Australia tends to get rooked a lot. From overpriced and long-delayed video games (that until recently their government would ban), to high-priced electronics, their complaints tend to be a mixture of the realities of living on an isolated continent with a sparse population, and legitimate grievances.
Today’s tale comes closer to the latter. For some reason, Australia was getting Game of Thrones a week later than the US did, so naturally impatient fans in Australia turned to less-than-legal, but seven-day-faster sources of seeing the show. Thankfully, the wait has now been reduced to just a few hours, but unfortunately it’s too late for a lot of people.
The result is that Australia is one of the top piracy locations for the show, a fact that ruffles the features of US Ambassador Jeffrey Bleich, who has pleaded with the pirates to cease and desist in a Facebook post:
So because today is the 17th annual UN World Book and Copyright Day, it is worth reflecting on why piracy is not some victimless crime. A show like Game of Thrones takes a lot of work and talent by many artists to create. These artists can do this work only if we ensure that they are rewarded for their labors. Production companies are no different. Entire industries exist to locate artists, provide them a forum for their works, arrange contracts, record, promote, and sell their works, and free artists from doing other things – like waiting tables and parking cars in Hollywood – by paying them for their efforts. Here in Australia about 8% of the workforce works in the copyright industries and depends on people obeying the law – not to mention the artists in Ireland, Malta, Croatia, Iceland, and Morocco, where the series is filmed, who depend on fans obeying the law.
While his message is likely to fall on deaf ears and instigate flame wars, Bleich does have a point. Thrones’ Australian licensee isn’t the only one to learn that, in the age of the internet, holding back entertainment is stupid and counterproductive. It’s something HBO already seems to be addressing, although apparently not quickly enough.
Piracy seems to be having more and more interesting effects on content distribution these days: not only are most movies now coming out at the same time around the world (if anything, the US is often late in getting big blockbuster releases, as studios try to beat overseas piracy by releasing films early in foreign markets), but the old trend of releasing sci-fi and fantasy programming overseas in complete season blocks, while US viewers saw 10 episodes in the fall, and then the back 10 in the spring, is thankfully a thing of the past. Shows like Sliders, Stargate SG-1 and Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica are just a few examples of shows whose seasons would finish airing overseas before the mid-season cliffhanger would be resolved in the states. Thank to internet piracy, this is no longer the case, and everyone has to wait the same horrible amount of time.
At any rate, Bleich heartfelt call for the end of Game of Thrones piracy is a noble one, but not one shared by HBO’s Michael Lombardo, who sees the piracy as a “compliment of sorts.”