Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Are Film Censors Going To Far?

Turning 18 is a right of passage here in the UK - but when you do enter into adulthood your usually presented with a few new opportunities in life. The most anticipated of which is going down the local for a pint, where you can proudly present your I.D. - rather than quiver at the thought of hearing those dreaded letters!

However another less thought of "life opportunity", is the ability to watch 18 certificate horrors and other movie genre. As an adult we are given the right to watch what we want, when we want - however this isn't always the case...

The BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) is the body that is responsible for what we the public are eventually allowed to see. They bare the power to have film content cut and re-spliced (to exclude scenes that are deemed unacceptable for public viewing), or they may choose to reject a film for classification altogether!

One of the more recent instances where the BBFC have chosen to exercise this power was witnessed with the Japanese horror "Grotesque". The film was declined an 18 certification due to its "unacceptable content" which was reported to be "little more than an unrelenting and escalating scenario of humiliation, brutality and sadism".

Declining a certificate is kept as a last resort, and the board will usually opt to cut excessively graphic, or offensive content. In this instances the BBFC's director David Cooke said that cutting the film "was not a viable option", due to the extreme nature of the film.

Some are now asking why the BBFC still chooses to mollycoddle us Brits? The horror portrayed on the big screen is universally recognised as fictional, and most people are educated enough to understand this. A 16 year old can opt to fight in war for they're country - where I'm sure real-life and on-screen violence doesn't begin to compare!

Decisions of this nature seem so frivolous in today's online society. The true hardcore horror geek will not be stopped by the likes of the BBFC, and I'm sure we'll see people in they're thousands turning to internet sources to fulfil they're need for fictional blood and gore. The BBFC needs to recognise that people are living in an age where they can see almost anything they want whenever they want - just by the click of a few buttons.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

How online TV and Movie copyright infringment could be made a thing of the past...

Over the last year or so, I can not recall a week going by where I wasn't presented with yet another newspaper article concerning a case of copyright infringement, where it is usually a confused and frightened looking teenager or university student, who has unfortunately come up against the big boys... Most of them end up getting slammed with ridiculously high fines, that they couldn't ever hope to pay off in they're lifetime! Leaving them starting life looking down the path of bankruptcy...

Although these high-profile and very public cases are meant to ward off others from infringing on copyright, people continue to seek out Movies and TV Shows online. Where do they often end up? Well...Its most likely on a site hosting the content illegally or they will download it onto they're computer
through some peer-to-peer software, for viewing offline.

Often these videos are hosted by a company outside of copyright jurisdiction, they can be of low quality and do not have appropriate licensing agreements in place for that content - ultimately resulting in lost revenue to the production company or royalty owners.

There are two major problems that need to be addressed by a company seeking to host TV Shows and Movies legally. The first is storing and delivering the content, which often means astronomical fees for 100's of Terabytes or even Petabytes of Storage space (1 terabyte = 1024 gigabytes) and high speed, reliable and unlimited bandwidth connectivity. If you manage to find a way over this hurdle then you are often limited by the second problem, the TV/Movie industry itself!

It is such an arduous task to license content legally
The process is outdated and needs streamlining for today's on demand society. At this very moment production companies and royalty owners are losing out on a lot of money, for content that they created and paid for! In my opinion there is a way out - there looks to be such a simple solution - "Pay-Per-View Revenue Sharing Agreements".

An auditable system is put in place that accurately records if a viewer watches all of a TV Show/Movie (where all might be contracted to mean 80% of the video was viewed) and the system will also record instances where the content is only part viewed. Video advertising is placed at the beginning of the content and at pre-determined intervals in the video (e.g. every 15 minutes). For each advert viewed both the host and copyright owner share advertising revenue - at an agreed upon percentage.

Theoretical Projection of Earnings

NOTE: These are actual view count figures off a popular video links site and the film was chosen at random.
  • Film: Jaws (1975)
  • Film Length: 130 minutes
  • View Count: 38,537
Of this view count lets say:-
  • 60% watched whole movie: 23, 122
  • 20% watched half the movie: 7,707
  • 10% a quarter of the movie: 3,854
  • 10% chose to turn it off soon after the first adverts: 3,854
Now lets do a revenue projection for adverts shown to a customers who watched the whole movie:-
  • 15 second Ad impression cost: $0.25c
  • Adverts per ad break: 2
  • Ad break shown at start, then every: 15 minutes
  • Number of ad breaks based on film length: 9
  • Total for Film: $4.50
Revenue generated by customers who watched half the movie:-
  • Number of ad breaks based on 1/2 watched film: 4
  • Total for 1/2 watched Film: $2.00
Revenue generated by customers who watched a quarter of the movie:-
  • Number of ad breaks based on 1/4 watched film: 2
  • Total for 1/4 watched Film: $1.00
Revenue generated by customers who left soon after the movie started (So would have only watched the introduction ad break):-
  • Number of ad breaks: 1
  • Total for 1/4 watched Film: $0.50
Now lets say an agreement is made for a generous 50:50 revenue share:-
  • Total income for film: $125,244
  • Split revenue: $62,622
This is just one film with a below average view count for the site the figure was extracted from. Many movies show view counts of 100'000+ - Significant revenue is being lost to copyright infringement. If we just look at 100 movies, using the above estimates - a potential $6 million doesn't make it to the movie production companies...if not much more when you start to look at films who's view counts are significantly higher!

With the advent of high speed fibre-optic connectivity in the home, the amount of people turning to on-demand internet video is only set to increase - I do not want to see content makers losing out!

There are solutions that could help prevent copyright infringement and offer a real revenue stream back to the copyright owners - the industry just needs to adapt to them!

Vextor.TV - Just a small cog in the machine that is the internet...

Undoubtedly you've never heard of Vextor.TV, so I think the most appropriate step forward would be to tell you who and what we are. So firstly, looking at the who part - the we back there is me, and the me is Kai, and a sci-fi fan and computer geek. (Sounds a bit like an AA meeting confession).

About 6 months ago I wanted to try and set-up a community driven and open-source, video links database - for TV Shows, Movie's, Cartoons, Animé and Documentaries - except I wanted one that would give back to its users by rewarding them with a little money for submitting links; rather than a site that cashes in on peoples well spent time and effort link hunting. As an idea this was great but when it came down to actually coding this thing, the task became more difficult than originally anticipated. Undeterred I have ploughed on little-by-little and am now almost ready to release the source code to the public. The plan is that this release will be a stepping-stone to drive this project forward with community based input, and allow it to grow.

Site's of this nature currently have a lot of pop-up/under advertising or intrusive overlays that can dampen the users experience, hence Vextor.TV will only ever have non-intrusive on page adverts - enough to cover the cost of hosting, maintaining the site and giving back to the community; I am not out to make millions!

So, that's the project summarised... Everything should be live within the next month - hopefully by September, but depending on testing and tweaking requirements might be October 1st (No later than this).

Public Request For Help
I am currently looking for people that want to do some testing and/or participate in the development of Vextor.TV, being an open-source project all credit will be granted where credit is due! If you are interested please e-mail blog [at] vextor [dot] tv (Without spaces and [at]="@", [dot]=".") or Click Here to visit the forum.