I wanted to write something about SOPA/PIPA, but it seemed like it could turn into this epic essay on artistic property and politics and censorship, and frankly, I don't have the strength to write something that massive, so instead, I just want to confess to taking advantage of piracy, and also make a comment about how I feel about my own work, and hopefully try to tie the two together.
I'm a film buff.
A huge film buff.
Every year when the Oscar nominations come out, I make sure to see everything that's nominated.
Okay, that's not entirely true.
It starts before the Golden Globe nominations come out.
I usually see everything that could possibly be nominated for a Golden Globe in any potential category.
That means I will sit through A Dangerous Method simply because Viggo Mortensen received a Best Supporting Actor nomination, and he might also be nominated for an Oscar.
This is the level of my obsession.
And every year, I find at least one film requires me taking advantage of piracy.
How, you ask?
Well, inevitably, every year, one film does not come to any of the theaters in my little state of Rhode Island.
This year, that movie is Shame.
Maybe it's because it's a film about a sex addict with full-frontal male nudity (full-frontal male nudity gets you an NC-17, but breasts and vaginas get you an R rating--does that seem fair? We'll discuss that some other day if we haven't already) but for whatever reason, it's probably going to hit the major cinemas anytime soon, and we only have two independent film theaters here in Providence (Granted more than other places have, I'm not trying to sound ungrateful) but they might not get around to hosting Shame at all.
That means I have to try and find it online.
Now, I could just wait until it comes out on video and watch it on Netflix, but if you're suggesting that, you clearly don't understand how much I enjoy watching the Oscars knowing I've seen every nominated performance so I can wax rhapsodic about who deserves to win, who got snubbed, whose genitalia is most attractive, etc.
Besides, by the time it reaches Netflix, how much am I really paying the original owners of the "intellectual property" to see it? I stream Netflix for $7.99 a month. How much of THAT actually goes to the "artists" who make the films?
(See? Already I'm justifying--I'm absolving myself. This is wrong, I know that, but--)
--But the thing is--
(Now I'm jumping in and out of parentheses. All Hell has broken loose.)
--The thing is, I really, really want to see this movie, and not just because I'm an Oscar nut, but because I love and appreciate film, and the movie looks gorgeous (as does Michael Fassbender, but let's not get off-topic).
If I lived in or near a city where this movie was playing, I'd happily pay to see it in a theater, but unfortunately, I don't.
(Okay, it's playing in Boston, but I'm a Rhode Islander, which means Boston is a day-trip. Well, not really, but it seems a little silly to go to Boston just to see one movie. I could go to the aquarium as well I suppose, but--argh, off track again--)
I have to watch it online.
I have to.
I don't believe in stealing, but it's that or not experience the work at all, because by the time it comes out on video, it just won't be the same. The buzz and excitement will have passed. I'll be on to bigger and better things--like, you know, a Transformers sequel.
(Here's where I segue into a statement about my own work.)
I put everything I write online. I've been warned about this many time. "Someone might steal your work" they say. (That mysterious "they.")
To me, there's two kinds of stealing.
1) Taking something I've written and claiming that it's your own.
Yes, this is wrong. This would anger me.
2) Taking something I've written and publishing it or posting it somewhere else or memorizing it and using it for an audition or reading it in public and giving me credit but not paying me for it.
This, and I say this honestly, THIS--I have no problem with.
Because it's more important for me to get my work out there.
As an artist, first and foremost, I want my work out there. I want people to enjoy it. I want people to experience it. I want them to hear it and read it and embrace it.
If they can pay me for that, great. If they can't, I still want them to have access to it.
If I made a movie about sex addiction with lots of full-frontal male nudity (and I plan on making one next month) then I'd want people to see it. No, I wouldn't (ideally) want someone to pirate the film and cheat me out of money for it, but if there was some kid in Rhode Island or Nebraska or Moscow or Mars who wanted to see the movie and couldn't get to it via the usual channels (their local cinemas) then I'd say "Screw it. Get to it any way you can. Because I'm proud of it and I want people who are going to appreciate it to experience it."
(Admittedly, this communal way of thinking about art may come from the fact that I work in a library. The idea of buying art seems awfully subjective when you work at a place where a book is bought once and read by hundreds of people. Is that piracy? Is giving a CD to a friend to listen to piracy? Then why is burning a CD piracy? The whole thing just seems so subjective. Again, I realize I'm rationalizing and muddying the waters, but--should artists really be this comfortable throwing around legalese. I know we want to have ourselves be taken seriously and our work taken seriously, but, I'm sorry, my work is not the same as a scientific theory or a piece of actual property. It's art. It's tricky. Anyway--)
I hate to quote Bono here, but when someone asked him how he felt about music piracy on the Internet he said something to the effect that he was glad more people were hearing his music and that he's "already overpaid anyway." Now, granted, that's easy for Bono to say, but regardless of that, it's kind of the right idea.
If you could have a million people listen to a song you wrote or look at a painting you'd done or watch a movie you'd made, but you were told that only a tenth of those people were going to pay you for it, would you say--
"Well, no, sorry."
Would you turn down that level of exposure on some sort of principle?
That just seems crazy to me.
Ideally, yes, we should all be paid for everything we do, but there's a reason the word "ideally" means what it means.
And what about people who simply can't afford to see even one movie? I'm pretty lucky to be able to call myself a film buff and traipse off to the movies four times a week, but what about those who can't and want to? They should be denied art--be it film or music or theater--because of their financial status?
That just doesn't seem right to me.
I understand that I shouldn't take advantage of piracy, and there's a part of me that feels ashamed that I do, but there's another part of me that thinks the most important part of art is not how much money it can yield you, but how many people it can reach.
I hope I can one day get paid on a regular basis for what I do, but until that day--
I just want people to know I do it.
The Broccoli Blog
- Providence, Rhode Island, United States
- July 19
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