If you own the rights to premium content, someone is going to make money off it online. It's up to you to make sure you're the one getting paid. Last night I finally caught up on Season 2 of True Blood. I had watched Season 1 via good old fashioned Netflix DVDs, but since the most recent season's episodes aren't on Netflix, iTunes, or available on HBO's website, I had relied on visits to my girlfriend's house to get caught up on this season, via her cable TV's "on demand."
But here I was at my home this weekend: No HBO on demand (not even cable, actually) and a need to watch the remaining four episodes. All I had was an Internet connection and a deep desire to watch this "premium" content.
In the end, I watched all the episodes I needed to, and very happily paid $10 to do so. However, the episodes I watched weren't legally licensed, and the $10 I paid will never make its way back to HBO, the producers of True Blood, its actors, writers, make-up artists or anyone else who worked tirelessly on creating some wonderful and gripping TV.
No, last night I paid $10 to MegaVideo.com, a YouTube-like site where anyone can upload content, not restricted by length, and share it with the world.
MegaVideo, for its efforts, charges its users $10 a month for unlimited streaming of content on its site (first 75 minutes a day are free, which is fine if you're not watching multiple shows like I was).
And how does MegaVideo get away with this? In short: legal adherence to DMCA laws mixed with a community of uploaders and hyperlinkers colluding to help everyone (including the viewer) get away with it.
Here's how it works: When an episode of True Blood is uploaded to MegaVideo it usually comes with very little metadata which is searchable on the site itself, so it's tough to catch content pirates at upload; but, TV link bloggers, like WatchTrueBlood.com, "somehow" come across links to the now uploaded content and curate pages of links to the episode. Often they have to post dozens of links, as episodes are frequently taken down precisely due to DMCA claims.
So there you are. As often foretold, where there is a will, there is a way. And there is a will to see premium content on the web -- a will which brought someone to upload the four episodes I was looking for, a will for someone to then link to them, and a will for me to pay $10 to view them all.
Where there was no will -- or not enough of it -- was on the part of the original rights holders of the content, who had the opportunity to make the content available to me legally, and for money, but either chose not to or (less likely) couldn't muster the business force to pull it off.
Whether with TV shows or movie clips, legal, revenue-generating markets for content needs to thrive. Hulu is thriving with a lot of broadcast TV's premium content; Blip.tv is thriving with most of the world's independent content creators' shows; and Netflix is thriving making a market for an increasing, yet still limited amount of Hollywood's movies.
One of our goals at AnyClip is to bring this same level of justice to the movie clip market, where it's already demonstrated there's a will among consumers to upload and view movie clips as an astounding rate. Now we're trying to create a way to make that a better experience, while helping the rights holders get paid.