A film-maker in search of pirates

JINOY JOSE P | Updated on July 30, 2014 Published on July 30, 2014


The return of Johnny Depp?

No. This is about Dutch film director Martin Koolhoven and the request he made on July 24 on Twitter.

What did he tweet?

This: “Can someone just upload Suzy Q to The PirateBay?”

And this is news?

Koolhoven is a filmmaker of some repute and Suzy Q (1999) is one of his celebrated works. Carice Van Houten of Game of Thrones fame made her debut in this. The film’s music includes a number of popular tracks from The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and more.

And this very fact pushed the film into a copyright wrangle, preventing it from being released in cinemas and on DVD or in any other legal channels.

He reportedly told a media portal that he felt the film had died. Desperate to take his film to the public, Koolhoven urged the file-sharing community to upload his movie on the popular torrent platform.

Did pirates respond?

With lightning speed. And this gave the director enough confidence to upload a better version of the film on YouTube.

That said, he says he doesn’t want to become the poster boy of the download movement, but the incident once again illustrates the potential of peer-to-peer sharing in creating unique, free and immensely useful distribution platforms.

But piracy hurts the industry!

That depends on which side of the debate you’re on. Businesses think pirates slice off a huge share of their revenues. And that’s why they ask regulators to hunt down torrent portals sharing, among others, films, books and software.

But file-sharing communities say knowledge should be available universally and that it was overpricing and undemocratic distribution systems that triggered the piracy movement. As things stand now, it appears as though companies may win, as many torrent sites are being forced to shut down.

That said, The PirateBay is still online…

It’s been forced to log out of some countries. Just yesterday, Austria asked its internet providers to block a host of torrent sites including The Pirate Bay. But the torrent platform keeps using different URLs and proxies hosted in myriad geographies to circumvent such bans. But several other platforms are out of action now — some voluntarily, some by force. Of these, some keep coming back. IsoHunt is an example. One of the most popular (notorious?) torrent search engines in the world at one point in time, it was forced to shut shop in October 2013 following a long legal battle with the Motion Picture Association of America. Its Canadian operator Gary Fung even agreed to pay $110 million in damages. But the online repository bounced back in months.

But aren’t The PirateBay’s founders in prison?

Yes, two of them. Just two months ago, Peter Sunde, co-founder of The PirateBay, was booked in southern Sweden on charges including copyright breach. Another co-founder, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, was held in Cambodia in 2012 and moved to Sweden, while Fredrik Neij, the third co-founder, who is convicted of similar crimes, is yet to be caught. The cat and mouse game between companies and pirates continues even as independent observers try to figure out a mid-path.

Which is?

Capitalising on the power of peer-to-peer sharing as a distribution platform and finding newer ways to get revenues from this massive torrent of information sharing, while pricing products in an affordable fashion so that people would be ready to pay and go legit rather than joining the “Ahoy!” chorus.

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Published on July 30, 2014
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