Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Milking the American filmgoer

In the Movie Picture Association of Americas "MPAA Theatrical market statistics" they make the statement
"Cinema ticket prices track consumer price index".

They then show statistics that show that in eight out of the last ten years cinema ticket prices rose by more than inflation. Taken over those last ten years they in fact rose by a total of 16,3% above the consumer pric index.
So yes... last year they rose by just 0,6% above inflation.. but seen as a whole that's hardly something to boast about.

Cinema attendances are static.. but revenues continue to rise by the simple fact that they keep putting the price up...

Monday, 29 June 2009

Piss-ups and breweries?! Film economics

The MPAA home page is full of interesting reading.....

"The average motion picture cost the MPAA member companies $96.2 million to make and market in 2005. Six out of ten movies never recoup their original investment."

That's an average of $60M 'negative cost' (I assume that's production) and $36M in marketing. (That's a lot of marketing!). Six out of ten is p*** poor.

There were 1,4billion theatre attendances in 2008 in the US - with over 500 new productions that's a little under 5 attendances per person -maybe a bit more if you exclude babes and the infirm.

"The US Motion Picture Industry employs over 750,000 people" or... "2,5million people"
...if you include 1,5 million handling things like dry cleaning and car rentals.

The average wage in the core production industry is 76% above the national average wage. Broadening this to include TV and film distribution the average is still 26% above the national average (telling us amongst other things that these latter groups earn less than the average wage).

The US industry is made up of 115 000 businesses. Over 80% employ less than 10 people. ... which means lot's of overhead cost on dealmaking, contracting, administration etc, etc, etc

So... to conclude...

  • The majority of films run at a loss. Studios can't tell a good film from a bad one, or have no idea how to manage production costs to a budget.
  • Core production teams get paid richly paid for delivering loss making films.
  • Lots of other underpaid people rely on their loss making 'genius'.
  • Over ten new films a week says there's lot's of competition
  • Individual viewers only see around 1-2% of the films released.
  • The industry is inefficiently structured - lot's of small firms happily paying each other over the odds to deliver the latest creative masterpiece...
And that's all without asking how much the stars took as their cut of proceedings???

Of course film makers do make money... Box office takings continue to rise, and a good film can takes between $100M and $500M - before it goes to DVD. But even so - with over 500 films in production in any year that's over 300 films a year that just don't cut the mustard - that's $18Bn in working capital tied up in projects that won't deliver a profit - even without looking at marketing costs (another $10Bn).

So here's some tips...

  • Big budget films don't necessarily make good cinema - plan for a lower break even cost... it's creativity not money that makes good films.
  • Scale makes for more efficient businesses - consolidate and amalgamate.
  • There are lot's of suppliers to choose from... get them to compete on price (duh!)
  • ...or outsource to Bollywood
  • There are too many films in production... make fewer films and get better returns on those you do make...
  • Get a better deal on scripts, music and other copyrights and IPRs
  • Pay realistic wages.. fewer films means you can pick and choose.
  • And give a fair deal for the lower paid!

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Book publishers go phishing

On the same day that the courts decided the ISP Ephone has to give out IP details to book publishers over filesharing on a private (password restricted) server -Swedens first ruling under the controversial IPRED legislation - the Författarförbund (Swedish authors association) is warning it's members against signing agreements with publishers over e-book rights.

Publishers have been mailing their authors en masse to get them to sign over e-book rights to works in perpetuity. E-books are expected to take off big time and publishers are looking to stake their claim in the gold rush.

"Authors that have been around a while understand at once that this contract is not OK... "
...but some of the less wary are signing on the dotted line.

It's nice to know that the media industry is looking after the best interests of our creative talent...

Get those authors a spam filter!

Footnote: Contracts have automatic renewals after seven years with a four month period for authors to annul the agreement.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Piracy on the UK airwaves

Well almost.

The Pirate Party is a newly formed, as yet unregistered, political party in the UK. They support the same political platform as Piratpartiet here in Sweden - protection of citizens rights for privacy, and reform of copyright and patent legislation to bring these back into balance and stimulate innovation in the digital economy.

In the wake of the recent UK's Digital Britain report Johnathan Phan of the the UKPP was interviewed by Channel Four and tells them why information sharing is fundamental to our cultural heritage. It's a media first for UKPP -even if in the end it was not broadcast. Good on yer Johnathan.

I'd embed the clip, but they want you to go there and view it.....

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Divine injustice in the ballot box

HAX... Henrik Alexandersson.. a favourite stopping off point of mine for Swedish political gossip has a recent blog piece on electoral fraud in Sweden - speculating on whether the irregularities reported in the recent EU elections could have changed the outcome. An interesting topic for debate. Democracy hinges on the honesty and integrity of the voting process.

Interesting.. but not in the same league as this statement from Iran's Guardian Council reported by The Guardian on complaints of election rigging in Iran:

"Statistics provided by the candidates, who claim more than 100% of those eligible have cast their ballot in 80-170 cities are not accurate - the incident has happened in only 50 cities."

Read that again... in fifty cities the number of votes cast exceeds the number of eligible voters. (...by up to 40% I gather) That in my book is vote rigging of epidemic proportions ...and yet this seems to be considered a cause for reassurance....

Islam, in my understanding, has close ties between religion and politics - the state of the Islamic community reflects on the spiritual well-being of it's members. Quoting from the preface to Karen Armstrong's "Islam, A Short History"

"...the Quran gave them (muslims) a historical mission. Their chief duty was to create a just community in which all members, even the most weak and vulnerable, were treated with absolute respect. The experience of building such a society would give them intimations of the divine because they would be living in accordance with god's will"

Absolute respect is not expressed by stuffing ballot boxes... it is fundamentally repressive and unjust. ... and for moslems presumably not just morally, but spiritually wrong. And in this case condoned it seems not just by politicians but by spiritual leaders too. Double jeopardy.

It is a dilemma. What do you do when those leading you to a just society deliver injustice instead? How far are you prepared to go to stand up for justice and respect for all?.. and society's spiritual well-being?

What would you do, if your salvation depended on it?

Footnote: the original press conference explains the overflow to voters voting outside of the area where they live. A practice permitted in in presidential elections.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Pay it again, Sam

Shane Richmonds blog at the Telegraph has two pieces, here & here under the title 'What will the music industry tax next' - discussing a proposal from the 'Music Business Group' to the UK Intellectual Property Office consultation on copyright exceptions.

"The MBG, who represent "the collective view of the UK music industry" want to clamp down on format shifting, that is the process of, say, copying a CD to your iPod."

What they want is to have a tax on MP3 players to provide revenue for the artists who are having their works format shifted. It would be laughable if it wasn't clearly intended as a serious suggestion.

The argument goes that there is a value in having the music in a convenient format - and that part of that value should go to the artist... But hello guys... the artist makes music - and making music is what they want to get paid for (not that they really ever do). Now I've bought the CD. Now they have been paid and I have the right to play this album 24/7 if I want to. Where did the format come into this? It's not like I'm going to play it more than I already paid for now is it?

I go down to the shop and buy a wine box... hand over my cash and walk out. I get home and pour it into a glass... ching!!! Cash registers whirr and before I kow it there's a bill on the doormat for changing the format. Same wine... different receptacle. C'mon. Get a life!

There is no music on a CD. There are instructions for recreating music. A recipe. How I store the recipe has zip to do with the artists.. It's only music when the sound waves wash against my eardrums. If copyright is intended to prevent me changing the format then it is fundamentally flawed.

Of course - a tax on MP3 players is just what we already have here, albeit more honestly stated as a levy to compensate for piracy. Also levied on blank disks and stand alone hard drives. So when I save back ups of my photos or make a system restore DVD for my computer a cut goes to that creative artist that .... that did what exactly? Took money out my pocket for something they didn't create?

It's proposals like this that gets the music industry a bad name.... Shame that there seem to be so many of them!

Fighting repression - a how to guide...

There are times and places where you don't want your views to be registered... but you still want to make them known?

Today's trail started off with an article on anonymous blogs - after , 'Nightjack', a policeman was 'outed' by the Times for blogging about his work . This raises questions about what was really in the public interest; naming the blogger or letting him continue anonymously making public details about his work. .. and highlights the difference between anonymous bloggers and journalistic sources where the press work hard to keep them anonymous. (In fact in Sweden anonymity for journalists sources is a right protected in the constitution)

That led me through an article on how to blog anonymously to this excellent article on "How To Communicate Securely in Repressive Environments" which with current world events uppermost in mind I thought deserved to be easier to find ... although it might look better in your browser if the link says 'Little known facts about the Isle of Man'. ;-)

And if you are reading this and genuinely need the information there you have my utmost sympathy and support.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

When music flows like water

Discussions round copright often focus on how artists get paid for their work... People need to pay to reward their creativity - but the more I think about it the more conviced I am that that is not at all what people are being charged for.
To understand what I mean we need to start at the other end with how people are consuming music.

Imagine then you are sittng at home listening to a favourite piece of music - it is good! You like it. The artist (producer & songwriter) deserve to be paid! ...and of course, if it's a consistent favourite you might think they should get the same small sum every time you hear it?

But what have you actually paid?

Nothing? It's on the radio... or on internet radio, or a free streaming service..

Or maybe you are on a premium streaming service, or you downloaded it from a webstore, got it free on your streaming subscription - maybe you bought the CD? Or the tape, or the LP... Or the CD the tape and the LP?

In alll cases it's the same song... the musicianship was just as worthy of reward but what you actually paid varied hugely. ... But in none of the above cases did you pay for the song to be played -by which I mean, you are not charged for the number of times you listen to just this track. If I buy a CD for instance the cost is the same if I play it a thousand times, or if iit's junk and gathers dust on the top shelf..

The same music can be provided to you in a number of ways - including getting it free. So, whatever it is you are paying for it is not the music ~ it is available free. It is to all intents and purposes worthless. You are not paying for the music, and not paying to reward artist's creativity.

So what are you paying for? The answer simply is control. If it is free someone else decides what gets played. You don't buy the the right to listen to the music, you buy control over when the music gets played. Monopoly gives rights holders control, which they sell on to us, the consumers.

One of the curious corollaries to this Is that artists I like in fact lose out by not giving me control of what I stream. This comes from the fact that even when I get music free artists are paid, and quite often are paid based on the number of plays.... If I could control what gets played on a free streaming service the artists I think are good would get revenue instead of some other artist I didn't choose to llisten to. The best most creative artists would benefit by taking away that restriction of choice.

But that that's a by the by. The take away for today is that you never pay for music... But if I'm not paying for music why do we need copyright?

Perhaps that's why Piratpartiet are lobbying for copyright reform?

Friday, 12 June 2009

Blocked in China

It's been a busy week, both on and off-line, but this one was a bit too remarkworthy to just let pass by....

By government decree, from the first of July, all computers built in or imported to China must pre-install 'Green Dam Youth Escort' internet content filtering software. The software is intended to flter 'harmful websites and harmful information'. This seems laudable enough though you might question making this sort of software mandatory.

Over at the EFF though they are perhaps justifiably suspicious that this is the thin end of the wedge for state censorship in China... now that the software is anyway installed...

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Hadopi castrated

The Open rights group report that the French Constitutional Council have ruled on the contraversial Hadopi laws in France - finding that the presumption of innocence is more important than protection of copyright. All sanctional powers to disconnect users from the Internet are reportedly removed from the act.

Couldn't the french government have asked some lawyers first and saved themselves the aggravation?!

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

TPB judge verdict...

While all eyes were on the EU elections the Stockholm district court slipped out the news that in their view the Pirate bay trial judge did not have a conflict of interest by virtue of being a member of two copyright organizations…

..also here in Svenska Dagbladet

Though this is unlikely to convince the defence...

Monday, 8 June 2009

Not in My Name

The EU elections.... you win some, you lose some.

It is with a feeling of pride and satisfaction that I see the results here in Sweden. Piratpartiet taking a little over seven percent of the vote and a place in the EU parliament - two if the Lisbon agreement is ratified. Moreover, according to exit polls, in the 20-30yrs age group Piratpartiet took the largest share of the vote -more than either Moderaterna or the Social Democrats.

That so many people are ready to vote for a 'single issue' party sends a clear signal that privacy and integrity are issues that are high on many peoples agenda - and it puts a presence into Brussels that will actively campaign to defend our democratic rights.

But.. I am at the sametime sad and ashamed. In Britain the far-right British National Party polled nearly a million votes, gained over 6% of the vote and will send two members to the EU parliament. That so many are ready to vote for a party that peddles racism and xenophobia dressed up as patriotism leaves me frankly bewildered and disappointed. What has become of my homeland?

Thankfully, there is hope... in the form of the Hope not Hate campaign which held in check further BNP gains as The Guardian explains..

"Their (BNP) failure to exploit these unique circumstances was in no small part due the mass mobilisation of opposition to them on the ground; a new politics of "Hope not Hate" forged beyond the Westminster beltway with unions, churches, voluntary groups, students and sometimes local political parties. The volume of literature distributed outstripped that of the main parties. Local "Hope not Hate" groups distributed 3,400,000 newspapers and leaflets; 1.6 million being hand-delivered in the North West alone, 850,000 leaflets in Yorkshire and Humber. On one day, 48 hours before the election, we held 180 simultaneous activities and hand-delivered 500,000 leaflets.

Over 50,000 people volunteered for our online campaign and 1,500 people donated. We placed anti-BNP articles in the national newspapers on a daily basis and our eve-of-poll email was sent to 600,000 people, the biggest single email in British domestic political history. We estimate that 5,000 people took part in the on-the-ground campaigns around the country, many for the first time in their lives."

Hope not Hate have an online petition called Not in My Name. If I had a UK postcode I would sign up... but I don't, so I am writing this....

Never in My name....

Footnote added: Who voted BNP and why from Channel 4

Friday, 5 June 2009

Remembered: Chinese Internet Maintenance Day

"It was twenty years ago today Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play.."

In the last twenty years China has seen huge economic growth and vast improvements in the wealth and health of individual citizens. But that is not what we are remembering today (or more properly, yesterday)... The clip above is an iconic image of the democracy protests in China in 1989 - but search in Youtube and you will see lots of more graphic and disturbing images of the suppression of the democracy movement there that saw hundreds of protesters killed and many more imprisoned.

That was twenty years ago - and by all accounts an event that within China the authorities try hard to see forgotten. It has been and remains a taboo subject there. In the run up to the anniversary a number of channels of web expression have been blocked... including sites like Twitter and Hotmail. It's hard to imagine living in a country where the state manipulates what news and media we can get access too..

But it seems that China's netizens are nevertheless making their own protest known - with a flush of sites declared off the air for 'Chinese Internet Maintenance Day'.

Freedom of expression, freedom (of unmonitered) communications and a freedom of (uncensored) information. These are not things to take for granted....

Swedish readers might also want to check out Rick Falkvinges blog: Himmelska Fridens Torg, Sverige, 2029

Defending democracy: Vote Piratpartiet for the EU parliament!

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

New voters, new views

Current in the news (as Rick Falkvinge highlights) is the results of school ballots that show the support for Piratpartiet outstripping the mainstream parties - taking more votes than the two leading parties put together. Turn out is low (~20%) - but even so, support of 30% or more shows how important PP's core issues are to the young (bearing in mind that the school ballots include a good slice of first time voters). Given that PP support is highly skewed between the sexes the support among young men must be sky high.

Critics - commenters on newspaper coverage - criticise the result as young people that 'don't understand' and are just interested in legalising filesharing, i.e. are voting for their own self-interest. Perhaps there's something in that, but it's nonchalant in the extreme to disregard their political awareness.

The young have the vision to see society how they would like it to be. They have yet to be bound in by the millstone of inertia in the existing establishment. They don't have jobs, and they don't have mortgages, or children, or elderly parents needing care - clearly they have different priorities in choosing which issues matter to them. Young voters are not voting for which party will give them the biggest tax cuts or the biggest handouts. ..and maybe the young have yet to learn by experience what a big bad place the world is.

But anyone criticising the young for voting Pirate really need to wake up and think about the real issues behind the filesharing debate. Today the world is moving fast towards a surveillance society where the Internet is a tool for the government to keep track of it's citizens.

The brightest, best and most creative thinking comes from the young... that they see the consequences of the introduction of the Internet - and the pressing need to preserve our freedoms and rights by protecting it's freedom from censorship and surveillance - should be a wake up call. What have you lost sight of?

Filesharing is a part of youth culture - and of course that means there is interest in defending that culture from 'the evils of industry'. But if that leads young people to be informed and engaged on issues of personal freedom and integrity then for me that is a great thing. ...a whole new generation that clearly see the need to defend rights and to create a better more open society.

Update: Check out Pure Nandi's description of a school political debate - and notice that it's integrity and not filesharing that is under the spotlight. (in swedish..)

Patents: I take my hat off to the man in red

The European Patent Office has a referral ongoing to the 'Enlarged Board of Appeal' covering interpretation of the European Patent Convention (EPC) in regard to software patents. Basically - under what circumstances can a computer programme be regarded as a technical invention and not a programme and therefore be patentable.

Submissions from individuals, companies and governments are now in... and are all available here. As you might suppose they cover a wide range of views with varying degrees of analysis and legal argument.

For a great presentation of innovation and open source, the negative impact of software patents and for a sensible plain language interpretation of the questions put I recommend the input from Redhat... The Piratpartiet input on this occasion I'm sad to say was by comparison somewhat lightweight... Sorry guys

Monday, 1 June 2009

Ideas are for sharing

Creativity is where our ideas meet.. mingling, changing and recreating..

The thing about good ideas is that they have a life of their own - (well strictly speaking all ideas do). We give them birth and send them on their way. We don't own them - not as property. We can't destroy them - the only power we have over them, and that a weak one, is to hinder them from spreading. But we too have the gift to spread them...

Some die... put down and forgotten. Some are reborn. Rediscovered... spread.

Serendipity took me today from Piratpartier.se to Carl Johan Rehbinder's Tantra Blog with well written and insightful articles on 'Love, Sex, Politics & Culture'. It's in Swedish as usual, which is a shame as the latest article is about the UK- on UK legislation giving police powers to ban photographing “likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism”.

Anyway.. Among the comments to this article .. on why he joined Piratpartiet .. was a link to an article on "The Libertarian Case Against Intellectual Property Rights". It's from 1995... which for some is a lifetime ago... but it is nevertheless fresh and relevant to today's debate on the future role in society for intellectual property.

Go share!

Copyright in the classroom

Those nice folk across the pond at the Electronic Frontier Foundation - an American digital rights advocacy group - have put together an educational package for schools called Teaching Copyright which is intended to 'correct Entertainment Industry misinformation'..

It is of course aimed squarely at the American legal set up but it includes information on the history of copyright, fair use, and peer to peer filesharing - and has suggested lesson activities that could be reapplied I'm sure in a European context to stimulate debate and learning about copyright and sharing cultural resources.

But that's something for the next generation... For this generation - make sure you get to the polls and vote by June 7th!

Copyright reform: Vote Piratpartiet in this year's EU elections..

Steal with pride - the Canadian way

The Conference Board of Canada - a Canadian think-tank - is withdrawing a report on the Digital Economy saying it didn't live up to their high quality research standards.

The report, funded by tax-payers, included sections plagiarised from US copyright lobbyists, the International Intellectual Property Alliance - and discarded contradictory evidence material from their own analysts....

Jeeez.. it's so unfair when you get caught out like that!

This blog entry on the other hand is plagiarised from Boingboing....
...just so you know