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Torrents, piracy and beyond: will the film industry survive?

cnv00028"So the guys who started this business all cheated somebody to get there, and now they're being cheated, perhaps, by all these crazy, geeky people all over the internet. I must say, my anguish level is not great."
Richard Dreyfuss

"although iTunes has 70% of the pay to download music market - only 1 in 40 of all tracks downloaded on the web are ever paid for. That's 2.5%"

For many years now people have been telling us how much the media world is changing. And it is. Faster than we ever imagined.

I downloaded my first Torrent this week. It took me about 20 minutes to download and install the software and get an album called Wu Orleans - a mash-up of Old New Orleans Blues and the Wu Tang Clan which will never appear in a shop. There’s the rub - if I wanted to pay to buy the album I wouldn’t be able. Like DJ ‘Gnarls Barkleys’ Dangermouse’s Grey Album, and DJ BC’s Let it Beastles it’s in a strange category of illegal downloads where there’s no legitimate alternative. The choice is between never hearing these songs or breaking copyright law. DJ BC and Dangermouse are so good at what they do that the idea of simply never listening to the tracks wasn’t really an option.

But now, as a result, I have a piece of software which could, if I so chose, allow me to download pretty much any album, TV, piece of software or film. For free. I won’t. But I could.


From Free Film Movement to Cluetrain: the importance of personal filmmaking

Streamers by PixieTart from Flikr CC"As filmmakers we believe that no film can be too personal. The image speaks. Sound amplifies and comments. Size is irrelevant. Perfection is not an aim. An attitude means a style. A style means an attitude.”

"For every entry in the encyclopedia, there is now a Web site. For any idea you can imagine — and some you can't — there are thousands of articles and images electronically swirling around the globe. But that's not the real story. That's not the big news. The word that's going around, the word that's finally getting out, is something much larger, far more fundamental. The word that's passing like a spark from keyboard to screen, from heart to mind, is the permission we're giving ourselves and each other: to be human and to speak as humans."

Looking again at James MacGregor's guide to the Free Film Movement this morning, I was struck by how similar its founding statement is to some of the central ideas of Cluetrain. For those who haven't heard of it (which until a few months back included me), The Cluetrain Manifesto is an essay published by Rick Levine, Chris Locke, Doc Searls, David Weinberger in 1999 looking at how business and communication was evolving on the Internet. Unlike the typical corporate sponsored report of that period, Cluetrain recognised a massive sea change in nature of business transactions, shifting from heavy top down systems (we will tell you what to buy) to loose non-heirarchical structures like eBay, and tranposing this shift to communication and the media saw a revolution brewing. At its heart is the idea that only by becoming more personal - as personal as is humanly possible - would an organisation or individual be able to stand out on the web where there are billions of pages and products competing for attention.

What's remarkable about the essay is that, with the explosion of blogs, vlogs, and sites like Flickr, MySpace, Digg, DeviantArt and is how true this has proven to be, especially in the creative world. Like Hakim Bay's Pirate Utopias and the Temporary Autonomous Zone, it has been one of those defining texts that in retrospect look almost prophetic.

"From another perspective, the news is not good at all. Everybody's miserable. Everybody's had about enough. People are sick to death of being valued only as potential buyers, as monetary grist for some modern-day satanic mill.

They're sick of working for organizations that treat them as if they didn't exist, then attempt to sell them the very stuff they themselves produced. Why is a medium that holds such promise — to connect, to inspire, to awaken, to enlist, to change — being used by companies as a conduit for the kind of tired lies that have characterized fifty years of television? Business has made a ventriloquist's trick of the humanity we take for granted. The sham is ludicrous. The corporation pretends to speak, but its voice is that of a third-rate actor in a fourth-rate play, uttering lines no one believes in a manner no one respects.

Oh well. That's OK. We'll get by. We've got each other.

I have to laugh as I write that. The Internet audience is a strange crew, to be sure. But we're not talking about some Woodstock lovefest here. We don't all need to drop acid and get naked. We don't need to pledge our undying troth to each other, or to the Revolution, or to the bloody Cluetrain Manifesto for that matter. And neither does business.

All we need to do is what most of us who've discovered this medium are already doing: using it to connect with each other, not as representatives of corporations or market segments, but simply as who we are... Tell us some good stories and capture our interest. Don't talk to us as if you've forgotten how to speak. Don't make us feel small. Remind us to be larger. Get a little of that human touch. "


We're back - early spring blossom

spring blossom tree 

"We have killed all our Gods, they offer us nothing that a scientist cannot dismiss or add doubt to. Yet our hunger for a force or parental energy bigger than ourselves or our all-too-human parents has moved to a religion of capitalism, which requires only that you attend regular services at the Church of TV and pay homage through diligent consumption. Spirtualism exists enough to allow us to find a faith that makes us feel better about death, and indeed about ourselves and the way we have chosen to live, and it asks for nothing in return but the occasional burst of self righteousness after an organic vegan lunch or a day of yoga and meditation. And the rest of the time the mighty uber-faith of desire and consumption is something we can all sign up to, even if in our quieter and more humble moments we suspect it isn't really doing many of us much good – occasionally wondering if we will have much to bequeath our descendants beyond partially flooded mass graves and landfill sites."