Piracy is winning. I know that’s the opposite of most people’s view, after the past year. It’s been one that saw the United States government shutting down Megaupload, and SOPA, PIPA, and ACTA pass or come close to doing so through various governmental bodies. American media conglomerates have tightened their hold on their content; now in many cases we have to wait anywhere from weeks to months for new television episodes or movie releases to appear on Netflix, Redbox, or Hulu.
So how on earth can I say that piracy is winning? I’ll admit there are many steps being taken backwards; Hollywood especially seems determined to force media consumption to work around increasingly outdated business models. But change is taking place in one area, and that’s nothing to be sniffed at. If you’re feeling optimistic, as I often am, you can even call it winning. Piracy is helping increase our access to international media.
Think about it: this year for the first time a new season of Doctor Who debuted in the U.S., Canada, and Australia, on the same day as in the U.K. The rumblings for Misfits season 4 indicate that something similar might happen there as well (though no specific dates have been mentioned for either U.K. or U.S. release yet). Yes, we have to wait longer for shows contracted to air on PBS (Sherlock, Downton Abbey), but that doesn’t diminish how huge the Doctor Who thing is, and the fact that it might, if we’re lucky, become a trendsetter.
British content isn’t the only international media to start making it to our shores in a short span of time. Episodes of many of the biggest Korean dramas appear – subtitled already, no less! – on Hulu within days of their airing in Korea. Sometimes we even get episodes the day after they air in Korea, as fast (and sometimes faster) of a turnaround as we get for American television on Hulu. More than ever before are available; when I first started watching kdramas two years ago Hulu only had about four of them, and now it offers dozens.
We’re even seeing it with movies: the Internet is giving us wider access to international films, and in some cases we’re getting them within a year of their release in their own countries. I’m a trailer addict; I love watching previews of movies on sites like Apple or Yahoo. I’ve been doing this for nearly a decade, and I’ve noticed in the past two years that a ton of the international films for which I see trailers are popping up on streaming sites like Netflix and Amazon. Before, I’d have to trek to an indie theater in a city to see them, or buy the DVD online.
The fact of the matter is: the tide is turning. More media is being made available faster. It might not be Hollywood media, but it’s fantastic content. If you’re just looking for entertainment, there’s a world at your fingertips.
I’d rather watch the best of the content from around the world than fight with Hollywood over all of its television and movies. International media is something different, it’s often of high quality (dispelling the myth that the only good stuff comes out of Hollywood), and through it I’m learning about other cultures, which is awesome. And now, I can find a ton of it for free or for a small fee, right away, online.
One thing should be made clear: I’m not saying that I think international media companies are more forward-thinking than Hollywood. Maybe they are, or maybe they aren’t, but they’re still companies, and their end goal will always be to make money. They’re being free with their content because it gives them a foothold in America.
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