Illegal streaming exploded onto the scene with music and Napster in 2000. As bandwidth increased, movie streaming followed, resulting in a massive increase in online pirates. At first, it was a game: who could upload the hottest and latest content. If you did, you got street cred - online. The pirates were not deterred by the fact that they were jeopardising people's livelihood or violating copyright laws. However, as users flocked to peer-to-peer solutions it went mainstream, and suddenly fans were becoming pirates. Why? Because the film industry, like the music industry before it, restricted access to content. Old business models were, and are, in conflict with technology revolution.
The film industry has not heeded the lesson of the music industry, which has been through a 10-year recession. Instead of learning from that failure, here we are again restricting our fans access to our product. Instead of offering a viable alternative that accommodates them, we are trying to force fans to change their habits by scaring them into submission.
Unsurprisingly, the war on piracy shows few signs of success. Two reports show that between 230 and 340 million people stream illegally in Europe. Only 20 million subscribe to Netflix. Why? Because it's no longer about street cred or free content, it's about the fan´s desire for access to content and choice in entertainment. P2P services offer a highly competitive alternative to closed server subscription-based streaming services. Popcorn Time at its peak was growing nearly four times the rate of Netflix. It has opened consumers eyes to the possibilities of P2P streaming and has changed their expectations for content distribution for good. The question remains however, can we make P2P platforms a viable business model for the film industry and a legal alternative for fans?
Until now, we´ve only called them pirates. However, a majority of illegal streamers are actually dedicated fans who want to pay to have more content and streaming options than what is on offer. Two studies one by the University of Portsmouth and the other by Ipsos in Australia shows that 60 percent of 10,000 illegal streamers are willing to pay, and do pay, for content. In fact, movie pirates pay MORE than their law-abiding counterparts. Those who stream illegally spend more on movie theater tickets, merchandise and subscriptions than those who never stream illegally. This shows that a majority of pirates are actually the most loyal fans content creators could ask for.
The book "How Music Got Free" by Stephen Witt tells the story of how file sharing and the conception of MP3, coupled with greedy executives that kept CD prices artificially high, flipped the music industry on its head. This could still happen to the film industry - or worse, we could end up with a select few studios that dominate production and streaming distribution. I read Witt's book shortly after I discovered Popcorn Time, and they both inspired my idea for White Rabbit.
The big question that Witt´s book posed was what do we do when an entire generation commits a crime? In my opinion, when an entire generation does it, it´s no longer a crime. It´s a business opportunity on a global mass audience scale. Decentralised technologies, such as blockchain, offers to improve the revenue model for the betterment of the film industry, the streaming market and the fans. White Rabbit offers the opportunity for an innovative, competitive, accessible P2P streaming market while ensuring there is a clear difference between a pirate and a fan. If you offer to pay via White Rabbit, you´re a fan.
How about the the pirates? In part it's a game. It's a principle. It's living on the edge. Whatever the reason, there is no way you, I or anyone else will ever be able to convince pirates otherwise. Fine. A pirate will pay for bread, but won't pay for art and entertainment. One day pirates may realise that to continue producing art and entertainment, you must allow those who create it to make a living. They have families too. This is not the pirate's concern, however it is the pirates' choice. So let´s offer an alternative to the majority of illegal streamers, who merely want convenience, choice and the option to pay. Let's make a very clear difference between those that pirate and the fans who are forced to stream illegaly.
Pirates won´t pay on principle, period.
Fans are those who are willing to break the law just to watch the films and series they love, but are not given the opportunity to pay and prove their loyalty.
Rightscorp, one of the top anti-piracy and copyright enforcement companies, barely collected $184,362 in fines in 2017 on an estimated $15 billion dollar loss in revenue from piracy. Fining fans is obviously not a winning strategy. A buried report paid by the European Union shows piracy isn't harmful to indie and arthouse films. It actually helps these films get recognised. The problem however is that piracy is not maximising the revenue of these films potential either.
So what is White Rabbit? White Rabbit is a browser plug-in that recognizes the content streamed, allowing fans to pay the rights holder directly, without forcing them to subscribe to any particular streaming site. White Rabbit's encrypted P2P tokenized (incentive) system, powered by blockchain technology, offers a financially transparent and instant monetization model between users and content rights holders. White Rabbit allows users to stream from any P2P site, lowering costs through one payment payment system that enables infinite viewing experiences.
Do you know of any other industry that deliberately blocks its fans from accessing its product? Does the gaming industry prevent its Australian fans from playing a game already available in the U.S.? Of course not. Respecting cinemas is important and White Rabbit accommodates rights holders to continue this practice. However, not realising the potential of technological development, market expectations and intellectual property rights (IPR) is another matter entirely.
Protecting intellectual property (IP) has never been about locking up entertainment and creativity, it's about maximizing IP's economic potential. IP rights are maximised by offering a payment method from wherever the fans choose to stream their content. We should not try to change their habits, we should try to collect lost revenue on the 180 billion visits to piracy sites this past year. With White Rabbit, we separate those who refuse to pay from those who want to pay. On that basis, we can build a more mature audience for content instead of fostering a culture that believes it's free, disconnected to the artist and entertainers behind the mage. We must to allow fans easy access, more content and forge a closer relationship as fans. In White Rabbit´s user library, the Rabbit Hole, producers can give fans access to more content: behind-the-scenes, Q&A interaction with filmmakers, merchandise. We open up to third parties to develop application to monetize content and incentive fans. Bringing fans and filmmakers together gives the producer, distributor and sales agent more tools to do the job they're supposed to do: maximise revenue from IPR.
If we want to change the game and maximise our IP rights, then giving fans the freedom to stream but the option to pay is the only way to go. When you install the White Rabbit plug-in, you've made a conscious choice to pay for content on the condition that you are given access to it — anyway you the fan choose. Where you watch that film or series is your business. Paying to watch it is not. Fans know this and are ready to pay. So, let's allow them to do so!
We are fully conscious of our responsibilities. White Rabbit is on a mission to offer an alternative, because today's business model for streaming films and series have failed most filmmakers, rights-holders and our investors. We are creating a competitive streaming industry with revenue paid directly from fan to rights-holders, as they stream. By facilitating the habits of the current generation of streamers, we set a path for future ones, so piracy will eventually be a thing of the past. White Rabbit lives by the motto, "responsible rebels." We think it's time for the film and TV industry to do the same.
If you agree, please share your opinions with us in our Telegram group along with the hashtag #responsiblerebels.
Alan R. Milligan is the Founder and CEO of White Rabbit.