Tag Archives: illegal

The failure of The Artist

Silent movie The Artist may have won five Oscars last night, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor, but in Brazil – a country of almost 200m people – only 144,840 people in 51 theatres have paid to watch it (HT to @brazzil for the stats).

This may seem like a terrific failure in the cultural taste of Brazilian movie-goers. Language is no excuse, because the film has almost no dialogue. Many are asking the question why so few in Brazil have been to see the movie.

But surely the answer is obvious?

Walk down any major street in urban Brazil and there will be a guy on the corner selling DVDs. The going rate is usually three movies for R$10. That’s about USD $2 a movie. Now check out how much it costs to go and watch a movie at the cinema. I looked just now at the cinema inside the Bourbon shopping centre in Pompeia, São Paulo for a ticket for Hugo tonight – normal tickets are R$40 each.

To be fair, this is an IMAX movie and therefore a little more than a regular presentation, but even so it is a real ticket price for a movie that is on right here in Brazil in a theatre tonight.

So even a person who is fairly honest and doesn’t like supporting DVD piracy has to compare R$40 to watch one movie in the theatre with R$10 to watch three on DVD – twelve movies for the price of one.

This problem is also compounded by the legitimate DVD market, which is like the legitimate cinema, just overpriced.

The public in Brazil have voted with their feet. Water cannot run uphill… if pirate movies are a twelfth of the cost of the legal version then who will pay the “correct” price. Only those who want the full cinema experience, those who refuse to support piracy at any price, and those who managed to get a date with a girl and know that a pirate DVD will not impress.

I still go to the cinema myself and I like the communal, inclusive experience… being surrounded by that big Dolby sound and hundreds of other people all watching the same movie, but I don’t watch every single movie in the theatre. I bought a pirate copy of The Artist – and it was watermarked as a DVD that came from the Academy Award judging process… so one of those judges allowed their DVD to leak and be copied for millions around the world to watch almost for free.

The real answer to piracy is not to go out arresting the guys selling DVDs on the street, it is to make the legitimate route to enjoying a movie easier than buying a pirate – and good value. At present there is no incentive for anyone to keep supporting cinema tickets and legitimate DVDs when they are priced so much higher than the pirates.

Of course the argument goes that if everyone bought pirate films the movie industry would collapse – which is nonsense. It would just move from a model funded by tickets and DVDs to product placement and sponsorship – a process that is already developing anyway. Morgan Spurlock financed an entire film this way in 2011.

Services like Netflix are offering Brazilians unlimited movies for R$15 a month. Of course it depends on having good broadband, and many people don’t have the technical ability to hook up a computer to a TV, but Internet-enabled TVs are standard today. As this latest generation of TVs rolls out with tools like Netflix built-in and on the remote control, it will be easy to click a button to get any movie from a library of millions – easier than going out and selecting from a limited range of pirate DVDs.

And this model is affordable too… that monthly charge is less than half the price of one ticket to see Hugo tonight at the cinema.

The recorded music industry is finally seeing this, with services such as Spotify taking off and killing the illegal copying of music because the legal route is so much easier. But it took years for the record companies to ever understand that they need a new business model – not more litigation. Let’s just hope the movie business doesn’t make all the same mistakes they did…

Oscars 2007

Photo by Donna Grayson licensed under Creative Commons

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Foreigners get 77% of new jobs

The Daily Express screamed on the front page today that 77% of jobs in the UK are going to foreigners. It’s a rather typical scare story and I’ve already heard of people waving the paper around today and shouting that all those pesky foreigners are coming to steal our jobs.

But the situation is far more subtle and complex. Even thinking about this for just a few minutes typing this blog I can surmise:

  • We live in the European Union. There is a free movement of labour within the union, meaning we as British people can freely go and live and work in other EU member nations. There are more Brits overseas in the other 26 member states (working, or with family, or retired) than this ‘flood’ of immigrants coming to the UK. So, if the UK decided to suddenly pull up the drawbridge, then what do you think would happen to all those pensioners in Spain or Brits working in France and Germany?
  • Many of the Europeans coming to the UK for work are extremely mobile, which works in their favour. Not many Brits living in Newcastle, and suffering a life on benefits, would jump at the chance of a job in Bristol, or Reading, or even London, if they were only slightly better off. We are not a very mobile society in the UK and this creates structural unemployment where hundreds of thousands of jobs are available, but nobody locally wants to take them.
  • And, in that kind of environment what do you expect will happen? Britain does have a lot of employment available, but it’s not always where people want to work or live. That’s not a problem for someone coming in from overseas who can arrange their accommodation close to their work.

But let’s be clear, these non-British Europeans are not coming in and ‘stealing’ jobs. I’m sure most businesses advertising jobs would be only too delighted to be hiring and supporting local people. But what do the companies do when no locals respond to the job adverts? Go bust because they have no staff? Of course they take the search further afield, and if Brits are not prepared to move 50 miles for a job, then it’s easy to find others within Europe who are happy to work hard, pay their taxes, and add something to the community they move into.

This is not so much a story of foreigners stealing jobs, it’s a story of British people failing to adapt to the international nature of work in the twenty-first century and the DWP not offering enough incentives for those already on benefits to cast the net a bit wider when seeking work.

Election reaction

BNP on BBC Question Time

Welsh Secretary, Peter Hain, has warned that the plan for BNP leader Nick Griffin to appear on the BBC debate programme Question Time this week could well be illegal. Hain believes that the membership conditions of the BNP should exclude it from being considered as a legitimate political party.

The BNP presently excludes all except ‘indigenous Caucasian people’ from membership. This has recently been challenged by the Human Rights Commission, and the BNP has agreed to amend the membership clause, so any member could be any colour.

Obviously, it’s unlikely that non-white people would rush to join a racist party, but the question is really over the timing of this change to their membership policy. Hain argues that with this exclusion in place, the party cannot be considered a legitimate political party and should not be given a platform at the debate alongside mainstream parties.

The BBC appears to be taking the line that the BNP is a democratically elected party, and they deserve the right to be included in the debate, regardless of Hain’s point of view – and in any case, the BNP has vowed to amend the offending policy.

I take the view that the BBC should allow the debate to go ahead regardless of these issues. Hain is a prominent campaigner on race issues with decades of experience of campaigns such as the anti-apartheid movement. He knows all about the anti-racist movement, but there are people who will be voting in the 2010 general election who were born in the 1990s. They can’t remember apartheid or even more recent race incidents such as the Rodney King beating in Los Angeles.

I think it would be more educational and demonstrative to get the BNP up on the stage and to allow the other speakers on the panel the opportunity to hang Griffin with his own rope. How about asking Griffin about the pamphlet he wrote on Jewish domination of British media? Or asking why the BNP constitution actually refers to ‘stemming the tide’ of non-white people in the UK? Or asking why Griffin denies that the Nazi holocaust ever occured?

Many British people are concerned about immigration, not even non-white immigration. Movement within the EU causes enough consternation for many people who feel they are competing for jobs that Eastern Europeans will do for less. If the mainstream parties addressed these issues over immigration more directly then there would be no fuel for the far-right. They are gaining strength because there is a perception that the mainstream parties are not dealing with immigration.

There is plenty of ammunition for the other Question Time panelists to use against Griffin. Let’s hope they expose him as the nasty little fascist he really is.

Lights, Camera, You’re nicked!

I went yesterday to meet Steve Fisher from KPIT Cummins at the Frontline Club near Paddington station.

Steve has asked me to speak at a corporate event he is organising later this month and so he wanted to quickly record a 2-3 minute piece on video camera where I just talk to the camera about what will be in my forthcoming speech.

It should have been easy…

The background noise in the Member’s room at the Frontline was too much, so we tried the private events room. No go, as they wanted cash for us to film in there – even a 2min piece to a video camera. We had the same problem when we tried filming in their restaurant… payment required for filming.

We took a walk down the road to the Hilton hotel at Paddington. They wanted £100 an hour for a meeting room. So we decided that was not going to be the answer either. We scouted the station itself for locations, but they were all too noisy, with the background din of train announcements.

Then we decided to try an outdoor location. The canal runs next to Paddington station, so we could stand on the edge of the canal talking…

The moment we found a good location and setup the tripod, two security guards asked us to move on as we were a ‘security threat’ to the local offices… which included the HQ of Marks & Spencer just across from where we were filming.

We tried to find another spot on the canal, once the guards were not looking, but the work on Span 4 of Paddington station was causing a huge noise – constant pneumatic drills going off – so that was completely out of the question.

After walking some way up the canal, we eventually found some nice looking offices that could serve as a backdrop for the outdoor film. We quickly shot the video just using the camera held by hand, rather than taking the time to setup the tripod. That was a good move in the end, because as soon as we had finished, a security guard came over to check what we were up to…

How difficult can it be to shoot a short film in London? Walking around Paddington we were probably photographed hundreds of times by CCTV, yet it seems it’s illegal to pull out your own camera and shoot a short film yourself. Where did all these bye-laws come from?