A suggestion of what to do, now that we’ve trashed SOPA
I learned a new abbreviation this week– SOPA. The idea with it– as far as I understand it – to fight online piracy. The problem was that the chosen method was rubbish – which as by a coincidence is what the word “sopa” literally means in Swedish.
From what I get the protests have been listened to, at least for the time being. The bill won’t pass, at least not the way it originally was suggested.
Does this mean that it’s celebration time? Should we go out on the webs and arrange file sharing orgies, downloading and uploading as much as our connections can handle? Should we shout out in triumph to the world: “free, free, free!”, sparkling champagne all over our keyboards whilst giving the film industry who , giving all the film workers of the world who try to make a living on making films the finger?
I think it’s time to show that film fans are decent people who respect the property of others. There is a question I think it’s hard to come around: is stealing a film from the Internet, really much different from stealing a physical copy from a shelf in a video store?
I know there are a lot of excuses. Some better, some worse.
“It doesn’t hurt anyone poor. The companies are already making a huge profit as it is.” Or: “I wouldn’t have bought it anyway”. Or: “They’re charging fantasy prices. I’d pay they just make a cheap service like Spotify. I can’t afford it as it is.”
The one that I think is most valid is when it’s actually the only way to get access to a movie, since there isn’t any option available to buy it legally. In those cases a download can actually be a signal that there is a market demand for this film. Perhaps it can even inspire someone to make it available on DVD or Blue-Ray.
But a lot of the excuses for downloading instead of renting or buying or – gasp – going to a theatre – is just excuses.
Get me right. I don’t feel particularly sorry for people behind block buster productions that probably make a gazillion of dollars in merchandise only. They’ll survive.
I think of everyone else. There are countless of film makers who I imagine barely can make a living, who borrow money from their parents, who sell their houses and live on their spouses, not necessarily because they imagine they’ll get rich and famous, but because they’re bursting with creativity, because they love their arts, because they have a desire to tell a story, even at a price of a poor and uncertain existence.
Maybe you’re too cheap – or poor – to buy their films legally. Maybe you’re too lazy to borrow them on the library (which wouldn’t make them rich, but hopefully give them a cent or so, which is considerably more than zero). Maybe you download their films with the best of intentions. (Hey, you blog about them, that’s free advertising, right?). But could you meet them face to face and tell them about what you’ve done without feeling embarrassed? I couldn’t.
The failed fundraising
Another thing happened to me this week – something that made me feel like a jerk. I’ll tell you about it and then I’ll get back to the downloading issue and make a suggestion.
What happened to me was that I failed to give support to someone who needed it.
You see, in the end of the autumn I got a kind letter from a small German film production focusing on independent and art-house films. They told me about how much they loved my blog (that’s a good start for that kind of conversation :)) and suggested me to take a look at a young German director named Nikias Chryssos. He had previously done a short film called Tower Block (you can check it out without feeling bad, it’s not an illegal download), which I was asked to review, and now he was working on a new project, called “Der Bunker”.
I replied politely that I was flattered by the attention, but that I probably wasn’t the right person to ask since my blog was so small and significant. But they promptly answered that this was no problem. “Even if your blog is small – so is our film”. This made me smile. Us small people should stick together, shouldn’t we?
Time passed quickly – doesn’t it always? – and my film review queue got longer and longer and I never got around to check it out and – in the case I’d like it – give it a shout-out. But finally I watched Tower Block and thought it had “something”. This was a director I’d like to see more of. So I went to check out the kickstarter project they had started to get funds to do their next film.
[Quick interruption to tell you about what a kickstarter project is: it’s a method where art and film makers and such can ask for voluntary donations for a project. They set up a budget for it and if the project reaches this budget within a certain timeframe, they will get the money and do what they had promised to do. If it fails it will get nothing and the donators won’t have lost any money. It’s a safe way for people to be able to support fairly “unsafe” projects without risking to loose it to a project that didn’t’ take off.]
However once at the web site, I was met by a sad message. “Der Bunker” had only assembled 12 000 dollars, which was 8 000 dollars short of the goal of 20 000. It had failed as the deadline ran out. I had arrived to late, missing it by three hours and I felt like such a jerk.
To be honest I don’t think a plug at my blog would have made that much of a difference. My readership isn’t of the size that it easily could gather what was missing. But still – if I had been arsed to check this out properly and put aside some time for it in time, I could have done something to help them out. Something is always better than nothing.
And this brings me naturally to my idea.
Maybe you have a really good reason to occasionally watch a movie for free when you know deep down that you should have paid for it. Maybe you’re one of those who happily would pay for the view if only the film industry let you do it in a reasonably easy way, if it was as available and convenient as the music downloads nowadays. Maybe you don’t want to feel like a parasite or thief. Maybe you want to do the right thing.
My suggestion to you is simple: Why don’t put aside the money you would have paid if you had that option and give it away to another good, film related cause?
There are loads of projects like Der Bunker at Kickstarter. Perhaps you’ll find one of your liking, a talented, upcoming film maker that you’d like to see more of, someone you would rather see making more films than flipping hamburgers for a living in the future?
Or alternatively you could consider becoming a regular donor to your favourite film podcast, the one you’re probably downloading for free, week after week, year after year, and at least make sure they can afford the equipment, even though it won’t be enough for the hosts to make a living of it?
You see: If you want your favourite street musician to keep singing, brightening your days, you’d better toss him a few coins now and then or he’ll give up and do something more lucrative with his life.
If you want good film makers to keep creating magical worlds for your enjoyment, you need to support them in some way, at least so they can get a meal for the day and roof over their heads.
Put your money into the kind of movies you’d like to see made in the future. You’ve got the power. Use it.
And remember: just because we care about the free speech on the Internet, it doesn’t mean that everything that is on the net should be considered free.