Steal This Film

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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 Wine.com. Boo to them!)