Sun | Dec 15, 2019

Piracy pulls millions from creatives’ coffers

Published:Tuesday | November 12, 2019 | 12:21 AMKimberley Small/Staff Reporter
Cornelius Grant
Cornelius Grant

In a time when technology allows the layman access to high-end cameras and cell phones, playwrights, directors and their actors often suffer the pains of piracy. Bootlegging is a common ailment plaguing the theatre and film spaces, and has cost players like Cornelius Grant potential millions of dollars in earnings. Years ago, Grant wrote, directed and shot his debut film, Kill Dem All And Done. But someone looking to make some quick cash, re-recorded and sold DVD copies of the original work. But it’s a catch-22, because though Grant has not earned monetarily from his work being copied and sold on DVDs in the United States and across the Caribbean region, he is now a familiar face within the industry. All the same, the creator estimates that if he had exercised due diligence, he could have earned J$3 million from that film’s distribution.

“When somebody wants to watch something and it’s not readily available, they bootleg it,” Twain Richardson, CEO of streaming platform Vueture Entertainment, reasoned. Vueture Entertainment is a local streaming platform designed for creators like Grant, and other playwrights, screenwriters and directors to distribute their work to audiences across the world. In addition to feature films and shorts, Vueture is also designed for plays. According to Richardson, the idea is that after a play’s standard four-week run in a theatre, the product will be available for streaming on the platform.

“Plays are a lucrative product, because there is a demand. But the product is not readily available for someone living abroad. If I’m abroad and an aunt in Jamaica watches a play then tells me, there’s no way for me to go and watch that play.” Vueture is a response to this, but it has been a slow process for Vueture as piracy persists.

To discourage the public from bootlegging practices, Richardson offered perspective. He surmised that paying US$10 for a month-long subscription that allows a person to watch multiple plays, films and other productions is a smarter investment than paying the same price for a DVD with one or two plays. Reasonable though the argument may be, it has been a hard sell so far. “People have been signing up. But we’ve only had contact with one play director, and we’re trying to develop a relationship with him,” Richardson told The Gleaner.

As Vueture builds to become a hub for streaming Caribbean films, plays and television shows, Richardson has a bit of advice for those who have suffered like Grant. “The directors have to take on to themselves the responsibility of locking down areas when recording plays – like no use of cell phones and no cameras allowed. If they don’t record, there’s no way it can go out.”

For his film-making, Grant has another preventative measure. “Now, I’m copyrighting everything to make sure if they do anything, like copy, I can sue them,” he told The Gleaner. Kill Dem All And Done was a comedy film Grant made for fun – with no idea it could escalate to the level it did, and be successfully peddled to an international audience. “I never spent that much to do it, but if I did what I was supposed to, I would be better off now. Everything is a learning process,” Grant added. And to make up for lost millions, he learned to put plans in place. The newest plan is for a travelling theatre. “I want to show different films, and I won’t use anyone else’s music. I bring my own soundtracks. Mi have the team to pull it off.”