You know those old shows you used to watch when you were a kid? Ones that made you want to get up early on a Saturday morning or rushing home to watch after a long day of school.
You know the types. You know their names. They’re reasons my generation still enjoy cartoons and have a fondness for old-school things.
But the only way people could see these lost programs is on digital outlets that have them legally like Jaroo, Crackle, The WB, Crunchyroll, or Hulu. That’s to say, the ones those companies actually care about.
The.shows that aren’t on television, DVD, iTunes, or streaming online in an official capacity are often found hovering in unofficial domains on sites like YouTube, Vimeo, Dailymotion, and others. A few folks who managed to trade tapes and discs have turned that craft into a more digital format. What both groups of fans are doing is piracy and illegal. But often, it’s the only route many folks have to watch those shows because, let’s face it, a lot of what folks liked in the past, Big Media wants to put aside.
We’re likely never going to see You Can’t Do That on Television, Eureeka’s Castle, The Great Space Coaster, Foofur, Out of This World, Tranzor Z, My Secret Identity, Pandamonium, Drac Pack, Head of the Class, Mighty Orbots, Kissyfur, New Amsterdam, Max Headroom, the entire run of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or ALF: The Animated Series ever again.
There are some value in those older shows and productions. The fans know it. Big Media knows it but they don’t know how to deal with it.
One company created an “Archives Collection” which is a good idea on paper, but flawed in execution (I’ll talk about that in-depth on another site another time). That’s one way a company can deal with the library products they have but aren’t making available in the public.
Here are two ways Big Media could combat piracy of those older titles:
Make them available across multiple platforms right now.. I know, it should be a no-brainer. You have a library of titles, you’d want to put them out in the public. However, few titles are out there, and even fewer are available on a myriad of outlets. About 1/3 of a library is shown and out in the public. Put it all out there. Stream them. Put them on iTunes (or, if you can, create your own video purchase channels). Put them on Hulu (did you know a company with the largest library of entertainment doesn’t have any of their products on Hulu at all?) Syndicate them, and before you go out on a tangent, the syndication market is the strongest it has been in ages, especially for library programming. Digital channels like Antenna TV, This TV, Me TV, RTV, Bounce TV, and qubo and smaller cable channels like The Hub, GMC, Hallmark, and FamilyNet have created new life for old favorites and creating new fans in the process as well as reconnecting with older fans. They’re working and succeeding in droves. But if the idea of putting your wares across multiple platforms to audiences that want them still make you feel uncomfortable, you could always go in a completely different route, one that makes more sense in the end especially if you don’t want those products out in any form at all:
Put those titles in the public domain. GASP! Scandalous, I know. The thought of giving shows and films to the public for absolutely nothing? The shame! But it makes a lot of sense. If you have a product that you don’t feel has enough value, won’t even sell or syndicate, and just let it rot in a vault never to be seen again, why don’t you just get rid of it? If you feel a product has no life outside of your own myopic vision, then put those products out in the public domain. There are many books, stories, films, and shorts in the public domain because somebody felt that they had no worth and they didn’t even want to put them out there in any other form. The Fleischer Superman shorts are in the public domain. Is the character? Nope. It’s still partially owned by Time Warner and the estates of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. It’s out there in the open and anybody can take and watch them at their leisure. The shorts belong to the people. Here’s the first one. Easy, right? Nobody’s going to pirate those shorts. Big Media is so hellbent on keeping everything they’ve ever created though 2/3 of what they make they really don’t care about. So, release them. Instead of just tracking every single title you own, you could focus on the ones you feel have real value and the ones that could find new life in syndication, and release the library you don’t really care about out in the open.
Every six months, release a cycle of shows, films, and other properties into the public domain. It shrinks your massive libraries, but you still own the master prints and trademarks. You just made the copyrights to those programs public and open. And if you want to recoop your costs, just release those PD titles that have the biggest draw in sets and have extra materials that you’d still own.
Just two ways to combat piracy, at least when it comes to older library titles.