SOPA / PIPA, Fandoms, and the Entertainment Industry
I managed to spend about an hour at the NY/NJ Tech Group emergency meetup / protest yesterday. Listening to the very influential speakers and just the general chatter really got me thinking about what SOPA/PIPA means to me.
I’ve never been an angel. I was a huge pirate during my high-school / college years; at my most ignorant I’d brag at how many thousands of dollars worth of stolen content I owned.
But now, as a functioning adult and someone who’s hoping to break into an industry that is victimized by piracy (gaming, and art to an extent), I am doing my best to rectify those choices by paying for the content I enjoy as much as possible. I can thank Amazon, Pandora, Netflix, Steam and even iTunes for that. Through these websites I have discovered new shows, movies, games, music, books, and the like, all of which I am able to watch and enjoy knowing I paid for it or supported it legally.
Something of note, though: In my many years as a rabid fangirl of many franchises, I can say with upmost confidence that 90% of the time, discovering the series’ and artists that I currently love was through a method that would be considered illegal either by current or future “laws”. I think that stands true for a lot of people in my generation, and likely most in those after me. I can’t even tell you how many songs and artists I discovered from fan-made music videos on youtube or gaming streams. Or how many shows I got into because I saw them at a college meeting or a clip online. How many games I discovered playing on a friend’s account. How many old passions were rekindled because I ran into a great fanart or fanfic or an animated GIF.
Legislation like SOPA and PIPA would do nothing but hinder this process of discovery and the spread of quality entertainment. In fact, I believe it would cause the complete opposite by encouraging a shadier and perhaps more risky internet “black market” by making content harder to discover and enjoy.
The big issue is the entertainment industry’s reluctance to work with new media. They are loath to embrace streaming and other forms of digital distribution out of fear; fear that they can’t monetize a site the way they can profit out of ads. Fear that they can’t easily track or control who and how and what when it comes to their content.
So they go crying to the government. But instead of trying to lobby politicians to block the spread of entertainment, what the industry needs to do is give up the fight on holding onto antiquated formats and get with the times. They can take a cue from the gaming industry here, where monthly subscription games, a model that is losing favor, are slowly being eclipsed by buy or free-to-play titles supported by micro-transactions. This is adaptation. This is working with, not against, your consumers. Let’s take a moment to think about many businesses that have gone bankrupt because of reluctance to evolve or embrace the changing of media. Blockbuster could have owned Netflix. Now they are bankrupt.
By struggling to hold on to “the old ways”, the entertainment industry is perhaps unwittingly causing a huge snowball effect that is damaging everybody, creators and consumers alike. Television as we know it is on its way out. Trying to force people to sit at their TVs and sit through ads isn’t going to work for much longer. Canceling shows because they’re ignoring the much less lucrative views online and through TiVo is only damaging potentially great series. This is why Hollywood is being overrun with unstimulating and unintelligent reality TV and shitty cookie-cutter “blockbuster” movies while good, thought provoking ideas are getting cancelled left and right. But the thing is, those are the series that garner the lasting fandoms that will make the most money in the end.
So here it is. The times, they are a-changing. People are changing. Instead of fighting change, work with it, learn to adapt, and things WILL work themselves out favorable for all parties.
Consider this; already my teenage cousins predominately purchase their music and movies through iTunes. That’s a big deal because when I was 15 I was getting everything off Kazaa.
That brings me back to one final point I think the entertainment industry fails to realize; fans and fandoms are a POWERFUL tool, and one that they will slaughter if they have their way with legislation like SOPA/PIPA. I know plenty of great fans who spend a lot of money collecting box sets, comics, and other promotional items for the franchises they love. Many people are willing and able to do so. Yes, you have those who could care less about the work that goes into something and will go ahead and steal it anyway. So be it. That’s life.
Fans are a passionate and rabid bunch. Tap into their potential well enough; treat them with respect, offer them the option to choose when and how to enjoy their entertainment, and watch the magic happen.