Godtube and Intellectual Property: Arrr! Where’s my Eye Patch, Peg Leg and Parrot?

I may start searching Godtube for maps to buried treasure. X marks the spot.

For fun the other day I headed over to Godtube to see how many of the highlighted videos came from Youtube. Of the eight or so I looked at, the only ones that did not have an exact counterpart of youtube were ones put up by Christian companies that sell videos. I hope that there are many original videos on Godtube, but I just don’t see them. What I see are tons of copyright violations.

Our own church was victim of infringement via Godtube. I’ve had friends who have had the same happen.

But, hey, we’re all believers, right? We are just spreading the Word! Does it matter if people watch the video on your channel or the Godtube channel?

I have a couple of questions about that:

1. If it’s just about spreading the Word, or making a clean place for the faithful to watch, who gets money for the ads? Is the person that stole the video sending it over to the person they stole it from? Somehow I doubt that.

2. Who is getting the social media information? Like number of visits, and demographics, and such? Is that information forwarded to the actual video owner? That would be another no.

3. Is the person who stole the video sending viewers back to the owner’s site for updates and to subscribe, and helping build the network of viewers and contacts that social video brings? Again, no.

The ad money generated on Godtube does not go to the owners of stolen videos. The thieves use the videos to build their own following. And since Godtube doesn’t have a way to contact channel owners, those who are violated have to complain directly to Godtube. (In their defense they were responsive when I contact them about our video, so at least there is that.)

Now, I’m under no illusions, I know that the same sort of piracy goes on at youtube. The same video taken and put on Godtube has been copied multiple times on youtube. But youtube isn’t call “Godtube” and isn’t populated by Christians. I expect people who claim the name of Christ to hold themselves to a higher standard.

I’ve never been a big fan of the idea of Godtube. It is the epitome of Christian subculture. The site is a Christian ghetto of copyright violations and marketing to religious people. It is the opposite of being salt and light in a dark world. It’s a bubble of religious content. And as far as I can see, much of the content has been stolen.

If the community at Godtube will not police itself, stronger measures should be taken to protect copyrighted content.

In the meantime, I’m considering adding a watermark to every video with our youtube channel address on it. So even if it is stolen, viewers know where it came from.

(Pirate flag image from free clip art resource.)


Lessons from the Shoot

This past weekend we shot the Preview Project for my TV Show. It was three scenes from the pilot. The shoots, overall went great. I am overwhelmed that I work in a place that allows me to pursue my dreams, surrounds me with people who are willing to help, and provides me with the gear to accomplish those dreams. I am so thankful for this. I have never done anything like this before.

My experience has always been on the support side of ministry, and to have people supporting me in this is amazing.

I learned some things in the shoot as well.

Schedule: When scheduling a location, make sure you know the schedule of every organization that uses the location. I scheduled our church’s cafe. And double checked to make sure that there was nothing else scheduled. It was clear so we set it up. I had forgotten that the cafe is next to the main kitchen and lunch room for the school. We had traffic all day long.

Sunlight: Always make sure you know where the sun is going to be during your shoot. Especially if you are shooting near windows. I know this is basic stuff, but I really blew it. I checked the first location at about the right time, but before daylight savings time changed and when it was cloudy. The morning of the shoot, right as the actors were arriving, the sun began pouring onto the set. We had to shift the set a bit, and be careful of angles. All I had to do was talk to one of the people who work there every morning and they could have told me what to expect.

Flexibility: This is key. The cast and crew were amazing. They were not getting paid at all, but did whatever was asked. I had tried to arrange extras, and had been told there would be about 15 people at the shoot on Saturday. Four showed up. So we shifted a bit. I would have liked to have more but we worked with what we got. And they were great. The scene still worked. And we got it done.

Amazing People: I am surrounded by amazing people. Great talent. Great heart for ministry. They were willing to give up their time to help me work on a dream. I always knew that there some pretty special people around me, but wow.

Amazing Resources: I am often reminded of how blessed we are with the resources we have. Because of other’s generosity, I had two cameras, a full dolly rig, an audio rig, a lighting kit, and everything else I needed to capture the shoot.

I learned a lot more about how to run a shoot as well, and about preproduction. Even with the issues we faced, the shoots really did go pretty well. I will be editing the footage over Thanksgiving. I hope to have a finished video soon.

Can’t wait to show it to you! Get updates at www.facebook.com/peculiarshow and on twitter at @peculiarshow.

Flixster/Ultrviolet Review: Maybe it Will Get Better?

[Update: The new iOS 5.0 version of the Flixster app allows downloading to your device, so you can view movies offline. Flixster listens. Now for 3G streaming… and Airplay.]

A few weeks ago I bought Green Lantern on Blu Ray. It’s packaging claimed it came with a digital copy, and on further inspection it was a new sort of digital copy that uses a couple of companies to deliver streaming movies.

I really like digital copies. I use my Apple TV to stream movies from my iOS devices to my TV, and even use an iPod Touch to watch movies on a small TV in the car on long trips. My iPad is almost always filled with video. If a movie comes with a digital copy, I download it. If not, I try to handbrake it. Digital copies are generally a little smaller, look great, and even have nice cover art. Now, they are DRM’d to iTunes, which isn’t great, but since most of my device can handle that it’s normally not an issue.

When I saw this new Ultraviolet/Flixster digital copies I was intrigued. There are iOS apps for the service, and you can stream the video instead of having to load it onto your device. You can download the files as well.

So I started the process of getting my copy. First I had to sign up for Flixster, then in the registration process I was taken to a portal to sign up for Ultrviolet. I spent about 20 minutes trying to complete the registration. I was stuck at the password creation portal. Something was wrong. I finally left the registration. turns out that ultraviolet has a different criteria for passwords than Flixster. The one I was trying to use wasn’t setting off any warnings in the Flixster portal registration, but Ultraviolet wouldn’t let it complete. I signed up on the Ultraviolet site, and went back with that login info to complete my Flixster set up.

I could stream my movie. I went ahead and downloaded the apps and even downloaded the file of the movie itself onto my computer. I logged into the app on my iOS devices and I could view my movies. So far so good.

I soon discovered that there ae a couple of issues with the service, though. I can stream the movies on my devices, but only in a wifi signal. I cannot watch the movie on my iPhone over 3G. well, that was annoying since the main selling point was that i could stream the video instead of having to load it onto my device.

I thought, OK, I’ll just load it. Then I discovered you cannot load the movie file onto your iOS device. It can only be played on the computer. Now I’m annoyed.

I won’t be able to use my movie outside of a wifi network on any portable device. Want to watch the movie on a plane? Nope. Let your kids watch one while diving down the road? No way.

With the iTunes digital copy, I may have to load the file onto my device, but I can watch it anywhere. So, I took the DVD and handbraked the movie. I am not a fan of the Flixster/Ultraviolet digital copy.

The one redeeming thing? Their social media team is very responsive. They have an active twitter, and they pointed me toward their developer feature email. I sent an email asking for what I would consider basic functions. If you want to be a replacement for iTunes, you have to be able to do at least why they do. If you want to be considered a streaming solution, you must be able to stream over 3G.

In the meantime, I will stream the video when i want at home, but will load my ripped copy when I want to take it out. Maybe they will add these features and make the service better.

“Dear Netflix” – This is a Test

Yesterday Netflix announced new pricing for its content. The reaction was immediate and loud.

Since then “Dear Netflix” has been a top trending topic on twitter and their Facebook page has gotten tens of thousands of negative comments. So as a company that appeals to people who want to stream content online, and has multiple social media accounts, I would have thought they would have been all over this.

I mean, the blog posts and email I got was so full of positive spin on how this was a good thing for me, I expected to see more of that. Instead there hasn’t been an echo from them, as far as I can see. No tweets, no replies, just silence as the social world repeatedly smacks them for raising prices.

Where are the posts about how you just renewed a bunch of the streaming content? How about defending the move? Or acknowledging that the circumstances about this stink for many of us? How about a straightforward admission that it costs a lot of money to get this streaming content, and they needed more revenue? Something?

Netflix is very quiet. How they respond is critical to their reputation online, which really matters for a video streaming company.

Dear Netflix, “Dear Netflix” is a test. Don’t fail it.

Dear Netflix- An Open Letter From a Loyal Subscriber

Dear Netflix,

Today, after a few websites leaked the news, you officially announced a new pricing scheme for your subscriptions.

Before I get into the meat of this, let me acknowledge two things: Netflix (or something like it) is the future of video entertainment. Netflix, as a for profit company offering a non essential service, has the right to charge whatever they want and I can pay it or cancel my subscription.

That being said, what is the deal, Netflix? In less than one year you have almost doubled my monthly subscription cost? I’ve gone from $9 to $10, and now come September I will be paying $16 for the same service I once paid $9 for. Please don’t dress it up by saying:

“Since then we have realized that there is still a very large continuing demand for DVDs both from our existing members as well as non-members. Given the long life we think DVDs by mail will have, treating DVDs as a $2 add on to our unlimited streaming plan neither makes great financial sense nor satisfies people who just want DVDs.”

That is bunk. There is no need to eliminate the Streaming+DVD plans just to create DVD only plans.

To be fair, when I started paying $9 the streaming content was not as robust as it is now. And I did not complain when the modest $1 a month increase hit. I understand that acquiring new content for streaming is expensive, and some studios want a lot of money for the right to let us watch their shows and movies.

I know that’s why you are raising the prices. I think that you hope two things will happen. Either people will choose streaming only options, giving you more leverage with studios about the number of streaming viewers or they will pay more, giving you more money to buy the rights to more shows for streaming.

But there is a third thing that will also happen: people will cancel their subscriptions completely. If the comments on the blog I linked to are any indication, a lot of people are thinking about it. But you already know that don’t you:

“As always, our members can easily choose to change or cancel their unlimited streaming plan, unlimited DVD plan, or both…”

Here is my dilemma. I would rather just stream all of my content. I have devices on all of my TVs that can stream from Netflix. I normally maintain over 50 titles in my queue, mostly TV shows. I love it. But, I want the new releases as well. I want to get a new DVD release sometime within a few months of its release date. So we have the single disc plan as well. Now because you have seen fit to split their service, I get to pay twice for those services. No discount. If the streaming content was almost as much as the available DVD content, I would just stop getting the discs, but it’s not.

It’s not nearly as much. Thats why you need to raise money and grow their number of “only-streaming” subscribers, so you can increase the amount of streaming content. But that means making people mad, and you may lose subscribers. Which weakens your position with the studios and lessens the monthly income. People who don’t want to pay $16 are going to be mad that they are losing access to content they have had previously. They are not going to be satisfied with the current streaming catalog, which is why you need to take steps to increase the catalog… by raising revenue, etc… I get the catch 22 you are in.

I would not mind paying a bit more. I like the way the catalog of streaming content has been expanding. But you should offer a discount for people who want to keep both streaming and discs. At least until the streaming content catches up with the available disc content.

Meanwhile I’m going to sit back and hope you bow to the public pressure that’s coming your way. I’m going to console myself with the fact that in reality, even $16 a month is a fraction of what it would cost to go to a local store and rent the same content for viewing that I get from you every month. I’m going to continue to ignore the reoccurring issues with streaming to an Apple TV 2. And I’m going to relish the thought that if you mess this up, someone else will come along and provide the same service you do, better, for less.

Right now you’re leading the pack, today you stumbled.



I received this form email tonight (Not in response to anything, I’m sure everyone got one):

“We are separating unlimited DVDs by mail and unlimited streaming into two separate plans to better reflect the costs of each. Now our members have a choice: a streaming only plan, a DVD only plan, or both.

Your current $9.99 a month membership for unlimited streaming and unlimited DVDs will be split into 2 distinct plans:

Plan 1: Unlimited Streaming (no DVDs) for $7.99 a month
Plan 2: Unlimited DVDs, 1 out at-a-time (no streaming) for $7.99 a month

Your price for getting both of these plans will be $15.98 a month ($7.99 + $7.99). You don’t need to do anything to continue your memberships for both unlimited streaming and unlimited DVDs.

These prices will start for charges on or after September 1, 2011.

You can easily change or cancel your unlimited streaming plan, unlimited DVD plan, or both, by going to the Plan Change page in Your Account.

We realize you have many choices for home entertainment, and we thank you for your business. As always, if you have questions, please feel free to call us at 1-888-357-1516.

–The Netflix Team”

At least this one sounds little more accurate: “separate plans to better reflect the costs of each.” Of course it would be probably more accurate if they just said, “To pay for buying more streaming licenses.”

Cutting the Cord

We are going finally do it. We are going to finally get rid of cable TV, completely. I think.

When Hulu Plus came to the Xbox, all my excuses went away. Between that and Roku, I can see it in the living room and the bedroom. No need to pull out a computer, just grab a remote.

That seems to be the trigger for acceptance in my home. If we have to pull the laptop out and watch it there, we won’t. We never got Netflix until we had devices that could stream it. Just never thought it was worth it. But when we tried it with streaming, we loved it.

With Netflix and Hulu Plus we can see just about every show or movie we want. We have been hanging on to cable for access to local news and sports. I know justin.tv will stream most games, but I cannot stand to watch the quality. I pulled out a set of powered rabbit ears and hooked them up. We don’t get a lot of over the air channels.

My big question is what happens when football season comes around. My little set of rabbit ears still picks up a few channels, including Fox. But CBS is not strong enough for viewing. At least I can watch some games. If we choose to leave cable internet for DSL I may look at an exterior antenna. I could insert that signal into the existing cable network in my home.

Either way, missing out on a few channels isn’t that big of a deal for us, since we routinely load episodes of our favorite shows into our queues. But for some families, missing out on channel surfing is a problem.

I read an article a while back about some families who were in an experiment. They got various Internet TV boxes/services and cut cable. Then reported their experiences. Their main complaint was that watching TV became active. They could not just flip channels and watch something. This is a huge change from normal TV viewing.

My Netflix queue has dozens of titles in it. When I am bored on the computer, or remember a show, I’ll surf to the site and add things to the queue. Right now it would take us weeks to watch everything that is loaded without ever loading another show.

Still, having a lot of shows you want to watch isn’t the same as flipping channels, though. I was talking about this with some people at lunch the other day. One said that we needed Pandora for TV. That’s not a bad idea. Some sort of Netflix “Suggestions for You” on overkill. Just select a show, and then get a list shows like that one to try. Sort of like Apple’s Genius playlists generated from ratings you submit. Still won’t be quite the same as flipping, but would provide some of that random stumble upon a show experience.

The biggest annoyance of Hulu Plus is that even though you pay a monthly fee, not every show is available for viewing everywhere. Some are web only. Scanning through available networks I was so happy to see shows from the speed network. I promptly added a few. Only to realize that they were available to view only through the website. Epic fail.

It’s bad enough that I still have to sit through commercials (although if you have cable TV you pay more for the privilege of sitting through more ads.) but any show available on Hulu.com should be valuable to your premium subscribers. Some of the web only shows were not current season, first-run, they were older episodes from older show. It is just a matter of what rights Hulu had been granted.

But Netflix doesn’t have that problem. And some shows that are web only in Hulu are available on any screen through Netflix. Looks like Hulu needs to get better at negotiating.

Still, paired together, Hulu Plus and Netflix should take care of most people’s needs for video entertainment. The easier it is for people to watch this content, the more people will adopt it. The cable companies have a small window to figure out how to stay in the video content delivery business. Some providers have been trying, but there is a lot of mush out there right now.

Netflix and Hulu Plus provide an alternative to cable/satellite providers that is available right now.

I’ll keep you updated.

Arrival of Apple TV

I got it. As you can see from the video, set up was pretty simple. Once I set up Home Sharing on my iPad, the new Remote app took the pain of text entry away. On my Wireless N network, both Netflix and my videos streamed great, and looked great.

I can’t wait for Airplay. It will be a whole new level of integration. I do miss internal storage some. I dislike having to have my computer on with iTunes open in order to stream. Airplay will eliminate that to some extent.

Apple TV and AirPlay = Win

The other day I saw a comment from Intel’s CEO about the Apple TV. Last night I read a NY Times article about how it compares to other media streaming devices. The device isn’t even out yet, and it is already being panned.

Sometimes people don’t see the forest because of the trees. The Apple TV will stream video itself, and probably will see that capability improve as Apple updates the device. But the real genius of the new Apple TV is AirPlay. Until the beta of 4.2 I mostly had conjecture and hope, but seeing this article from 9to5Mac, the “Go to Market” strategy is coming into focus a bit more.

The things people are saying about the Apple TV, even Apple’s marketing strategy, focus on what it does that every other streaming box does. And, the Apple TV doesn’t really stand out from that crowd. It’s a media streaming box. But when you couple it with AirPlay, you get a whole other level of interaction and media consumption. The NY Times article completely left out AirPlay, but for me, that is the key strength of the device; easily streaming content from computers and iOS devices to the TV screen.

From the 9to5Mac article:

AppleTV is a Airplay-compatible device, meaning it can stream video/sound from other Apple devices. We found out last night that it isn’t just iTunes content that it will be able to broadcast. Any H.264 content from the web can be broadcast over Airplay to your HDTV.

That includes any video that can play on your iOS 4.2 device, like: Facebook video, YouTube, Netflix, Videos, BBC News, MLB and really anything else you can watch on your iOS device. That also includes videos built into Apps and magazine subscriptions too. All of this can be beamed to your AppleTV via Airplay.

That means you can watch most Internet video on AppleTV over AirPlay. The day AppleTV is released, you’ll be able to watch free SD clips of shows that appear on ComedyCentral.com like the Daily Show and Colbert Report via Airplay. You theoretially should be able to watch Hulu Plus so long as it is encoded in H.264 (and doesn’t get blocked once the networks figure out what Apple has done here).

So, in many ways, an iOS device becomes a remote for the Apple TV, where you select content and send it for display it on your TV. This will be done using Apple’s intuitive (I hope) interface. If this is simple enough for normal people to grasp, the Living Room is about to change. Surf on your iPad or iPod, find a video, send it to your TV and enjoy. The more apps that are developed with this capability the more useful it becomes.

Apple TV is supposed to ship in September. 4.2 releases in November.

The End (of Cable TV) is Nigh!

I got an email yesterday from Microsoft about my Xbox Live subscription. They are raising their prices for Gold membership:

“Over the past seven years, Xbox LIVE has evolved from an online gaming platform to an all-in-one gaming and entertainment service. As an Xbox LIVE Gold member, you can not only play blockbuster games, such as Halo: Reach with your friends online, you can also stream movies from Netflix and music from Last.fm right to your TV. You can even connect with friends near and far on Facebook® and Twitter™. Plus, you also enjoy exclusive discounts and early access to game demos.

And we aren’t even close to being done. This holiday, Xbox LIVE is adding new Gold features, including ESPN and Video Kinect, with Hulu Plus coming on Xbox LIVE in 2011.

• With ESPN on Xbox LIVE, you can stream and watch over 3,500 live and on-demand sporting events plus highlights.

• Video Kinect allows you to chat with family and friends on the big screen, right from the comfort of your living room—no headset or controller required.

• With Hulu Plus on Xbox LIVE you will be able to enjoy a customized Hulu Plus experience that will include Kinect navigation and Xbox LIVE Parties”

That’s right, soon I will not only play games and stream Netflix on the Xbox, but watch ESPN and Hulu Plus TV programming.

Tomorrow Apple will host an event where it is rumored they will reveal a new iOS based iTV box, replacing the ill fated (but loved by me) Apple TV. It’s not certain they will announce this, but it would make sense with the rest of Apple’s strategy. An app-based iTV box designed to stream video, pictures, audio, and play simple games would fit right into the iOS line. When you add in another rumor that Apple will allow “cloud-based” content streaming to iOS devices, it could be very easy to consume all kinds of media on your TV.

That’s what has been missing from the conversion from cable to web viewing, simplicity. The average person doesn’t want to figure out how to use a multimedia PC and get the video from websites to stream on their TV. They just want to plug in a box and watch. They need an Xbox or iTV, or Playstation, or boxee box, or blu ray player with streaming capabilities or they won’t switch. Media PCs have been around for years, and never been widely adopted by the masses, not because of their cost, but because of the lack of simplicity.

If people can buy a simple solution to stream the same video content as offered by cable/satellite from the web, they will. It’s niche programming taken to the logical conclusion: pay a low fee, and watch what you want when you want.

All that remains is for local channels to figure out how to deliver through the web, and cable can devote all of it’s bandwidth to on demand and internet traffic. Cable companies wont go out of business, but they won’t offer 300 channels anymore either. Currently, I subscribe the the base cable package of 20 local channels and an internet package. We spend less than 3 hours per week watching cable. We spend many more hours streaming content via the internet connection.

It won’t happen fast, but within a couple years or so cable will find less people paying for the massive channel packages, and more adopting fiber and faster connections to the web. They will have to change their model to survive.

For those of us that deliver content via cable and network channels, we have some strategic thinking to do, and we had better get on it.

Netflix and Streaming

I was a skeptic about a Netflix account. I was sure that it could not be as described. You just get movies that are at the bottom of the queue. The movies available for streaming must be ones you have never heard of. there is no way that $9 bucks a month get’s you more than a couple movies a month you actually want to see.

I own two blu ray players that can stream Netflix, and an Xbox 360, and have access to an iPad. A friend emailed me a link to sign up for a free month, so I decided to see what it was all about. At least I would watch a couple of movies for free.

I was unprepared for the selection; not just hundreds of movies, but hundreds of pages of movies to select from. Quite a few are available for streaming with pretty good video quality. I was able to link in my devices very easily. The iPad can both manage the queue and stream movies.

I started watching the Voltron series with my son. He loves it. (He did ask why the picture didn’t fill the whole screen of my HDTV.) We have also enjoyed several cartoon classics, as well as more recent movies. The selection of documentaries is pretty good, too. I loved “Lord, Save Us from Your Followers“, which I had heard about when they were filming it.

The dvds that are shipped have come quickly, a by product of having a Netflix shipping center in Orlando. And every movie they have sent has been the one on the top of the queue. I know that won’t always be the case, but so far it has been great.

Even the rating/recommendation settings have been pretty accurate. I got a couple of movies they said I would not really like, and they were right. I didn’t like them. I provided Netflix with answers to a quiz on my movie preferences, and rated a few films I had seen. Now, when I browse movies, they rate them according to what I said I liked or disliked.

So far, I have been very pleased.