By Kim Voynar Voynar@moviecitynews.com
Piracy, Again? Arrrrrggggh.
When is pirating movies not stealing something you didn’t pay for out of a misguided sense of self-entitlement? According to Mike D’Angelo, it’s not stealing if he does it, at least. Or it is stealing, but he’s entitled to steal it. Or at the very least, hey, stealing’s not bad if you’re only pirating movies you really, really want to watch on Blu-ray but don’t want to buy. Or if you delete it after you watch it, if you don’t like it, or add to your wish list to purchase for when you decide you can afford it. Got it?
D’Angelo wrote an earlier post a little over a month ago, confessing his movie piracy (and getting duly attacked on Twitter for it), and then yesterday wrote this follow-up piece for Indiewire, further attempting to explain what he really meant. Which apparently boils down to: Yes, he pirates movies, and no, he doesn’t feel bad about it. I’ve read both pieces, and all the comments on both, and D’Angelo’s response to pretty much every argument against pirating really boils down to, “Too bad. I want to see these movies on Blu-ray. I am entitled to see these movies, which I do not own and did not create, for free if I want to. I don’t want to pay to buy them, but I’m still entitled to illegally download and watch them, because — were you not paying attention the first ten times I said this? Did you not read my blog post? I really want to watch them, on Blu-ray, right now. Period, end of line.”
I’ve been accused at times of being too black-and-white in my own moralistic viewpoint on certain issues, but for me, the issue of piracy is just a no-brainer. If you don’t own it, you don’t have the right to set the terms under which you or anyone else gets to have it or watch it, period. I don’t care how hard or impossible it is to find pre-2000 movies for rental on Blu-ray. Big fucking deal. So you don’t get to rent Anatomy of a Murder on Blu-ray. Life’s hard. If you want it, you have to actually buy it. Cry me a river, dude. Get over your overblown sense of self-entitlement and find a real problem to deal with.
Reality check: People around the world are dealing with civil war and unrest, famine, joblessness, homelessness, no health care, terminal illness, people dying from diseases that no one in 2012 should have to worry about, crushing poverty and oppression by military dictatorships. The GOP is attacking women’s rights at every possible opportunity, trying to take control of abortion and birth control. There are people around the world — dare I say, a LOT of people — who don’t even have access to books or a basic education. For the much of the world, there are more pressing problems to deal with than whether one can afford to own a region-free DVD player or watch Anatomy of a Murder on Blu-ray. People are too busy figuring out how to keep food in their kids’ bellies, or schlepping five miles with a water jug on their heads to get access to something we can just turn on at a tap in our kitchens and bathrooms to worry about piddly shit like access to Blu-ray rentals. But hey. Being able to rent Blu-rays of every single movie you might want to see is a Really Pressing Fucking Issue that we should all take up arms and fight for. Give me a break. Talk about a First World “problem.”
We are at a period in our history where we are at the cusp of either uniting for a major revolution that will profoundly shift the way in which our societal structure is organized, or plummeting headfirst into a future where the Christian right controls our lives and sets the rules under which we live, or possibly just destroying our planet over religious differences, war and good old-fashioned avarice. And your biggest problem is whether you’re able to rent Anatomy of a Murder on freaking Blu-ray? For real? Look, for me, piracy is one of those issues in which there really is very little wiggle room or moralistically grey ground. Whatever justifications pirates come up for for their stealing, however intellectual they try to make their arguments sound, really it all comes down to, “But … I want what I want, when I want it and how I want it, so that makes it all okay.” Sorry, kids. It doesn’t.
You are absolutely free to make your own movie and put it out there freely accessible by all, as Nina Paley did with her film Sita Sings the Blues, which she, as the owner and creator, chose to make freely available for viewing and sharing under a Creative Commons License. The key words here are “owner and creator,” as in, she had the right to decide everyone can watch her movie for free. She, the owner. Not a film journalist who felt entitled to watch her work because he really, really wanted to watch it. So you can download and watch Sita Sings the Blues all day and night, without worrying about stealing what doesn’t belong to you. And there are probably plenty of indie filmmakers out there who would be happy to make their films freely available to you because they just care about someone, anyone who’s not their friends or family, seeing the work they created.
Unfortunately most movies are not freely available under Creative Commons or anything else. They are owned by companies, which either paid to make them or paid to buy them from the people who made them, who in turn had the right to sell their creation to the highest bidder. If it’s not easy to rent the Blu-ray version of a given film, well, too damn bad. You’re free to write the distributor and tell them you’d really like them to make this or that movie available for rental, on Blu-ray. You’re certainly free to come up with a solution yourself for how to offer such rentals to anyone else who might also have a pressing, urgent need to rent a Blu-ray of Anatomy of a Murder or Killer of Sheep right now. What you’re not free to do is blatantly steal what doesn’t belong to you, and then essentially brag about what you’re doing, thumbing your nose at the people who own what you’re stealing, and then wrap it all up in a pretty package of self-righteous indignation about how essential it is to your life and well-being that you be able to see whatever movies you want on Blu-ray, whenever you want to see them, without paying the owners of said property for that privilege.
Honestly. Reading the debate in the comments threads on both these posts is a lot like listening to a parent arguing with a two-year-old at playgroup:
PARENT: No honey, you can’t just take Tommy’s toy, it’s his.
2YO: But I WANT it! It’s mine!
PARENT: I’m sorry, you can’t have it. It doesn’t belong to you.
PARENT: Because it belongs to Tommy. It’s his. If he wants to let you play with it, he can, but you can’t just take it.
2YO: But I WANT it! It’s mine! I want it NOW! Wahhhh!