Andrew Breese

Musings of a professional geek

Category Archives: Movies

Is the real fallout from the Sony attacks yet to come?

A cancelled film, a company worth of hacked and destroyed computers, stolen personal data, stolen company records, and fear mongering is the first phase of the attacks on Sony. Whoever coordinated this series of attacks has played a very good game so far, and continues to use FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) to channel almost everyone’s thinking. In the face of real violence most people will prefer to play it safe.

I know that I’m certainly not going to do anything to endanger my family; which is where this first phase of the story ends. I’m a little fearful, and I’m watching the news and paying attention. I’m aprehensive about writing a blog post. Good game. You’ve won phase one.

Are changes needed? Perhaps the extreme withdrawal and kowtowing  by Sony is a move by the mega-corp against another of Sony’s dark foes – internet piracy.

The next phase worries me far more because it won’t be about this attack, it will be about the changes that our governments and companies try to introduce to protect us. I’ll be very surprised if governments and corporations don’t wish to further change laws based upon the fallout from these events. Perhaps on the first thought they might be right; some changes are probably needed – Sony was hacked wide open and they have a huge amount of things to fix and recover from. The financial and reputation cost is non-trivial. Geek-types such as myself might have a love-hate relationship with them due to various opinionated view on consoles and games, but the general public think of them as a big movie studio. And that studio just got slapped very hard.

I think we are about to experience in a wider context is these events used as a further strengthening of the arguments for a regulated internet. In my own view the severity of the attacks were escalated when the hackers threatened to do something to the people who when to see The Interview, and then Sony gave permission to withdraw the movie from cinemas. I think this changed the way the public viewed the events, from a company being attacked to limit their profits, to a threat to joe-average-punter.

It is a conflict targeting the balance between our fears and our freedoms. And when the laws are changed to protect against the phase one events it could be at the detriment of our wider freedoms. It is a delicate balance with no perfect solution, but many bad ones.

A superficial rationale is: hackers and their nefarious tools did all this, then (insert country, company, mother’s name) needs to be protected.

I was never going to see The Interview so selfishly I wasn’t fussed that a studio yanked it’s release, or that Sony got hacked in the first place as I wasn’t affected. I am going to be on the internet over the next 40 years, so I am concerned about how much leverage this type of event gives governments to make sweeping changes. Australia (my home) has made changes in law to the powers of police in reaction to both terrorist threats and cyber-threats, and certainly already has some very powerful and uncompromising anti-hacker and anti-terrorism laws.

Yes, I’m possibly wrong too.

Perhaps Sony won’t apply it’s huge financial loss and damaged reputation as a stick to beat the American government with. Perhaps they won’t use FUD to push an anti-hacking (bit torrent, dark-net, etc) agenda any more than they already have. And it’s unlikely that America will be able to directly change Australian internet freedoms soon, … except that most laws past in the US also impact big sections of the internet, and Australia is well known to mimic and support American interests.

(aside – don’t misunderstand that point please – on principal countries working with a unified policy is interesting and can be valuable).

Read the backlog of anti-piracy material from film studios, an the fear around one govt attacking corporations in another.

And then please read widely on the freedom vs security as it relates to both the internet and your rights as a civilian.

And make up your own mind. I’m uncertain, but the FUD is working on me  today. The Sony Hack story is far from over.

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Pathways and barriers to Australian viewers

There are shows that are so damn good out there that make me want to slap on an eye patch, glue a parrot to my shoulder, and gurgle “Arrrrr” all the way through a BitTorrent client. The Game of Thrones, the Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, Sherlock, and Hell of Wheels are the top shows I can immediately think of. These shows are incredibly high quality and worth paying for.

Alas they are distributed in an unfriendly manner in Australia. Some are not available, others are shown in Pay channels only, populated with ads and still broadcast at unfriendly times. The Walking Dead is shown on a pay tv service, with ads, at times which are probably appropriate for its rating but still frustrating.

Even the previews and community information sites which banter about these shows are often blocked, which leaves me feeling like a second class consumer.

Of these TV shows I’ve seen smatterings of some, and a fair proportion of others – via a range of mediums, be that purchased dvds, borrowed media, downloads, and some such. Some were even free to air (actually free) and at almost consistent times during a schedule. Sometimes I get to watch the preview teaser and that’s about it. I’m not sure that some of the shows will ever be on free-to-air TV in Australia at all, which is why Aussies get used to either streaming content, or more often using a Pay TV service or the DVDs.

There are any number of website blogs/posts talking about how it’s fair and reasonable to pirate content because it takes too long to get to Australia, or that the distribution network is unfriendly, or not high bandwidth enough. I feel that pain too.

But it struck home today after flipping through the comments on a Walking Dead page just how much rubbish those points of criticism are. The fact is that these shows are awesome and I mirror some of the attitudes of the “pirate customers” where the range of barriers frustrates me too much.

In spite of that the distributors creators are:

  • not silly to wish to be paid for their content,
  • not at all likely to be paid by me for the content if it requires a subscription to a wider service per month (i.e. no way in hell I’ll pay Foxtel just to watch 2x TV shows),
  • focusing on the “low hanging fruit” who already have pay to view subscriptions,
  • likely to be unwilling to show on free-to-air as the ad revenue alone may not be enough,
  • unable to compete with the BitTorrent providers who will steal the content regardless of how free, fast, or packaged it is. Zero cost in a range of formats, with no ads, within 8 hours of the USA viewing is better than any Australian distribution channel can offer.

So I get why the Distributors are not interesting in changing, and also why the file-sharers will not stop stealing content. Two aspects of a problem, where one is clearly frustrated and also clearly illegal. The general rule for Australia is that the shows are unavailable in a timely manner after release in the USA, even when that option costs a very large amount of money.

This creates a huge divide between the two views, more of a polarity: those who pay and those who steal.

That said, there has to be a way for the distributors to get some of the money that the people in the middle would give them, if a channel which was not wasteful and expensive existed. Apple’s iTunes is one for Game of Thrones where a digital copy was allowed, and each episode was paid for separately. That is a reasonable option, is quick and current, although it still seemed too expensive to my taste.

So what would I pay? Approx $2-4 per episode. Yes I know that is cheap, and here is why.

I measure the cost of the service, entertainment, or experience against what else it can provide. A season of a show runs approx 13 episodes which gives a rather skimpy revenue stream of $26 to $52; or as I like to think of it a DVD season of a show. It could also be measured up against a good bottle of wine.

Also a single episode of a TV show is not worth a lot by itself, or out of order. That means that to create a valued product the offering would need to incorporate several shows, offering a bundle of content with flexibility. Then allow me to stream/downland that content in a timely way after the USA release and I’m happy.

Something like a AMC+HBO-Australia, where I can pick a few shows and get them all. I’d be really happy, and especially happy as I would not need to install a shitty Foxtel-like box in the house, and also can have flexibility to view it everywhere I wish. That is a product with appeal downunder. Do you think HBO or AMC would be happy to take $100 to $200+ per year from me direct into their coffers? Yes, I think they’d be keen. And I’ll happy give it to them if they can get on-board with a better global distribution model.

Happy viewing.

PS – It is ever stranger to me that the folks who locally “print” the DVD and BluRays download a master of the show, and then burn them for sale in stores. If the distribution networks are good enough to do that, then they can mock-up or use an existing distribution system to get content out to the masses via selective subscription.

Yes, that will slow down the DVD sales, but the pirates were never those customers, and the DVDs charge a heck of a lot for material which is just pointless to me as a viewer (packaging, freight, dvd extras, branding, etc).

PROMETHEUS – Peter Weyland at TED 2023

Quiet Earth & IO9 have a trailer for the new film Prometheus, by Ridley Scott; which depicts Peter Weyland speaking at TED 2023. What a darn good idea for integrating known fact with the near future.

It sets the staging for Prometheus really well, and any scifi fans should take a look. Read more of this post

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