I’M having sleepless nights.
Right at this moment, a scriptwriter is waiting for her next job from us. She’s a good scriptwriter, studied dramatic arts in university, and has the experience and know-how to create stories that would pull our heartstrings or give us a sense of wonder, or both at the same time.
At the same moment, an award-winning director is waiting for confirmation to begin production of his movie. He has completed his eighth script draft of another possibly award-winning movie. He talks excitedly about lifting Malaysian cinema to a new level, using the best in CGI (computer-generated imagery) technology.
I have sleepless nights thinking about them waiting. I worry. I worry even more thinking about many others hinging on our next moves. The creative people involved in making films, television series, animation, and even music. The set designers, the costume makers, the computer graphics guy, the composer, even the guy who provides coffee.
I think every producer in Malaysia faces this worry.
As producers, we are always looking out for the next big project. The next big movie, the next big TV series, the next big recording artiste. We get a high from producing hits, of making creative works that excite an audience.
But now, every producer in Malaysia is scared.
Digital piracy is rampant. Digital has made it even easier to get content illegally. Many people are watching movies online illegally, without paying a sen. (For those of you who said you still have to pay for data, that’s like saying it’s okay to steal a car because you pay for the fuel).
And now, the latest fad, live streaming from the cinema.
People are using their phones to stream movies live from the cinema. Facebook Live, Insta story, whatever. With a blatant disrespect to the film, or the audience around them, these pirates, without a moment’s hesitation, would stream a movie, worked on by hundreds of people, invested by producers to the tunes of millions, FOR FREE. Just to get a few more “Likes”.
This is not just wrong, it’s criminal. You are stealing.
Stop it. You are killing an industry.
Or don’t you care? Maybe Malaysians just don’t respect intellectual property. Remember how we bought pirated CDs or DVDs without a care? Maybe because it didn’t feel like stealing. But it is. You are stealing.
If you’re watching an illegally uploaded movie online, you are part of the stealing. And, you’re participating in something criminal. Just think of it this way. If someone steals a car and you ride it around, you are part of the crime.
Still don’t get it?
Let’s say you’re an architect, and your house design is approved by the client. Someone copies it and then makes a thousand houses based on your design. He gets millions. You get nothing. How would you feel?
Here’s a simpler example. You work hard on a batik design, get it all ready, line up production, deal with retailers and spend on marketing. But, someone copies your design and then sells it for half the price. Nobody buys your batik. But, the copier makes millions. You lose your entire savings.
An even more easy example. You work every day and at the end of the month when you collect your money, you find out someone used your ID and collected your pay already. But, you did all the work.
And, you still think it’s not wrong to watch pirated movies online?
How about this then? What if your daughter wanted to study dramatic writing. She is good. She studies in New York University. She tops it off with a master’s degree at the University of Southern California. You spent a lot to ensure she gets a good education.
She comes back. There is no industry. No job. Local producers don’t dare to invest as piracy is rampant. What will you do as a father? Still say there’s nothing wrong with watching a movie on torrent?
And, when she becomes dejected, goes off and makes movies with Hollywood... do you still say streaming movies illegally is okay? Facebook Live from inside the cinema, well that’s a small thing? Is it ok that your daughter is now contributing to the industry of another country instead of your own? Would you then say, “Oh, it’s because Malaysian movies are so bad.” Who’s fault is that?
We have among the best creative people in the world, be they in directing, special effects, script-writing, even songwriting. Pity they can’t make a decent living in Malaysia.
How can they? When with one simple click of your smartphone in the cinema, a whole industry falls to its knees. So, what do I tell the scriptwriter and director?
I’m having sleepless nights. You should too.
Ahmad Izham Omar hopes people will report illegal streaming of movies in cinemas or online to #lanun. Or better still, tell them that it’s a crime. And yes, they can go to jail, just over a few more “Likes”.