Tag Archives: Piracy

Piracy: Stealing the Industry’s Booty

It’s a Thursday evening, you’re tired and just looking to have a “chill” evening. Maybe you’ll invite that girl or guy you’ve been chatting with on social media over, but then what will you do? You could pay five dollars at Marcus Theatres, but realistically that is just too expensive of a price to pay for a movie, especially on a college budget. So you do the next best thing (or so you think…) and hop on Kickasstorrents or The Pirate Bay to stream that new film you’ve been wanting to see. You hope to impress your date by entertaining them without spending a dime or leaving the house, but let’s take a look at what’s really being forfeited here.

The Pirate BayWhen you look at the bigger picture, the one that resides outside of your janky two-bedroom apartment, you would see the industry is losing a lot by people streaming pirated films. According to forbes.com, some independent film distributors, such as Wolfe Video, have seen their profits cut completely in half by piracy. This could result in projects being scrapped altogether for fear they won’t make the big bucks. The other thing you should consider is when you neglect to pay for your content, is that someone’s salary somewhere could potentially be affected. Do you want to explain to little Jimmy that his parents won’t be able to feed him because you “can’t afford” five-dollar movie night?

But the industry is fighting back. Since most of the time it’s streaming and convenience that you want, they created popular pay for sites that people are more willing to buy into to get their content. These services include such as Netflix, Hulu, HBOGO, Spotify, and Itunes. I bet you never suspected you were fighting a battle against the pirates while partaking in “Netflix and Chill.” Not only can any of these be downloaded as an app to your favorite technological device, but they are also a pay monthly service giving you a ton of great content for one low price that even you can afford (at least we should hope so.)

Of course, there are still a few loopholes to this method of fighting piracy, one being password sharing.

Sharing your password with someone outside of your family or household is very common and in a report by Variety is apparently taking away $500 million from the industry. However, it doesn’t seem to have any negative effect on them as of now, but don’t be surprised if these guys start cracking down in the near future. You might need stop using your grandma’s lover’s son’s college roommate’s password, and get your own one of these days.

Sam Fickett

Dish Network vs. Turner (Time Warner)

CNN, Cartoon Network and several other Turner cable channels were removed from satellite TV giant Dish Network’s systems in late October after the two companies could not agree on a new distribution contract.

DishThe channels include CNN, Cartoon Network, Boomerang, CNN en Español, HLN, truTV and Turner Classic Movies. The channels were in a widely distributed programming package received by the bulk of Dish’s 14 million customers.

The real battle hinges on CNN still being considered a must-see channel. All these other Turner Channels are bundled with CNN, so if you want CNN on your cable or satellite systems you must take all the other Turner Channels also.

But the battle could leave stinging bruises at Time Warner if it reinforces the impression that CNN has lost its status as a must-have channel, or that others are disposable (deadline.com). This decision could convince others to try to drop the smaller Turner Networks. There is also the complaint that Turner’s entertainment networks filled with tired re-runs (including Friends and Seinfeld) that are available elsewhere, including online.

Another interesting twist to this story is the fact that TBS and TNT are on separate contracts that are ready to also run out in the next several weeks. A big issue is that Dish wants to keep a time distance between the contracts for the larger and smaller networks but Turner wants the two closer together; there’s no separation for most of its carriage agreements with major cable and satellite companies.

Both sides have continued to point fingers, blaming each other for this disruption or service. It’s unknown if it was Turner or Dish that cut the signal but in any case it has been cut.

Time Warner also can’t afford a protracted war after promising Wall Street that it will increase profits at its ad-supported channels through 2018, even as it doubles its outlays for original programming including sports. It expects to more than recoup the outlays by raising prices on cable and satellite distributors. “We’re approaching these discussions from a position of strength,” Turner CEO John Martin told analysts last week.

“It is not like you are dropping ESPN or some of the other widely watched channels … [the Turner channels] are not game changing,” ISI Group analyst Vijay Jayant told Reuters. (Daily) Dish has in the past blacked out channels of networks over price increases. AMC Networks, home to popular shows such as “Breaking Bad,” “The Walking Dead” and “Mad Men,” was dropped from Dish’s network in 2012 after its contract with the satellite TV company expired without a new agreement.

It is interesting that the morning after DISH dropped many of Turners channels Dish Network (DISH) shares were up 2.5 percent at $60.17 midday Tuesday on the Nasdaq.

Looking at the future, this could be the beginning of the end of the bundling system for channels. This may have a huge impact on Time Warner if CNN is downgraded by Dish Network, and that could start a chain reaction with other distributers to downgrade the channel. If that happens, these other channels like TruTV could be gone pretty fast since they do not pull in high ratings.

Cory Wagner

Is Music Sampling Theft or Fair Use?

Since the birth of hip-hop, music sampling has been a familiar element of the genre.  Music sampling means taking snippets of previous works and incorporating them into a new beat by layering, looping, or alteration.  In the past 20 years, sampling has become a subject of dispute concerning the legal rights of artists and rights holders due to copyright infringement.

GirlTalkThe recent viral craze of the ‘Harlem Shake’ brought these recurring questions back into the light when producer Harry Rodrigues (better known as ‘Baauer’) was sued for not clearing vocal samples of another rapper, Jayson Musson, and Reggae Town artist Hector Delgado.  Baauer told Pitchfork magazine that he hasn’t made a dime off of the song, and he wasn’t even the one who made the song famous.

Immersed between the cut-and-paste culture of the Internet and the unfortunate realities of copyright laws, this case demonstrates confusion in our legal system and the fuzzy lines of fair use, a provision in copyright law that allows for unauthorized use of copyrighted material.  The current face of the fair use movement would have to be Gregg Gillis of Girl Talk, who mashes up dozens of samples into a single song to recreate an entirely new sound.

Baauer and Gillis fall into the long line of artists who have run into legal battles when they have included fragments of songs into remixes of different recordings.  One of the most prominent cases involved rapper Biz Markie sampling 70’s pop singer George O’Sullivan in 1991.  The court came back with a verdict that began with “Thou shalt not steal”, and even suggested that Biz be criminally prosecuted.  He never ended up getting charged, but the whole fiasco inspired his next album title, ‘All Samples Cleared’.

The Biz Markie case pushed producers to move away from sampling because of the uncertainty involved in clearing samples or being caught using samples without permission.  The costs and labor associated with clearing samples has made the process tedious.  Samples have to be cleared by both the copyright publisher (record labels) and the owner of the actual recording (musician). More recently, musicians started to make use of different maneuvers around the infringement risk, using techniques like interpolation, which means taking a riff or specific group of notes and recreating it to sound exactly the same.

Another case that raised debate concerning the basis of fair use was in 2005 when Bridgeport Music sued Dimensions Films over an NWA sample of an old Funkadelic song.  To the unsuspecting listener, there is no way to distinguish the specific sample used in NWA’s song.  The court’s initial ruling came back in favor of Dimension Films, but they lost on appeal, with another key phrase in the verdict: “if you don’t have a license, don’t sample”.

The Bridgeport ruling sparked a lot of debate about the ethics involved with these type of AudioBoardcases.  Bridgeport Music is actually a one-man corporation that generates revenue by purchasing expired licensing rights with the intention of pressing charges against people who use the song without permission.  Similar to patent trolls, a Slate magazine article coined the term sample troll to describe this whole process.  Bridgeport’s most recent case involves Robin Thicke and his hit song, “Blurred Lines”.

I think current laws inhibit creativity for those who don’t necessarily have the resources to legally clear the samples they would like to use.  While I recognize the need for there to be some sort of compensation for those being sampled, there needs to be a way for us to promote a collaborative environment, where the young artists of our generation are not threatened with legal troubles if they incorporate the music of others into their own work.  Is there a solution where both sides win?

Michael Hudson

Video Gaming Industry Battles Piracy

Global piracy plagues every area of the entertainment industry. Video games are no exception to that rule.  In fact, 73% of global video game revenues are lost to piracy. Between 2004 and 2009 the industry lost $41.5 billion dollars to illegal downloading.

The majority of the lost revenue comes from overseas, although piracy within the United States is an issue too.  Piracy is most popular in Japan where losses were estimated around $10.7 billion in 2010.

Why is piracy so prolific and how is it possible? The reason is the same around the world: the high cost of games and hardware and the spread of broadband Internet.

The cost of games and hardware varies from country to country. In the United States game consoles are $200 – $350 and new games cost around $60. With the high price of initial investment, gamers cannot always afford to buy all newest games they might want.

This predicament has lead to the creation of numerous videos and websites dedicated to helping consumers learn how to burn games and modify consoles to read those games. These website are allowed to exist because they have a disclaimer about “voiding the warranty of consoles” and instructions that these practices are only to be used to back up “personal game libraries.”

However, when a game’s copyright protection is overridden, the game can be copied and the files uploaded to peer-to-peer file sharing sites. Anyone can then download, burn, and play the game on their modified console. In the United States, “self-moding” consoles so they will read burned disks is the most popular form of piracy.

In other countries the cost of games and hardware is even more expensive than in the United States. Most big title games are imported by other countries and have taxes and tariffs on them that drive prices up.

An article from 2010 in The Velvet Light Trap explains that when you take into account the currency exchange rates, gamers in the United Kingdom will pay $30-$70 more than gamers in the United States. These extra costs can almost double the price of games. All countries buying games from the United States have this problem, not just the United Kingdom.

Given that games start out expensive, and are only more expensive outside the United States, is it any wonder piracy is so prevalent? The above article points out that “consumers are not choosing to purchase pirated or smuggled products over legal ones—they are often choosing to purchase a gray or black market product or nothing at all.”

Again, the Internet and its spread has been the key in facilitating piracy. With its spread through Europe and Asia, downloading and burning games has become the easiest way to illegally obtain games. Peer-to-peer file sharing makes it is hard for governments to accurately track and block illegal activity.

How are gaming distributors supposed to respond to these issues? It will take innovative copyright protection software or an entirely different strategy. One approach would be a firmer crackdown on peer-to-peer file sharing and the websites that distribute information on how to burn and mod games. Another approach would be to embrace digital downloading and lower the of cost of producing games.

The major problem with any crackdown on gaming piracy is the fact that this is a global issue. U.S. companies have chosen to avoid distributing or have limited distribution in some countries because of rampant piracy. The funny thing is, gamers still want the latest games and they will find a way to own them whether it is through legal methods or not. Perhaps combining lower prices and wider distribution is the key to limiting piracy losses.

– Amelia M. Torre

To Steal or Not to Steal?

Media piracy is everywhere. You have heard about what illegal downloading has done to the music industry, and you know that you can find ways to pirate movies and TV shows fairly easily. The MPAA, film studios, and record companies complain loudly about the money they are losing because of illegal downloading.  So what, you might say? A large media company loses a few dollars here and there—they’ll never miss it! However, as piracy grows, there is another way of looking at this issue: What is the human cost of piracy?  While this is not a matter of life and death, the stakes are high nonetheless.

In media centers like Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago, hundreds of thousands of people are employed by the industry (MPAA fact sheet). This includes people who work directly on a CD, film, or TV show as well as agents, costume designers and everyone who works in post-production. While living in Los Angeles I have met families where two or three members are employed in the media business. Needless to say, the media industry is an important part of the American economy.

I am working at a media post-production quality control facility in Los Angeles and piracy is a significant concern for us. Security is a top priority and something that is on everyone’s mind. The facility has security cameras inside and out, employees are given badges that will only open specific doors depending on their level of clearance. When movies or TV shows are being worked on the disks are checked out of a vault with a record kept of when and who checked it out. There are no windows close to workstations in the building and most other windows are kept covered. The MPAA actually inspects the building every few years and certifies it as a safe location.

The more piracy grows, the less money media companies make, and the fewer people they are able to hire to work on projects. This means, crews, audio engineers, gaffers, mixers, editors, promoters and everyone else across the industry will have an even harder time finding a job (AFL-CIO fact sheet). The security measures mentioned above may seem excessive but they are common for facilities that handle content for major productions. No one at my company complains about the security or would consider pirating content because they know their jobs depend on studios earning a lot of money.

The MPAA and the rest of the media industry may be fighting a losing battle. Technology to encrypt disks and files is evolving, but so is the technology to get around the encryption. The more prevalent piracy becomes the more jobs will be lost and certain facilities, such as the one I’m working at, will become less relevant. Will the battle rage on, or will the media content industries adopt a new business model?

– Amelia M. Torre

Media Distribution in Digital Age: New and Old Problems

New ways of distribution, media piracy, problems with niche media and media conglomerates issues – all of these topics were discussed at the conference “Net Worth: Media Distribution in the Digital Era” in Santa Barbara, California, held on February 18.
The problem of digital media practices was discussed by professors from different universities and representatives of companies such as Microsoft Corporation, Sony Home Entertainment, Walt Disney Studio, Warner Bros. and others.

The biggest problem media conglomerates see in the media today is still piracy.
“There is product devaluation and we blame piracy for that. Aggregation is also a problem,” complained Vice President Business Development and New Media Distribution Strategy of the Walt Disney Studios Kelly Summers. “We would like to take advantage of what our content people put on YouTube, but in that way we only endorse piracy.”

Executive Vice President of Advertising Research Foundation Global Business Strategy Horst Stipp says that consumers are interested in the “comfortable” delivery of media products. Therefore, there are illegal copies of media products always being readily produced and available.

“We see that consumers care about getting product in the most convenient way,”  says Horst Stipp.

As for the legal ways of distributing media, Summers says Disney Studios watch very carefully where their content goes. They are not focused on mobile TV  since not many people watch content just on their phones.”One more thing we are doing now is Disney Studio All Access,” says Summers.Disney Studio All Access is a new platform that combines Disney Movie Rewards, Disney Movies Online, DisneyFile Digital Copy and Disney Key Chest. This platform gives a new way of media distribution. It would enable consumers with easier access to the studio’s vaunted vault of classic content from one source and be playable across multiple devices.

Generally speaking, viewing experience has become different now than it ever was before. With TV’s connected to Internet, there is not only viewing, but also a connected experience.

“Soon things would be determined by what a network knows about you,”  says President Digital Distribution of Warner Bros. Thomas Gewecke.

Gewecke is sure that digital is now a significant part of the mix of media distributions.

More information about the conference can be found here: