Encouraging Piracy Brick By Brick

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Treat your customers like dirt, that'll work right?

Update 12th March 2014: All the commented out release dates mentioned below have now mysteriously reappeared. No explanation has been given and the dates don’t seem to have changed so what the hell was the point Warner Brother/Roadshow?

About a month I had a rant about the fact the LEGO Movie wasn’t being released in Australia for two months after it was released in the US and most of the rest of the world. Now a month out from that supposed release date (April 3rd) I went back to check the release dates page only to find the release dates for Australia and New Zealand have vanished.

As in completely vanished. Gone. Vamoosed. Not even listed. Feed into a mulcher. No longer visible. Not rescheduled, just utterly gone. A quick check of the source code for the page finds they have been entirely commented out:


A further breeze through shows Australia and New Zealand aren’t the only ones to get this treatment. Release dates for Singapore, Cyprus and Greece have all been purged as well. There is no explanation as to why or even a vague indicator of if this means the movie will be delayed any further. The Australian distributor, Roadshow Films, doesn’t even list the movie on their website. Village Cinemas (part of Roadshow) still lists the release date as being the 3rd of April but who knows how accurate that is.

So yeah this is just a movie. In the grand scheme of things not much to get worked up about. But to my mind the purposeful delay in release (April 3rd lines up with school holidays) and the vanishing release dates from the official page are all part of a systemic disease in the media distributors mind of it being OK to screw over your audience because you can’t adapt to changing markets.

Australia in world wide terms is a tiny, tiny audience. We’ll never be to argue on terms of scale to get things the same day as the larger markets. Having said that informing viewers they may have to wait two months (or more!) to get the same content that everyone else has seen, in some cases many times over, you end up driving them into a mindset of it being OK to “steal” a copy from elsewhere.

This is especially relevant at this time as the Australian Attorney General has made it quite clear that he expects Australian ISPs to implement a “voluntary anti-piracy” system much like that which has been implemented in other countries (with questionable success). There are many powerful lobby groups in Australia working on the behalf of media distributors that cry loudly and persistently about those evil downloading Australians.

Much focus is given to how Australians are the biggest pirates in the world (probably true on a per capita basis) but the lobbyists insist on demanding hard to enforce penalties and further copyright restrictions as being the answer. Questions about  difficulty in legally acquiring media content in a timely or cost efficient manner is barely ever entered into or, like in most cases, ignored entirely.

For the most part if you offer media in a timely and at a reasonable cost people will pay for it. There will always be some that “pirate” the material and the chances of changing their mindsets are minimal in the extreme. These media distributors are effectively encouraging otherwise entirely law abiding customers into pirates by, quite frankly, being dicks. Sorry I’ve tried to think of a better terms but I just can’t.

I know Australia is a tiny market but please LEGO, please Warner Brothers Pictures and Roadshow Films, please don’t keep being dicks to us. We have money. We want to give it to you. But you are making it exceptionally hard by being dicks. The LEGO Movie will undoubtedly rake in the cash when it finally does release here but you would have made just as much, if not more, if you had just released in the same week (or within a few weeks) of the US release date.

The fact I could have essentially watched the entire movie through the various behind the scenes snippets that have been released combined with the fact the movie was actually made in Australia is just further evidence of being dicks. Just remember, every time you’re a dick to Australian audiences you are encouraging piracy brick by brick.

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