An online effort that’s gaining more supporters by the hour appears to offer the film industry something of an olive branch in the war against Internet piracy.
It all began with a conversation at the Lift11 conference in Geneva, Switzerland, aimed at producing ideas on how to eliminate piracy.
A collection of tech-savvy media professionals decided to create a document that stipulates how media should be offered by producers. They called it the “Digital Media Consumption Manifesto.”
In exchange for industry compliance on file formats, availability and rights management, signatories to the document pledge to never illegally download a film again.
The project found its home at the cleverly named dontmakemesteal.com.
“We believe that content providers are a wee bit lost,” the site’s creators wrote. “They see us as their enemy. But we’re not! We love movies! And most of us understand that movies have a cost. We are persuaded that a big part of today’s piracy would just stop if content delivery was to change a bit.”
Though just a day old at time of this story’s publication, it had already gathered over 2,200 signatories, and the rate of growth was escalating.
In exchange for the pledge to never illegally download a film, signatories ask that production companies adhere to some basic guidelines:
“Rentals should not exceed 1/3 of the cinema price. Purchases should not exceed the cinema price. Monthly flat rate prices should not exceed 3 visits to the cinema. Pricing of TV shows is about 1/3 of movies. Payments are for the content, not bandwidth.
“I can obtain the audio in every language produced for the content. After purchasing a movie, all the languages are available. Fans are legally allowed to create and share subtitles for any content.
“The content I paid for is instantly available. Content is delivered without ads, or infringement warnings. I can find movies or TV shows by year, director, language, country, genre, IMDB ID, etc.
“The release date is global. There are no limits regarding the country you live in. I can download nearly every movie ever made.
“I can watch the movie on any device, without any differences in how the movie is presented. Movies are not bound to the service provider and must be DRM-free. I can easily understand my rights regarding movies that I rent, buy, or stream at a flat rate.”
The consumption of media has been a hotly contested sector of humanity’s digital revolution ever since the software Napster upturned the music industry’s entire business model by allowing Internet users to trade songs for free.
The annual costs of media piracy, in revenues producers say they’ve lost, are difficult to pin down, especially with the total number of Internet users approaching 2 billion.
Research presented by the International Chamber of Commerce put the figure at more than $1 trillion each year, but that included sales of counterfeit goods as well. Most people who download media do not turn around and sell the product.
The Business Software Alliance, a collection of industry groups from the world of commercial software, estimated that over $1 billion worth of pirated software was traded on bittorrent networks in the first half of 2009.
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) said in 2006 that movie piracy cost its members over $6 billion the year prior. While the industry regularly engaged in mass lawsuits to frighten off the millions of media pirates, the legal efforts have had little impact on the number of films being traded or how many are trading them.
Peer-to-peer sharing of copyrighted materials has only grown since then.
Industry watchers have long argued the MPAA should just embrace digital technologies and provide films in formats demanded by their most loyal customers, who often tend to be pirates as well.
“Over the past ten years, the highest grossing year on record for DVD sales and rentals was 2004 with $24.9 billion,” Dan Rayburn wrote for Business Insider in late 2009. “Last year, the total gross was $22.4 billion. That’s not a huge gap to make up. If the studios actually embraced digital technology, new distribution models like Redbox and stopped treating customers as if they are all criminals, their business would be doing a lot better.”