No, Internet Piracy is Not A “Service Issue”…

Popcorn Time is now using the tired old Kim Dotcom defense that piracy is a “service issue”. We’ve heard this nugget for over a decade.  The argument may have had some merit in 1999, but that is just not the case today more than a decade and a half later.

So with that in mind, here is our response to the “service issue” argument when Mr. Dotcom attempted it back in 2013…

In the anticipation of the announcement of the new Mega launch, Pat Pilcher at The New Zealand Herald wrote an article titled “Kim Dotcom on Ending Piracy” in which the journalist listed Mr.Dotcom’s five steps to ending piracy. Pilcher writes,

As ironic as that may sound, Kim Dotcom’s logic is inescapably robust. Here’s what his end to piracy manifesto says:

1. Create great stuff
2. Make it easy to buy
3. Same day worldwide release
4. Fair price
5. Works on any device

Looking at what Kim is saying, the 5 points seem pretty obvious, although each could quickly get bogged down once Hollywood gets involved.

So let’s look at these one by one.

1. Create Great Stuff
Well, that’s a no brainer. The content industries create the most prized and sought after “stuff” in the world including films such as Avatar, The Avengers, and The Dark Night Rises as well as franchises like Iron Man, Transformers, Harry Potter and others. Music artists include the likes of Adele, The Black Keys, Taylor Swift, The Beatles and countless others. Making great stuff has never been a problem.

2. Make It Easy To Buy
Another no brainer. Perhaps a decade plus ago this might have been an argument, but not today. There are over 500 legal and licensed music services alone. For the film industry there are services like Netflix, Vudu and Cinemanow as well as other direct to home video on demand providers that give consumers more access to more content across more platforms than at any time in history.

3. Same Day World Wide Release
For music this is more less the standard now and is also more and more common for feature film releases as well. This is a common practice for the largest and most anticipated releases of music and films, the “stuff” that is the most aggressively pirated. For smaller indie releases this may not always be possible but than again I’m not sure that the problem we are combating is in Nigeria on indie rock albums and movies that are more or less film festival darlings.

4. Fair price
Done. Netflix is $7.99 a month for unlimited access to it’s entire library of films and tv shows. Spotify is $9.99 for unlimited access to it’s entire library which consist of probably 95% of every known recording in print. Add to this the cost of a song download is 99 cents. Less than the cost of a candy bar. Renting a movie from a video on demand service ranges from 3.99 to 5.99. Price is no longer an issue and has not been for years.

5. Works on Any Device
Music is DRM free and has been for at least half a decade. Streaming Services such as Netflix and Spotify are also available on every major platform including not only Mac and PC computers, but also mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets by a variety of manufacturers. Additionally most new video game consoles and blu-ray players also include many of these same apps.

So there you have it, the end of piracy. Even Pat Pilcher at The New Zealand Herald agrees a referring to a similar response from the New Zealand record industry. He writes,

Well there it is, RIANZ’s response in full. I can’t argue with much that they’ve said, as they’ve pretty much complied with most of Kim’s 5 points.

So Kim Dotcom’s five suggestions have been fulfilled and yet, I don’t think we’ll see an end to piracy anytime soon. There is still one thing piracy offers that legal, licensed and legitimate services do not, and that is compensation to the artists, musicians, filmmakers and creators which requires that consumers actually do pay the fair price asked.

It’s all pretty simple and by Kim Dotcom’s own suggestions and admission it’s pretty clear where the problem is from here on out, and it’s not in his five suggestions…

And, of course, let us not forget this classic… Kim Dotcom Parody Video Appears on YouTube

 

Are Creators Really Thriving in the Digital Age? Doesn’t Look Like It | Robert Levine @ Billboard

“Free Ride” author Robert Levine takes on Steven Johnson’s stats and conclusions…

In this weekend’s New York Times Magazine, author Steven Johnson wrote a piece, “The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t,” which ventured to examine the state of creative business in the digital age. Johnson conclusion was that it’s thriving. I have strong feelings on this topic, since I wrote a book that makes the opposite argument. I’d very much like Johnson to be right, since the health of the creative business strongly correlates with my ability to put food on the table. But although I think he’s a smart writer — we worked together, briefly, years ago — I think he’s looking at wrong information in the wrong way. He ends up oversimplifying a complicated subject to make a contrarian point.

Johnson’s premise is that the best way to assess the health of the creative businesses isn’t to look at falling sales or struggling companies but how actual creators themselves are faring. It’s a smart, refreshing approach. But his evidence that creators are thriving is far flimsier than it looks.

READ THE FULL STORY AT BILLBOARD:
http://www.billboard.com/articles/business/6677568/are-creators-really-thriving-in-the-digital-age-doesnt-look-like-it

Social Passivity Resulting in Current Invasive/Spying Technology | Jon Taplin @ USC

Social Passivity Resulting in Current Invasive/Spying Technology

Read The Blog Post Here:
https://medium.com/@jonathantaplin/sleeping-through-a-revolution-8c4b147463e5

Watch the Full Lecture Here:

The Technology Revolution Impacts and Reduces the Workforce | Jon Taplin @ USC

The Technology Revolution Impacts and Reduces the Workforce

Read The Blog Post Here:
https://medium.com/@jonathantaplin/sleeping-through-a-revolution-8c4b147463e5

Watch the Full Lecture Here:

The Lack of Ethics of Online Advertisers | Jon Taplin USC Lecture

The Lack of Ethics of Online Advertisers, YouTube, Google, Others.

Read The Blog Post Here:
https://medium.com/@jonathantaplin/sleeping-through-a-revolution-8c4b147463e5

Watch the Full Lecture Here:

UK police are waging war on piracy sites’ funding — and it’s working | Business Insider

Ad Funded Piracy. Follow The Money. It’s not about sharing, it’s about profits.

Most big piracy sites don’t charge their users a fee, but are still able to profit off of copyright infringement. Why? Because the operators plaster their pages in advertising.

But British police now say they are making major headway in tackling this: On Wednesday, the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) announced that Operation Creative, launched in 2013, has led to a 73% decline in advertising “from the UK’s top ad spending companies on copyright infringing websites.”

READ THE FULL POST AT BUSINESS INSIDER:
http://www.businessinsider.com/operation-creative-piracy-73-percent-decrease-pipcu-2015-8

Marketers: Stop Advertising on Pirate Sites | Advertising Age

The first three things to know about online piracy; Follow the money. Follow the money. Follow the money.

My own show, “Hannibal,” was the fifth most-stolen TV show during its first season on the air, despite being available for legal digital streaming the very next day. While I appreciate the enthusiasm of our fans, as executive producer I am responsible for all production costs for the show. Piracy directly affects my bottom line, including the wages for hundreds of cast and crewmembers.

I have been blessed with a successful, 30-plus-year career in entertainment. During that time, I have seen how the growth of online piracy directly impacts the economics of creativity. Piracy jeopardizes the rights of creatives to be compensated for their work — making it even harder to build a career in a creative field. It forces companies to either shrink their production budgets or commit to fewer, less risky projects. And ultimately, it harms audiences by limiting the types of stories that creatives can tell.

It’s a real lose-lose, unless you are the operator of a pirate site.

READ THE FULL STORY AT ADVERTISING AGE:
http://adage.com/article/digitalnext/advertisers-profit-piracy/299924/

California’s Other Drought: The Coming Ad Revenue Crisis

Guest Post By Alan Graham

Last month I published this piece over on LinkedIn, but I felt it might need a second viewing (with updates) over here based on recent news on ad blocking and other developments. 

————–

Silicon Valley has a drought problem. But it isn’t the lack of water I’m concerned about. It is the over reliance on ad revenue and venture capital that is sustaining both tech and media. Now there’s a debate raging about whether or not we’re in another bubble (I was in the last one). The pro-bubble argument is often about overvaluations and spending. The anti-bubble argument shows charts on how VC investments and IPOs are much lower than the last one. Both sides completely miss the mark which is that since Google (er…Alphabet) and others began building empires on “freemium” type services, we’ve become accustomed to not having to pay for things, and what began with a tool here and there and some “free” content has actually become the predominant method of generating revenue across the web.

A possible disaster.

For the past two years I’ve been working on a project called OCL. One thing it does is it is the world’s first true microlicensing platform for apps that allows the merging of any creative asset with any other creative asset with all of the rights cleared “faster than instantly.” Yes…that’s possible. And it is actually built upon the idea of paying for things (a novel idea these days I know). I’ve run into a lot of resistance over this model to the point where I recently had an argument with a music journalist who saw no problem with the idea that advertising was a viable long term model of revenue and my predictions/concerns over a non-sustainable ad market (for everything) was silly.

I’ve also had many a meeting with executives who told me countless times that the punter won’t pay for anything. Their business model is to license large platforms and take a cut of ad revenue. During this time I’ve pointed out that with a finite amount of ad revenue that must be shared across all creative industries and tech platforms (all vying for attention), it simply is not possible to sustain a vibrant creative marketplace that requires ad revenue to keep it chugging along. And if those platforms have their revenue somewhat interrupted, that trickles down.

The reasons for being concerned are clear:

-ContentID was a anomaly born out of necessity to bring some order to a chaotic system of copyright infringement and push the biggest piracy site into some form of legitimacy.

-YouTube went from a method of promotion, to a method of generating much needed revenue, to cannibalizing sales of media, as there was no reason to purchase what you were already viewing/listening to.

-Ad revenue (CPCs) have been dropping year over year for the past 5 or so years, while volume continues to increase.

-Volume is increasing because there are simply more and more locations to place ads in an increasingly competitive market with a finite amount of ad dollars that simply shift from one point to another depending on popularity. Companies with ad budgets don’t suddenly spend more money because there are more locations to spend it. And quite frankly…volume is practically infinite.

-Increase in volume means a competitive marketplace that can drive CPC and other ad rates down further because we’re witnessing something happening to ads that happened to media, commoditization. All about numbers at this point, not quality of creative.

-We’re just getting started. Estimated reach/penetration of iOS/Android/FB is anywhere from 5M to 9M apps/platforms with 40k apps being added to iTunes each month alone. Reports show that the range of “free” apps is somewhere around 90%, both ad supported and in-app purchases. As that tail grows, so does volume.

-86%+ of our time accessing the web is now done through apps.

-Ad networks and other ad-based companies are going to get squeezed out of existence because of this, causing a collapse of an entire segment of tech which means thousands of high paying jobs are gonna go bye-bye and never come back. This is already starting to happen.

-Ad revenue is currently 80%+ of all revenue generated by Facebook and Google, two of the most important platforms for media distribution. It keeps their lights on and it is this revenue creators hitched their wagons to.

-Media companies (music, news, video, images) are scrambling to get a cut of that same ad revenue and finding they not only are competing for that money, they often have to spend money towards making that money back. Welcome to the world of paid non-organic reach. You now work for the company, live in company housing, and shop at the company store.

-Ad blocking is starting to take off in popularity and in court cases the judges in two instances sided with the ad blocking company stating that the user gets to decide what they want to do with their devices. 

What does this mean for rights owners?:

“Online ad blocking costs sites nearly $22 billion
The study, by software group Adobe and Ireland-based consultancy PageFair, found that the number of Internet users employing ad-blocking software has jumped 41 percent in the past 12 months to 198 million.”

 “Those losses are expected to grow to more than $41 billion in 2016, the study said.”

But that’s not all, there is also fraud:

“Last year, Google reported that 56.1 percent of all ads served were not measured viewable by humans.”


“Last December, the Association of National Advertisers and security firm WhiteOps estimated that up to a quarter of video ad views were fraudulent and resulting from software bots. It also said that as much as half of publisher traffic is from bots. This represents a projected $6 billion-plus in wasted ad spend this year.”


“Some industry observers go further than that, arguing that the digital ad industry is beset by traffic and other fraud because there’s a sort of arbitrage going on. Some exchanges, publishers, and ad networks are looking the other way, this argument goes, because they can make money on fraudulent traffic and fake ads.”


“The main losers are the advertisers themselves. But the publishers are getting shafted as well, Spanfeller said, since advertisers are paying $10 per thousand impressions while some publishers ‘get a buck.'”

 

-Mobile carriers in Europe are hinting that they also may begin to block ads at the carrier level citing increased performance and reduced bandwidth. How soon until we start to see ISPs offer the same services?

-It is estimated that Google is seeing as much as $6B in ad blocking occurring, and their total revenue in 2014 was $66B. That’s no laughing matter for a company making 90% of revenue from ads. Their response was to essentially say that the reason people are blocking ads is because we’re simply not making good enough ads. Yeah…that’s the reason. That type of flippant response to a $6B loss is why you should be very worried, because it means they are worried and don’t yet have an answer.

-For smaller publishers the problem is more pronounced. ProSiebenSat, one of the companies that sued Ad Blocker Plus and lost, stated that ad blocking was costing them upwards of 1/5 of their revenue or €9.2M

-Ad blocking users have grown to an army of nearly 200M people. That’s a word of mouth marketplace that any company would kill to have, except they are evangelizing the death of your business. Think about it as 200M people who have decided what you provide is interesting enough, just not interesting enough to pay for it via your #1 monetization plan. What’s your backup plan for monetization? What that says to me is that there are likely millions of content platforms overvalued and poised to collapse.

-With Apple’s recent announcement that they would allow third party developers to create ad blocking extensions for mobile Safari, the attention brought to this might take it mainstream, considering there are hundreds of millions of iOS devices and mobile Safari represents 25% of browsing. Welcome to the next viral technology success that you can’t actually afford to have take off.

-Facebook’s Instant Articles strategy could possibly be where advertising lives on, meaning that online publishers will have to become even more reliant on the tech giant for revenue, although it is likely both Apple and Google will follow suit. Meaning more of the open web gets sucked into the app environment where walls and AI decide what we will see and hear.

-My own tests with ad blocking has removed every ad from YouTube, one of the primary revenue sources for music labels and artists. Consider that most videos using music on YouTube (likely 60-70%) never generate any ad revenue at all, not to mention that YouTube is still not profitable (really?), this is one basket of eggs I’d be thinking of taking some eggs out of…

-Ad blocking is getting more and more sophisticated with ad block plug ins for Safari, Android, Chrome, and even Spotify. Not only can you block Spotify ads (the freemium model they defend to the death – no freemium no paid), but you can rip tracks from Spotify with all the metadata intact.

PopcornTime. Free movies and tv shows playing direct to your device with a gorgeous interface, high quality resolution, built-in VPN, and zero ads…need I say more? Expect more solutions like this to pop up, including alternative music platforms. IMAGINE: Playlists created in Spotify exported to a BitTorrent decentralized music player…this will happen.

The next 12-24 months are going to be a watershed where we see just how much of this shakes out. The problems are numerous, but the biggest issue I see is that we’ve spent so much time investing in ad-based technologies and their revenue streams, we’ve not built a single alternative solution which can cover any losses if this all goes belly up. There is a massive consolidation of power occurring at the top of tech where we may only be left with 4-5 companies that control most of the web/Internet as we use to know it, and the creative class is left with no real technology of its own and very few options of how to reach their customers without being at the mercy of another giant tech company.

Years ago I use to drive between California and Oregon quite often and I began to see a trend happening. The boats on the reservoir began to leave the docks as the water receded from the shore. They began to huddle together in the center of the lake as there was less and less water. Essentially they became the last holdouts hoping a great rain would restore everything to the way it was. But it won’t.

Part of the problem California is facing with its shortage of water is due to the fact that they never planned for the possibility of drought, although they certainly talked a lot about it. They are shortsighted. They saw an endless supply of water and all the riches it brought. As humans we very rarely ever prepare for the worst, because we’re always so caught up in the moment and at the moment we’re still feeling the best of times: toilets are still flushing and faucets are still flowing.

The situation with ad revenue and VC backed advances and payments is no different, and if we don’t start working on a fundamental shift on how we as a society pay for things we value, we’re going to see a lot more than just water dry up.

Alan Graham is the co-founder of OCL

Michael Price: Composer for Sherlock blames Google and YouTube for suppressing rewards songwriters receive | Independent UK

More artists, performers, songwriters and composers are getting it.

“YouTube are effectively paying incredibly low rates and are not a willing partner to negotiate licences and that pulls down the rates from someone like Spotify, which has to compete in their free service with YouTube,” he told The Independent on Sunday.

“The value from the music we create is being sucked out into the companies that aggregate it, [but] YouTube … are not happy to set adequate streaming rates. There is a huge shift of value from artists to tech companies.”

READ THE WHOLE STORY AT THE INDEPENDENT UK:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/michael-price-composer-for-sherlock-blames-google-and-youtube-for-suppressing-rewards-songwriters-receive-10447054.html