Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Vale YIFY

Several weeks ago, a 21 year old New Zealander’s endeavour for the past five years or so has ceased, taking down one of the world’s most popular websites with it. Known to the world as YIFY (and later YTS), this guy was in charge of uploading some 5,000 movie titles into the bit torrent network. He did it in a timely manner and with quality that soon established itself as the benchmark for all pirates. This quality had his facilities used by Popcorn Time, the pirate version of Netflix, as well as running the world’s biggest bit torrent tracker facilities.
In other words, YIFY was easily the top individual pirate on the face of this planet. He was the Dread Pirate Roberts of our world. And yet the copyright monopoly, openly assuming responsibility for YIFY’s takedown, remains awfully quiet about its victory.

Pirate Ancestor

Interesting news aside, the question I would like to ask is – what is, exactly, the copyright monopoly’s end game here?
Let us assume we live in their perfect world, a world in which not only YIFY is taken out but all other movie pirates as well (note there is no shortage of those; while YIFY stood out from the crowd, he certainly wasn’t on his own). In this perfect world, where are people expected to source their videos from?
As puzzled as you may be with this question’s seemingly obvious answer, let us examine it.
If your answer to the question is “get the DVD”, then I would challenge you by noting no one in this day and age is interested in accumulating plastic real estate anymore; anyone who tasted the flavour of online streaming, Netflix style, will attest to that.
Then there is the matter of cost: if you’re only interested in watching a movie once, it makes no sense to spend north of $20 on said piece of plastic. Especially given plastic’s obsolete nature: in a world moving towards 4K, DVDs still offer some 500 lines of resolution in NTSC/PAL (remember those?); and if it’s Blu-ray that you’re into, there is a new standard coming in shortly, given the current standard’s inability to support 4K. Also, in the not so distant past we used to be able to rent plastic for sensible fees, but your local Blockbuster went the way of the non avian dinosaur shortly after Netflix entered the scene.
So shut up and stream your movie, you say. Not that easy, I answer: Netflix holds a library where one can always find something to watch, but it is still only a library that will rarely host the movie you actually want to watch (especially if that movie is a recent release). The current trend is to further entrench this sickness, with CBS about to launch its own Netflix style “solution” that will be the only legal way for people to stream its upcoming Star Trek series.
iTunes may be the solution for me, I hear you say; unlike Netflix, it does have recent releases, and its modus operandi is not that different to the Blockbuster of old. True, but at least in Australia iTunes’ pricing is far from reasonable; renting a movie costs three times what I used to pay at my local Video Ezy, RIP. Worse than the price, though, is the usability: last time I tried to “rent” a movie off iTunes, it asked me to wait 5 (!) hours for that movie to download. Sorry, Apple, but that’s not acceptable.

What I’m trying to say here is simple. A world where piracy is absent would be a world where we are all taken back to the pre-VHS days, a world where most of us can only hope to watch a movie at home when that movie trickles down to network TV. No one wants to live in such a world anymore, not even the copyright monopoly (do check the figures out; you will see most of its profits nowadays come from home viewing, not from the cinema).
Instead of the copyright monopoly trolling down pirates, it should stop to think what people actually want. They figured that one out for the music world, more or less, through services such as Spotify. It is about time they do the same for video.


Image by June Yarham, Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) licence

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