Norway’s public broadcaster launches BitTorrent tracker

NRK Tyholt Tower by Fredrik Thommesen
NRK Tyholt Tower by Fredrik Thommesen

“NRK, Norway’s public broadcaster, has decided that its BitTorrent distribution experiment has gone so well that the company will launch its own tracker in order to distribute its programming. Norway’s commitment to openness means that the files are DRM-free and even available for fansubbing.” –  Norway’s public broadcaster launches BitTorrent tracker.

Several public broadcasters have experimented with BitTorrent as a distribution platform.  The example that comes to mind for me is the CBC distributing Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister on BitTorrent around this time last year.

NRK has taken this a step further and started their own tracker to distribute programming and get some sense of the analytics.  Granted, one of the main reasons NRK can do this is because 94% of their revenue comes from a licensing fee paid by television owners, similar to the system in the UK.

I imagine this is an exciting development for Norwegian ex-patriates, but I wonder how the owners of televisions feel about their fee supporting viewing on computers.  It will be interesting to see if Norway adopts a broadband or computer licensing fee to replace the television licensing fee, or if revenues simply drop as viewers switch from TVs to computers.

Ryan Sohmer Rails Against Internet Regulation

Ryan Sohmer is the author of the wildly succesful webcomics Least I Could Do, and Looking For Group.  His recent post in the LICD forums is a response to the Writer’s Guild of Canada’s calls to begin regulating the internet in Canada, especially in the realm of online video.

“Say what you will about the web, and there is much to be said, it breeds innovation. The reason for that is because it’s non-regulated, because an ass like me can produce whatever he likes, however he likes in an effort to entertain others. The majority of the things we try don’t/won’t/shouldn’t work, but if 1 out of every 100 projects works, that’s a success.” – Ryan Sohmer

excerpted from “Union Woes” – Least I Could Do Forum.

As one of a select few who make their entire living from independently publishing content on the web (and associated merchandise sales), Ryan’s opinion should certainly carry some weight.  

Canadian media has typically been less reactionary in new media intellectual property concerns, with the CBC going so far as to release a DRM-free, high quality version of “Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister” via Bittorrent last March.

Creative Commons Doesn’t Cannibalize Sales

NIN Frontman Trent Reznor (Photo by Capital M)
NIN Frontman Trent Reznor
(Photo by Capital M)

Chris Anderson recently posted “The best selling MP3 album of the year was free” on The Long Tail blog. Apparently, Nine Inch Nails’ Ghosts I-IV was the best selling MP3 album of 2008 despite being released under a Creative Commons license that allowed for free, legal sharing.

The album grossed more than $1.6 million in revenue duing the first week in release.  Creative Commons blog has more:

NIN fans could have gone to any file sharing network to download the entire CC-BY-NC-SA album legally. Many did, and thousands will continue to do so. So why would fans bother buying files that were identical to the ones on the file sharing networks? One explanation is the convenience and ease of use of NIN and Amazon’s MP3 stores. But another is that fans understood that purchasing MP3s would directly support the music and career of a musician they liked.

This would seem to be another big win for proponents of alternative models to the traditional intellectual property attitudes stemming from the physical goods economy.

RIAA Strong-arms ISPs Instead of Customers

Image by chazlarson
Image by chazlarson

TechCrunch today reports that the RIAA is changing tactics:

Instead of dragging music downloaders and file-sharers into court, it has somehow convinced ISPs to take on the role of digital policeman (and jury and judge).

The original story in the Wall Street Journal has full details, but the gist is that the RIAA will provide ISPs with IP addresses of file sharing offenders.  Those offenders (or accused offenders) will be warned and, after three strikes, have their internet service disconnected.

It beats sueing “several single mothers, a dead person and a 13-year-old girl,” but details are unclear as to the appeals process.  At least the court system is set up to handle disputes like this.

The State of Independent Film

It seems fitting to write about the state of independent film on Independence Day (here in the US). Indeed, the topic is not only apropos, but fashionable. Much has been said about Mark Gill’s comments at the LA Film Festival last week. Some agree that the sky is falling, while others take comfort in his optimistic closing remarks. I won’t rehash all of that here, but I want to echo my support for John August’s take on the matter. In his postmortem of The Nines he suggests that success for an independent film is measured not in dollars but eyeballs.

You should make an indie film to make a film. Period. Artistic and commercial success don’t correlate well, and at the moment, only the former is remotely within your control.

So, you make the film you want to make. And because film is your passion, you’re not in it for the money. You’re doing what you love, not shooting for an early retirement. You try to break even, maybe gain enough capital or recognition to make another. So, how many people saw your film? Who heard your story? It’s a different way of looking at success.

Cameraman Image by Elsie esq.
August also writes some about the impact of BitTorrent on the success (financial and otherwise) of The Nines. In the end, he says he would have made the same movie but distributed it differently. This is emblematic of the changing tide in the indie film world. Despite the ever increasing availability of filmmaking tools, the artist’s ability to create an emotional connection with the viewer is as crucial as ever. The arena where technology is truly changing the game is in the methods for putting that story in front of an audience.

Digital distribution opens up avenues of connecting with an audience that weren’t available to independent artists ten, or even five, years ago. So make your film and do it cheaply enough that you don’t have to worry about the money. Then, see how many people you can share your story with. And throughout the process, revel in your independence.

John August on BitTorrent

John August, well-known writer (also Producer/Director), has several posts on his blog about his latest movie, The Nines, appearing on BitTorrent.

In chronological order (edit: fixed links):
The Nines on BitTorrent
More on the Torrents

In the most recent one, he attributes a rise in popularity of the film on IMDB to the proliferation of the film on BitTorrent. Also interesting to note that he owns the copyright on the film, so is speaking not only as the film’s creator but as the owner as well.

BitTorrent for Indies, admittedly a slightly biased source, has a good article on the benefits of BitTorrent distribution for indie films. Similar to arguments for online (or perhaps pirated) distribution of indie artists: The more people who see/hear your work, the better.

It’s interesting to think about how this affects the marketplace, but for indie producers with no distribution deal and a small budget for advertising, it could be a valuable part of the toolbox.

It begins…

Or more accurately, continues. Crave has a post about a TV station in a box from NetTVworld. This box is essentially a minimal configuration solution for easily transmitting video content over the internet. This kind of product coming to market is yet another harbinger of the impending paradigm shift in entertainment media. Musical artists are beginning to eschew their record labels and show some faith in direct marketing and the WGA is striking against TV and Film producers. The onward march of technological process lowers the threshold for entry into media and entertainment, and products like NetTVworld’s box are breaking down barriers in distribution. BitTorrent and YouTube have already made it easier for masses to distribute pre-recorded video and other digital media. This box aims to make it easier for the technically uninitiated to broadcast live video. Exciting things are happening. The industry is due for a change, and it’s only a matter of time before there is a major shift. Certainly, there are still advantages to major studio or station backing, but can those entities continue to justify the cost of their services? For independent media creators of all kinds, and for consumers with a taste for more than just the “mainstream”, this promises to be an exciting time indeed.