is a danger to the movie industry both locally and globally. A report by Frontier Economics found that some 2.5 million jobs globally will be at risk by 2015 due to piracy and counterfeiting. Whilst the simultaneous delivery of content on a variety of platforms is only one step to combat the rise of digital piracy, it is a critical step to encourage the public to access content immediately and legally and thereby reduce the desire to pirate content.
Nick Broughall on Gizmodo summarised the importance of the Tunnel’s multi-platform release commenting that,
“…supporting this film by both downloading it for free and donating money will help show movie studios that digital technologies are not the enemy of film…”
Whether BitTorrent platforms become a genuine and economically viable distribution method for film producers in the future is a question that cannot be answered today. However what is known is that digital piracy must be stopped, and a key step in reducing digital piracy is as Kim Williams AM, CEO of FOXTEL said, “allowing you [the consumer] to watch what you want, when you want to and increasingly over a device of your choice.”
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