Wil Wheaton Blames Piracy On The Entertainment Industry [Video]

Published 3 years ago by , Updated August 9th, 2013 at 9:51 am,

When everyone’s favorite face of geek culture, Wil Wheaton, ventures to Comic-Con, no topic is off limits to the masterful mind behind Eureka’s most fan-favorite pseudo-villain – including online piracy.

Shortly following the Eureka panel at Comic-Con, we spoke with Wheaton about his feelings towards online piracy, content availability and what the entertainment industry is going to do about it. As expected, Wheaton revealed his honest feelings about online piracy – including the fact that the entertainment industry is to blame for it in the first place.

Of course, since we spoke to Wheaton following the Eurkea panel, the always wonderful Colin Ferguson joins the conversation mid-way through and adds some of his thoughts about the issue.

Below are some excerpts of what Wheaton had to say. If you’d like to see the entirety of Wheaton’s statement, make sure to check out the video below.

Wil Wheaton: As soon as the entertainment industry provides an alternative to bit-torrent – or an alternative to piracy – that makes it easy for honest people to get access to the program, then the piracy dries up.

Gabe Newell [CEO of Valve] says that pirates provide better customer service. How many times have you paid for a DRM license for something and the server goes down, or you travel across the border? I rented some episodes on Amazon of Doctor Who: when I went to Canada – I paid for them in America; I live in America – they say “you can’t watch it anymore because you’re not in America anymore.” That made me angry because I was being honest; I was an honest person. If I had stolen it, I would be watching it.

I love that Syfy puts episodes of Eureka online for people to watch; I love that TNT puts episodes of Leverage online for people to watch.

Eureka star Colin Ferguson

WW: There are two classes of people in the world:  there are people who will never pay for anything, no matter what – you’re never going to get them.

Colin Ferguson: [jokingly] Yeah, that’s me.

Then there’s people that will pay for something – and want to. You just have to make it easy for them – and reasonable.

I think that, very slowly, we are dragging the entertainment industry up – they’re about up to 1997 now – and they’re slow.

Colin Ferguson: They are slow. They mean well.

WW: They do mean well. We just have to bring them to the future, where we live, and show them how awesome it is.

CF: But it is frustrating that you’re not allowed to watch the stuff that you want to watch.

WW: It’s crazy!

To see entirety of what Wil Wheaton has to say about online piracy, or hear Colin Ferguson story about how their Eureka co-star Neil Grayston was unable to use an iTunes gift card Syfy gave them (because of content restrictions), check out the video below:

Online piracy and content availability is one of the most discussed topics within the entertainment industry. With Bit Torrent and other video sharing sites becoming a popular avenue for those seeking to watch their favorite program when and how they want to watch it, the entertainment industry is still struggling to adjust.

While certain companies have openly embraced the notion of content availability for their viewers, others have done nothing but drag their feet the entire way – complaining of piracy and the stolen content.

As a proponent of content availability on the Internet, it’s hard to disagree with anything Wheaton says. In fact, I’d even go as far as saying that it’d be hard for anyone that’s firmly against online availability (those people do still exist – and work in the entertainment industry) to not admit that what Wheaton says is absolutely true and makes perfect sense.

For more interviews and panel recaps from Comic-Con, check out Screen Rant’s official Comic-Con 2011 page.

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Eureka airs Mondays @8pm on Syfy

Follow Anthony on Twitter @anthonyocasio

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  1. So does this mean that Wesley Crusher will be playing a re-occurring role on Eureka? I really enjoyed him playing himself on Big bang Theory so it would be great if he made a full return to television.

    And I also agree with him. When I discovered Breaking Bad 9 months ago all I could find was the pilot episode on AMCs site. To “catch up” I could either watch 2 episodes a week at 2-4 am on Wednesday nights (sorry, no TV DVR folks) or go find places on the net that offered them. Suffice it to say I got tired of jumping through all the hoops “free” sites forced me to jump through like either sign up with us or watch 72 mins and then wait 72 mins….I got fed up so I just went and got them in HD through a DL site.

    I would have LOVED to have watched them on AMCs site and suffered through the periodic commercials but I was never given that option. AMCs loss.

  2. I personally think it all comes down to greed on the part of those executives that are dragging their feet. I’m not sure how it all works but I think they think that if they offer it online either for free or for a reasonable price they will lose and not make the $$$s they think they deserve. My two cents.

  3. Not exactly the same thing that Wil is talking about but this is from an article I wrote about my being a pirate:

    Piracy is a form of protest. As far back as I can remember music lovers have been demanding a way to acquire individual tracks of music. We were tired of paying outrageous prices for CDs when we only wanted one or two songs — especially once we knew how little it actually cost to make a CD. Vinyl and tapes never saw such a markup! But even when the technology became available the music industry was too greedy to give us what we wanted. Thanks to Napster we were able to take it. And then the music industry announced it had this really great idea to make tracks available individually. :P I now use Rhapsody for my music fix. I have over 6000 tracks in my library (and 99.5% are legal).

    Piracy is a way to share the love. I’m sure you’ve heard of fansubs, correct? Technically these are acts of piracy. However you rarely hear the copyright owners bellyaching, do you? Well, you don’t hear many non-American copyright holders bellyaching, that is. That’s because they know that fansubbing is a free way to advertise their product to other markets which, in turn, often gets them licensing deals. So two points for piracy.

    Piracy allows you to try before you buy. Yes, there are a lot of programs that allow you free trials. Heck there are even a good many completely free programs. But what if you want to find out if Dreamweaver or MS Office meet your needs? I don’t know about you, but I really don’t feel like shelling out $149+ on software only to find it doesn’t do what I want, and I can’t return it. Through piracy I know that Dreamweaver is worth saving up for, Open Office does essentially the same thing as MS Office, and PSP is much easier for me to work with than Photoshop.

    Piracy is a wake up call. This is related to #1, though it’s less of a protest and more of a “Look. You’ve got a demand here. You might want to make some money off it.” Thanks to us pirates a great deal of media that had been previously collecting dust is now experiencing new life — legitimately.

    • +1. Still, as I point out below, it’s not all the studios’ fault.

    • Sten approves. +10

  4. I like the 1997 analogy. Why? Territories within major distribution networks began to break down (or slim down) in the late 90′s and early 2000′s. For instance, one studio’s main properties stopped being shared with alternate worldwide distributors and they set up actual worldwide offices to cut down distribution costs and territorial approvals. Not to mention expanding coverage of alternate audio and subtitle languages on the same disc that can be available worldwide.

    Jump that to now and major distribution groups have to play nice with all 190+ countries they want to distribute with legally, even if online. Pirates don’t as they don’t care about what their government wants to protect their citizenry. That’s great for Iran and several EU zone nations that love a little too much censorship. I want to make a business of submitting content to censor boards for smaller studios. I’d make $20 million in the first year. Seriously.

    Wheaton’s not 100% right, but he’s 80% right towards the direction the industry needs to go, but it’s not all their fault. Governments need to ease up on the censorship process and the complexity of tax systems throughout the world so that an Unbox, Hulu Premium, NetFlix, and on and on can come into their countries faster or there can be a Warner Channel, Universal channel (Syfy!), Anchor Bay channel (Evil Dead!) and on and on in their country. That’s not an entertainment industry issue, but a government/territorial issue requiring thousands of lawyers and accountants worldwide.

    -CJ

    • Left out one thing… To get some movies made, Producers will sign multiple distribution deals. Studios have to respect those, pirates don’t. Again, that’s the 20% Wheaton is missing from his argument. Did you know Warner distributed Summit’s Drive Angry (bad film, but it’s a point I’m making) in a couple markets in northern Europe.

      -CJ

      • But that’s just a detail of the business model, granted it’s a lucrative detail, but a detail nonetheless. Part of Wheaton’s larger point relates to this distribution deal system–if these trappings of how business is done by media companies are standing in the way of getting the media to the end user, then that system needs to change; until it does change, piracy will continue.

        Is that easy to do? Probably not. Does it rock the boat of a system that is complex? Absolutely. But his point is that the current ways of doing business have to change to accommodate the new reality, and in that way, media companies have nobody to blame but themselves for any losses they think they might be incurring from piracy, because lots of piracy is the result of the consumer finding ways to get these products they want despite the inadequacies of the distribution system put in place by the media’s owners.

        • But that’s my point, it’s not all the media owners’ fault. Here is an analogy. You buy a twinkie overseas that’s packaged for Europe. You bring it to the US. You’re not forbidden from eating that twinkie, but you can’t resell it here. That’s the problem with media. Nothing really stops individuals from bringing it in, but you just can’t sell it there/here because of governmental regulations that represent the majority of the society they “lead”.

    • Seriously where have you been, and i mean that in the nicest way possible. The studios could very easily come to some agreement to create a website where everyone could access content easily withought the restrictions placed on them that most put.

      If they had to even try to compete with the dl sites they would generate a whole new income stream and be rolling in money again as they were when dvd was fist implemented….people have moved on and the studios have been left way behind, nothing will change that, not laws or threats or jail time like the uk is proposing. How is a country going to jail 80% of their population , seriously they need to get a life accept that they have lost the power of distribution and compete with those that have take the bull by the horns and steered the future to where people want it.

      Even the small studios could win if they were not so in bed with the MAFIA(MPPA) but until the mafia is removed from the scene studios are going to be bowing down to them and losing millions in income.

      I do feel for the small studios , those who are prevented from having their content in cinemas becasue they dont pay enough dues to the mafia or others, I feel for them when the Mafia goes after them if they try anything innovative , but the only way this is going to change is if the studios bypass the mafia and combine their efforts to embrace technology not try to stop innovation.

  5. Actually, what Gabe said is incorrect, unfortunately. This year, Syfy only put up the first two episodes of the current season of Eureka up on Hulu (same with Warehouse 13, and only one episode of Haven, and the new Alphas). The rest won’t go up until AFTER the season is over.

    So instead of watching those episodes on hulu, as well as the commercials that play with them, I’ll just be downloading them elsewhere, for free, commercial free.

  6. The fact that Eureka has episodes up online is great. However, I’m paying for Hulu Plus so I can watch them from the Xbox attached to my TV… I find them in my queue only to find out they’re only viewable in my web browser. It’s pretty much as bad as not having them at all if I need to go through the trouble of watching them on a small screen and using up the space I’d otherwise be using for working.

    There’s a good reason I’ll be cancelling my Hulu Plus subscription soon. There’s also a good reason why there aren’t any decent alternatives to piracy either for TV. I can find reruns and past seasons on Netflix, but if I want current stuff, the most convenient way is to deal with torrents still.

  7. ITS NOT ABOUT MONEY. If it were the studios and record labels would not be battling the level of piracy they are, a level which is no where near the level they claim it is.

    Its about Power & Control; 2 things the record labels and the studios have been able to dictate for decades and now they face the real risk that they may not recover that absolute power unless something drastic is done like convince government to implement full lock down and control over the internet. And unfortunately they still have the wealth to buy that level of political power so long as the people can be kept away from fighting this move.

    Way to go Wheaton and Ferguson!

    • The 23-25 billion (range depending on who did the math) in lost revenue from the big six (Uni, WB, Par, Fox, Sony, and Disney) in a year is nothing to sneeze at. That’s not just their figures, but those produced by investment firms looking to invest or not into big studios. Granted that revenue is also spread across the distribution, rental, and theatrical methods out there as well. People are losing jobs here over this. Therefore… IT IS ABOUT MONEY!!!!

      Also, they won’t worry about locking down the internet. Just tracking people on it to find the content centers and shut them down. Yes, they make a dent, btw. The worst thing they’ll try is less distribution (See TW and Netflix’s relationship or lack thereof).

      • Cmon man, $25 billion in lost revenue? 9/10 people who pirate were NEVER going to pay to see that movie in the first place. Of course the studios will count that as lost revenue.

        Avatar was the most pirated movie of 2009, but surely the studios will never say that.

        • Studios did say that to Congress in defense of the passage of the “Protect IP” bill running through Congress. They have every right to consider each pirated download of a film as lost revenue.

          Try this. A person walks up to your lawn and steals one blade of grass from your lawn right in front of you and your family. They know what they did is wrong, but took it anyway. Under that analogy, the studios feel that those same people have taken your front and back yards dry, and are tearing up the driveway. The garage is already empty since pirates just go for the older, already released catalog that’s easy for them to pillage. They’ll come for the house next, but Billy is still in the back room feeding the looters pages of books off the parent’s shelf.

          You’d be pretty ticked off if someone did this to you. Pirates are stealing while slowly killing the larger spectacle of the industry and any chance of original ideas permeating the main distribution methods. Faces of this industry are becoming apparent in commercials. People lose houses over this, too.

      • Sorry CJ but it’s not about money. Am I saying that they don’t lose money? No. I realize that the studios and game developers do lose money with pirated content. The problem is that piracy did not start with the internet and yet these media mega-corporate giants are treating internet piracy like as if it’s the only piracy that exists. The knock-off industry in China (real copies of copyrighted items) is a billion dollar industry and yet we see little efforts from the media giants to go after these pirates. Why is that? It’s not solely because of the physical hurdles involved but it’s because they can get government to partner with them on legislation to lockdown internet use and because the media giants can get more bang for less buck by perusing potential pirates via the internet especially if Uncle Sam’s intelligence agencies are assisting.

        In addition to exaggerating their loses and not being as pursuant with real world piracy from places like China, it does not help their cause that many within the media industry are themselves pirates, stealing from their artists through shady contract dealings and cons. In recent years we’ve seen cases were some of these media empires try to sue for royalties on content they have no legal right to.

        The bottom line is these media conglomerates are filled with hypocrites and liars that have no issue with giving an individual the short end of the stick if they can get away with it and they normally do thanks to their owning a few politicians and judges. The individual however has only themselves and the internet community to fight back. Until the day that these media giants come clean and act in an honest fashion they will continue to see a very resistant populace. Quit making excuses for them; they don’t deserve your efforts.

  8. I’ve been thinking about this. Years and years ago when I first heard about the “Information Super Highway”..I figured it would be a place where the media companies would have already been poised to offer their goods. I figured it would be full of subscription services from the get go.

    To my surprise when I had my first experience on the net back in the late 90′s it was merely a collection personal websites and other things….basically information for free!

    Then I heard about mp3′s….and I was like, ‘Well wouldn’t that be illegal?”. My question was..”Why hasn’t the industry got their own service out?”

    I soon realized that they were no where even in the game. Now I see that this whole mess is their own darn fault for not getting in on the action before someone else introduced an easy method of getting music….Napster.

    If they would have offered this early on the game and gotten the CD buying public used to this method…they probably wouldn’t have a problem now. I hear guys on hear saying, “Oh you people should be ashamed of yourselves and your sense of entitlement!”

    This isn’t about entitlement…this is about convenience and people go for the convenient before they will go thru the hassle. Now the music industry in a situation where they need to spend zillions of dollars with educating a generation who mainly used to downloading and haven’t placed a dollar value on the tunes and artists creating the music.

    This is the big labels fault..for sure.

  9. It would be wonderful if he became the face of the honest consumer and not the torrent sites.

    Just because I download stuff doesn’t mean I’m a pirate, it means I want to watch it on my own time, and I don’t care for the 40 religious channels and 50 home shopping channels I have to skip over.

  10. It is not about greed – its about power.

    IN the music industry, they figured out they make more money and can better manipulate trends if they mass-market a few big acts. Napster and piracy broke down that wall, because we no longer had to suffer through whatever they chose to play on the radio or MTV – we could find our own music. They can’t control it, bands like Pomplamoose are able to do what they do without a label, and a lot of these guys are gonna be out of a job soon.

    • Freedom of music versus freedom of movie releasing? That’s your argument? Do you not like original ideas that require large budgets to get made or do you not believe that moviemaking is the art of the spectacle? Transformers? Pirates OTC? Fast Five? These are not original ideas, but the box office and piracy numbers clearly show that spectacle is still in style with the movie-viewing audience. Without the sales of these “repeat ideas” or “over-used cliches of movies”, original ideas like Inception do not get made.

      You’re right that it’s not about greed as an emotion. It’s about the money needed to make these titles. Movies are not really open source projects like music and software can be. Remove the salaries of the above the line talent completely and you still have a process that costs millions of dollars.

      Try this on for size. Stuntwork like the flying parachutists in Transformers 3 was pretty exciting, right? That was a practical (in camera) effect and more believable than the green-screening of filmmaking, yeah? That was probably a multi-million dollar effect. Did you not like TF3? Audiences year in and year out respond better to the more practical work as being “real”. Get an open-source project to jump off a building with the friend down the street who has a decelerator rig and a few extra pounds of explosives.

      Original ideas? Oh yeah, those cost as well. Believe it or not, LOTR was seen as the unshootable movie. Some still believe that, but I believe a director with barely 2 credits to his name asking for 300 million dollars was a very big gamble that resulted in an amazing trilogy. Inception was an original idea. The Wachowski brothers went to WB with a trilogy as well with only 1 film credit to their name. They made at least 1 great film (60mil budget) and 2 very fun sequels. Studios cannot take risks on unproven properties without the proven ones performing. Lionsgate is no exception, btw. Saw is being milked dry as are the Artisan and Live Entertainment catalogs they bought to get where they are. That’s how NewLine became a studio (Thanks, Freddy). No King’s Speech without Spiderman 3. That’s a reality.

      Please tell me one more time, is this about the money? I’ve got friends being laid off because of the defenders of piracy and would like to know if people are still defending the theft of movies. The “Protect IP” bill will probably pass, btw.

      -CJ

  11. Dude, he is fat, with fat face, with skinny arms. Liked him better as Wesley Crusher.

    • Uh, okay. You do realize he doesn’t get the option of staying young?

  12. I know this is an old post but a piece listed today on AROUND THE WEB titled “6 Things Hollywood Doesn’t Want You To Know” is a perfect complement to this Piracy piece in explaining why the Industry, specifically the money people and not the real workers, are the real pirates and crooks of the world.

    The story covers how Studios fudge movies profits to make them show as unprofitable. For example, Return of The Jedi has yet to make a profit. Hard to believe ey?

    Story at http://www.filmschoolrejects.com/features/6-things-the-film-industry-doesnt-want-you-to-know-about.php?utm_source=scribol&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=scribol

    There is another Hollywood Secrets piece with 5 more dirty little secrets form Hollywood including how studios deliberately burry films so they never are made or released. There’s a serious problem in the world when companies have the incentive to prevent art (in the form of movies in this case): http://www.cracked.com/article_19012_5-hollywood-secrets-that-explain-why-so-many-movies-suck_p2.html

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