Steal This Film


When I first met my friend Alan Toner in Rome in 2003, he was always toting around this oversized backpack that contained both a laptop and a digital video camera, and possibly a change of clothes. Last year, our paths crossed at VinItaly in Verona and we had a hilarious escapade on foot and bus through the suburbs trying to track down Critical Wine’s annual convergence.

At some point Alan told me about a documentary film he’d put together with two other friends called “Steal This Film”. Their film used the temporary shut down of the Pirate Bay in Norway to explore the complexities surrounding networked file-sharing and the distribution of content, particularly music and movies. Naturally, “Steal This Film” was available exclusively as a peer-to-peer download for free (although donations were accepted). In a relatively short period, it had been downloaded over 3 million times.

The group’s second effort, “Steal This Film II”, takes the ideas from the first film and seeks to look at the conflicts over the distribution of content via file sharing in a historical context. Think the introduction of the printing press and you’ll get the point. While I personally believe that content like music and movies is worth paying for, I harbor no loyalty towards the the antiquated distribution systems in place to distribute such content. There are major signs that this system is quickly disintegrating and what will emerge to take its place is anyone’s guess. Oh, Internet magic. To draw a more a vinous analogy, consider the three-tier liquor distribution system in the United States. Will anyone really miss that? Come to think of it, the three-tier system would be missed: See the comments section for more.

Download “Steal This Film II”

(Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing has a short write up of “Steal This Film II” here.)

(UPDATE: For another perspective on the implosion of the recording industry/RIAA, check out this article at the financial advice site Motley Fool. To wit: “…a good sign of a dying industry that investors might want to avoid is when it would rather litigate than innovate, signaling a potential destroyer of value. If it starts to pursue paying customers — which doesn’t seem that outlandish at this point — then I guess we’ll all know the extent of the desperation. Investor, beware.” Alder over at Vinography linked to this article in the comments thread to his excellent post on a recent shifty sting operation set up by Boo to them!)

3 thoughts on “Steal This Film

  1. Imagine a city like Houston. It’s December 3rd and there are 64,000 cases of wine, beer and spirits, waiting to be delivered that morning by one of the 2 large distributors. Now triple that amount. Around 190,000 – the amount that adds up to, with all the distributors in play

    Now imagine FedEx, UPS, USPS and DHL being able to deliver those boxes along with everything else they have to deliver. Keep in mind anything delivered to a hotel or restaurant will need to be delivered at a particular time. And if anything needs to be delivered to a supermarket (if they still will be part of the mix when the three-tier system is no longer) they usually want product before 6 AM. And if beer or quality wine is being delivered it will have to go on a temperature controlled truck. More important in July but in some parts of the world, in December, those trucks will need to be heated. Do you think the USPS will buy those trucks? Who will pay for them?

    Now imagine that scenario all through the month of December, when other packages, mail, etc are being delivered. And imagine that happening in Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, and all the other large cities across the US. Then imagine NYC where you can multiply the 190,000 cases by at least a factor of 5.

    That could be part of the New World Order, sans the three-tier system.

  2. Alfonso, thanks for bringing this up, especially the issue of temperature controlled delivery trucks — UPS, FEDEX, etc, would never buy those. And yes, you’re right to point to the logistical complexities of servicing a large city with its wine and liquor. You most certainly know better about those than I do. (I’ll admit to having my head in the clouds sometimes).

    Rather than doing away with the three-tier, perhaps what the Internet adds to the wine world is a fourth tier, which is enhanced access to a multitude of information (easy one there) and expanded sourcing opportunities for both consumers and members of the trade?

    Different issue entirely, but one thing I would like to see in the next few years on an urban scale at least, is a delivery company using trucks that run on something other than fossil fuels. Again, an innovation that would be better introduced by a company that’s part of the current model of distribution, or at least familiar with how and why it works.

    Anyway, thanks for your comment–much appreciated!

  3. Wolfgang

    That is a great idea! If we could get a large company to convert all their unsaleable wine (that which would be destroyed) into some form of usable fuel, wouldn’t that be a better use? I’m talking cooked, maderized, spent wines, that normally go to the dump.

    Hmmm… I have a project….thanks

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