Analysis: Could Dressmaker Sew Up Pirates?

Could Dressmaker Sew Up Pirates?

Could Dressmaker Sew Up Pirates?

  • Posted on: 04/Dec/15
  • by Simon Britton

The huge success of The Dressmaker at the local box office suggests that it will be heavily downloaded in Australia. We've seen the effect that downloads had on Oz films such as 100 Bloody Acres and The Babadook.Could we learn something from all the data we have about illegal downloads to come up with a lateral solution?~~
Illegal downloading will never be eliminated. Yes, measures such as the three strikes policy, taking down pirate sites and ambulance chasing by legal companies may chip away, but what we needed is treatment, not prohibition.

The Great Server in the Sky
Ultimately, screen content will move to a Pandora/Spotify model - that is, a brand-agnostic platform that gives the consumer what they want, when they want it. But in 2015 we have a frustrating world of fragmented catalogues and meaningless release windows. You need 5 movie site subscriptions to approximate what Spotify offers for music.

Claw back some Losses?
If you accept the figures put forward by organisations such as AFACT, illegal downloading is robbing producers of the significant chunk of revenue. Here's how some of that might be clawed back.
Five years ago I saw a presentation at SPA that made me sit bolt upright. A Canadian company told producers that it could (for a fee) tell them where and when their content was being downloaded all over the world. Armed with this information, producers could tailor their release strategies accordingly. Big downloads in South America? Prioritise your release there.

Pirate Ratings
This company was essentially the OzTAM of the pirate audience. Who is OzTAM data for? Advertisers. See where this is going?
Say a good, clean copy of a film is freely available for download and advertisers were offered embedded pre-rolls. The film is let loose and tracking software shows that it was downloaded 5 million times. In OzTAM language, it rated 5 million. An advertisers dream.
Wait - I know what you are thinking - people can skip ads (yes, but this hasn't stopped advertising, right?), people will go for the ad-free illegal versions (maybe, but this way they are immune from prosecution and guaranteed a good, clean copy), it will only appeal to evergreen advertising (what if the ads are dynamically embedded?).
Some producers may hate the idea of pre-roll ads. That's their call, although going to the cinema will get you a few minutes of "pre-rolls", won't it?
AFACT, the studios and other industry bodies have these tracking data as well. Why don’t they work together to start a service like this?
While we wait for the Great Server in the Sky, at least producers could know that lateral solutions are being worked on.
If The Dressmaker could claw back at least some money from the hundreds of thousands of Australians who will illegally download the picture, isn't that better than just siting around listening to the sound of gnashing teeth?

About the author

  • Simon Britton

    Simon Britton

    Simon is screen industry consultant and publisher of Australia’s leading online screen content ebulletin ScreenPro ( Before launching MediaWave in 2008, he worked for the Australian Film, TV and Radio School’s Centre for Screen Business, focusing on emerging business models for online screen content. He has consulted to, or written research papers for, the South Australian Film Corporation, Screen Australia, Film Victoria and The Australian Film TV and Radio School. He's delivered workshops for SPAA, The Media Resource Centre, Open Channel, RMIT, Monash University, UCLA Film School and AFTRS. He is currently running national workshops on new models of finance and online distribution for screen content. He recently concluded a three-year term on the Board of the Australian Screen Institute (AFI). He is on the Board of Open Channel. Simon consults on film projects and is currently working with a range of content creators to develop strategies for online delivery of their work.