Old rules, new rules

Here’s Marco’s reaction to Andy Ihnatko’s thoughts on The Oatmeal’s point (The new comic about how it’s impossible to legally buy ‘Game of Thrones’).

Clever thoughts. The Oatmeal’s comic is spot-on. But Andy reminds us of the publisher’s right to choose how and when he wants to make his goods available. I’m sure Andy is a very digital person and no lobbyist for rights holders. But (his) use of the verb ‘steal’ when ‘copying’ is meant kinda freaks me out.

you’re just one of those people who prefer to steal things if they think they can get away with it

Because: copying is not theft. And, from my German-European perspective I have to add:

  1. All the people who watched ‘Game of Thrones’ between it becoming ‘available’ online and the premiere on the German pay TV channel ‘TNT Serie’ fueled the hype for it and were among the first fans in Germany. ‘TNT Serie’ sure was happy about that.
  2. A German consumer’s wait for the original, english version to become available in a legal way often times is/was much longer than for the dubbed version.

To be fair: Apparently, ‘Game of Thrones’ was made available on iTunes at November 2nd 2011, in both English and German, one Episode per week as they simultaneously aired on ‘TNT Serie’. New productions like ‘New Girl’ seem to be treated the same way. But then again, there’s DRM for iTunes’ video content.1

My apologies for the detour. Marco replies to Andy:

It’s unrealistic and naïve to expect everyone to do the “right” thing when the alternative is so much easier, faster, cheaper, and better for so many of them.

I think that’s something we can all agree on. But I want to elaborate on the ‘right’ in there.
The core problem is that publishers make doing the ‘right’ thing stupid and archaic. I’m not sure there’s a solution to this problem except for other publishers or the existing ones changing their minds. Music was in the same spot a few years ago. Today, copying music just seems so… stressful. There are multiple suppliers who offer DRM-free music at terms that aren’t unreasonable. And there are models that let you listen to as much music as you want, like Spotify - at least in some countries.2

TV isn’t there yet. It’s at the beginning of its own disruption, and some people live by its old rules, some don’t. But there’s no reason to hold on to the old rules. When video content is offered in the way music is today, there’s just as much money in it as before the Internet happened. One could argue that the most evolution-hindering factor is the amount of money that is still made the old way.

Classical TV, whether in the US or in Europe, won’t go away the day after tomorrow, but its relevance will begin to fade out soon, and with it will the money that’s coming in. ‘New revenue streams’ is the keyword, I believe. The copying that currently is considered illegal is one of those streams, but seemingly nobody wants to put the ‘revenue’ back in it. It could be in there, trust me, just look at the iTunes music sales.

One last note: I’ll be damned if the new Apple TV doesn’t offer something that’s very relevant to this discussion. Even if it’s not the the hardware itself, but the lack of DRM or something like that.

Update: So, 1080p playback for the Apple TV, it is. Maybe more.

  1. I ain’t buyin’ that, because I don’t get what I pay for. I don’t blame Apple, though, because clearly it’s the studios who want to ‘protect’ their content. ‘Protect = not sell’, that is.

  2. As you can see, even that whole music thing isn’t fully developped yet. But way further than movies and television.