Once in a while someone comes along and makes a passionate argument justifying that they have to illegally download content because it is the only way they can get it. Except that very often, it isn’t. They provide a false argument where they don’t want to pay for the way they could get it, because it is slightly more expensive than they want it. Or, it comes to them in a method that is not the medium they would prefer it be delivered to them.
So, they push the “bad behavior” off of themselves and on to the very entity that is providing the content that they claim to love and desire so desperately they have to steal to obtain it. This is bullshit, plain and simple.
Giving the consumer what they want is great, and obviously the key to any great business. But it only works for rational demands.
After that point a company simply can’t grant everyone’s greatest wishes. Its a business, it costs money. Shows cost money to make, and they have to make money back. Many businesses have determined that certain methods of delivery, like over cable distribution systems where the overhead, distribution, and customer service is handled instead of an expense.
There are lots of things I want that I can’t have because I lack the resources like a Viking range, a BMW X5 and washboard abs. Doesn’t mean I’m allowed to go out and steal them. Same goes for music, movies and video games. Just because I want the content and it’s convenient to steal doesn’t mean I should.
There’s right, and there’s wrong. Stealing stuff is just plain wrong. We learn this as children, yet somehow we make elaborate excuses for it as we get older, like “Well, I’m just copying bits. I’m not really stealing.” Or “If it weren’t so hard for me to get legitimately, I wouldn’t have to steal it instead.”
When the studios make it hard for you to have content you want, you should just live without it, or reward other content providers who make it easier for you to do business with them.
Consumers have to stop expecting to have everyone kiss their ass just because they want something. This is the warped, misguided reason why “Six Strikes” policies are created to begin with.
Certainly, there can be arguments for better methods. At some point if someone provides a product closer to what customers want, then they deserve to win, but I would argue that if no one is coming in to serve the demand, it is not sustainable. If it is sustainable, someone will come along and take away their customers. That is how the free market works. Players adapt or die.
But the sense of entitlement to product is just staggering. As Andy Ihnatko put it:
The world does not OWE you Season 1 of “Game Of Thrones” in the form you want it at the moment you want it at the price you want to pay for it. If it’s not available under 100% your terms, you have the free-and-clear option of not having it.
It has even gotten to the point where when a company does ship something that is available anywhere you want it, for the lowest possible cost, at any time, as much as you want – people still complain that there are credits. That’s right. God forbid we acknowledge the people took time to make the product you are marathon watching because its-just-that-good to devote 13 straight hours to over a weekend.
I love this argument – “Give us what we want, when we want it, how we want it, and for the price we’re willing to pay for it and we’ll happily hand over our money for it.”
This doesn’t sound ”comically selfish” – it is selfish. First, the problem was not being able to get the content we wanted when we wanted it. Then, came the laments about pricing. How dare seasons of television cost anything more than [INSERT ARBITRARY NUMBER I REMOVED FROM MY RECTUM]!
Now, people are getting their panties in a twist over having to sit through opening credits? Where does it end? At what point does this blatant selfishness turn into, “I hate this actor/these mushy love scenes/this director. If you remove all of that, I’ll be beating down your door to give you money, then complaining some more.”
Everyone is kind of aware of the battle of social networks between Google+ and Facebook. While everyone can kind of see the side of fanboy’s for each side, what fewer people are aware of is the genuine philosophic difference of how each network treats anonymous profiles.
Facebook goes out of its way to promote that profiles on its site are supposed to be real people. They will remove accounts of fake names and have even gone to court to enforce this policy choice.
Google on the other hand have embraced anonymity. This kind of surprises me because I would think advertising is better targeted if they can tie your username to a person.
I posed a question on twitter that I found many people tend to fall on one side or the other of. We have all dealt with internet trolls. Those people who comment on articles or after your comment with the sole intent of saying something ugly to try to get a rise out of people. Doesn’t ridding a system of anonymous profiles lead to less trolling and more productive comments – a “better” internet?
My argument is that if you could somehow get rid of (I don’t believe you could ever completely remove it, but for sake of argument) anonymity and make people tie an identity to their comments online, people would be less rude. If you had to tie your face and name to everything you did online, you probably wouldn’t spout the hatred and ignorant comments people do. There are numerous studies that anonymity tied with an audience leads people to act terribly.
The internet is a great tool. We can collaborate, discuss and debate ideas. However, these conversations and creative endeavors can easily be torn down by a few bad parties who really want to just destroy for a laugh. My hypothesis is that whatever you lose to anonymity is made up for by genuine strides in the protection of a safe place for discussions, and the benefits that come from those.
The downside is that you lose all the benefits of anonymity. A mentor of mine pointed to a problem he had with anonymous comments. They came to the conclusion that:
There’s a lot of crap on the Internet, and I recognize that anonymity can contribute to its growth. But the alternative – forcing everything to be identifiable, forcing everyone to act in public, with their own name – ignores the significant risk to people who are seeking to communicate the most important of information, and stifles some of the most valuable speech out there.
Basically, free speech – ensured through anonymity – protects certain classes of people, whistleblowers, oppresses minorities, etc, and this is a greater good that is worth putting up with trolls for. Their solution was to gamify comment monitoring.
In my mind it is an argument of privacy v politeness and the productive polite world trumps. If you allow for polite discussion, people can say things they would need “anonymity” to do and still be respected.
Am I being too idealistic? A friend of mine pointed to reddit as an example. There is “anonymity” tied to each profile, but you earn a “reputation” over time. Comments are voted up or down, and are tied to each profile. If someone with a bad rating makes a comment, it can be voted out of existence, or at least heavily discounted. This allows good conversation to still happen. It was a good example, if you believe that one spoiled comment does not ruin the lot.
Maybe that is what I am looking for, some kind of consequence for bad actions – like the real world. You can’t just walk around in the world spouting hatred and not expect to not be punched in the face once in a while, or at least lose the respect of some of your peers. But people do that online all the time, hiding behind anonymous profiles.
Where do you fall on privacy v politeness?
Wireless data speed have been increasing at breakneck speeds over the last few years. Largely because it, along with price and coverage, is one of the differentiators the wireless service providers can use with customers. How effectively they are doing this is another matter. Ask your friends what “4G” means.
Anyway. Today an article I ran across discussed how LTE (the current newest fastest tech available currently) is already being updated to LTE-Advanced. Tests are showing speeds of over 200 Mb/s. To put that in perspective, I’ve gotten in the high 20s. I’ve heard of friends getting near 50 – but that’s a small miracle. And on the iphone 4/4s which didn’t have LTE I could never dream of getting over 7. Those phones are just a couple years old!
This is good news, because as several analysts and news outlets are pointing out- our traditional cable service providers, who offer hardline data to our homes, are not interested in increasing our speeds any time soon.
Bernstein Research analyst Craig Moffet tells Technology Review that the two biggest cable companies are posting 97% margins for their Internet services, a rate that Moffet describes as “almost comically profitable.”“If you are making that kind of margin, it’s hard to improve it,” Levin tells Technology Review. In other words, unless Google starts rolling its fiber service out nationwide, we shouldn’t expect the incumbent carriers to build fiber networks of their own.
The cable companies laid down the copper cable throughout towns years ago back for cable TV. The infrastructure is largely all paid for. So now, the costs of maintaining that network are pretty small. But, we have also tapped the full extent of its capability. To increase speeds would require switching the hardware to fiber optic cabling. Which costs large amounts of money. I’ve read numbers that it costs Verizon $4,000 per customer to lay down its FiOS network.
However, the cable companies are granted small monopolies for their towns. They were given these back in the 60s and 70s because they argued they needed to ensure they could make the money back for their investment of laying all that expensive cable down. This is why you can only get one cable company choice.
So, your options for high speed internet are also limited. And since there is no competition, there is no incentive for the cable companies to upgrade. My long-running argument is to take away the cable companies’ monopolies, and force them to lease out their networks – like we did with AT&T/MaBell back in the 70s/80s. This lead to more smaller competitors and lower prices for phone calls.
But, I digress.
So, a new alternative in wireless only providers seems increasingly plausible with these increasing speed capabilities. However, there are two big, big hurdles. Data caps and Net Neutrality.
First, Data Caps. My home DSL service taps out at about 9mbps. Like I said, I regularly get into the 20s on LTE on AT&T. I would switch in a heartbeat. However, AT&T to protect their network from being overwhelmed, puts limits on how much data a customer can use. A 2, 3, 5 or heck even 50mb limit is just too small for the average home user. Think about how many youtube videos you watch, online xbox games, and skyping one does and you could blow through those limits in a day.
But, thats an issue easily solved with more capacity. Its a technology issue. I think the larger problem is a policy problem, which makes it much harder to solve. Net Neutrality is a kind of fuzzy, nebulous concept. But, in mind it basically is the idea that you don’t treat some data different from any other data coming over your internet connection. So, if I go to Facebook, it should be preferred over YouTube. One should not come faster.
That might sound silly, but it is more important when you realize many cable companies have ties to content companies. So, perhaps Hulu gets sent to you at a higher rate than Netflix, to encourage you to use Hulu. Its a dark road.
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission, in a historic vote Tuesday, approved network neutrality rules prohibiting broadband providers from blocking customer access to legal Web content, but many consumer groups decried the new regulations as weak and full of loopholes.
The new rules provide fewer protections for mobile broadband subscribers and may lead to a fractured Internet, critics said. The new rules, a compromise championed by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, would bar wireline-based broadband providers—but not mobile broadband providers—from “unreasonable discrimination” against Web traffic, prompting some consumer groups to call the rules “fake” net neutrality.
Therefore, if one did switch to a completely wireless solution, you would always have to worry that when you tried to load YouTube, you would get a vastly slower connection than if you went to V-Cast. Or, you wouldn’t be permitted to access Amazon to rent a video, but if you rent on ATT’s video store, it would be ok.
Until this problem is solved, we are going to be stuck with pathetically slow home connections. Slowing productivity and handicapping innovations and developments that newer, faster tech can allow.
The contract terms they seem to be complaining about actually aren’t unusual in the creative and entertainment industries. Many times up-and-comers are asked to sign “work for hire” contracts where everything they make for the employer producer belongs to the hiring party. Arguably this lets the young talent gain experience and exposure while letting the content producer get cheap content.
The really interesting part I took from this is how much it mirrors big studio hollywood in earlier decades:
But a recent string of high-profile disputes is prompting comparisons between YouTube networks and the exploitative Hollywood studios of the 1930s and ’40s: Both convinced young and naive talent with little leverage to sign contracts that leave them at a disadvantage. For networks, that means contracts that bind creators to them indefinitely, demand rights to their content in perpetuity and take large ownership stakes in any resulting businesses.
The takeaway from this for me is that online new media is becoming a big part of the media world. They are dealing with the same power struggles and structures that traditional media is.
The internet is buzzing with overreactions to Instagram changing its terms of service. Sharp eyed people noticed that part of it changed so that Instagram claimed the right to use images uploaded in ads without having to compensate users.
Many, many people online have been loudly seeking alternatives and complaining. This isn’t unusual. Just like the Facebook post meme that went around, many uneducated knee-jerk reactionaries are causing a stink. Funny how the loudest complainers are always the least informed.
I have three thoughts.
1) This is overreaction at its worst, especially when you compare to other online companies.
Instagram is not making its terms of service any different than other social networks (including Facebook, its parent company). In fact, these onerous terms are needed because many argue without them, pictures wouldn’t be useful. Google had to change its terms of service so that videos you upload to YouTube could be used on Google plus without violating any contractual terms.
2) Online social networks are companies that cost money to run.
All these social networks you use? They cost money to run. Bandwidth, computer resources, storage. Coders to pay. Etc. This all takes money. And because you don’t pay anything to use these services, they have to sell advertising. And advertisers demand information about you to make money. Its an exchange of valuable information for valuable services. Why should you expect otherwise?
3) Those complaining likely didn’t read it well, and it was poorly written
The language does not say that Instagram can sell your stuff, as many are claiming. All the language did was clarify what Instagram always said in their TOS. They can use your photos to help sell ads.
But what this highlights is something larger and more imporant, and hopefully brings some good out of this. Just like the other social networks, this is not the first time confusing legalese has created an uproar for a social network. How many times have you seen the silly long TOS for itunes and just clicked OK and moved on?
Its time for companies to create a straightforward, simply phrased translation of TOS. As an attorney, I emphathize that companies need to cover themselves. However, it doesn’t help in a PR sense when the entire world thinks you are trying to pull something on them because of your awkwardly worded contract. Simplify and be more transparent and straightforward with what you are getting from users, and what value you are giving them in return. Users will love how refreshing that is and reward you for it.
A few announcements today in the world of streaming movie delivery. I think these developments are indicative of some trends we will see coming down the road in the new media space.
First, RedBox – that kiosk you see in your grocery store that lets you rent discs for $1 a day – recently announced a partnership with Verizon to offer a streaming video companion service. Its been quiet for a few months following that news. But recently, leaks have come about a beta test. The sources indicate an unlimited streaming option for $6 a month. If you want to add physical discs, for $8 per month you can get 4 Redbox movie rental credits. Compare this to Netflix which charges $8 for streaming and at least another $8 for unlimited discs.
The difference here is that with Netflix, you get “unlimited” discs, but you have to mail them back and wait for the new ones to arrive. With Redbox, you get only 4, but you can immediately go to a kiosk and get a disc. The other key difference (other than price) is that with Netflix you get a huge back catalog of old films you can choose from online to get sent to you. This catalog is much deeper than the streaming only catalog. With Redbox, you will only get new releases that are available at the kiosks for a few weeks following release.
I think the wise choice will be to look at your viewing habits – do you want to see new releases, or do you like exploring older films?
Second, Netflix has announced they have set up a partnership with Disney. This means a few things, first Disney is releasing a few older catalog titles for streaming on Netflix.
Also, Netflix has announced that they will be the exclusive TV distributor for Disney movies. Suddenly the news that Disney was shutting down its own streaming service makes more sense.
Movies have “windows” of releases. First in the theater, then on DVD, then on VOD, then on pay TV options like HBO, then eventually on regular cable and broadcast TV. This way studios recoup their money back. They get more from a movie ticket than a DVD purchase, and they get more when you buy a DVD than when you see it on HBO, etc. So, if you want to stream or watch Disney movies at home, you will only be able to do so over Netflix. This is a big win for the company, and establishes it as even more of a competitor to typical premium cable options like Showtime and HBO.
The trend I see coming from this is that movie rights are going to become more exclusive. You are going to see more stratification between what is available on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Vudu, Redbox etc. It is going to look more and more like HBO v Showtime v Encore, where you don’t get to subscribe to just one and get everything you want to watch.
This was not the case in the past, because these online distributors were buying catalog films – older titles with smaller demand – and so they paid less and got fewer exclusives. Now that people are looking for new releases on streaming options, they will be paying more, and expecting more exclusive rights. Don’t think Amazon isn’t lining up similar deals to try to get exclusive distribution for a studio.
But for the consumer, this means you can’t just get Netflix and be OK. You might have to subscribe to more than one service. Suddenly cable cutting doesn’t seem as much of a good deal.
Twitter has been attacked by industry analysts lately because of new policy decisions. For one, Twitter is cracking down on third party apps. They are limiting the number of users a (non official twitter) third party app (like Tweetbot on the iPhone or Seesmic on the desktop) can have. Many people use these apps to interact with twitter, preferring them over the web or official apps. Second, they are limiting the usefulness of their own apps.
We can see the rational for this. They want to start making money on their product. The obvious way to do this is by interjecting ads and partnerships (like if someone tweets about a sports team, a special ESPN card about the team is inserted in a tweet), and the only way to ensure this is by forcing people to use the official methods of interacting with Twitter. It is easily seen how a third party app could market itself as the “ad-free” version of twitter.
Who else can we look at to see example of this. Facebook. There are very few third party facebook apps. Most people use the official mobile app, and interact with the service through the web interface. So, why less ire toward Zuckerberg than Ev?
I think back to the classic political strategists like Machiavelli. One of his principles is “It is better to be stingy than generous”. Explored more, it is far better to be seen as stingy and not giving when you start. Then as you soften with time you can relax and give more. This creates feelings of good will and appreciation toward you. Going the opposite way is supremely more difficult and often leads to revolt. Ask any parent who suddenly changes their mind and doesn’t let their kid do something they used to. “But you promised!” Or, try taking away an entitlement program from an interest group. Even when it is arguably necessary for your survival, you will come off as greedy and going against your word.
Facebook started off as a closed system. You needed a .edu college email to join. You famously can’t take data out of Facebook as easily as you can pull it in. (See how Facebook won’t allow Google to scan it’s data for searching) But, this is just how Facebook is. You know what you are getting into when you sign on. When they do open up, like making a deal with Apple to let you import contact data into your iPhone, or export your account, it is seen as a big positive step. Thanks, Facebook for your benevolence!
Twitter on the other hand is famously open. You can see tweets without even having an account. Twitter accounts are by default “public”. And, now they are making moves to set up some fences to protect their product, and everyone is on the attack. Some have even gone so far as to set up “open” competitors.
The lesson is obvious. Starting closed and slowly opening up as needed to appease complaints is far easier than starting open and trying to dam that flow.
“Telling a grown woman you have a blog is worse than admitting you play Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.”
On the YouTube blog, the company posted an announcement about a deal struck with many music publishers. Now, when users upload videos with background music that is copyrighted music, instead of begin taken down, if it belongs to certain publishers, an ad will play, and at least some of the revenue sent to that publisher to pay for the royalties that should be paid.
These new deals, along with the licenses from the many publishers who have opted in to last year’s deal with the NMPA / Harry Fox Agency, will allow us to monetize nearly all of the user generated videos with music on YouTube. Why is this important? When these publishers allow YouTube to run ads alongside user generated videos that incorporate their compositions, then the publishers, the songwriters they represent, and the record labels and artists using their compositions, all make money – so they can reinvest in their careers and keep making great music, and the music industry can thrive.
My problem with this is that it only further to cloud the layman YouTube user’s understand of proper copyright music use in videos. Google tried to educate users with a cute video. But you still see people upload full songs with nothing but a picture of the artist then post in the comments “COPYRIGHT NOTICE – I DONT OWN THIS MUSIC NOR CLAIM TO, DONT TAKE THIS DOWN OR SUE ME”. There is a terrible lack of understanding about what copyright protects with most users.
Now, some videos with music in them will be left up. But what about publishers who don’t agree to this scheme? Those videos will still be taken down. And users will not understand – but this video stayed up, why didn’t this one? I understand the benefit of this policy and business arrangement, but it is not serving to help users understand this is an exception to a violation (assuming whatever video did not have a valid fair use claim…. let’s not even attempt to try to get users to understand what constitutes fair use – “BUT IM NOT CHARGING FOR IT!?!”)