Interview with MUSO's Chris Anderson: Protecting Filmmakers Against Online Piracy
EDN members can now benefit from a special discount for MUSO, a platform protecting filmmakers against online piracy. In order to learn more about what the MUSO platform offers for filmmakers, we interviewed Chris Anderson, Head of TV & Film at MUSO for the UK and Europe. Further information about how to obtain the discount can be found at the end of this article.
UK and Europe
The dawn of the digital age has been a curse and a blessing for filmmakers whose traditional business models had to adapt ever so quickly to the new paradigms of a multiplatform world of online content. This development could be called a “blessing” because of the new opportunities allowing us to almost instantly upload new films and reach audiences all around the globe - even if such audiences are more fragmented and potentially smaller than those associated with traditional media. But the online era may also be considered a “curse” for those losing audiences and royalties due to pirated content that is illegally being made available via online platforms that do not comply with any industry pay schemes to refund the creators of original content.
EDN interviewed Chris Anderson, Head of TV & Film at MUSO for the UK and Europe, to find out more about how filmmakers can protect their content against online piracy.
EDN: Chris, how do you assess the current situation of online piracy and who within the creative industry is mostly affected by this?
CA: I think that online piracy is probably as rife as it has ever been. The consumer now expects to have content playing on their tablet, or phone in high definition instantly. Increasingly quick internet speeds and cheap online storage is helping this, and content is so readily available online that it’s often the first place the consumer looks.
I also think that the creative industries have been looking at piracy incorrectly for a long time. It does have a negative impact, of course it does. However, there is a positive to be taken from it – that is that there is an enormous audience there that wants to consume your content. If there wasn’t, then piracy wouldn’t exist. Taking control of that audience again is what needs to be done, and it’s going to take an effort on two fronts from the creative industries; firstly content needs to be made readily available for the audience before it’s available illegally. Secondly, there needs to be effort undertaken once content does become available illegally to take those files down and make piracy - as a user experience - a negative one. There’s an opportunity to re-educate that massive, lost audience and turn them back to where the industry wants them to be.
EDN: What can be done to protect original content from being made available online without the consent of the creators?
CA: It’s very difficult. As soon as an HD source is made available we tend to see that film then appear online illegally. In the summer of 2015 we launched a tool for the film industry, specifically aimed at (but not exclusive to) producers and filmmakers alerting them of when their film has leaked online. A lot of the producers I know use Google alerts which will alert them to links as and when they appear. The problem with this is that there are often a lot of spoof links that appear prior to actual films. Our system will only alert the filmmaker when actual files or streams appear – at this time, an educated decision can be made to work on removing these files and trying to protect the film from piracy. This tool is available for free, and will also be available in a smartphone app at a later stage.
EDN: How does the procedure of taking such content down work from a technical point of view? And how much time does the removal take?
CA: MUSO in a roundabout way does what a filmmaker, or rights holder does when they find their film being illegally distributed – send a DMCA notice, or cease & desist letter. MUSO however, searches over 9 billion piracy related web pages – something that couldn’t be done without a system like ours. We also removed files from cyberlockers and torrents quicker than anyone else. Years of experience have led to us being able to remove infringing copies as quickly as possible. Most cyberlockers files are removed within a matter of a couple of hours, and in about 40% of the cases our takedowns are complied with instantly.
EDN: Some of the platforms that reference pirated content must know MUSO quite well by know and react rather quickly. Would you say that, over time, MUSO developed a kind of business relationship with such providers?
CA: No, there’s no ‘working relationship’ with these sites. Of course though, having removed nearly 100m files in 2014 they do know who we are and that does have its benefits when it comes to speed and proficiency of removing the illegal files.
EDN: A basic search function on MUSO is free and available to anyone – allowing users to search for links referring to pirated content on the web. Where and how can I access this tool and what are the limitations?
CA: A free 14 day trial period is available through our website www.muso.com The trial is for one title only and only allows takedown requests to be sent to five files. It’s a great way to start though as it’s important to get some insight into the size of the piracy problem being faced, and the user will have an accurate count of the number of illegal copies of their film available within 24 hours.
EDN: Could you provide a brief overview indicating from which branches the majority of your clients come from?
CA: MUSO started in the music industry. We then branched out into Film and TV, software, publishing, apps, games, and software. Really, if the content is online it’s sadly very likely it will be pirated.
Within the Film & TV industries, there is often the conversation of who is responsible for picking up the effort against piracy – should it be the producer, sales agent, distributor? We have about an even split of each across our clients, so I’m glad that each part of the industry is recognising that something can be done to protect their content and then investing in a tool like ours.
EDN: MUSO sounds like an acronym? What does it actually mean and is there a special reason why this name was chosen?
CA: No, there’s no answer here I’m afraid.
EDN: What is your personal outlook on the future of online piracy and on the tools that may prevent filmmakers from losing potential revenues?
CA: Personally, I don’t see the technology getting that much more advanced. We will inevitably see internet speeds get quicker, which will make streaming and downloading easier.
I would say the biggest threat is down to the audience, and not the technology. We will begin to see an entire generation of people, and then every generation subsequently, that expect to get all of their creative content for free because they always have done. My 80-year-old Grandfather doesn't download things illegally because he never has. My 20 year old brother will still be downloading things when he’s 80 though, and so will an entire generation – that’s dangerous, and all creative industries should be worried about that.
Rights holders need to look at piracy, and look at the fact that it exists because there is an audience there. It then needs to work on getting that audience – and it is a very big audience – back to where they want them to be.
Interview Partner: Chris Anderson, MUSO, Head of TV & Film, UK and Europe.
MUSO Website: www.muso.com
How to access the discount
In order to obtain the discount, please visit the EDN Member Discounts section on our website. There you will find detailed information on how to access the discount when logged on with your EDN membership profile.
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