Movies, Money, Pirates, and People

In March, a little opensource software program hit the web for one week and was taken down by it’s creators.  In just one week, Popcorn Time changed the face of movie piracy.  It challenged the very nature of the movie industry and the existing form of piracy on the web.  What Popcorn Time does is allow users to search and stream torrents.  It is Netflix for pirated material.  The user does not have to download the illegal copy of the movie they want to see to their computer, they can simply view it at their leisure and be done with it.  This allows for only a handful of people to actually ‘host’ the content, but many users to have access to the content.  If the movie industry wanted to bust you for downloading illegal movies, the authorities would have to prove that you have a bunch of illegal movies on your hard-drive.  Popcorn Time avoids the step of actual possession of the illegal content and restricts it to people who are comfortable sharing the content (likely because they are over seas).

After being taken down one week after it went live, Popcorn Time got a new home.  Popcorn Time’s original incarnation was never intended to stay up for an extended period of time.  It was created as more of a statement that something was broken with Hollywood.  Take a moment and read what the guys have to say here.  They eloquently articulate their grievances with the movie industry.  And they hit the nail on the head.

…the movie industry has way too many ridiculous restrictions on way too many markets. Take Argentina for example: streaming providers seem to believe that “There’s Something About Mary” is a recent movie. That movie would be old enough to vote here.”

They go on to say:

Piracy is not a people problem. It’s a service problem. A problem created by an industry that portrays innovation as a threat to their antique recipe to collect value. It seems to everyone that they just don’t care.”

As stated previously, Popcorn Time now has new home.  Due to the nature of the opensource software, it is likely here to stay.

This ushers in a new section for the debate. For years Hollywood has claimed that it was being hurt by piracy, yet they posted record profits in 2011, 2012, and 2013.  As it turns out, 2013 was a record breaking year for the movie industry – in spite of prolific piracy of top films.  Over the past couple of years multiple studies have shown that piracy has not hurt Hollywood.  Yet most of the people inside Hollywood cling to the notion that they are being hurt by Piracy*, despite evidence to the contrary.  They carry with them this ‘us versus them‘ worldview that represents a distance between the people producing the art and the audience that consumes it.  This is the same audience that drives the innovation of consumption.   As pointed out by Popcorn Time, Hollywood’s negative view of innovation actually hurts them (and is more harmful in general).  It robs Hollywood of creative opportunities to capitalize on their content in a productive and lucrative way.  Without Napster exposing the music industry’s lack of innovation, you don’t get iTunes, Pandora, and Spotify.  Popcorn Time, much like Napster, has just exposed a way to make a major avenue of content consumption more easily and readily available.

In reality, copying doesn’t hurt anybody.

The major problem that I have with the entire visual media industry is their desire to cling to antiquated notions of the industry’s business model.  It’s great that HBO was among the first networks to offer their content online within their control (HBO GO), but why remain tethered to the cable netwoks?  Cut the cable out of the equation and offer it like Hulu or Netflix.  (It seems logical that this is tied to contracts and relationships with TimeWarner, etc.)  If HBO offered GO as a stand alone service for, say $20 a month, but only $15 through cable, their subscription base would increase greatly.  They could take advantage of the millions of people downloading Game of Thrones and other shows.  According to that article, GoT is downloaded nearly twice as much as the other top pirated shows. That is a major market from which HBO could make tons of money (for new awesome shows!) if they open up HBO GO as an a la carte option.  To be fair, I’m sure they have their financial reasons for only going through cable, but as the internet climate changes, we can hope that maybe HBO will adjust their business model as well.

On a larger scale (and a tangent), it would be ideal if you could pick and choose your cable channels (I want AMC, HBO, Comedy Central, but no Bravo!, no O!, no MTV, etc.) and pay for only those channels.  That’s another derivative of the industry that is holding on to an outdated business model instead of giving people what they want.  But that’s where the web is trending anyway with this concept of digital piracy.  Effectively, people are saying, ‘Why pay for all this crap that I don’t watch when I only want these 11 shows?’  Now people can and are cutting out Cable.  The problem is that both Cable and the Movie Industry want to control what you – the paying consumer – get.  The democratization of the internet is gradually putting a stop to this.  People know what they want and want control over what they get.  If Hollywood relaxes their bogus restrictions on what gets released where and when and what people in other countries can and cannot watch, piracy drops some.  If cable provides more legal ways for people to get to the content that they want, (like iTunes did with music), piracy drops again.  We – the consumers – want to support our shows and movies and musicians.  We are ferociously passionate about our culture because we use it to identify ourselves.  This passion of culture is deeply human, and the passion of our individual identity is embedded within our American beliefs and individualistic way of life.  Restricting it will only result in people finding ‘nefarious’ ways of obtaining it, and it’s the industry that looses the potential money and, as a reaction, creates enemies out of it’s lifeblood.



*Suggested reading: First this then the reply

To date, one of the best arguments for copying being used to to create new things is the little well done movie below.  It clearly illustrates the hypocrisy of some major copyright holders and shows how copyrights can sometimes hurt our culture as a whole.  Sit back and enjoy.






Ultimate Guide to proper food and drinks during St. Patrick’s Day

With everyone’s favorite green themed holiday right around the corner, it’s time to review the proper food and drinks in which you must indulge on this most festive intro to spring.  Certain beers and Irish Whiskeys will be on sale at your local supermarket, so use this guide to plan accordingly, shop smart, and take confidence that you have the power to be a better bartender this year than that dude who kept skipping over you last year.

Your shopping list:

  • Guinness. LOTS and LOTS of delicious, smooth, rich & creamy Guinness.  Not only will you use it for cooking, but there are a myriad of ways to enjoy the quintessential Irish Stout.  And it’s usually on sale prior to St. Paddy’s day. (Jewel in Chicago has 8 pack pint cans for $11.99)
  • Two Gingers.  Usually about this time college kids and the odd high school student will start jumping up and down on the Jameson bandwagon causing you to spill your drink and get irate. This is where you’re maturity sets you apart from the novices.  Two Gingers is a smooth and refined Irish Whiskey imported from Ireland.  It’s not as sweet as Jameson and usually a dollar or two cheaper, but this does not mean that it is of a lessor quality.  I find it to be much better. And it’s a great whiskey to use in an Irish coffee. (Bushmill’s if you have some extra spending cash is also on the preferred list.)
  • Harp Lager.  You need this to pair with your Guinness for a proper Black and Tan.  And to drink in case your guests drink you out of Guinness.  But they shouldn’t because you paid attention to the first point on the list and got A LOT.
  • Baileys Irish Cream. Or something similar.  Just for a good Irish coffee and the different brands taste pretty much the same.  Just stick with the original flavor.  Going into the weeds might leave you wishing you didn’t.
  • Ginger ale or ginger beer.  LIMES.
  • Corned beef. The leaner the better.
  • Cabbage. One head should be plenty, but cutting it is going to be a bitch. Find a good YouTube video that shows you how and watch that first.
  • Red potatoes. Carrots. Onions. 1,000 island. Rye bread.
  • Anything else that good recipe you found on google calls for.  Every year we do one corned beef in the crock pot and one in the oven.  We add about a can or two of Guinness to each and it turns out awesome.  I’ll be eating corned beef sandwiches for a week and it’s the greatest thing ever.  I love it and I never look back.  I’m getting hungry now just thinking about it.

The big thing is to start the food prep early. I’d even go so far as to suggest peeling the carrots and cutting up the red potatoes the night before and putting them in the fridge.  It takes work and time (oh no!!), but the pay off is absolutely worth it and the way your house smells is awesome. It adds a something extra to the holiday that you really can’t buy or recreate in any other way.  And never, ever drink on an empty stomach.

Feel free to completely lose it once you see real bag pipes.

Feel free to completely lose it once you see real bag pipes.

The Celebration

Get the food ready and throw it into the oven and/or slow cooker.

Then have breakfast.  Corned beef hash is usually a good way to go.  Of course you need an Irish coffee to go with it.  It’s going to be a big day, but not without your coffee.

Once you get home (I didn’t expect you to spend the entire day in the kitchen. If your brunch place doesn’t serve drinks, bring your own, just don’t mix the Baileys and Two Gingers in the same container.  And don’t be an idiot about it. It’s far to early in the day to be ejected from an establishment.) mix yourself a Black and Tan. Put on your favorite Irish movie (my list below).  Or put on some good Irish music (Dropkick Murphy’s, Three Irish Tenors, Riverdance whatever floats your boat; there’s plenty to pick from.) Put up the decorations and maybe do an Irish car bomb before everyone arrives.  That’s the extra kick in the pants to get the party started.

After that? Well, I’m from Chicago where St. Patrick’s day is held in more reverence than Thanksgiving and the Super Bowl combined (doesn’t help that Da Bears are rarely, if ever, involved in either one). We have big parades, dye the river green, and general insanity erupts from every tavern and bar in a 30 mile radius.  So, go out, have fun, be safe, dress in green, throw beads, and hope that the weather cooperates.  If you’re at home, use this link to one up that bartender from last year and make some amazing cocktails.  If you stick with the shopping list above you can make a good assortment of drinks.  One of my favorite non-beer drinks is Two Gingers, ginger beer, and lime over ice in a copper mug.

The recipe is a closely guarded secret.  But not the recipe for good times.  You're reading it now!

The recipe for the dye is a closely guarded secret. But not the recipe for good times. You’re reading it now!

Keep in mind, on this celebration of the end of winter, that St. Patrick’s day isn’t about getting obliterated and spewing green.  It’s about getting together with friends and celebrating the many great gifts the Irish immigrants imparted on American culture, and their legacy of hard work and family values.  So drink responsibly, enjoy some great food, and be a good friend to all of those you choose to celebrate this day with and the luck of the Irish will shine upon you. Sláinte! (Pronounced – se-laan-che. Today’s the day to say it!)

Pictured: Not you.

Pictured: Not you. Do not run afoul of the cops on this of all days.  They hand out choke slams like bars hand out drinks and “I can’t breathe” takes on a whole new meaning. 


Rob’s Irish Movie Short List:

The Departed, Boondock Saints, Waking Ned Devine, Grabbers, Gangs of New York, The Quiet Man.

Rob’s Irish Music Short List:

Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly (fav album: Behind the Green Door), The Three Irish Tenors,  Thin Lizzy, The Tossers (they’re from Chicago!), The Dubliners.