Thursday, December 18, 2014

Anonymous Virtual Movie Ticket for "The Interview": Sony should fight fire with a torrent of fire

On the current crisis: Sony's next move should be to set up a system by which people can buy "Virtual Movie Theater Tickets" anonymously for "The Interview". 

The payments for these tickets would be made into a "Theater Ticket" fund. When there is enough money in that fund so that Sony can offset their loss on "The Interview", then they can just release the movie to the world via anonymous torrent. 

This way,  people can watch "The Interview", and get back to their lives, not worrying that free speech has been compromised by terrorists. The critics can pass judgement on the film's tastefulness, and the world would stay the way it was. (We liked it when video content with the power to threaten lives in democratic countries remained strictly confined to the plots of horror films---remember The Ring?) 

The idea of a "Virtual Movie Ticket" is an extension of the call to Sony to "Fight fire with fire", which they are reported to be downplaying

Why pay for an Anonymous Virtual Movie Theater Ticket? The impasse to setting the movie free on the world via filesharing is the precedent it would set for the movie industry. Movies and TV content require resources, sometimes substantial resources, to produce---this fact remains the bottom line. Terrorist shouldn't restrict free speech, but, not forgetting the more mundane, they shouldn't be able to influence Sony stock prices with a flick of a finger either.

Why does a Virtual Movie Ticket need to be anonymous? The reason is: The last thing that should fall into the hands of the people who hacked Sony is a list of which households which bought "Virtual Movie Theater Tickets".

The same line of reasoning applies to considerations of whether the movie should be released so that people can watch it via VOD streaming. 

If the Sony servers can be hacked, then the VOD service can be hacked, as mentioned here. Again, who is watching what is not information that should be in the hands of whoever issued the terrorist threats.

Delft University of Technology has just issued a new release of Tribler, a BitTorrent client that is not dependent on central servers. The Tribler team has been working long and hard on realizing the technology necessary for anonymity:

A common reaction to this research, is that the technology is only needed by "pirates" or in countries with oppressive governments, those evading either the law, or the laying low under lawlessness. 

However, with "The Interview" crisis the media consumption behavior of free citizens has been singled out by a terrorist threat. This case drives home how seemingly innocuous information can suddenly become dangerous to individuals. 

"The Interview" case dramatically highlights that it is not enough to lead a law abiding life, but that there is a clear and present need for tools that allow all citizens to take responsibility for protecting the privacy of their own information behavior.

Whatever happens next, people who had never considered filesharing before will be forced to think seriously about whether they should be keeping their movie watching behavior anonymous for the purpose of protecting themselves.

By giving people an easy, anonymous chance to pay for a "Virtual Movie Theater Ticket" before they anonymously access "The Interview" via torrent, the current crisis could have the unexpected positive outcome. Rather than being a fiasco, it would set a precedent for a major shift in the technical and economic model of movie production, beneficial to both the studios and the consumer.

The "Virtual Movie Theater Ticket" is conceptually a small step from the movie ticket sold a the box office, but in the current situation, it would be a large and liberating game changer.