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Alternate Ways of Rewarding Content Creators

This article was written by in Consumer. 2 comments.

I’ve been thinking a lot since the last time we talked about my ongoing internal troubles with stealing entertainment. In general, my habits are tending more toward avoiding theft, even accidentally. I want to make sure that the creators know that the thing they made was good, and I want to help them make more.

The no brainer: “new media” creators

I’m proudly displaying DVDs for Homestar Runner (we also bought some figurines and a car window cling of The Cheat), Tiki Bar TV and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog on my shelf. Those are great shows that would never have found a home on traditional television, so it’s up to people like me to reward them and help them make more.

The Cast of the GuildI’ve also been meaning to pick up The Guild on DVD. Wait a sec.

*click* There. Done.

My wife and I are also both subscribing for $5 a month to The Sound of Young America, and I’ve recently started buying some iRiffs here and there (these are like the fan-made commentaries we talked about earlier, but usually by people you’ve never heard of).

All of these shows have different business models, because “new media” (the linguist in me really hates that term) is still figuring itself out. The important thing is that they make it convenient to enjoy the things they make, and that they make it easy to reward them.

Where are you, high-def movie downloads?

We have the technology in place right now to make blu-ray obsolete. I’ve streamed high-def movies through my TV provider’s DVR, and through Netflix on the XBox, and I bought “Terminator 2” in HD through iTunes (which I have connected to our TV). That last one even came with “extras” like a blu-ray disc would. So it seems absurd to me that “the market” still wants me to get a blu-ray player. I don’t need a separate device to play HD movies. I can already play them.

Besides, a blu-ray disc usually also costs more than its DVD equivalent, which makes no sense to me, because they both contain the same thing: one movie.

The sad truth is that it is easier for me to download the blu-ray high-def version of a movie for free, illegally, and store it on my home network than it is for me to stomach the idea of buying a blu-ray player (not least of which because I was rooting for HD-DVD, since that format was region-free). But I don’t want to be a thief. So, lately I also started buying the blu-ray versions of movies that I already downloaded, and which I know we’ll watch again and again. “Galaxy Quest” for example, and the new “Star Trek” movie. In fact I just ordered “Star Trek” at the same time I bought “The Guild” a few paragraphs ago.

But this isn’t what I want to do. I want to pay directly for a digital—software—version of the movie. I don’t want “the market” to think that actual blu-ray discs are more popular than they are. The only place I know I can do this is inside of iTunes, and as of this article there are only 286 HD movies available to buy. And for the life of me, I can’t see any rhyme or reason to which movies are there on the store. It seems totally random; not the kind of movies I want to enjoy many times over.

The downside: not rewarding bad content

All that being said – and I hope you agree I’ve made some improvements – I still don’t feel right paying for something that I didn’t enjoy. Earlier this summer we managed to go out to three movies in a row that weren’t any good. After that, I decided to be a lot more strict about getting reviews from places like Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes before heading to the theater.

And I’m trying to be more patient when things seem iffy. I was excited to see “Drag Me to Hell”, because I’ve always liked Sam Raimi’s work (yes, up to and including “Xena: Warrior Princess”), but I waited for it to be available to download (on Netflix or otherwise), and I’m very glad I did, because wow, did I not enjoy that movie. In fact I only saw about 60% of it before I thought of something better to do.

Thankfully, the guys at Rifftrax are making an alternate commentary, which should help erase the memory of watching it raw the first time.

Photo credit: Lan Bui

Published or updated November 27, 2009.

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About the author

Smithee formerly lived primarily on credit cards and the good will of his friends. He is a newbie to personal finance but quickly learning from his past mistakes. You can follow him on Twitter, where his user name is @SmitheeConsumer. View all articles by .

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

‘Stealing’ is still the wrong word. You’re not taking anything from anyone. No one was deprived of his movie because you made a copy of it. If you ‘stole’ a car in the same manner you ‘steal’ a movie, no one would consider it wrong in the slightest — they’d call you mechanically talented and praise the quality of the replica car you built.

Which isn’t to say that making illegal copies of movies is OK, just that it’s distinct from plain old stealing. How do you feel about downloading TV shows? They air them on TV for free, so you’re paying just as much as you would if you watched them over the air. Certainly, they expected you to watch them with commercials, and you’re watching them without the commercials, but then you don’t feel like you’re stealing if you take a bathroom break while the commercials air and you’re watching it on TV, do you?

What if you buy a blu-ray disc, and then lend it to all your friends? Maybe 20 people watched that movie, but only one paid for it. Is that stealing on the part of your friends? Is it wrong?

It’s all a very blurry and not black-and-white at all, which makes it sort of morally ambiguous, in my opinion.

Personally, I have absolutely no problem paying a dollar or two to watch a TV show in high-definition, commercial-free, or paying $3-5 for a downloadable one-time-use movie file. I’ll gladly use iTunes movie rentals and TV show subscriptions for this sort of thing. But for movies or TV shows they don’t carry? I will download them from other sources. I’m not going to watch a movie more than once, and so I’m not willing to pay $25 for a disc I don’t need. And lacking an actual television, TV shows are only available to me online. If you’re not willing to make the show available to me in a format I can purchase, then you’re not interested in my business anyway, so you shouldn’t mind if I download your show from bittorrent, since you gave me no option whatsoever to purchase it.

This is even more ambiguous when you take into account the fact that I’m usually downloading BBC shows. These shows are funded by taxpayer money and expected to be free. However, these are British taxpayers, and I’m American. When it comes right down to it, the British taxpayer benefits in no way whatsoever from me not watching his TV show, so why shouldn’t I? If they wont make the show available for me to pay for, like by putting it on iTunes, I’m not going to simply not watch it for really esoteric, ambiguous legal reasons. I’m also not going to wait three years after it airs in Britain for it to be officially available in the US.

If you want my cooperation in using your product in the way you see fit, you have to make that product available in a reasonable fashion for me to use. I’m not costing you anything by watching a movie or a TV show that I couldn’t possibly have purchased anyway, since you did not make it available.

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avatar 2 Anonymous

With technology available today, there is no guarantee that you could prevent illegal copying and unauthorized distribution. Forget about the morals because they don’t exist any more.

John DeFlumeri Jr

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