Apply Galacticas Lessons to Legal Video

By Joe Wilcox  |  Posted 2009-04-20 Print this article Print


Perhaps NBC Universal applied lessons learned from Sci Fi to Hulu: People would watch streamed television shows online. Perhaps it's no coincidence, particularly in the YouTube era, that so many networks stream TV shows-for free, with limited advertising. What suddenly seems commonplace today was a rarity just four years ago.

I don't advocate piracy, and I don't use the Torrents to steal stuff. I simply suggest that piracy has some benefits, too. The recent "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" online leak of an unfinished print may prove to be a fascinating case study about Torrent sites such as Pirate Bay. Logic dictates, as it did with BSG leaks, that people who get the movie for free online won't pay to see it. Surely that's the concern at Twentieth Century Fox.

But there are benefits, too. "The piracy may have been better promotion than a Super Bowl ad, and certainly cheaper, at least according to Wolverine's fans, who don't seem like their trips to the theater will be deterred by the leak," Silicon Alley Insider's Hilary Lewis wrote about the Wolverine leak.

The Pirate Bay verdict could eventually take away the pirate's booty Hollywood studios or music labels gain from piracy, whether or not they choose to acknowledge benefits. The Pirate Bay founders may not change their views, but perhaps the verdict will humble some other Torrent site operators, creating the possibility of dialog and cooperation between them and Hollywood:

  • Hulu proves there is a model for legal distribution of video content, as do other network TV streams. Sci Fi Channel Webisodes are the legal version of leaks-better because the content doesn't even air on TV.

  • People pay for TV shows and to rent or buy movies as digital downloads. Not everyone steals. Plenty of fans will pay for exclusive content or at least accept advertising to watch it.

  • Increased distribution of legal content should help to reduce the number of malware-infested Torrents, which benefits potentially all Internet users.

The Pirate Bay four are indignant about the verdict. Maybe Larry's "Lock 'em up" is the only reasonable response for them. But there's no need to lock up the marketing opportunity that these Torrents represent to content owners. Piracy isn't good, but that doesn't make it all bad.

Joe Wilcox is editor of Microsoft Watch.


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