izziebytes.net

SOPA / PIPA, Fandoms, and the Entertainment Industry

I managed to spend about an hour at the NY/NJ Tech Group emergency meetup / protest yesterday. Listening to the very influential speakers and just the general chatter really got me thinking about what SOPA/PIPA means to me.

I’ve never been an angel. I was a huge pirate during my high-school / college years; at my most ignorant I’d brag at how many thousands of dollars worth of stolen content I owned.

But now, as a functioning adult and someone who’s hoping to break into an industry that is victimized by piracy (gaming, and art to an extent), I am doing my best to rectify those choices by paying for the content I enjoy as much as possible. I can thank Amazon, Pandora, Netflix, Steam and even iTunes for that. Through these websites I have discovered new shows, movies, games, music, books, and the like, all of which I am able to watch and enjoy knowing I paid for it or supported it legally.

Something of note, though: In my many years as a rabid fangirl of many franchises, I can say with upmost confidence that 90% of the time, discovering the series’ and artists that I currently love was through a method that would be considered illegal either by current or future “laws”. I think that stands true for a lot of people in my generation, and likely most in those after me. I can’t even tell you how many songs and artists I discovered from fan-made music videos on youtube or gaming streams. Or how many shows I got into because I saw them at a college meeting or a clip online. How many games I discovered playing on a friend’s account. How many old passions were rekindled because I ran into a great fanart or fanfic or an animated GIF.

Legislation like SOPA and PIPA would do nothing but hinder this process of discovery and the spread of quality entertainment. In fact, I believe it would cause the complete opposite by encouraging a shadier and perhaps more risky internet “black market” by  making content harder to discover and enjoy.

The big issue is the entertainment industry’s reluctance to work with new media. They are loath to embrace streaming and other forms of digital distribution out of fear; fear that they can’t monetize a site the way they can profit out of ads. Fear that they can’t easily track or control who and how and what when it comes to their content.

So they go crying to the government. But instead of trying to lobby politicians to block the spread of entertainment, what the industry needs to do is give up the fight on holding onto antiquated formats and get with the times. They can take a cue from the gaming industry here, where monthly subscription games, a model that is losing favor, are slowly being eclipsed by buy or free-to-play titles supported by micro-transactions. This is adaptation. This is working with, not against, your consumers. Let’s take a moment to think about many businesses that have gone bankrupt because of reluctance to evolve or embrace the changing of media. Blockbuster could have owned Netflix. Now they are bankrupt.

By struggling to hold on to “the old ways”, the entertainment industry is perhaps unwittingly causing  a huge snowball effect that is damaging everybody, creators and consumers alike. Television as we know it is on its way out. Trying to force people to sit at their TVs and sit through ads isn’t going to work for much longer. Canceling shows because they’re ignoring the much less lucrative views online and through TiVo is only damaging potentially great series. This is why Hollywood is being overrun with unstimulating and unintelligent reality TV and shitty cookie-cutter “blockbuster” movies while good, thought provoking ideas are getting cancelled left and right. But the thing is, those are the series that garner the lasting fandoms that will make the most money in the end.
So here it is. The times, they are a-changing. People are changing. Instead of fighting change, work with it, learn to adapt, and things WILL work themselves out favorable for all parties.

Consider this; already my teenage cousins predominately purchase their music and movies through iTunes. That’s a big deal because when I was 15 I was getting everything off Kazaa.

Tumblr's Andrew McLaughlin speaks at the SOPA protest.

Tumblr’s Andrew McLaughlin speaks at the SOPA protest. Tumblr, a site that thrives on fandoms, would be heavily affected by these bills.

That brings me back to one final point I think the entertainment industry fails to realize; fans and fandoms are a POWERFUL tool, and one that they will slaughter if they have their way with legislation like SOPA/PIPA. I know plenty of great fans who spend a lot of money collecting box sets, comics, and other promotional items for the franchises they love. Many people are willing and able to do so. Yes, you have those who could care less about the work that goes into something and will go ahead and steal it anyway. So be it. That’s life.

Fans are a passionate and rabid bunch. Tap into their potential well enough; treat them with respect, offer them the option to choose when and how to enjoy their entertainment, and watch the magic happen.

 

Check out my G+ gallery from the protest, as well as a gallery of sites that blacked out yesterday:

  • Anonymous

    “Consider this; already my teenage cousins predominately purchase their
    music and movies through iTunes. That’s a big deal because when I was 15
    I was getting everything off Kazaa.”

    Haha, I was the same! Really, if I could actually get the music I’m into on iTunes I’d buy every damn CD they release but right now only two or three bands are available to the EU market :/

    • Anonymous

      That’s actually a great point that I wanted to make but left out for fear of getting way TL;DR.

      But there’s a huge issue of regional cock-blocking that’s also damaging to the spread of entertainment.

      I don’t understand the technicalities of it all, but having certain shows and movies UNAVAILABLE in other countries just seems so tired and silly. 
      When we have something like the internet that connects people globally and in mere fractions of a moment, there’s no reason companies are still trying to block content from being officially available worldwide. 

      • Anonymous

        If there’s a EU release I can get an album for 20€ (or 35€ for a CE) with free shipping…. if there is non it’ll cost me 45€ and more PLUS shipping from Japan.

        There a Korean girl band called 2NE1, they upload their music themselves… but GEMA won’t let me watch their videos in Germany because of whatever reason.
        With concert DVDs it’s even worse. I bought the EU release CE of Alice Nine “Graced the beautiful Day” for 60€. It’d cost me at least 100€ to get the Japanese release.

  • I totally agree with you Izzie.  The way ideas and entertainment is spread these days is through media that the old model considers illegal/infringing.  That same media is why something that ten or twenty years ago would’ve been a niche market, or a regional phenomena can now become the “next big thing” overnight.  I’m sure that irks the old fuddy-duddies to no end, but the reality of the situation is that the new model of distribution (including fandoms, self-publishing, clip sharing, etc) enhances all of our freedoms and really evens the playing field for people trying to make a mark in the world.

    I’m ecstatic that so many turned out to defeat these awful laws.  Unfortunately, now we have to watch for those stupid “midnight” sessions when they sneak unpopular laws passed the public.  I’m gonna keep spreading the word on this one.  We can’t have the old guard destroying such a potentially bright future like this.

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, since the protests there’s been a lot more awareness about other international laws that are kind of beyond our direct influence running around.

      I agree on the self-publishing bit, though. Already the internet has given us fun entertainment that can easily replace TV. I feel like if Holywood’s suffering continues, it may just make smaller, more niche-specific content thrive easier.  

  • I totally agree with you Izzie.  The way ideas and entertainment is spread these days is through media that the old model considers illegal/infringing.  That same media is why something that ten or twenty years ago would’ve been a niche market, or a regional phenomena can now become the “next big thing” overnight.  I’m sure that irks the old fuddy-duddies to no end, but the reality of the situation is that the new model of distribution (including fandoms, self-publishing, clip sharing, etc) enhances all of our freedoms and really evens the playing field for people trying to make a mark in the world.

    I’m ecstatic that so many turned out to defeat these awful laws.  Unfortunately, now we have to watch for those stupid “midnight” sessions when they sneak unpopular laws passed the public.  I’m gonna keep spreading the word on this one.  We can’t have the old guard destroying such a potentially bright future like this.