Entitlement and manufactured scarcity, together at last! - Tactical Ninja
Feb. 24th, 2012
09:56 am - Entitlement and manufactured scarcity, together at last!
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.
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.
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)