We Should Just Give It Away?!

stick florist angry at stick woman giving away flowers

This is going to be a really quick one.

So, at this stage, I’ve made it very clear that I see nothing whatsoever wrong with watching movies for free online. In fact, you might think I positively encourage it. Do I not see how important it is to respect copyright laws? Well … no, I don’t really.

I think we might need to reconsider the whole basis of intellectual property rights because as we are gaining more and more knowledge of how things work, can be manipulated, improved or exploited, etc.,  allowing this sort of knowledge to be tied into patents may be dangerous for our species. I know that sounds very over-the-top but that’s why I’m just saying we might need to reconsider how exactly intellectual property rights work.

And this has what to do with watching tv and films for free online exactly?

Directly, not much, in fairness. But the indirect effect of releasing copyright on entertainment or artistic works of this nature could potentially have huge knock-on effects. I believe it is possible to do this and still generate decent revenue from the content and if the makers of this content no longer had a real interest in protecting IP rights it could lead to more interesting arguments being made for their – um – reconsideration?

Also, I like watching tv and films for free online.

It’s true. I do.

And you’d have great difficulty convincing me that there is anything wrong with it.

But I’m taking something for free and not offering anything in return. And that I don’t like doing. So I am going to share my idea for how to make money by streaming TV and films without charging people to use the service and also in a way that gets around the adblocker issue.

So if I have this idea why on earth wouldn’t I use it myself to make loadsa money?

Honestly, it’s a very simple idea. I’ve had it for years now. Back in 2010 I decided to actually try and do something about it. And not knowing who to approach or what to do I thought I’ll write a script, get it made, and release it online and use the idea on it. So I wrote a script. It was terrible. I rewrote it. Then I got a little too into the story. I now have 3 and half screenplays about a vampire epic that I kind of hate at this stage…

So… I’m not using the idea because I don’t know how to implement it – I don’t have the content.

Also, it’s a very simple idea. I can’t for the life of me understand why this isn’t what’s happening now anyway. Maybe when I tell you it you’ll be like “nah, that’ll never work, for this and that reason.”

And in the last year or two, with demise of sites like Grooveshark, I’m worried that we’re losing this everything-is-free element to the web, and I really would like if that didn’t happen. It’s wonderful to feel like the everything is at your fingertips and is available to all.

So what is the idea?

  1. You don’t copyright the content. You copyleft it – i.e. it can be shared for free but any rights to monetizing the content is reserved. If someone does copy the content and monetizes it – for example by hosting it on a site where they have display advertising – this is taken as acceptance of a contract for the paid use of that content – and the price levied would be – I don’t know, for new works you’d probably want it to be prohibitively high. The reason to set it up this way is that it would be much easier to enforce this sort of contract and demand the payment specified than it would be get into the nitty-gritty details of intellectual property law of different countries. This bit of the idea is really to stop excessive controls being placed on people’s use of the web simply in order to protect copyright.
  2. You package the content with advertising that comes at the end of the content that is related to what the viewer has been watching. It’s packaged in a way that you can update the advertising element. This could be done easily enough. And – this bit is crucial for getting around the adblockers – you ask the viewer if they would like to view products and further information or content related to what they have just viewed. And those ads, where possible, would allow the viewer buy the products then and there if they wanted to. Simples. If they ask to see the content there isn’t an adblocker that would stop them seeing it. Adblockers exist to stop people being irritated by gaudy notices and ads. Will some people choose not to look at related ads? Sure. But the ones that do will be more likely to lead to actual sales. And think of the amount of times you’ve watched a movie, and rather than following the plot you’re thinking “I wonder where I could find a pair of shoes like that?”. Wouldn’t it be nice if at the end of the movie you could actually see ads for similar shoes?
  3. You host your online version of the content but allow others to copy and/or link to your site. However if they copy the content and monetize it they have to pay whatever price you have specified. They also cannot remove or add to the advertising without permission. Though publishers (fancy name for website owners) could serve their own form of related ads along with either links to your copy of the content or their copy that they have paid for (I can’t see why anyone would bother if they could just link to an official copy though).

Don’t think it would work? Well, why not try it out on old content first? There are now decades of movies and TV content. How much does the old content really bring in? Of the old movies that I enjoy and have added to movie lists here, how many of them generate significant income? Don’t see how it would be possible to have ads related to decades old content? O.K. let’s take a look at the first three movies on So Evil My Love – I’m not spending time on this so these are just the ideas that come immediately to mind.

  1. Der Blaue Engel (The Blue Angel) (1930) –
    1. Trips to Germany / Berlin
    2. Vintage (1930s) products – clothes, costume jewellery, lingerie, etc
    3. Cabaret/Circus/Burlesque shows
    4. German language classes
    5. Marlene Dietrich posters, memorabilia, etc.
    6. Dancing or singing lessons
    7. History of the Weimar Republic and related tours
    8. German Food & Drink
  2. Night Must Fall (1937)
    1. Trips around England
    2. English Traditional Knitwear and Needlework (the shawl made me think of crafts)
    3. Knitting and needlework classes
    4. Vintage products
    5. Old style wicker wheelchairs – I kind of want one like the one the old lady had…
    6. History of psychology – Psychology School Trips (it’s a thing apparently)
    7. Stays in B&Bs and Guesthouses in rural England.
    8. Interesting looking boxes.
  3. Suspicion (1941)
    1. Vintage (1940s) ballgowns
    2. Vintage costume jewellery
    3. Classic Cars
    4. Horse Riding
    5. Tickets to the Races
    6. Decanters, glasses, drinks trolley and drinks.
    7. Hotels in the Rural England
    8. Tours of the English countryside.

Maybe there is a really good reason why this isn’t the way it’s done. Maybe it makes sense to hold onto copyright for decades on end. Maybe. Maybe not though. Go on give it go, see what happens.

Who owns the copyright for old Thames Television productions? Is it ITV? I saw a great documentary on the Spanish Civil War by Thames Television on youtube a couple of years ago (please don’t take it down if you are the copyright holder). Why not monetize that sort of content this way? I strongly doubt anyone is monetizing it now anyway. And it’s great – why not let people see this stuff for free – and possibly make some money?

I know it’s unlikely the actual copyright holders will be reading this, but sure you never know…

And maybe there’s a really good reason why this is not currently being done. And I’ll only realize it after – a few months after – I’ve posted this. And then I’ll think “dammit…”