It’s been rather interesting following the ridiculousness following the ‘accidental’ leaking of the newest X-Men movie to the web. Already it has seen one data center get raided by the FBI and one Fox freelance movie reviewer lose his job. As I’ve been following this and other silliness being done by the movie industry and the entertainment industry on the whole I had an interesting thought.
What if the movie industry realized that with right approach those nasty dirty pirates out there trying to destroy the movie business single-handedly could actually the best viral marketing department around. To understand why this might be the case you need to understand how the whole pirate scene works. Luckily enough I’ve been around long enough and poked in enough dark corners that I’ve had a chance to learn a lot about this rather cool world on the internet.
First off and contrary to what all those entertainment companies and their trade groups would like you to believe 99% of the stuff that can be found in the dark recesses of the web isn’t put there for money. In some cases it might be ideological reason but in most cases it just because they can and the joy of a challenge. I know this first hand from my development days and conversations with a hacker group that cracked one of my past programs.
At first I was really pissed and wrote about it. The next morning I had a terse email in my inbox from the group that had cracked it that basically told me to use a better licensing scheme. Besides the fact that they were right I found it fascinating that they would even be willing to reach out as they did to a developer. It ended up that we had a long email conversation where I made them the offer of making the finished product available to them 48 hours before the official release for them to crack.
Now before you start shaking your head thinking the cranky old fart is nuts understand that there is a solid reason for this. The simple fact is that good software is going to get cracked – it is inevitable. The problem comes in when you get some hackers who then load up the cracked version with all kinds of bad stuff. I had checked the crack this group did of my software and it was a good clean crack. So as a developer if you know that your product is going to be cracked would you want that crack to cause damage or just do the job.
Don’t worry I’ll get to the movie part in a minute – this is background information that will help you understand my point.
The one thing that a lot of people don’t know is that within the world of all piracy there is a hierarchy. You have usually four or five top level groups that specialize in different things. You might have one that does just applications, another will just do games and yet another will release the highest quality movies – no cam’s for those guys. From this top level everything trickles down with other smaller groups adding in their own inferior or trojan laden versions.The even smaller groups just re-issue the stuff from the other groups. This is a distribution chain just like in the real business world.
On top of this is the fact that once one group releases a quality crack or a quality copy of a movie that it the one that gets propagated outward from that point on. Rather than having a hundred different copies you will generally only have one or two and that is because of the natural competition between the top groups to be the first out with a quality product – just like real businesses.
So we come to the movie piracy problem, except that it isn’t really a problem. If you do any serious research you will discover that the most highly pirated versions of movies were also the ones that made the most money at the box office. The Dark Knight is a perfect example of this and regardless of what the movie business propaganda might say that movie made a huge record setting box office while at the same time being one of the hottest movies being downloaded.
As well there were a lot of terrible cam and telesync version of the movie which probably had people not realizing what they were watching walking away unimpressed by the movie. This is the part that could hurt the movie industry and one that should be taken care of but it could be done in such a way that the movie companies could be assured of the quality being seen. It would also because of the code of first out with a quality release among the different groups limit the number of versions of the movie gotten other ways.
In fact if the movie industry did it right we would probably see a drastic reduction in the number of cam and telesync copies that get released once a movie hits the theater. The reason being that if it is known that one or possibly two groups will be releasing a high quality version either just before or during the movie theater run people would pass on the inferior quality product.
Now how could the movie industry utilize this perfect distribution channel to their benefit?
Well the important thing to remember here is how movies make their money – it’s all about the buzz you can create around the movie. What better way to get that buzz than to have people seeing it and talking it up among their friends. Oh and that old argument about why would anyone pay to go see a movie that they can get for free – it’s bullshit plain and simple. The Dark Knight and many other modern blockbusters have proven that.
But to create buzz like the one that now surrounds X-Men Origins: Wolverine all it would take is the movie company to reach out to one of the top pirate groups that specializes in movies and work out a deal. They get a top quality version of the movie as long as they get it into the distribution chain as quickly as possible so that no bad copies get a chance to be released. They could even get clever with by adding on a trailer at the end encouraging people that liked the movie to go see it as well in the theater.
This is totally out of the box but the truth of the matter is that piracy isn’t going to go anywhere and no three strike law is going to stop them from being downloaded. So maybe the time has come to think outside of the box and use every distribution channel at your disposal to create good buzz about the movie instead of alienating your customer base.
You got to admit it would be interesting to see happen and I bet the results would be to the benefit of the movie industry.