Thursday, February 09, 2012

The New York Times: So Close, And Yet So Wrong

Enclosed within this article is a hint that the Times of New York could get their hands on the real story, if they wanted to:

When Fred Wilson, a prominent New York venture capitalist who has backed Twitter and Zynga, wanted to watch the Knicks game last month, he got an unpleasant surprise. Time Warner Cable was not showing the game because of a contract dispute.

Frustrated, he turned to the Internet for help. Within minutes he was streaming the game illegally on his big-screen TV. [...]

Seeking out an illicit stream of a game that you should be able to watch legitimately is one thing. But media companies say they are facing a relentless barrage of far less defensible thefts involving movies, television shows and music.

Now, that's true. No one wants to see piracy be the modus operandi of the Internet, except maybe those megapirates who would stand to become the media conglomerates of piracy.

And there's where the story lies: conglomeration.

See, if you frame the piracty as one of giving the artist his due return for his efforts, people are pretty sympathetic to reforming the internet to ensure that, no matter how you view a film or listen to a record, an artist can be reasonably assured he's getting his fair share for creating it.

After all, what's the incentive to make more music or movies if you aren't going to earn a living at it?

It's the corporatocracy that makes this story. The publishers and producers whose only function is to finance and distribute the works that artists create for it take an undue percentage of the "gate," so to speak.

When you frame the discussion this way, suddenly people are less sympathetic to the production end and more sympathetic to pirates.

Take that Time Warner anecdote. It's true, Time Warner, New York City's biggest cable provider, cannot show games from Madison Square Garden (which, ironically, uses Time Warner in its restaurants to show out of market games.) Cablevision, another conglomerate, owns the Garden and the teams that play in it. It was pretty much fated from the get-go that Time Warner would be barred from broadcasts, or at least charged an insane amount of money.

Which would be passed onto the consumer.

Similarly, DISH Network has opted out of its contract with Cablevision. So people resort to piracy.

But here's the thing: opting for piracy in a more legitimate dispute like this encourages the rationalization that leads to more piracy: "I'm not paying $14 to sit in a theatre! I'll Bittorrent the movie!" or "$49.95 to watch a fight? Why, when I can get it for free!"

And so on. It's a slippery slope before you're downloading albums because the CD costs $15 (and the band gets a few bucks of that).

If the Times covered that story, how revenues in arts and culture are divvied up, then we could have an honest story about piracy and how to control it. Until then, it's all smoke and mirrors.