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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

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.

2YO: Why?

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!


55 Responses to “Piracy, Again? Arrrrrggggh.”

  1. Mike Torr says:

    Hear, hear! Right on the nail!

    I’m absolutely sick of the “why not?” culture, of people who think that because technology exists that can deliver them free content, that means that people who are working their butts off to produce the things they consume should not get paid for it. That’s basically forced unpaid labour (also known as slavery).

    And whether or not you agree with such an unfair work ethic (perhaps a communist might), it’s still disingenuous to fail to acknowledge the nature of it.

  2. Nate says:

    Nowhere in any of that did you actually bother to refute most of the reasons he gave for wanting to pirate other than limited availability. What do starving children in Africa have to do with any of this? You are a troll

  3. Joker says:

    “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.'”

    This is “Hollywood’s Homepage” not Life magazine. Call me crazy but a website dedicated to the inner-workings of the entertainment industry is a great example of a first world problem. And yes, viable distribution models for studio catalogs is a very important issue. The premise of your argument implies people aren’t entitled to autonomy over their individual entertainment experience: if it’s not available for purchase, then you can’t buy it therefore you can’t watch it.

    Should we arrest Topher Grace and everyone who watched his 85 minute Star Wars prequel redux? Am I criminal because I’m curious to see that? I read about it on a site like this.

  4. Nat says:

    Your argument is instantly voided for using the ‘kids are starving in Africa’ line. It’s so weak and irrelevant. How about YOU stop bitching and think about the chiiiillldren then?

  5. Kim Voynar says:

    I was going to throw drowned kittens in there too, but that seemed like too much hyperbole.

  6. Anne says:

    Sorry, but you didn’t make an argument against piracy here. This entire article is a guilt-attack diversion. You can’t or won’t actually take the time to create a reasonable response to the problem, and instead talk about everything completely unrelated. Can you please tell me what the Christian Right has to do with DVD/Bluray sales? Honestly, we’re not stupid. We can see right through your ruse here. You couldn’t think of a real argument, so instead you tried to make people focus on unrelated problems to get you off the hook. Bait-and-switch. That said, you know who needs to grow up? You do. This looks like a teenager saying “You’re worried about my texting habits when AIDS is still real?!”. That doesn’t work for them, and it won’t work for an adult publishing an article like this one. Be professional, make an argument if you have one, and don’t pull nonsense like this.

  7. Mike D'Angelo says:

    You know, I welcome intelligent debate on this subject, and am open to being convinced that what I do is wrong. But it’s hard to take you seriously when you devote half the piece to listing all of the world’s more pressing problems—a lame rhetorical device that can be applied to practically anything, including this piece itself. There are people starving and you choose to spend your valuable time and energy rebutting an article about pirating movies? Honestly?

    In any case, as usual, there’s a serious misapprehension here about what rights content owners possess, as evidenced in this blunt statement: “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.” That is simply false. If I borrow a DVD from a friend, and then invite several people to watch it at my house (without the friend’s knowledge), the disc owner’s had nothing to do with setting the terms regarding my friends’ experience of watching the film. Nor should she have. I am free to share it with them if I so choose. Nor does the company that originally sold the DVD have the right to monitor who *watches* the disc. Their sole right is that the person who physically possesses it (which would likely be Best Buy or whatever, but never mind) pays them for it. After that, it’s out of their hands, literally.

    Now, as a society, we have looked around and recognized that digital duplication threatens to make it financially untenable to create much of anything, so we’ve passed laws restricting what one can do with a DVD via the Internet. But that’s a wholly artificial construct designed to prevent a worst-case scenario in which nobody pays for anything. It doesn’t justify sweeping statements like the one quoted above, and the issue is by no means as black-and-white as you insist. (Though by your admission you apparently see many things in black-and-white, or at least others perceive that to be so.)

    And if the hypothetical two-year-old could have an exact copy of Tommy’s toy, leaving Tommy with the original, would there actually be a problem? For the toy manufacturer, sure (see above), but not in the dopey scenario you’re actually implying, where taking the toy leaves Tommy toyless and that’s why Mom or Dad says No.

  8. You’re right, there are much more important things to worry about in the world than whether it’s OK for person A to use the available technology to look at person B’s work without paying the fee to company C that, with the authorisation of person B, it chooses to charge for access to it.

    But where does that leave us?

    Should we all just assume it’s not OK, and stop worrying about it; or that it is OK, and stop worrying about it?

    You’d say the first one, I suppose; Mike would say the second. But that sets up the argument, it doesn’t settle it. Either you’re going to have to let him get on with things his way in peace, or you’re going to have to argue with him. But don’t argue with him AND tell us the issue is too trivial to argue about.

    People made art for tens of thousands of years before copyright was invented. And every time a new way of reproducing work has come along, there’ve been heated debates about how to apply copyright to them. So to blithely treat the current state of copyright law as a fixed status quo, and invite everyone to accept it and leave it alone and not talk about why they might disagree with it, doesn’t show much understanding of what is actually, I would suggest, a more than trivial issue.

    I don’t think you’re necessarily wrong and Mike’s right. Far from it. But let’s look at the issue of triviality from the other point of view.

    Through most of our evolution as human beings, we’ve taken it for granted that when someone spoke a new word or sang a new song or made a new mark, copying it was OK. More than OK: it was what they wanted. It was the whole point of doing those things, to have them echoed back and passed on. So it’s not weird that anyone would continue to feel that way about playing someone’s music or watching their movie. This does not imply a moral or intellectual deficiency.

    And nor is it weird that anyone who did push a button that was available to them to hear the music or watch the movie they were interested in, or helped others do so, and then found themselves sued for more money than they’d ever seen in their life, or even threatened with jail, or extradition to a foreign country, would feel that, far from having made themselves ridiculous by complaining about a trivial “first world problem”, they’d found themselves victimised arbitrarily in the kind of way they would have associated with a third-world country – a pre-civilised place – over what was in fact a trivial act.

    The “why not?” culture is what makes us human. The more we can do, the more we do. That’s not something to get sick of. I quite like copyright, in many ways. But when other people object that it prevents them experiencing art that they know is out there in the world, and they feel frustrated by that, I don’t hear trivial whining. I hear a little echo of the urge that’s brought us from cave-painting to digital cinema: to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

  9. Mike D'Angelo says:

    Here’s another way to think about this that just occurred to me.

    In my original blog piece, or maybe somewhere in the comments for same, I mentioned that one of the films I was unable to find for rent was the Criterion Blu of Fassbinder’s WORLD ON A WIRE. I was then contacted by somebody I’ve never met, who knows me only through reading my work on the Internet, who offered to lend me his copy. I gratefully accepted, he mailed me the DVD, I watched it and mailed it back.

    Our disagreement, which is probably not one that we can resolve, amounts to this: You see that as something entirely different from downloading WORLD ON A WIRE from some other random stranger on the Internet, and I see it as precisely the same thing. I even “return” the DVD (by deleting the file).

    Can you explain to me what you feel the difference is? ‘Cause that’s the crux of the matter.

  10. Kim Voynar says:

    A troll leaves stupid arguments on other people’s sites, Nat. This is my site, which makes it the place where I write my opinions and where you get to troll me.

    Look, this is a stupid issue. I used hyperbole to illustrate how stupid and self-entitled it is. Of course it’s ridiculous – that’s what hyperbole is. So is the idea that not being able to rent Anatomy of a Murder (or anything else) on Blu-ray is so important that it justifies the piracy of someone else’s property.

    In his piece on Indiewire, Mike tries to equate movie piracy with people who drank during Prohibition or who smoke weed now. This is a specious argument. The morality of drinking or smoking pot has nothing to do with whether your elected representatives pass this law or that one.

    And the morality of movie piracy has zero to do with what the law says about stealing, and everything to do with the objective morality of taking something that does not belong to you without paying the price the owner has set for it. You’re free to choose not to pay that price, but not to take someone’s property anyhow, just because you think you’re entitled to it.

  11. Kim Voynar says:

    Yes, Mike, I can. The difference is, the person who loaned you his copy of the DVD paid for it when he bought it. That’s no different than you borrowing a book from a friend, provided you don’t make a photocopy of the book. You downloading a movie is more equivalent to you walking into a store, stealing a DVD, and then “returning” it when you’re done.

    This isn’t really that hard to understand, and you’re too smart a guy for me to buy that you really don’t grasp this concept. You’ve written about this twice now, so surely you are, somewhere inside yourself, at least questioning your own justification for what you’re doing. Or maybe you just thought writing about it would draw traffic and attention, which it surely did.

  12. Kim Voynar says:

    adambanksdotcom actually did something that I didn’t think was possible, which was to find an angle on this whole thing that actually IS relevant beyond the story of one man’s desire to have access to what he wants, when he wants it. Thank you, Adam. And never let it be said of me that I won’t listen to and seriously consider an opposing view, when it’s presented seriously at least.

    So. Adam makes a very compelling argument here — that there’s a larger issue here than one guy downloading illegally. Adam seems to be arguing here that that a work of art, once created, belongs freely to the world, for anyone and everyone to experience, and the issue of whether the artist is entitled to be paid for his work is secondary. Which would essentially mean that art belongs to everyone, not the creator of the art, and that the innate responsibility of the artist is to further the development of art as a whole, for the betterment of society or whatever, and not for the individual ego or ownership of the artist. Adam, if I’ve misunderstood your points, feel free to chime on in.

    I would argue that, like Nina Paley, any artist is absolutely entitled to say, “I no longer own this. It belongs to all of you now.” But that no one can say that on behalf of any given artist, or take away from them the ownership of what they created.

  13. Mike D'Angelo says:

    Kim, now I get the sense that you don’t understand much about how downloading works. In the vast majority of cases, I’m downloading a film from a single person, and that person paid for the copy. (I don’t use BitTorrent.)

    But let’s say the person who lent me WORLD ON A WIRE received a free copy from Criterion, because he reviews DVDs. So he didn’t in fact pay for it. Still totally fine, right? That would account for the other (pre-release) scenarios involving downloads. In every case, the original file comes from a legitimate source. Somebody doesn’t shoplift it from Wal-Mart.

    Try again.

  14. Kim Voynar says:

    Mike, now I get the sense that you’re trying to be a condescending dick. Which, frankly, is beneath you and doesn’t suit you. You really don’t strike me as that guy.

    Look, a person who buys a book and loans it to a few friends is a very different thing from a person who buys a book, makes a digital copy of it, and then makes that duplication freely available for other people to download. When you buy a book, your purchase does not include the right make and distribute copies of it. Even if you’re an entity like a library.

    Libraries have a license to lend out the copies of books they’ve purchased, but not to make essentially unlimited copies of that purchase freely available. If you buy a DVD — as in the case in your prior example — you certainly have a right to loan it to a friend. But that friend does not have the right to copy it, nor do you have the right to put a copy of that file up on your blog for everyone and their brother to download it. And the guy in your scenario, who received a free review copy of the DVD, certainly doesn’t have the right to take the privilege of being given a free copy of that film to review so he can turn around and make it available for illegal download, though he could certainly mail it to you if he doesn’t live close enough to just hand it to you. Essentially, you’re trying to take the fact that technology makes it possible to make copies of movies easily and allow friends to download them as a justification that what you’re doing is no different than borrowing a book from a friend. When it fact, it’s the technology that actually complicates things, because the ability to easily make copies makes it so much simpler to distribute far beyond the “old-fashioned” honor system of, “Hey, I read this great book, now I’m loaning it to you because I think you might like it, too.”

    In fact, I suspect you already know all these things, and yet you choose to do what you want anyhow because it drives you nuts that you just want to RENT THE GODDAMN BLU-RAYS and you can’t. And you’re trying to use bullshit loopholes to justify downloading illegal copies. Because it’s their own damn fault for not making what you want available to you, right? If they did, sure, you’d pay for it, but since they haven’t, you’ll just take it. Screw ’em.

    OTOH, I’m not saying there’s not value in a discussion of the purpose of art, what art “is,” or whether it should be subject to concepts of ownership and copyright at all. Or whether there’s even objectively such a concept as “ownership,” or if “ownership” is a false construct made up for the benefits of the few over the many, and whether anything that’s made or invented really belongs to society and not to any one person. That would actually be an interesting discussion to have.

  15. The Big Perm says:

    See, Mike’s not a pirate because he gets it from a single guy and not Bitorrent. There are lots of guys who purchase a disk and then put it up on Rapidshare or whatever for everyone to download, big deal.

    And there are tons of indie films that can’t get financed because there’s no incentive. Does pirating really hurt the bottom line of Transformers? Probably not a ton. But if five thousand people download a low budget movie, there goes the game.

    You know, pirating doesn’t even really bother me to a huge degree. I think a lot of people have done it. I just hate it when people try to justify it. Just say you want it, you don’t feel like paying for it, you want to steal that shit, and call it a day.

  16. Mike D'Angelo says:

    But Big Perm, I can’t say that because it’s not true. I do feel like paying for it, and would happily do so. I’m simply not willing to *buy* a movie that I only want to *rent*.

    And Kim, you’re making my argument for me, so thanks. It is in fact a technological issue, not a moral issue. That’s why it’s not as simple as you make it out to be. You’re fixating on the fact that there are copies involved. That’s irrelevant to my experience. I don’t keep the movies. The actual result of my pirating them is *exactly the same* as if a physical copy had been lent to me. There is literally no difference AT ALL (except that the quality’s not quite as good). I even still pay the exact same monthly subscription fee to multiple rental outlets (at the moment, Blockbuster and ClassicFlix) that I would if they made those particular films available. Nobody is being deprived of anything.

    Now, there’s potentially a case to be made that piracy lends itself to such destructive abuse that we have no choice but to take every possible measure to make it impossible, even in completely benign cases like the one I’m defending. (I haven’t yet encountered a persuasive argument to that effect, but might one day.) But that’s not the same thing as just stomping your foot and declaring that it’s Categorically Wrong, and that anyone attempting to make a distinction between what’s deleterious and what isn’t is just an entitled crybaby.

  17. Sean Pearce says:

    When you steal an object, the object is inaccessible to its rightful owner. Someone now has one less of something they had before. When you download a movie, the original copy of the movie is unaffected. No direct harm comes to person who possesses the original. You can argue that *indirect* harm comes to the people involved in creating and releasing films because they lose sales. But you can also argue that artists benefit from the increased exposure. What I cannot comprehend is how people can believe that copying digital files is exactly the same as theft.

    Instead of trying to equate the two, we should be looking at the bigger picture of why, how, or even whether piracy is harmful and what should be done about it.

    In the not so distant past it used to be much more obvious why you had to pay to have access to a work of art. Perhaps it could only be experienced in a particular location with limited seating, or it had to be transferred onto a physical medium that was difficult and costly to produce and distribute. Entire industries came to exist in order to make money selling art in various forms. The point is, there was once a physical reality to it. You couldn’t just press a button and instantly have a copy of the artwork while leaving the original unaffected. Now you can. Now there exist all these works of art in a digital format, and it is trivial to access them because they have been placed on the internet.

    The big issue — the reason why we’re getting into heated arguments about piracy, which has always existed in some form and always will — is that the film industry at large has not updated itself to the new paradigm of digital media. Effectively it is allowing piracy to become a superior alternative.

    What Mike is basically doing is pointing out the absurdity of this. Mike wants to be able to have a means of accessing the entire history of digitized artworks in a way that actually compensates the people responsible for creating or maintaining them. We all realize that if piracy truly becomes the norm, many artists will be unable to finance their work and then much of the work we enjoy will cease to be produced. No one wants this. But it doesn’t have to come to this. All it takes is for companies involved in the sale of films to actually *use* the technology we now have to provide a service that is at least as attractive as what piracy offers.

    To see this very thing done successfully you only have to look at two major examples: the iTunes/App stores, and Steam (a wildly successful digital distribution service for PC games). These each represent an element of an industry once accustomed to selling copies of artworks on physical media waking up and realizing that things have changed. Both services aim to offer a service that is at least *as* appealing as piracy. And they’re successful. They offer vast catalogues, they’re easy, affordable, and people can use them and feel good about supporting content creators. Both of these services have proven that if you make a legal service attractive enough, people will use it. Furthermore, these are superb platforms by which smaller content creators (indie artists and developers) can reach a vast audiences and actually sell more works than they ever could in the past.

    What we have in the film industry is companies like Netflix that have the means to do something like this for the benefit of the medium but instead choose to increasingly limit their catalog. This is what is absurd.

    So the point I take from all this discussion is there are two basic camps who are facing serious discouragement relating to the thing they enjoy and (in some cases) earn a living on. One: people like Mike who want to watch movies that already exist in the world, for a reasonable fee that somehow finances content creators. Two: content creators themselves who face great obstacles when it comes to even releasing artworks, because of piracy, the perceived threat of piracy, or the fact that major companies are simply uninterested in what they consider niche market fare.

    Both of these parties represent small elements of a vast industry and don’t have a lot of power to directly change how things work (short of starting their own business, which is ideal, but also difficult in an industry of well-established giants). What they do clearly have is the ability to argue for what can be done. Argue that there are indeed enough people that want to see old, obscure or unpopular films to at least return a profit, and that there needs to be a way to do this legally like there now is for music and games. This is what blog posts should be used for. Not for arguing about who is or is not self-entitled or a thief. We’re all interested in movies and this is what needs to be done so we can continue to enjoy them.

  18. The Big Perm says:

    Mike, you would not happily pay for these movies because you aren’t. They are available, you can pay money for them and get them right away, Amazon gets me shit the day after I buy it.

    What you mean is, you want to pay on your terms.

    Life doesn’t work that way. I’d like to pay a dollar for gas but too bad for me. So I either pay the amount at the pump or I can go fuck myself.

    Sean Pearce, your example doesn’t exactly hold up…I know enough indie guys who’d give up the exposrue that pirating supposedly gets them in order to get their movie financed, which piracy hurts. With this phantom exposure, you still can’t get shit made because no one wants to pay for it and have everyone download it, and the profit margins are so slim you’re screwed. There’s no “it could come to this,” it’s happening now. You can have movies made for 200 million, or movies made for under a million, because otherwise financially it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    So yes, the person who owns the item can be hurt. The studio that made the movie, because revenues that would go to it, are not.

    Now, I think Hollywood is being slow to adapt and it’s their own stupidity that’s getting in the way to a large extent. But that’s a different argument, sort of.

    In a sense anyone who IS interested in movies should be a little sad about streaming and pirating and quick windows and shit…because movies now are basically disposable pap, they can’t really leave much of a lasting impression anymore. You download it and watch a third of it on a 12 inch monitor and then delete it. It’s all just filler now.

  19. Sean Pearce says:

    The Big Perm:

    I wrote the sentence about piracy leading to exposure not to argue that point in depth but simply to acknowledge that it was a reasonable argument that could be made, while also saying that the opposing view (piracy can hamper content creators) is valid too. My major point there was simply to contrast two valid arguments with one that doesn’t hold: that piracy and theft are directly equivalent.

    I fully sympathize with indie distributors. I want them to exist. I want to watch their films. By the end of my last post I hope it was clear that I want there to be discussion about how to enable indie films to be financed and films to be seen.

    And no, when a free and easy alternative exists (where use of said alternative does not always, unequivocally lead to lost sales), it’s not good enough to expect anyone who wants to see a given film to buy the Blu. There needs to be at the very least a rental market that covers more than just the mainstream fare.

    Some people will *never* pay list price for a DVD because it’s just not that valuable to them. Instead they will pirate it. Are they right or wrong? I’m not saying either way. What I’m saying is those same people may happily pay $5 to see a streamed or rented version of a movie, but no one is providing a means to do that for a large portion of films. Wide-ranging digital sales platforms are working well in other industries. Platforms that feed funding directly to independent content creators. It won’t be exactly the same but something can be made to work for film too.

    To me the thing most likely to cause the art form to decline into a stream of disposable pap is major outlets choosing only to carry said pap.

  20. Kim Voynar says:

    I think we can all agree that there’s a niche of people out there (mostly film dorks like you’re likely to find around these parts) who want to be able to easily rent or buy every film ever made, at the very best quality possible, for the price they’re willing to pay for it, right now. I would love this. Big Perm and Sean, you’d like it. Mike, you certainly would.

    But that is not the situation right now. And Sean, I don’t completely disagree with you that this is the more pertinent discussion to have, but Mike has written about this issue twice now, and I do think that, Mike’s personal motives or the way in which he pirates aside, there’s little disputing that piracy *as a whole* negatively impacts our industry, from the real dollars it costs studios, to less directly measurable costs like the impact on films getting financed to begin with.

    Mike, look. I don’t care if you use your pirated downloads exactly as you say you do, and that you aren’t out there making them available for download by anyone and everyone. You’re making a justification for a specific loophole — actually, pointing out a loophole and making it easier for others to justify doing the same thing — when what we need are solutions that solve the problem.

    So, why do you think this hasn’t been fixed already? How much does a cost a company to add any given film, Blu-ray or otherwise, to its rental roster? You can argue that it’s just digital bits, but it’s also the legal agreements with the copyright owners, and the figuring out of paying residuals, and who gets what pieces of that pie.

    How many people actually want to be able to rent the Blu-ray of, say, Anatomy of a Murder, and could a company make back the cost of adding that film to its rental database by renting to that target market? How many digital rentals does it take before you’ve paid the cost of adding it to your virtual stock? I don’t know the answers to those questions. Anyone?

  21. Mike D'Angelo says:

    Big Perm, if you truly don’t understand the difference between buying something and renting it, I’m afraid I don’t feel inclined to explain it to you. Gas prices are a poor analogy; one cannot rent gasoline and then return it.

    Sean, thanks for articulating what I’m trying to say from another angle.

  22. Don R. Lewis says:

    This whole piracy thing is such an overblown issue. And I hate to pile on, Kim (and you know I love you) but this article does nothing to advance the reasons behind why piracy is “wrong.” If you care about the starving orphans, spend your time fighting for them, not griping about Mike’s reasons for “stealing.”

    It’s wrong. Who cares. If people wanted to make money off a hard to find film, they should make them readily available. There’s simply no way for me or Mike or anyone to see Fassbender films and countless others. If someone wants to burn me a copy or seed it for me, hell yes. I want to see it. It’s EXACTLY like burning someone a CD or a tape back int he day.

    Further- If your film (or album) is popular enough to warrant large amounts of downloading, chances are you’ve made a tidy profit on sales. I have yet to see a filmmaker or artist go under due to illegal downloading. They just take it out on the consumer in other ways like higher ticket and movie theater prices. Also- who’s to say someone would have bought your DVD or album if they didn’t have the chance to illegally download it?

    If studios cared about piracy, they’d do more to fight it. What’s the reward for turning in a person recording a movie in a theater? It’s like, $5000. OOoooh…I’m gonna get right on with busting people.

    On the flipside, do I want MY movies being illegally downloaded? Not really. But it’s a fact of life and until iTunes figures out a way to lock movies, it’s going to happen. What it says to me is- iTunes doesn’t care about the issue which means they don’t care about the content provider. They’re gonna make their money so screw the low-end provider. Not until the STUDIOS or iTunes (or Amazon instant) start feeling the pain will this issue go away.

    In closing…for the life of me I cannot figure out why so many film writers are the ones up in arms about this. We get free movies all the time which makes this defense of the poor, hapless pirated artist baffling to me. Why aren’t THEY the ones crying foul? Why the hell should any film writer/blogger/critic/journalist care about people “stealing” content? It’s the strangest thing for a group to be up in arms about I’ve ever seen.

  23. Peter says:

    Your argument would have been stronger if you had stuck to logical claims rather than expressing so much of your own anger and frustration. And, as others have said, your frequent reference to so-called third world problems distracts from the claims you are trying to make. Also, by being so readily dismissive of the pieces you refute, you undermine the notion that your article is worth writing in the first place. Your article is not very well-written.

  24. The Big Perm says:

    I understand the difference between renting and buying, Mike. You don’t need to explain it, that’s okay. What I am saying is, you don’t always get what you want. Maybe you can’t rent a movie you really want to see. But you have other options, like buying it. But your entitlement is such that there’s no way you can do something like just go without seeing it, is there?

  25. Joker says:

    Mike, you lost me when you tried to take some kind of moral high ground by saying you don’t use BitTorrent. Am I supposed to respect you more knowing you only download from a single source rather than a crowd sourced file?

    Kim, what if I want to rent a film’s Criterion Edition only to find the additional content locked? I guess that falls under the whole “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” argument. To me, distributors who penalize paying customers by limiting the end-user experience is the truest form of self-entitlement. More importantly, each day the industry remains beholden to the antiquated notion that they CAN control that experience is a day the tech industry gets stronger. People didn’t stop spending the money they used to spend on DVD players and DVD product, they bought iPads and Netflix.

  26. Mike D'Angelo says:

    Kim, I don’t know the answers to those questions either. I’m not sure why Netflix and Blockbuster initially snapped up at least one copy of every catalog title released on Blu-ray and then suddenly stopped buying almost any of them. Maybe they crunched the numbers and found that those films aren’t profitable enough. Maybe they’re just cash-poor at the moment and feel they need to expend their resources on mass-market titles. I have no idea.

    Hopefully, there’s a solution. (ClassicFlix plugs a sizable percentage of the gaps; now I only have to pirate foreign films and a handful of American films from the ’70s and ’80s.) I’ll certainly support that solution when it surfaces. But in the meantime, I just don’t feel like my “loophole”—which, again, deprives nobody on earth of a single cent—deserves to be classified in the same category as downloading THE HUNGER GAMES to save ten bucks when it’s playing right down the street. They’re not the same thing. Nor do I agree that the only right and honorable choice is to either (a) spend approximately 8-12x the average rental cost for a single viewing of a film I’d like to see but can only acquire legally by purchasing outright, or (b) not watch the film at all. Obviously you feel that (b) is perfectly fine. I should just do something else with my time and hope like hell that circumstances change, rather than commit a technically illegal act that harms nobody but is tainted by the harm that others do. We’re just gonna have to disagree on that. Fortunately, what I’m doing won’t impact your life in any way, even infinitesimally.

  27. The Big Perm says:

    Don, you mention buying tickets, and studios, etc. How much cash did you make off your movies? That wasn’t a big studio production, was it? You think the producers of Violent Kind wouldn’t have minded a few extra bucks coming their way?

    Here’s the thing that downloading is doing, and it’s not full blown but it may be as the new generations become more and more entitled. Why get a subscription to HBO when you know you can download Game of Thrones the very night it shows, in HD quality? Why even get Netflix, you can get all that shit for free…in perfect quality and you get to keep it. At the touch of a button. Why pay for anything, ever? It’s just empty air, right?

  28. The Big Perm says:

    Joke, I don’t like how studios do that shit either…but at the same time, every tie you pay for entertainment you buy it on their terms, or you don’t. Do you complain that when you see a movie in the theaters you don’t get a commentary track from the director? If you want to pay for it on their terms, you do so, or tell them to fuck off.

    And I find it hilarious that Mike is trying to make himself out to be better than someone who pirates The Hunger Games. You don’t want to pay for a Blu-Ray to watch a movie in that format because you don’t want to spend that money? Well, they don’t want to spend twelve bucks to see it in a theater with a bunch of jerks and overpriced popcorn, so they download it. You can justify anything.

  29. Mike D'Angelo says:

    Joker: That observation was specific to my question about the stranger who lent me his copy of WORLD ON A WIRE. Kim’s reply was that the lender had legally purchased the DVD he lent me, so I was just pointing out that usually that’s also true when you download a film via a file locker. Torrents cloud the issue somewhat due to the hivelike nature of that process.

  30. Don R. Lewis says:

    THE VIOLENT KIND was leaked online so profusely 5 full DAYS before it came out that I was stunned. I mean, small b-movie with no stars?! I still don’t know how it happened. But, I have my suspicions. Namely a “big box” store that gets DVD’s in the store Friday before the Tuesday release. But why is it so easy to get an early copy of a DVD and make it readily available within hours??

    To answer your question- yeah, they definitely would have preferred a few extra bucks and I honestly believe the rampant piracy of our film really, really hurt. But we as a producing team also know there’s nothing we can DO about it. Appealing to people who download illegally won’t work. My point is- why is no one but like, Kim, Drew McWeeny and Devin Faraci pissed and fighting this issue? No one who holds the purse strings is mad. Why?

  31. Kim Voynar says:

    Don, the point of all that was simply to illustrate the absurdity of what a First World problem this whole thing is. I mean, if you were living in some remote or war-torn area, focused on just keeping your daughter alive from one day to the next, would you really give two shits about whether you can see Anatomy of a Murder on Blu-ray? It’s the kind of thing we only have the privilege of arguing about BECAUSE we are so ridiculously privileged and entitled to begin with. The whole silliness of it all just struck me. There are days when I think our entire industry is ridiculous. Christ, don’t you?

    Completely separate point, though, from the issue of whether or not it’s okay to pirate something just because it’s not accessible to you in the way in which you want it.

    To bring it back to your argument of copying CDs or cassette tapes “back in the day,” yes, my friends and I did that too, when we were kids. We’d get our 12 records for a penny from Columbia or whatever and make cassette copies and share them out. In retrospect, that was wrong. At the time, I can’t say that I saw it as “piracy” or stealing, but views change as we mature and learn and read and think. And even as we discuss things like this on the internet.

    OTOH, I can also see the argument that mix tapes, in particular, were both a means of artistic expression (the songs you chose said either something about you, or the person you made it for) and a means of sharing music with others that could (and did, for many indie bands) ultimately lead to greater exposure and success. I’m thinking of one mix tape in particular, made for me by a long-ago lover, that turned me on to a slew of artists whose music I still buy today. Whatever was “taken” from those artists by me possessing that mix tape, I’ve long since paid back to most of them, I hope.

    Even so, I don’t share music illegally now, I buy it, and I don’t let my kids download illegally, even from their friends. If I want my kids to think about the moral implications of their choices, I have to have those conversations with them and teach them to think before they act, even if it’s something they really, really want.

  32. David Poland says:

    The presumption of reasonable re-use of any copyrighted product is fundamental.

    I think we obscure the overall issue when we talk about obscure, actually difficult to obtain films and fans/critics/scholars who want to see them for whatever reasons. This is a niche inside a niche inside a niche. And so, basically, is Mike D’Angelo.

    When it becomes problematic is when someone who has significantly better access to all films for no money or little money than 99% of people then explains how stealing is okay for everyone. It’s not unlike Senators saying that health care for the 40 million uninsured is not an important issue while they have all the health care our tax dollars can afford them.

    The attitude, at its core, is “fuck the money people.” It hasn’t been said in so many words in these exchanges, but “I have yet to see a filmmaker or artist go under due to illegal downloading” pretty well expresses the problem.

    How do you define, “go down?”

    Does it matter to you, as a film lover, that a film like Che will have a hard time ever being funded again because of the piracy in South America that took millions of presumed revenue off the books for that film?

    Does it matter to you that many films by and for the Black community in America are simply not being funded because of piracy and the reality or perception that it eats into the revenue of “urban” films more than others?

    And I can tell you for a fact that it is one reason why at least one major film with major talent attached about a Black legend who had enormous crossover appeal with a budget under $25m hasn’t been greenlit as of yet. Because of DVD… and piracy.

    Just because you don’t have a specific story about a specific film and piracy as a specific cause of revenue problems leading to a person or a company “going down” does not make it so. Hundreds of thousands or a million or two are big dollars in the indie world. You may poo-poo it, but that’s because you don’t feel it.

    This thing about “if you steal an object, the owner loses access to it, but piracy has no such outcome, so it’s not a big deal” is that it is utter bullshit.

    You don’t get to determine the boundaries of value for yourself in a civilized society. Law has it that fair use is personal use that can reasonably be expected by the seller. Magazines sell ads on the basis of their product being passed to more than the individual buying it… that is how they raise their rates.

    That said, however the technology sets up downloading of other people’s (presumably) purchased content, Criterion does not have a reasonable expectation that someone in Atlanta will buy a DVD and make it available to anyone who happens upon a sharing site from anywhere in the world.

    If that person in Atlanta was your pal and he sent you his DVD, that is quite different. There is a time consideration, a convenience consideration, and a financial consideration (cost of postage) involved, plus the consideration of whether he will ever see his disc again.

    Technology has, indeed, simplified the process. But fairness has been the law. And just because you CAN abuse copyright with ease does not make it fair. And it certainly doesn’t make it morally correct.

    “it’s a fact of life” is also a shit argument. Again, because you can doesn’t mean you should. (See: friends jumping off a roof)

    And Don, that “they should offer higher rewards” crap… wow. Morally, the reward is irrelevant. That’s how morality works.

    Also… “All it takes is for companies involved in the sale of films to actually *use* the technology we now have to provide a service that is at least as attractive as what piracy offers.”

    What that means is “as long as copyright owners give us what we want when we want it at a price we like, we won’t steal… it’s THAT simple” is, again, missing the moral point.

    And… “when other people object that it prevents them experiencing art that they know is out there in the world, and they feel frustrated by that, I don’t hear trivial whining. I hear a little echo of the urge that’s brought us from cave-painting to digital cinema: to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

    Oh, bullshit. What “brought us from cave-painting to digital cinema” is a combination of artists and financiers actually doing the work and exposing themselves financially.

    Guys… if you want to make the argument that it is reasonable for any film or any form of art to make, for instance, a 100% return on its cost, and after that should be free. Okay. I don’t agree, necessarily. But at least that’s a real argument.

    Mike D’Angelo and 1000 others finding a way, legally or otherwise, to see a film they have not been able to get… for me… fair use. This is to be expected if there is no other access to material of interest to the core of any art form.

    There is a HUGE difference between that and “I want to see the Blu-ray and it’s hard or expensive to get” or “I want it now and if the owner wanted to sell it to me, they should have delivered it already.”

    It is, indeed, a slippery slope. And to suggest otherwise is nothing more than a slippery argument.

  33. David Poland says:

    “Torrents cloud the issue somewhat”

    No, they really don’t.

    The effort to share before the web made it so easy was, again, what made sense of fair use.

    It’s also, conversely, why Apple’s old music restrictions were excessive.

    If you want to play that game, here is the simple truth. Without getting into the ways this can be stopped by the copyright owner… I can post a movie now in theaters – say “The Hunger Games” – to Movie City News. And millions of people can download it, the same way they download and view a trailer. What was the alleged number on Avengers? 4 million views in a few days?

    So is there anything wrong with that? What if I paid to see the movie? What if I was shown the movie for free?

    Thing that’s too much of a leap?

    What if I posted the Lady & The Tramp Blu-ray? That’s an OLD movie. I paid to see it in theaters. I paid for a DVD. I have paid my cable companies to see it on TV. So if I buy the Blu-ray and post it and 2 million people downloaded it and made their own copy… is that bad?

    Really, would more than 5% of those stealing it from my available download have bought it, even if my site was the only place offering it for free? Maybe not. That’s still 100,000 units not being sold… almost $2 million retail.

    And if I downloaded Battle Royale, which is now being re-released in Blu in the US? I own two copies of the film already. Do I really need to pay for a third just to see it in the best quality? I would have bought it in Blu in the first place had it been offered (or if Blu existed at the time).

    This brings us to the punchline… “We know what you are, we’re now just negotiating the price.”

    I get the feelings about this issue. Sincerely. And that $200 box set of mostly pre-1990 Werner Herzog docs really felt expensive when I bought it. And soon, I suspect that I will be able to get them for free with my subscription to Hulu or Netflix or Snag or whatever.

    My copies of Battle Royale may or may not be legal. I didn’t care when I got them because they were forbidden fruit at the time. I get it.

    But the closer we get to full accessibility, the fewer the excuses for stealing. And as I read your piece, Mike, you’re arguing the opposite or something close to that.

  34. Kim Voynar says:

    Don, if no one who holds the purse strings is mad or actually fighting about it, there has to be a reason for that, right? Either they’re not really losing as much money as they claim they’re losing off piracy, or they see it as an uphill battle they can’t win, or they see it as a problem, but one that also benefits them in some way.

    Christ, I don’t know why no one fights for these things. Probably because, as you say, it’s like pounding your head against a railroad spike. If there’s the means to technically do something, someone will find a way to do it. If there’s a means to benefit from something without paying for it, there will always be people who will do that. If there’s a weakness to exploit, there will always be someone willing to exploit it. I don’t think making it harder to pirate is the answer; making it harder just makes it that much more intriguing to those determined to crack the system, and there’s so little perceived potential risk in doing it.

    I can see the appeal of D’Angelo’s arguments, especially to those who might otherwise be on the fence. He makes a compelling case that no one is “really” being harmed by what he’s doing. But his argument, in part, rests on the lack of physicality of a digital copy, on that copy having zero actual value. He argues, in essence, that because the copy he gets is digital, and because he destroys it after he’s watched it, that makes it okay. And I’m saying, I disagree with that argument.

    Now, as to whether it’s better, on some hypothetical relative scale, to get digital copies of films from individual friends as opposed to bitTorrent, oy. That’s another slippery slope entirely.

  35. Don R. Lewis says:

    I’m genuinely curious about the aspects of the black filmmakers whoa re being hurt by this. Do you have a source or is this a word of mouth thing?

    As for the “it’s a fact of life” comment. Dave, it’s a fact of life. OUR distributor for WORST IN SHOW told us flat out that the film WILL get pirated and there was nothing they could do about it. Luckily for us, we already toured the film and made our money back (well, mostly) before that piracy window opened.

    I’m not arguing the moral relevance of “stealing” a movie. I’m saying that until a genuine, real effort is made to stop it, it’s never going to stop. Again I ask- why are writers the ones taking up the sword for this issue? Where’s the studios? Where’s the movie theaters? Where’s the Best Buy’s who are losing money the most from this? There must be a reason why they’ve left the fight.

  36. The Big Perm says:

    Well, the studios have put pressure on internet companies and now a bunch of major ISPs will be monitoring internet usage and may throttle usage. So now we get to be spied on.

  37. Sean Pearce says:

    Don: Wait, how have they left the fight? What do you think SOPA and the like are for, and who do you think wants measures like this to exist? They are fighting, and it may not be a clean fight when large corporate entities are involved and have the ears of politicians.

    I have a problem with treating something like this as a moral issue when it seems to me it could simply be an economic one. I see effective economic models working in other very similar industries.

  38. Kim Voynar says:

    Sean, the thing is, you’re right that it’s not entirely a moral issue, in that the morality here is relative to what we accept around the idea of ownership of creative property.

    Either you believe that a movie is a work of art, a collective creative effort which can be owned by a person or a corporate entity that controls how and under which conditions it may be distributed, or you do not. It’s this whole business of trying to have it both ways that bugs me. How can you argue on one hand that you agree that whoever made (or paid for) a film owns a film, and then argue on the other that you think you have ANY right at all to tell that person or studio in what way they are obligated to make it available to you? And then to tell them, screw you for not making it available how I want it, I’m taking it anyhow?

    Christ. I feel like Joanna, the Jennifer Aniston character in Office Space:

    Joanna: [Confused] So you’re stealing?
    Peter Gibbons: Ah no, you don’t understand. It’s very complicated. It’s uh it’s aggregate, so I’m talking about fractions of a penny here. And over time they add up to a lot.
    Joanna: Oh okay. So you’re gonna be making a lot of money, right?
    Peter Gibbons: Yeah.
    Joanna: Right. It’s not yours?
    Peter Gibbons: Well it becomes ours.
    Joanna: How is that not stealing?
    Peter Gibbons: [pauses] I don’t think I’m explaining this very well.
    Joanna: Okay.
    Peter Gibbons: Um… the 7-11. You take a penny from the tray, right?
    Joanna: From the crippled children?
    Peter Gibbons: No that’s the jar. I’m talking about the tray. You know the pennies that are for everybody?
    Joanna: Oh for everybody. Okay.
    Peter Gibbons: Well those are whole pennies, right? I’m just talking about fractions of a penny here. But we do it from a much bigger tray and we do it a couple a million times.

  39. Peter says:

    On this page there have been a couple of sloppy uses of the slippery slope fallacy. David Poland and Kim Voynar should read the following definition before using the phrase “slippery slope” again.

  40. Dennis Doros says:

    Thanks Kim for presenting another side of the debate. It seems that there’s this case of “my downloading doesn’t hurt anybody, it’s the other 100,000 that does.”

    And the idea that it’s exactly like borrowing a DVD is not even close. The Supreme Court allows the right of first purchase which states that once a person buys a DVD, he can rent it out, loan it out, etc. The uploading and downloading of copyrighted (and encrypted) videos is definitely breaking several laws.

    And if it’s not available on blu-ray but it’s available on HD on the internet, doesn’t that make you wonder how they got that copy to upload? My guess is that it would be real theft. But I also guess that’s not Mike’s concern…

    Finally and most importantly, let’s consider why art can be an intellectual property as well. Mike, illegal downloading is taking the owner’s right to sell, license and rent their films. You can’t give that back to them.

  41. David Poland says:

    Read. Bored. It’s not a definition you’ve linked to, it’s a semantic argument.

    This guy is arguing, mostly, that using “slippery slope” is to oversimplify and not offer enough clarity to the argument. Sorry, but not guilty of that here.

    Look, not every slope is slippery. Not all change assures endless change. I believe that most market changes are created by parties with a clear, often financial interest in that change and that phenomena that really change things are rare.

    What you may not get is that we are already seeing most of the slope, including the argument that the slope may be forever changed by market forces in time, as content delivery is simplified and priced in a completely different way. But the conversation we’re having today is about landmarks on the same slope, which are being defined as having a variety of values and consequences. I am arguing that it’s one hill and that all the landmarks lead to the same place… the bottom.

    There are still people paying for AOL’s services… services that haven’t been offered for money in years. There are people who will argue that my sense of what is Fair Use is unfair and that I am being far too lenient. And there are those who will argue that anything less than total freedom is a form of oppression. But the battle is in the middle.

    Mike D’Angelo is a smart person of long standing… and he has convinced himself that some piracy is okay. The reason the slope is slippery is, as someone else in here wrote, it is human nature to want what you want when you want it. And fairness – your idea of what is fair or not – is a negotiation. But if everyone is negotiating price or level of access, the next thing is people comparing the value they are getting. And that is when the price never recovers.

    Look at the record business. Look at the DVD business. And conversely, look at the sunglass business or the blue jeans businesses… where the numbers were lifted and settled into a new norm, not a series of price ranges that were based on quality.

    I agree with Mike and others that change must come and must come fairly quickly. The record business comparison can become the post-theatrical movie business if, for instance, the studios try to push the day-n-date VOD issue for mainstream cinema with pricing of $20 or more a showing. I believe that most people prefer to pay a reasonable price. But if pricing is not reasonable and an alternative market exists – even for pirated DVD at $5 a pop – when people feel they are being taken advantage of, it often changes their moral position. Shouldn’t, but often does.

  42. Ray Pride says:

    I had been waiting to hear someone state this the way Dennis has. Simple, true.

  43. Kim Voynar says:

    Peter, what I said was: Now, as to whether it’s better, on some hypothetical relative scale, to get digital copies of films from individual friends as opposed to bitTorrent, oy. That’s another slippery slope entirely.

    Are you arguing against the implication that accepting that it’s okay to get copies from friends could by extension lead to your moral acceptance of downloading from other sources like Bit Torrent? Or just taking exception to my use of the words “slippery slope”?

    If you know more about philosophy than the ability to Google “slippery slope,” then you should also know that the use of a “slippery slope argument,” that is: that A will lead to B, which leads to C, which leads to D, and that D is bad so therefore you shouldn’t do A — is not, in and of itself, fallacious. A slippery slope argument can be a perfectly true argument, and I think in the sense David used it, it is.

    If you have an argument against his actual logic, though, I’d be interested in hearing it. Or actually, if you have anything to say about the actual issue we’re discussing, instead of randomly critiquing like you’re grading papers, I might be interested in hearing your thoughts on that. Do you have any thoughts on the issue of piracy? Because right now, professor, you’re striking me as the kind of guy who just likes to troll around the internet looking for people who mistakenly typed “its” instead of “it’s,” so you can feel all superior for your awesome knowledge.

  44. Kim Voynar says:

    Dennis, exactly.

    What is a “movie?” It’s not the film it’s shot on, or the physical DVD, it’s what it IS. A movie is the unique creative work and intellectually property of whoever created it, or of whatever entity the creator sold those rights to. That’s really the crux of everything. Either we accept that a movie is intellectual property can be owned, or we argue that all art belongs to the public domain and should be free for whoever wants it, whenever they want it, however they want it.

  45. Joker says:

    Most disappointing for me is that this post received as much attention as it has. It’s incoherent at best. This was read meat pandering really. I’d love to apply some copyright math to the author’s depth of knowledge. Thanks MCN, back to DH for me.

    EDIT: DP, I have utmost respect for you as a journalist. I have (and will continue) to read The Hot Blog for a long time. That said, I’ve never seen you address readers or commenters in the condescending fashion Kim has chosen to. Not everyone agrees all the time but at least there is respect. I’ll be sure not to wander outside THB.

  46. Kim Voynar says:

    Joker, the only person here I took issue with was Peter, who wasn’t on here to discuss piracy at all.

    I have a lot of respect for Mike D’Angelo, who’s certainly earned that. I just happen to disagree with him on this particular issue. Of course one person watching one copy of one friend’s movie isn’t going to cause a Hollywood studio — or even an indie filmmaker — to go down. As David said, it’s interesting that there’s this tendency to make it about whether it “hurts” a rich studio or not, as if it hurting a studio rather than an individual artist changes the moral argument at all. It doesn’t.

    The only question you asked me directly was:

    “Kim, what if I want to rent a film’s Criterion Edition only to find the additional content locked? I guess that falls under the whole “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” argument..”

    I didn’t directly respond to your question earlier because Big Perm basically said what I would have, which is yes, I think they do have the right to control what features you can access for the rental fee, or to offer additional features to those who buy a DVD.

    As to whether it’s even possible for the industry to control piracy, I see your point on that, but I don’t think that whether it’s controllable is relevant to the moral issue of who owns the right to control how intellectual property is distributed or sold. But it’s certainly part of the broader discussion of what to do about it.

  47. Joker says:


    “I was going to throw drowned kittens in there too, but that seemed like too much hyperbole.”

    Cute joke. I’m sure nobody understood it was a retort to someone with an antithetical viewpoint.

    The best quote for me is: “plummeting headfirst into a future where the Christian right controls our lives and sets the rules under which we live”

    Are you aware of the threats SOPA/PIPA pose to our privacy rights?

    EDIT: Should we list the proponents of SOPA/PIPA?

  48. Peter says:

    Kim Voynar has committed the ad hominen fallacy by attacking my character. ( I came here to learn more about copyright issues and the film industry, but I’ve been a little disappointed by the quality of the writing. Copyright is a sophisticated issue that deserves careful attention. I guess that what I’ve learned here is that I don’t want to learn about the issue from either Mike D’Angelo or Kim Voynar.

  49. The Big Perm says:

    Peter, you seem like a poindexter. The only thing you contributed is how the writing isn’t up to your high standards. We’re glad you’re so well versed in internet debate tactics, you’ve proven that (with helpful links!)

  50. Jason says:

    Actually, Anatomy of a Murder is available on blu ray from Netflix. I realize that is irrelevant to the overall topic on the ethics of piracy and such, but he should at least double check it’s availability on Netflix before using it as an example. Just seems lazy. No matter how you justify it, piracy is theft. If you feel justified doing it, just do it but trying to make people accept that it is okay is a little weird. I don’t have cable right now, and I illegally download a certain well thought of cable show because the itunes is DRM so I can’t burn it to a disk. I buy the blu ray set as soon as it comes out so that I am financially contributing to the program in some way, but it’s still wrong and I realize that. I just accept that I’m compromising myself to enjoy a show I love. I’m not going online to write essays justifying what I do. I just do it. Doesn’t change the fact that I’m wrong to do it.

  51. Sam says:

    Are some of us talking about “wrong” in a moral sense, while others are talking about “wrong” in a legal sense?

    You might, for example, believe that it’s morally okay to pirate a movie you wouldn’t otherwise have paid for anyway, but recognize that “you can pirate it only if you wouldn’t otherwise have paid for it anyway” is unworkable as a law.

    Mike seems to be talking about the former, which makes all these slippery slope counterarguments (“if we allow that, then the effect would be…”) inapplicable, even if they are in and of themselves valid and compelling. Because you can’t decide what the moral standard should be based on the practicability of the legal equivalent.

    adambanks has what I think is the best quote in this whole thread: “People made art for tens of thousands of years before copyright was invented. And every time a new way of reproducing work has come along, there’ve been heated debates about how to apply copyright to them. So to blithely treat the current state of copyright law as a fixed status quo, and invite everyone to accept it and leave it alone and not talk about why they might disagree with it, doesn’t show much understanding of what is actually, I would suggest, a more than trivial issue.”

  52. Mark F. says:

    Sorry, but copying is not really stealing. Since the owner of the so called “stolen” material still has the material, there is no theft.

    An analogy would be if someone had some sort of a machine that could copy my television set. Since I would still have my television set, I couldn’t claim I had been robbed.

  53. Pam says:

    This sort of piracy is simply ethically wrong. I know that won’t stop people from doing it as all these opportunities have come up with the rise of the Internet and file-sharing, and I know most people under a certain age don’t consider the ethics of it. Doesn’t matter how insignificant a problem it is in the grand scheme of the world- it’s wrong in terms of ethics. There is such thing as fair use, I’m sure it’sfine if you borrow the movie from a friend and watch it with another friend or so ( (though you cannot legally show it publicly-different matter) . But you can’t rip a copy from your friend and call it fine, and you can’t rip it from the internet and say it’s ethical or okay just because you don’t have the cash. Suggestions: Communicate with Criterion Collection, or whatever other Distribution companies you think should give you can steal
    from- maybe they’ll cut you some deal. They do put some of their films on Hulu Plus and others are available as rentals other places. Do something to make yourself the sort of journalist who gets such things for free or for rent for free. Make Indiewire buy you copies of blurays to review. Go to the f-ing library: 17 libraries currently have Anatomy of a Murder on Blu-Ray in the US. You can request it as an inter-library loan for free. Libraries rock!

  54. Desslar says:

    “Don, the point of all that was simply to illustrate the absurdity of what a First World problem this whole thing is.”

    This is actually quite incorrect. Movie and music piracy is very much a third world problem as well. If MPAA research can be believed, the world’s top 10 movie piracy offenders include China, Russia, and Thailand.

  55. Krillian says:

    “If MPAA research can be believed…”

    That’s the rub, isn’t it? I have a hard time believing Chris Dodd sometimes, who loves SOPA/PIPA, regardless of the overreaching negative effects that outweigh whatever profits they think they’re saving. And I was going to mention I didn’t feel bad about watching a download of Song of the South, but then I remembered the Patriot Act annihilated the Fourth Amendment and blood diamonds still exist, and if you disagree with me, you’re an immoral child. You know who else was an immoral child? Fred Phelps.

    (cue the thunder and lightning behind the house upon the hill)

Quote Unquotesee all »

“If there are theories about me, I’d rather not know. Astrophysics – now that’s fascinating. String theory, worm holes, the expanding universe, the Big Bang versus the Big Bounce – those are the kind of theories that make you feel like living and understanding the mystery of the world. Film theory is just a pain in the ass.”
~ Claire Denis

“I had a knockoff Michael Kors bag that said MLK instead of MK. Jada told me that I shouldn’t have knockoff stuff. I told her that my philosophy is, Whatever the bag costs, I should be able to keep that amount of cash in the bag. If it’s a $300 purse, I have to put $300 in cash in that purse. I do not want a bag that is more expensive than the cash I have to put in it. Things are going good for me now, so I am graduating to your Fendis and your Guccis. But I better have the cash equivalent, or I’m not buying the purse. And if things start to go wrong, I’m going right back to my knockoffs. When you’re somebody like me, who’s been homeless, clothes are not that important. Clothes are not a roof over my head, food in my ­stomach, my family’s health—that’s what money is for. But fashion helps get more money. So, we ride.”
~ Tiffany Haddish