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Monday, February 04, 2008

Why Aren't More Sundance Movies Pirated?

Slate has a story that poses that question.

Tim Wu observes that it's nearly impossible to find any of the hits from this year's Sundance Film Festival, or last year's, on any of the leading networks for pirated media. He hypothesizes:

    ...The simplest explanation is that it takes a critical mass of interest—lots of people who want to see a film—before it will get decent pirate distribution. There are a number of reasons for this, but, crucially, every step of the piracy distribution system relies on knowing that the film exists at all. Moreover, to get effective, fast distribution on a peer-to-peer network, you need lots of reliable peers—enough people willing to share the burden of distributing the film online.

    In the end, it's a numbers game. How many people want to see the film? Of those, which will get access, break the protection, and put it online? How many will download it, and of those, how many will share the burden of allowing others to download it? These numbers determine whether a film is online at all and mark the difference between a BitTorrent download that takes one hour, and one that takes five days or doesn't work at all.

    ...What this suggests is that film pirates are not predators but parasites. They do not roam around looking for new and unknown films to eat, but rather prey on big films with name recognition. Some pirates also seem to take pride in landing the "big film," and, by that measure, documentaries about the Pentagon's classification policies (Secrecy) do not measure up. In a sense, this is more bad news for independent filmmakers. Forget about Sony Classics: It's not all that easy to get distribution on the Pirate Bay.

Reading the piece kept bringing to mind the quote from Tim O'Reilly: "Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy."

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  • Sundance movies are not often pirated because there aren't DVD screeners widely available, and many don't end up on DVD or sold anywhere.

    The rest of the opinion piece is speculative tripe.

    Boy, that was tough. Where's my Slate article?

    By Blogger Jason Scott, at 6:52 PM  

  • Interesting points.

    What it really means is that the major studios and networks should be more afraid of NOT being pirated, then being pirated.

    This also means that they entry cost (for securing eyeballs) is still going to be too high for many micro-budgeted films to reach.

    By Blogger Norman, at 6:53 PM  

  • Ah, but this is why the future belongs to independent film. As a distributor of indie film, we are not burden by the nonsense of Microsoft DRM (or apparently Apple DRM either). We can experiment freely. Our audiences value the concept of free use -- because we understand that a shared disc is not a lost sale but actually more visibility. This leaves the field open to us. We're waiting downfield for Manning's pass!

    By Blogger Unknown, at 10:30 PM  

  • I don't know how limited his search was on the various P2P sites or usenet, but most everything is available. I was working on a film that screened in 11 theaters and it was up on BT within 2 days of the first screening.

    By Blogger GB, at 2:07 AM  

  • My feature film played at Sundance 07 it wasn't a "hit" there but it was released by one of the biggest movie pirating groups on the planet... See "torrentrical" release here...

    A massive P&A campaign doesn't impress Swedish hackers I guess?

    By Blogger M dot Strange, at 9:12 AM  

  • I think the comment about bragging rights as to who gets the big show up and out there first has merit as it stems to the research I've done, and that is that pirates truly dislike the studios and think they are being taken advantage of. Its really funny if you look at who finances the indies V majors these days and who is actually stealing from whom.

    Indies are made up of sweat, private equity, private equity and often a sales company putting up a guarantee on foreign sales. Thats a lot of people putting up a lot of time and money to get a project made, whereas the studios will now only market a film that is funded by government flow thrus of from Germany, Malta, and other international jurisdictions. They may put up 20% of the budget by using a line of credit; however, if they don't recoup that line of credit they go out and secure some domestic rights to those indies and pay down the debt on their studio pic by collateralizing the marketing costs of the indies with the studio pic and bill it to the private equity people who funded the small film.

    In the end piracy always hurts the little guy.

    By Blogger David Geertz, at 11:33 AM  

  • M-dot,

    What did BTY use for their source format? Was there a DVD that you were circulating for distribution people, or did they shoot off the screen?

    Maybe BT IS your P&A??

    I guess that Slate was wrong about this, in which case my comments need to be revisted.

    As normal in this fast paced world.

    By Blogger Norman, at 5:24 PM  

  • Sundance Movies are not so popular in the internet.Thats why it will not be profitable for webmasters to promote such movies.

    satellite image of my house

    By Blogger reggy, at 10:42 PM  

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