Generation Y-pay | September 11, 2009

After trying to convince us that we’re funding terrorism, equating us to petty thieves and calling us cheapskates, the UK film and TV industry have decided to take a more positive response. I’m surprised it’s taken them so long to realise people see the weakness in their arguments and that their actions may actually be having the reverse affect.

While the UK film and TV industry tries to convince us that every download equates to a lost sale, simple logic shows this not to be the case. People who download music and movies still buy CDs, they still rent DVDs and they still go to the cinema. Sometimes even more so. Downloading is just another content channel and one that is used for sampling new artists or consuming media that we probably wouldn’t have paid for anyway.

We know this to be true, which is why this talk of theft and terrorism rings hollow in our ears. Rather than creating support for the anti-piracy movement, it legitimises the act, marginalising and criminalising a whole generation. Turn on, download, drop-out.

The truth is, downloading hasn’t killed the creative industries any more than radio killed music or VHS killed cinema. However it has had a transformative effect, slashing profits and levelling the playing field. No longer in control of the distribution mechanism, big media are unable to palm off substandard work through marketing smoke and mirrors. In a world of almost instantaneous information, mediocrity has no place and the long tail is king. No wonder the TV and movie industry don’t like it. They actually have to put some effort in now.

Rather than hanging onto outdated business models, the film and TV industry are waking up to the new world order, with simultaneous movie releases and online services like the iPlayer and Hulu. However they need to go further. If you don’t want people to download the latest episode of Lost, don’t wait 6 months for it air in the UK, only for it to be consigned to a cable or satellite TV channel. The Internet generation wants to be in control of their viewing environment so they can time shift or place shift at will. Artificial boundaries like countries or TV channels mean nothing on the web. We don’t want to hear about the last episode of BSG on Twitter, only to wait 4 months to see it ourselves. For a generation bought up on instant gratification, we’d happily pay for the DVD or HD stream if only the option was there.

And therein lies the rub. People don’t go out of their way to pirate movies and TV programs; they’re not intrinsically bad people. They do it because often it’s quicker and easier than legitimate means. The quicker the film and TV industries recognise this and make it as easy to buy legal content as it is to download illegitimate content, the more likely they are to stem the flow.

I for one look forward to the day when I’m allowed to buy the content that I want to watch, in the format I want to watch it. Call me old fashioned, but that seems fair to me.

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