Again, this is jointly posted with China Law Blog.
Part 1: ‘The Ancient History of the DVD’ is here.
Part 3: ‘Forget it, Jack, it’s Chinatown’ is here.
Although we initially approached piracy an intellectual property issue, we ended up spending a lot of time on the determinants of price and availability in legal markets, and so on questions of media ownership and market structure. And when we looked at these, it was clear that the structural issue that mattered most was the extent to which legal and cultural barriers sheltered domestic studios and distributors from Hollywood. Outside India and China, there were very few successful domestic film industries. Once vibrant examples—in Europe of course, but also Mexico, Russia, and Japan—had become marginal in their home markets and inconsequential abroad. There are many reasons for this decline. Hollywood’s mastery of widely-accessible spectacle is a big part of it, of course. But so too is the advantage of operating from a rich home market, with stronger investment infrastructure and the ability to amortize production costs. So too is its much more effective control of the rest of the system, from saturation advertising, to the control or manipulation of distribution networks, to the capture of legislation, trade negotiations and state subsidy programs, to an ability to capitalize on the economic volatility of developing-world economies, which has periodically decimated local film industries. The Hollywood studios do all of this better than anyone else. Whether Transformers 4 is any good or not is very unlikely to matter. Continue reading “The End of Chinese Cultural Exceptionalism? Part 2 of 3: What Everyone Wants”
Dan Harris at China Law Blog invited me to write a post about the launch of the Chinese translation of Media Piracy in Emerging Economies. There is no China chapter in the report, but of course there are numerous China connections and parallels. Here’s an attempt to explore those connections, in three parts. Part 1 sets up the pricing argument that will be familiar to MPEE aficionados.
Part 2: What Everyone Wants, gets into film exhibition and market protection.
Part 3: Forget it, Jack, it’s Chinatown, discusses the politics and future of Hollywood in China.
Our headline finding is pretty simple: developing-world piracy is driven by high media prices, low incomes, and cheap digital technologies—and has not been significantly impacted by scaled-up enforcement. This is the sort of statement that’s obvious in most developing countries but that is still off limits in most international IP policy conversations, which are driven by the big copyright trade associations—the MPAA, BSA, IFPI, and so on. As a result, we have a policy debate focused single-mindedly on strengthening enforcement. But in our view, if you’re really concerned about piracy, you need to ask which of those other things will change: prices, incomes, or cheap tech? “Income” is a fine long-term answer in some countries but the realistic short-term answer—the one that rights holders can actually do something about—is “prices.” Let’s take the example of DVD piracy. Continue reading “The End of Chinese Cultural Exceptionalism? Part 1 of 3: The Ancient History of the DVD”
For those of you who have been waiting to read Media Piracy in Emerging Economies in Chinese, we have good news!
We are pleased to release MPEE-Chinese Edition, free for download under a CC license.
We (Joe Karaganis and Jinying Li) will also be giving public talks at CUHK in Hong Kong and Renmin U in Beijing in mid-June. Details as they become available.
The translation was a major project, and we owe special thanks to Huijia Xie, South China University of Technology, Jinying Li, from Oregon State, and–on the production side–Lijin Zhou from Peking University.
Post updated 1/22
I thought this would be a Copy Culture week for me but it looks like it will also be a broadband regulation week. So for those of you coming from this New York Times story about Comcast’s ‘Essentials’ program, which unexpectedly cast me as the main critic, here’s some background and a few comments
I was part of a group asked by the FCC in 2009 to conduct a qualitative study of barriers to access to broadband in low-income communities. This was intended to complement the FCC’s phone-survey-based study on access (phone surveys run into difficulties in reporting on low-income and minority populations, and the FCC was rightly concerned about this). Both studies found that low-income communities were being consistently under served by broadband providers. Our study also documented a wide array of ISP practices that made maintaining access particularly difficult in those communities, especially bait and switch tactics around pricing and hidden fees. Continue reading “Broadband Adoption in Low-Income Communities”
Copy Culture in the US and Germany is a comparative study of digital culture, focusing on media consumption, media acquisition, and attitudes toward copyright enforcement. The study is based on a large-scale phone survey of Americans and Germans in late 2011.
Read/download the full report here.
Get a PDF of the US infographic or the German infographic.
Some core US findings:
And some German ones:
An interesting account of the Canadian side of 19th century trans-Atlantic book piracy (from Rowland Lorimer’s Ultra Libris)
It was routine for [Canadian] booksellers to sell pirated editions of British titles, produced in and imported from the United States, rather than importing from Britain. Like European countries of the time, the United States did not recognize British copyright law. Nor did Britain recognize the copyright laws of other countries, the United States included. The importation of pirated works into the British Empire (i.e., Canada), where U.K. copyright law clearly did hold, was a problematic but prevailing reality. Responding to intense lobbying by booksellers, and wanting some revenue rather than none, in 1847 the British passed the Foreign Reprints Act, which allowed booksellers to import pirated editions of U.K. books for a 12.5 percent tax. This act not only officially sidelined Canadian printers, but also hijacked a significant part of the pre-Confederation market from Canadian distributors of British works. A U.S. company could print and publish U.K. copyright books to be sold in Canada, but a Canadian company, because it was within the British Empire, could not print and publish the same titles…. Continue reading “Canadian Book Pirates”
The editors at Bloomberg View were nice enough to publish this charming drawing by Matt Leines alongside my op-ed, Kill the Hobbit Subsidies to Save Regular Earth (thanks Paula and Matt!).
(For those just joining us, the basic story is that Warner Bros extracted $120 million in taxpayer subsidies plus support for a slew of bad labor and IP laws to keep production of The Hobbit in New Zealand.)
Returning to the matter at hand, the drawing raises some intriguing questions!
First, I confess I hadn’t fully thought through how to map the various heroes and villains of ‘Kill the Hobbit’ back onto ‘The Hobbit.’ But on reflection, this drawing seems a bit off. In my version of the story, the hobbit is the villain, stealing gold from the people of New Zealand (I guess to take back to Hollywoodshire?) This would make Smaug the dragon the public, and Smaug’s giant pile of gold the commonwealth (that’s why it’s so large). Smaug should be casting the Expecto Patronum (EP) spell to banish the Hobbit, not the other way around.
But hey, people may see it differently, and their right to publish those perspectives on our common culture is part of what’s at stake in ‘Kill the Hobbit to Save Regular Earth’ (pivoting here to New Zealand’s support for the IP-enforcement-on-steroids Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement).
So with that in mind, I am happy to announce the ‘Kill the Hobbit to Save Regular Earth’ Initiative– KH2SREI for short (pronounced Kisstory, after the ancient Elven admonition to beware Hobbits bringing gifts).
I invite you to flesh out the Kisstory allegory in whatever direction makes most sense to you. If you send me pictures, I will publish them here (as long as they are not obscene or gratuitously nasty). I will even try to talk the good people at Bloomberg View into running them. Continue reading “The ‘Kill the Hobbit to Save Regular Earth’ Initiative”
The complete (and more concise) version appears on Bloomberg View.
So how much taxpayer money, would you guess, did Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. need to produce the films based on the J.R.R. Tolkien book? The answer is zero. The studios are investment companies, and the films are almost certain to be immensely profitable.
But now you aren’t thinking like a studio. The real question is: How much taxpayer money can Warner Bros. demand from the government of New Zealand to keep production there (rather than, say, in Australia or the Czech Republic)? That answer turns out to be about $120 million, plus the revision of New Zealand’s labor laws to forbid collective bargaining among film-production contractors, plus the passage of three-strikes Internet-disconnection laws for online copyright infringement, plus enthusiastic and, it turns out, illegal cooperation in the shutdown of the pirate-friendly digital storage site Megaupload and the arrest of its owner, Kim Dotcom.
For keeping Warner Bros. happy, Prime Minister John Key, a former Merrill Lynch currency trader, got a replica magic Hobbit sword from U.S. President Barack Obama and a chance to hang New Zealand’s fortunes on becoming the tourist destination for Middle Earth enthusiasts. What could go wrong?
For the KHS2SRE completists out there, we’ve assembled some outtakes and extras: Continue reading “A Behind the Scenes Look at the Making of ‘Kill the Hobbit Subsidies to Save Regular Earth’”