A Collective Response To Kim Williams: What About Availability?

Yesterday we posted a speech by News Limited’s CEO, Kim Williams, about the virtue of copyright protection and the need for new laws governing the theft of copyright protected material in Australia. It got a lot of you really mad, and that anger spread across social media too, with Reddit Australia and Facebook chiming in. Gizmodo Australia in no way condones piracy, but we welcome your thoughts on the subject. We’ve decided to combine your collective conversation around the one section Kim failed to address: the problem of availability.

Picture by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

In his speech, Kim Williams talked about overhearing conversations in trendy Melbourne coffee shops from inner-city hipsters who had downloaded shows from the US and UK that hadn’t appeared on Australian television yet.

Now I know that Australia is a relatively small media market when viewed in comparison to the US and Europe, but seeing as how you think there’s a rampant culture of piracy in trendy inner-Melbourne cafés, availability is a problem worth addressing.

I’d bet the dollar I have in my pocket right now that these people you overhear talking about the latest episodes of US shows they’ve downloaded are members of Gen Y — a generation typically regarded as the “now” generation. It’s the first generation that has grown up using technology, meaning there’s no such thing as waiting. These kids have been raised on a diet of instant-on, “I want it now” thinking, and that is now translating into how they consume content.

If it’s not available on the spot legally, these kids will go and find it elsewhere, and because it’s just as easy to download a torrent as it is to open an online streaming app for example, Gen Y-ers have no problem downloading content.

One of our commenters, MD sums it up perfectly:

While most of the arguments outlined in this article are technically correct, the article itself glosses over the primary cause of piracy. That of availability. People download TV shows because we are held hostage by the TV networks and can only view those shows when it’s considered most profitable for the networks. Part of the problem is that TV has failed to keep pace with the digital age. People know when a show has aired in the US or the UK thanks to the world wide web, yet the networks expect us to wait until they can make money from those shows before we are allowed to watch them.

The TV industry relies on hopelessly outdated ratings systems to determine when to show programs. If TV shows were available to watch within 24 hours of their first airing in their native country, few people would waste their time downloading them.

Too say that copyright laws need to be enhanced to fix this problem is a complete copout. It’s just about protecting the outdated business model. If you want people to change their habits then the industry must be prepared to make changes to. If you try to solve the problem with legislation, the pirates will simply find new methods. It’s time to evolve.

How about we meet you half way?

Muddy, another commenter, adds that more often than not, these people you’ve been observing as thieving pirates are probably time-poor and want to view content on their own terms using their own devices. That makes sense, too. We’ve seen a huge shift towards bring-your-own devices in the workplace now, meaning that people are both working and consuming content on their own terms now.

If you need a more visual illustration of why people pirate, there’s a comic by The Oatmeal that could outline the issue better.

If you could forgo your old business model and maybe team up with a technology provider to dish out early release content — much like you do to airlines — to tablet devices for a fee, people would consume it happily rather than pirate?

People who read the speech are screaming for change. People like Todd:

Instead of blaming people for circumventing a broken and outdated system, maybe you (as head of News Limited) can actually start changing your business model for a new era, you need to move past the last 50? 80? 100? years of business and understand this, the Internet has changed publishing, it has changed copyright, there is nothing you can do about it except change with it. The internet isn’t full of people trying to rip you off, it’s full of people trying to fulfil a need, a need that 20 years ago your company may have filled, but because you have stayed 20 years in the past, people’s needs have changed and you no longer fill them.

I understand changing distribution models formed over decades is tough, and I don’t expect it to happen overnight. Having said that though, there are ideas you can start working on right now to get the internet back on your side as a content creator.

A games company called Valve make an excellent piece of software called Steam for distributing games online. Akranadas explains that this model would suit television and movie distribution perfectly, especially if you went and made your own platform, rather than align yourself with someone like Apple, Amazon or Microsoft.

What I want is a system like Steam but for movies and TV shows. This program would have inbuilt streaming software to allow me to broadcast it from my PC and onto my device of choice. I should be able to access my media on that go and have it always ready for me to watch.

I want to be able to subscribe to different seasons of TV shows and pay something like $15 a month to watch the entire collection of my favourite show or pay an outright fee of $5-$7 to have a movie unlocked forever for me to access digitally.

People want to pay for content, and we don’t live in a geographically segmented society anymore, the internet has turned the world into a global village full of content consumers that want everything now, and if they can’t get it, they go elsewhere.

You’ll never win everyone back from piracy, but by making content quick and easy to get access to for everyone, not just for certain territories, you’ll win back just enough people to make a difference.

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