From today, you can download a newly-released feature film through any one of a number of peer-to-peer networks. That’s not news, obviously, because that happens every day of the year, with both new and old movies and television content finding its way on them. But there’s one big difference this time, the filmmakers are happy about it.
Millions of people now use torrent trackers to search-for and obtain copies of content they want, be it in the form of movies, television episodes, music, or whatever. It has to be said, a fair proportion of this content being shared is having its copyright infringed upon, and in that sense, is being illegally obtained.
A Question Of Legality
The majority of people don’t see piracy as being wrong, and The Pirate Bay has recently defended itself in court by arguing it is doing nothing wrong by being one of the links in the chain that allows it to happen. But the actions are illegal by virtue of most countries’ laws.
Let us not forget however that a lot of the content shared over the Internet is being shared legally, with no copyright infringement taking place. A year ago this month, we detailed how the Norwegian broadcaster, NRK, chose to distribute its show, Nordkalotten 365, via BitTorrent. The experiment to use P2P as a distribution tool was regarded as a complete success.
Blank, On DVD and Torrent
Now, according to TorrentFreak, some filmmakers are following suit. Blank is a new movie directed by Rick L. Winters and his company, Annodam Productions. The film is now available to buy on DVD, but at the same time, Winters and his team are placing Blank on to BitTorrent as well.
Blank tells the story of a child who having witnessed the murder of his parents grows up to seek revenge on the killers. So far, so uninteresting. What makes Blank unique is the way the movie has been financed, with each member of the cast and crew accepting a deferred percentage of the film’s profits.
Spare Some Change?
Winters claims to have received various distribution offers from Hollywood but chose to strike out on his own in order to avoid the money being nabbed by a corporation who had nothing to do with the movie. Consequently, while the DVD of Blank is now available at $14.99, the film is also free to download on Mininova and the like, with the blessing of the whole cast and crew.
In a similar move to how Radiohead distributed In Rainbows, viewers who download, watch, and enjoy the movie are being asked to donate what they feel the movie is worth to them. Any money obtained in this way will be used to finance the next production.
Beating The Pirates
This is ingenious purely because there’s a high probability that Blank would have been pirated anyway. What Winters and his team have done is just beat the pirates to the punch by offering it legitimately. There will obviously be many people who download the movie and choose not to make a donation, but that is their choice, and one a risk Winters is clearly prepared to take.
I cannot see this kind of deal being embraced by Hollywood anytime soon, but for independent filmmakers who don’t necessarily want to deal with the big players, it opens up a whole new world of possibilities. Blank won’t make Annodam Productions as much money as it would have if it had been given a theatrical release, but this is a company looking to the future, and for that, it should be applauded.