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Entitlement and manufactured scarcity, together at last! - Tactical Ninja

Feb. 24th, 2012

09:56 am - Entitlement and manufactured scarcity, together at last!

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Yesterday I read an interesting thing. It's about That Oatmeal Comic about piracy, and has something to say about the sense of entitlement that goes along with pirating in that people want this stuff NOW, and don't want to wait.

Before I talk about that, I'd like to direct your attention to the remix of that cartoon that illustrates the New Zealand experience.

*cough*


There was some discussion of it that I observed but didn't participate in, in which one person expressed discomfort at the 'entitlement vibe' that goes along with illegal downloading, and how the "BUT I WAAAANNT IT!" argument "Doesn't look good."

Of course it doesn't look good. The original article expresses it in slightly different terms:

"The world does not OWE you Season 1 of “Game Of Thrones” in the form you want it at the moment you want it at the price you want to pay for it. If it’s not available under 100% your terms, you have the free-and-clear option of not having it. I sometimes wonder if this simple, grown-up fact gets ignored during all of these discussions about digital distribution."

This is all fair enough and I do see their point. However, both of these accusations of entitlement fail to acknowledge a couple of things. First - and this is so simple I'm blown away that the people here don't recognise it - the culture of scarcity around media is manufactured. The entire industry runs on people WAANNNTing things, and the distributors do things like zoning and staggered/delayed release dates and pre-release hype in order to make sure as many people as possible WAAANNT things, so that when they finally become available they can charge more and get away with it. Copyright is supposed to protect the creators of works, but when distributors don't make works available to some people in a deliberate effort to extract more money from them, that's not protecting artists, it's profiteering.

So they need you to WAAANNT their media, and in order to make sure you WAAANNNT it enough they create a culture of scarcity by delaying the release, but if you WAAANNT it so much that you won't accept their terms and use an alternative, you are immature.

Hmm.

And the other thing they don't acknowledge is that not everyone has access to the legitimate options available in the US. HBO GO is not available here. Our pay-to-view channels do not have the variety and options that US ones do. We don't have Netflix or Hulu and while the kiwi cartoon shows GoT being available on Amazon, check this out:

I know for a fact that GoT won't be available to buy in NZ until 14 March. That's right, a week after the US gets it. That's to ensure we WAAAANNNT it even more so they can maximise our tiny market. And this is pretty amazing. Here's a more normal example that's dear to my heart. Supernatural Season 6, released in the US to buy on 13 September last year. I went to Amazon and looked it up:



Sweet as! I added it to my cart, proceeded to the checkout, anticipating my dose of erotic codependence and nurturing the forlorn hope that maybe Castiel will get his shirt off this time. Then I entered my shipping address. NEK MINIT:



(I love how 'a slight problem with your order' actually translates to YOU NO CAN HAS!)

Weirdly, it appears that Supernatural Season 6 is available to buy here, but Amazon won't sell it to me. And the fact that it's available here actually surprised me. When I searched it seems (although I can't find proof because the TVNZ site is not working for me) that it's actually finished screening here. Season 7 hasn't yet been released in the US. It has been screening there, but hasn't started here yet. The usual MO is that we don't get to buy it on DVD until it's finished screening here, and with Season 5 that was 10 months after it was availalble to buy in the US. All I can think is that for Season 6 either TVNZ pulled their finger out in response to people's complaints about late screening (unlikely) or Supernatural being of waning popularity, has got cheaper and has been offered to the peasant masses sooner because they can't drum up the artificial scarcity like they used to.

Anyway, the point I'm making here is that the one week extra we are required to wait for Game of Thrones is actually unusual and normally it's several weeks or months we have to wait. Sometimes things aren't released here at all. And all the while, they are being advertised to us, spoiled to us by those with access, and discussed in forums we frequent but not made available to us. The BUT I WAAAANNNT IT is being deliberately stoked over a period of time by an artificial scarcity that exists purely to make us WAAANNT IT more.


So don't fucking call us immature when we WAAANNNT the things we've been primed to WAAANNNT, mmk? And don't make it a personal failing to feel resentful about the withholding of something for no reason other than to manipulate us into parting with more money.

Gosh, I think that might be a whole week of semi-ranting. What's up with that? And yes, I know there are bigger injustices in the world and yes I'm aware that I'm lucky to have access to electricity. So let's not play that game as if we're not all aware this is a first world problem. Instead, let's play the one where we acknowledge that the thinking behind this first world problem is not that different from, and done by the same sort of people as, the ones behind many of the developing world problems too. And maybe we should have a problem with that kind of thinking instead of bashing each other over 'first world problems', K?

(and for those of you who read jim hines, the juxtaposition is not lost on me)

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Comments:

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From:thesecondcircle
Date:February 23rd, 2012 09:15 pm (UTC)
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Wow. If I buy a DVD on amazon (or at the local store) and ship it to you, is that legal? Can you watch it (I'm aware of country codes on players)?
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From:tatjna
Date:February 23rd, 2012 09:20 pm (UTC)
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It probably breaches some copyright law, and the country code thing is becoming less and less of a problem these days.

Some US sites have the option of surface shipping which is much more realistically-priced but of course can take much longer. Amazon tends to go for registered, expedited, fancypants shipping (I guess in case stuff goes missing). I have had situations where the shipping has ended up being more than the cost of the item!

And yeah, my usual workaround is to either ask a US friend or to ask someone who's travelling there to bring it back with them. ;-)
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From:crsg
Date:February 23rd, 2012 09:28 pm (UTC)
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I have had situations where the shipping has ended up being more than the cost of the item!

Same here. In fact, the shipping for every single item I bought online around Christmas time cost at least as much as the item itself, if not more - and those weren't large or heavy objects, just t-shirts and DVDs. I'd be tempted to say it was just a Christmas time thing if I didn't know better.
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From:t_c_da
Date:February 23rd, 2012 09:44 pm (UTC)
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I seem to recall being told by someone that the Government of NZ said somehwere along the line that regional coding was unenforceable under our copyright/distribution/whatever law, and so DVD players in this country seem to ignore reginal coding.

My DVD player is a second hand unit, but plays region 1,2, 4, & 0 (at least) without remark. I bought the 10 year issue of Dogma from the US, wondering whether my player would object, and it played no worries. I don't know whether the previous owner crippled the regional coding or it was shipped new like that.
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From:richdrich
Date:February 23rd, 2012 10:07 pm (UTC)
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As far as I know, current NZ copyright/customs law doesn't allow goods legally purchased elsewhere to be banned from import by supplier restrictions.

So "grey import" operations (basically, importers who haven't been appointed as distributors by the original manufacturer) can perfectly legally acquire stock overseas and sell it here. Amazon, on the other hand, tend to only ship stuff where the supplier wants it shipped.

That applies to both media and equipment (like open-region DVD players).

Of course, Big Media industry doesn't like this and is lobbying to get it changed.
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From:thesecondcircle
Date:February 23rd, 2012 10:25 pm (UTC)
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Thought one, I should open a business shipping stuff to New Zealand that you can't get there directly.
Thought two, it's stoooooopid for anyone to have to ship a box of ones and zeros all the way across the world when I can just beam them to you through the tubes.

Sigh.
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From:tyellas
Date:February 23rd, 2012 10:43 pm (UTC)
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If you really want to open a mail forwarding business, that would be great...
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From:richdrich
Date:February 24th, 2012 12:03 am (UTC)
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There are a few service like usabox.com that give you a US street address. Not cheap though.

I think a lot of download services will recognise you as USian if you use a VPN (and for wierd technical reasons, this can often be *faster* then direct internet from NZ). You can also get prepaid US credit cards if they're checking that (at a price though).
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From:thesecondcircle
Date:February 24th, 2012 12:49 am (UTC)
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Hmmm, interesting. I wonder if it would be cost prohibitive? Like would the cost of my time and expenses mean no one in NZ would pay for it? ... Goes to do research...

So, the smaller flat rate envelopes (that could hold a book/DVD or two) would cost like $17 to ship. So I'd have to add onto that to make it worth my time as a business concept. So I ship the DVD to myself (after I get paid) with free shipping through Amazon Prime and then turn around and boost it to you... additional price to you $25?!? That sounds like a lot for a couple of DVDs. Plus you'd have to wait for it to get to me (couple of days potentially, don't be jealous) and then another two weeks to get to you. Faster shipping gets WAY expensive (like $38).

Do you think anyone would actually want to pay that?
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From:richdrich
Date:February 24th, 2012 01:16 am (UTC)
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Those price sound remarkable similar to usabox.com quoted rates (although they rely on the customer ordering direct from Amazon and giving their address for shipping).

I think the only way to get cheap freight would be to consolidate a whole lot of orders and send one big box. The problem then becomes the NZD400 threshold at which you get charged import taxes and fees.
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From:pombagira
Date:February 23rd, 2012 11:22 pm (UTC)
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Ooo.. yes please.. that would be awsome.. as the same thing happens with books that i am interested in, so often they are either not avaible in NZ or there is a 6 month delay in releasing them.. *ack*..

mind you i have to say that often i can get these books direct from the publisher with no restriction on being able to be posted to the antipodes.

so now i am wondering if the same could be said for the more mainstream book releases.. *ponders this*

anyway.. of course i will have to have a job first.. then i can afford said books.. *beams*
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From:thesecondcircle
Date:February 24th, 2012 12:50 am (UTC)
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Books make more sense to ship than DVDs, because you can't bittorrent books (not that I'm advocating anything illegal!). See my post above re. costs to ship to you. Would you ever want to pay that much more?
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From:anna_en_route
Date:February 24th, 2012 01:03 am (UTC)
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Erm actually you can (if they're ebooks)...you shouldn't of course but you can (if you think TV is mucked up when it comes to international distribution...the publishing industry is so much worse).
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From:tatjna
Date:February 25th, 2012 01:47 am (UTC)
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I might be wrong about this, but wasn't parallel importing one of the more advantageous consequences of the Great Neoliberal Leap In The Deep End?

Like, when that was permitted was when kiwis started being able to get stuff?
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From:rantydave
Date:February 23rd, 2012 10:08 pm (UTC)
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That is absolutely legal. What's going on here is that Amazon are granted the right to sell certain things in certain territories. Quite why they can't just *not* show the things they don't actually have the right to sell to you is another question.
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From:clashfan
Date:February 23rd, 2012 09:21 pm (UTC)
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Okay with you if I link this to a discussion taking place elsewhere? Your full name is visible on the Amazon screencap.
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From:tatjna
Date:February 23rd, 2012 09:30 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for the headsup. I've blacked out my name, please go ahead. ;-)
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From:crsg
Date:February 23rd, 2012 09:24 pm (UTC)
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Ironically, I was just wondering yesterday if Game of Thrones was available to buy here on DVD yet. In any event, both that original comic and the NZ remix made me smile in a very knowing way.
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From:pombagira
Date:February 23rd, 2012 09:30 pm (UTC)
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this just makes me want to smack large media and film corporations with a huge sign that says "stop being so fecking greedy you are ruining it for everybody" might have to used the same sign for our current govt to..

*sigh*

like you said this is a symptom of our broken system, and just how badly mainstream media has trained 'people' into believing that they must have everything and have it now cause you know there is not enough to go around..

*more sighs*..

err yeah..
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From:phaetonschariot
Date:February 23rd, 2012 10:06 pm (UTC)
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The other thing about wanting it now rather than waiting is that we don't know if we will ever get it. We are being expected to wait for something that might not ever happen. And if it does happen it might well be at a time of night when no one watches and it's poorly or never advertised so no one knows it's on, because tv stations get to decide what programs will be popular all by themselves.
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From:tatjna
Date:February 23rd, 2012 10:08 pm (UTC)
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You sound like you're talking about a specific example. I recall a kerfuffle about something similar to this with Dr Who a while ago, but not being a Who watcher I'm not familiar with it. Was that it?
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From:phaetonschariot
Date:February 23rd, 2012 10:16 pm (UTC)
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Well it happened to Torchwood but it's actually pretty common with a lot of things that aren't marketed out of America as the next huge big thing. Same thing happened to Green Wing, off the top of my head, and I remember spotting things several times in the Listener that I would have loved to watch if they hadn't been in the middle of the season already at 11pm on a weeknight. (I think Supernatural aired pretty ridiculously late too but I can't stand the show so wouldn't know for sure.)

And just of the few shows I watch, as far as I know we still haven't got Lost Girl, Covert Affairs, or Leverage(?). And I think Firefly only ever aired on Sky.
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From:mundens
Date:February 23rd, 2012 10:38 pm (UTC)
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Just so you know, Leverage had been playing in New Zealand on TV One on Sunday nights, at least for the first couple of seasons, many years ago. Don't know whats happening now haven't watched anything on TV except news broadcasts & Ice Planet for months.

Firefly aired twice in NZ, once on one of the bigger channels, (TV3, I think) then again (after it had become popular and been cancelled) on C4.
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From:anna_en_route
Date:February 23rd, 2012 10:29 pm (UTC)
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I believe that the station who bought it chose to play The Wire after 11 at night originally and did not show all of the seasons.

According to Russel Brown at public address downloading tv in NZ kicked off with a vengeance when a Sopranos season was stopped mid-way through here with no explanation.
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From:thatgirljj
Date:February 23rd, 2012 11:47 pm (UTC)
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I dunno... I have two thoughts about this:

1. I am a grown up, not a whining 3 year old or a celebrity obsessed 12 year old girl. Thus I can be totally OK with not having anything/everything I want when I want it. Frequently, I have experience like this weekend where I pretty much went through that entire Oatmeal carton WRT the old HBO series Carnival at the end of which I simply decided to do some yoga instead of spending all my time bullshitting around the internet. If you're not consumed with WAAAAAAANT! they run the risk of losing you as a customer completely.

2. Where the culture of manufactured scarcity gets ridiculous is when it comes to licensing cultural item #1 in order to market cultural itme #2. I don't know if you guys got the 90's MTV cartoon Daria, but it was recently released on DVD... however it was released with NONE of the original music because it would have been cost prohibitive to license. Which means if you want Daria in it's original form you have the choice of recording it off late night cable repeats, or illegal downloading. And really, it's not as if the licensing fees for a bunch of 90's grunge bands were really going to make anyone all that much money... but the whole licensing deal just A) ruined the DVD set and B) drove people to torrent it. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
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From:tatjna
Date:February 24th, 2012 12:39 am (UTC)
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I am not a whining 3 year old or a celebrity-obsessed 12 year old either. I am a grown up, and I am a grown up who owns my annoyance at the inability to access media that other people get because someone wants to extract more money. And they often have lost my custom by the time it's released because while I am happy to wait weeks, nearly a year is beyond "Grow up" and into "WTF" territory, and I've gone and pirated it by then.

And the contrary part of me that would have given them money if it'd only been a few weeks wait, doesn't want to any more after 10 months. That is probably the immature bit.
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From:tieke
Date:February 23rd, 2012 11:53 pm (UTC)
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I used to have some sympathy with big media and their fight against piracy ... until they messed with my democracy. Which, in my opinion, makes it a much bigger issue, and surprisingly enough, all of my sympathy is gone now.
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From:tatjna
Date:February 24th, 2012 12:40 am (UTC)
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Yeah, and I didn't even touch on that topic. Fuckers.
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From:vernacularity
Date:February 24th, 2012 12:49 am (UTC)
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that would be one of the things which I identify with and which motivates me to stay concerned, more a focus on extreme dislike of the insidious actions of the industry interfering with my sovereign nation.

the other thing I identify with is related to the comment above regarding refusing to be part of the cycle, ie I have plenty of other things to do and don't really get off on consuming media, so stuff that is available for free on TV or whatever is what I will bother with. yes the WAAAAANT is manufactured, as is also seen in the WAAANT in relation to a whole slew of consumer goods, "lifestyle" options, gender roles, attitudes, whatever, also ladled upon us using psychologically refined manipulaton and communication techniques under the umbrella "marketing" and syruped up into a toxic soup presented as "freedom of choice" but really a form of cultural brainwashing.

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From:tatjna
Date:February 24th, 2012 01:02 am (UTC)
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Yeah, you're right. It has amazed me how many people have leaped to ensure the world knows that they aren't the WAAANNNNT people, that they have the self-discipline to wait for media that may or may not become available, that they are above all that.

Funny how a lot of these people likely have iPhones, which I can't be arsed with and don't have yet.
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From:thirstygirl
Date:February 24th, 2012 01:09 am (UTC)
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I have recurrent regional block rage wrt ebooks and attempting to purchase them legally. I don't think it's a big sense of entitlement to want to be able to purchase an electronic copy of a book that is readily available in paper and which I already own in that format.
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From:anna_en_route
Date:February 24th, 2012 02:26 am (UTC)
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Ahem...ummm lying is terribly wrong of course...but ummm certain purveyors of electronic format only demand that you provide an American address and aren't vigilant about checking whether your billing address originates there (given that it's a specialised format and that there's almost nil chance of publishers in Aus/NZ ever putting out the effort to acquire audio rights it seems only fair for me to be able to exchange my money for their goods and services).
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From:kittyfarmer
Date:February 24th, 2012 04:42 am (UTC)
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Well said!
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From:adam_0oo
Date:February 24th, 2012 07:02 pm (UTC)
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One of the easiest examples of manufactured scarcity is the Disney Vault. They stop selling dvds of certain Disney classics for months and years at time. I mean, they produce so many that there are always some available, but for a short time, no more of that movie available!

Also related http://boingboing.net/2012/02/13/bittorrent-doesnt-hurt-us-bo.html
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