Hoist the Colors…

From the words of Elizabeth Swann from “PIrates of the Caribeen: At World’s End”: You will listen to me! LISTEN! The other ships will still be looking to us, to the Black Pearl, to lead, and what will they see? Frightened bilgerats aboard a derelict ship? No, no they will see free men and freedom! And what the enemy will see, they will see the flash of our cannons, and they will hear the ringing of our swords, and they will know what we can do! By the sweat of our brow and the strength of our backs and the courage in our hearts! Gentlemen, hoist the colors!

I know, it’s hard to take someone seriously, when this someone is quoting a fictional character from Pirates of Caribeean, instead of some academic, with some text that says mostly the same thing. But, bare with me, there’s more to it than meets the eye.

How much did it bug you when, after reading some interesting post from a blogger about a very interesting subject, but then you find an embedded video from hulu.com that’s essential for the post setting, and you try to watch it, but end up bumping into the non-availability message.

hulu error

Let’s see what they tell us…

For now, Hulu is a U.S. service only. That said, our intention is to make Hulu’s growing content lineup available worldwide. This requires clearing the rights for each show or film in each specific geography and will take time. We’re encouraged by how many content providers have already been working along these lines so that their programs can be available over the Internet to a much larger, global audience. The Hulu team is committed to making great programming available across the globe.

I don’t blame Hulu for it, as they deal mostly with content provided from mainstream providers, it’s just some mind warping issue regarding legality, which I’ll try to assess today. I’m no law specialist, but I like to reflect on the amount of frustration. I won’t try to discuss ethical issues pertaining disrespecting the authors and creators of the content, as it will take another ten pages of endless discussion.  Won’t try even to start to consider online trolling, into the equations, as online social environment, is another long endless subject. I’ll stick to the corporate view.

The access to content environment has changed a lot in the recent years. The Youtube explosion is only the best example of a sucesss of the .flv protocol for video proliferation, as there are other hundreds of other websites (I’ve been using the download helper add-on for Firefox, and there’s even a ranking), that try to emulate it’s approach, or prefer to be explore specific types of videos focused towards a specific public. Despite rules against it, it’s not only about getting people access to original content created by the users, but also, allow people to get content otherwise unavailable, even when it means breaking the terms of use, by posting copyrighted material which was not created by the user. How many times have you caught yourself reminiscing about some childhood memories though a show or cartoon (or even only the opening), that someone did upload to one of these websites. A lot of times, the easy access to these tool, just provided easier outsource channels to grassroots movements that have existed for years.

Science Fiction and fantasy fans from all over the world, might be the ones most experienced into this field, as years ago was even harder to get content from the things you are fan of.  Fansub is a common word for Anime fans, as it is defined as an unofficial video tape release of an anime that has been subtitled to a western language by fans.  Technically illegal, it was born as a grassroot movement, in which fans weren’t getting the content from anywhere else, and found a way to do it themselves. Most experienced Fansubbers follow the strict rule, that they’d stop distributing a fansubbed production, whenever an official distributions arises. Profitting from it is illegal, but fans do try to compensate the hard work that’s put into it.

Nowadays, fansubbing can even be considered to be a much wider movement, with fans from around the world, translating and creating subtitles for movies and simply every tv show which is ripped daily. A simple google search can get you access to lastest bittorrent file for the most recent episode of Battlestar Galactica, Lost or even Law & Order. Another simple search will get you to websites providing with the subtitles for the episodes, for those who are not native speakers, even then, sometimes people from the US, have trouble to understand slangs and quirks from british english.

Is any of this legal? Not at all.  Mainstream content providers face a major issue, in which they are simply uncapable of keeping up with the beat required on the web, as people around the world can get an episode a few minutes after it been shown for the first time in it official time slot.  Well, some international viewers might even get to watch something, before US viewers on pacific time zone. What happens to the market when country borders become a major obstacle. When official channels, still provide blocks to international viewers, to access the content, the only solution available is to seek for illegal sources, which and the end of the day, even friedlier, because they are for free.

What happens when internet is a major issue?Just like time has pretty much hurt news coverage, time is also an issue here. Fans (which are exactly the type of people who will and have the income to invest on what they enjoy) don’t want to wait another month or on worst case scenarios over two years to get content that’ll be discussed hours later in message boards around the globe. In such context, users try to treat each others as equals, even as people on more high end points of tech saviness attempt to include tech newbies. Problem is, from the market point of view, they’re not equal. How do you sell a show time slot to companies when the market share becomes a blurry concept. I expect another several long years for any possible initial agreement towards rights, monetization and how this will affect content distribution. It won’t be something that will be solved in a day or two.

(to be continued… tomorrow I’ll be back with more about why this “us against them” thing is what’s hurting the market, why change is needed, I’ll come in with my 2 cents about a polemic project from a old minded senator from Brazil, and try to conclude this long post on why the hell I quoted Pirates of the Caribeean on the first place).


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