Thursday, February 04, 2010

Justice Dennis Cowdroy, iiNet and let's not kill all the lawyers, but how about explaining customer relations and marketing to them ...

When you get lawyers involved in anything, the first thing that you can say is that your relationship with your clients, or customer base, has turned cactus.

If you need lawyers to insist that customers stay true to your demands for cash or credit card payments, then you've got a problem.

Did the film and TV industry think they were going to win their case against iiNet?

Perhaps, but not according to Justice Dennis Cowdroy, as you can read in iiNet Wins Piracy Court Case, who has at least had an interim word on the matter.

Does the industry think muttering and whining and talking darkly of appeals will help them woo their customers?

No doubt. There are lawyers involved, and a righteous cause demands righteous fees.

Well good luck with that, for thanks to the wonders of the intertubes, and the way that Federal Court rulings are deemed to be free to read, you can head off to Cowdroy's impeccable thoughts with summary, in the matter of Roadshow Films Pty Ltd v iiNet Limited.

And while you're at it, if you're a glutton for the company of lawyers and judges, why not tyake in Justice Jacobson's opinions in the matter of Larrikin Music Publishing Pty Ltd v EMI Songs Australia Pty Limited, wherein it was alleged that Men At Work did a mashup of "Kookaburra sits in the old gumtree" for their vegemite sandwich, chunder down under fried out Kombie masterpiece.

Personally I'm all in favour of lawyers being charged to maintain and access rulings on austlii, while the rest of us get some deep rulings for snooze time reading ... for free, pirate style, me hearties.

Hey, it's a funny old world, when a music giant gets taken down for copyright infringement (with Dr. Andrew Ford as the expert musicologist for Larrikin!) while the film and TV majors gnash their teeth in helpless anger at the ways of iiNet customers.

Already the airwaves and the tree killers are seething with the anxious desire to take the matter to the High Court (ISP iiNet beats studios in movie piracy case).

Well there's nothing like an industry intent on rushing down a blind alleyway, attempting to drygulch any miscreants they counter along the way.

The music industry went down that path years ago, and only now are digital online sales slowly recovering as they eventually worked out that legal actions against infringers weren't as useful as selling tasty product to interested customers.

You'd think that the studios might have learned a little more subtlety in their anti-piracy posturing, especially as the box office for 2009 was strong.

Australian box office rises 15% in best year on record, shrieked the header for Sandy George's piece for trade rag Screen Daily:

Australia’s gross box office hit $988m (A$1.09bn) in 2009, up 15% on the previous year, and its best year on record. It is also the first time annual ticket sales have exceeded $907m (A$1bn).

The figures, which were released by Motion Picture Distribution Association of Australia yesterday (January 21), show the top ten films, including SlumdogMillionaire and The Twilight Saga: New Moon, grossed $267.2m (A$295m).

Sure it was the usual tough year for bottom feeding pics, and let's not look too closely at the brazen attempt by Screen Australia to skew the figures for local flicks so that it also looked like a good year for the local dire outpouring of misery (if you have a taste for real suffering, why not read Louis Nowra's Nowhere Near Hollywood, now that it's escaped The Monthly's paywall).

It's just that when an industry goes around weeping and wailing and dressed in sackcloth and ashes, while making out like bandits, even sweet innocents like me tend to drop the rose coloured 3D glasses and put on the X-ray variety.

If piracy is so deadly, why are things so good?

Golly even Avatar, that fiendish leftie environmental hippie tract that has left the likes of Miranda the Devine foaming at the month, has led to good news for Chairman Rupert (Avatar drives News Corp profit upgrade).

End result at the moment? The film and TV industry, having listened to their lawyers, who naturally see all matters as open to legal solutions, like hammers with walnuts, have shot themselves in their collective foot.

They can go on shooting themselves in the foot all the way to the High Court, demonising pirates and piracy as they go, or they can adopt a consumer friendly strategy to keep their customer base inside the base, satisfied with their movie going experience, and happy to pay for quality product.

The music industry was asleep at the wheel, and continues to suffer the consequences (Digital music sales rise but piracy is sour note), and the movie and TV industry is keen to follow the lawyers down the same path of alienation and despair.

Never mind, I guess I'll just download a few programs to celebrate Cowdroy's ruling. Second thoughts, I might just go watch some shows online at ABC iView. For free, legally.

I never tire of quoting Shakespeare on lawyers:

Dick: The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.
Jack Cade: Nay, that I mean to do. Is not this a lamentable thing, that of the skin of an innocent lamb should be made parchment? that parchment, being scribbled o'er, should undo a man? Some say the bee stings: but I say, 'tis the bee's wax; for I did but seal once to a thing, and I was never mine own man since.- How now! who's there?

But that said, it's always handy to get a lawyer to explain the joke, as done here:

He (Cade) might just as well have been describing "shrink-wrap" software licensing agreements today in the last sentence. To understand what Cade is saying here, you have to know that documents of the time were likely parchment, and sealed with wax. So when he says "Some say the bees stings; but I say, 'tis the bee's wax", he's making an ironic comment somewhat akin to "Some men rob you with a six-gun, and some with a fountain pen". And the fact that he himself is an evil man only serves to heighten the irony, not discredit the sentiment - the more evil he is, the more the contrast is apparent.

Let's just settle for Hamlet's take:

Hamlet: There's another: why may not that be the skull of a lawyer? Where be his quiddits now, his quillets, his cases, his tenures, and his tricks? why does he suffer this rude knave now to knock him about the sconce with a dirty shovel, and will not tell him of his action of battery? Hum! This fellow might be in's time a great buyer of land, with his statutes, his recognizances, his fines, his double vouchers, his recoveries: is this the fine of his fines, and the recovery of his recoveries, to have his fine pate full of fine dirt? will his vouchers vouch him no more of his purchases, and double ones too, than the length and breadth of a pair of indentures? The very conveyances of his lands will hardly lie in this box; and must the inheritor himself have no more, ha?

Horatio: Not a jot more, my lord.

Hamlet: Is not parchment made of sheep-skins?

Horatio: Ay, my lord, and of calf-skins too.

Hamlet: They are sheep and calves which seek out assurance in that.

No doubt the sheep and calves in the film and TV industries will seek assurance at the High Court. Good luck with that, and the company of the lawyers they keep when they should be wooing their clients.

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