Screen international and ScreenDaily.com editor Michael Gubbins hosts this Power to the Pixel Panel with Sara Pollack the film manager of YouTube, David Straus & Joe Neulight from Withoutabox, Kelly Devine working on the Reframe project at Renew and Paula Le Dieu with Magic Lantern and who has worked with iCommons the international wing of Creative Commons.

Michael points out that in some ways we have a new system of gate-keeping and then David Straus points out that more and more filmmakers are starting to be empowered as distributors. Then Joe Neulight gets very defensive about how slow things have moved in the past two years and promises for more Withoutabox services for self distribution in the spring.

Then questions from the audience reiterate the new gate keeper contradiction as well as provide a call to action to have meta data about movies contain alternative audio tracks for the blind and captions for the hearing impaired. I thought this was an interesting point because ideally most content and user interfaces would be able to work either with no audio or with only audio. This is the kind of thing digital media should promise if people can do their jobs and get it all designed right.

Now the panel was called, "new distributors" which is a great name but Withoutabox kept talking about "self distribution." Wait a minute, what are the new distributors doing if I still have to self distribute my work? Here is the thing. I’ve learned through Four Eyed Monsters Distribution effort. There is no such thing as Self-Distribution unless your selling DVD-R’s of your movie in the subway.

The second you make 1,000 dvds from a replication company or decide to use a fulfillment company to ship your DVDs or an e-commerce solution to collect the money online it’s no longer truly self distribution. It’s simply having made a deal with someone that is facilitating the distribution of the film. But what people mean by self distribution of course is that you hold onto your rights. That way you can do all of the things a distributor would do and essentially have your own distribution company powered by various distribution services available to anyone.

This is good because it’s a democratic approach. It’s an empowering concept because with enough commitment anyone can do this. And we have. So we are glad this is possible. But should this be the answer for the business model of the future?

David Wachs of Break Through Distribution said it himself in Peter Buckingham’s Q&A session, "we found that most of the DVDs sit on the shelves."

This is a very good point and even with our pretty large audience base online we’ve still had a hard time selling DVDs on the web. We think it will go a lot better once we are in retail for our demographic.

See the problem with holding onto your rights is that you are also holding onto the incentive for others to monetize your film and make you money. You shouldn’t give all your rights stupidly away, but you should find smart ways to provide companies with some of the rights to your film. And eventually I think it would be amazing to entrust the rights to your film in a universal license.

The Universal License Concept as it stands at the moment:

In the future I hope that instead of a filmmaker distributing their work themselves or having a company buy all the rights and distribute it, a piece of content will be able to distribute it’s self. The content literally needs to grow legs and walk away from the creators and lawyers that too often keep it tied down.

Now and then the content should write home and send money that it’s made back to it’s parents. Once a license exists that you can attach to a piece of content that defines how others can distribute it defining the financial splits for various types of distribution, then I think there will be an explosion in innovative ways to distribute high quality content. There will also be an explosion in new user habits that will take us the rest of the way out of the DVD era and help the film industry narrowly avoid the fate of the music industry now that it’s in the post CD era.

If you enable any new company to easily become a "new distributor&quo
t; then the services and monetization solutions will be created that will help the content owners find audiences and make money.

So the missing link is that there will have to be a standard way of publishing complete works online in high res along with a license that lets any 3rd party service monetize the work and send money to the payee information on the standard license on the work.

The proof that this is necessary is in how all of the "new distributors" on the stage have a problem getting enough good content. Lack of compensation and sluggish paperwork are the things that prevent good content from appearing in places where it should. So a universal license you put on content can eliminate needing to go through paperwork and create accounts on thousands of platforms.

Now currently the answer is to have non-exclusive agreements that give a website rights to do whatever they want with a film and if you’re lucky sometimes they will share money if they monetize your content. But the split is really bad considering how little they do and that you are the one that made the content.

Once we have a universal license the environment for monetizing digital media will mature and the majority of proceeds will go to the creators which will instigate more culture being made by those that prove they make relevant culture.

A universal license for media starts to sound like a pretty involved thing. But we know one thing. We need a world in which it’s legal to give a copy of a movie you like to a friend. And we also need a world where any company can become a professional distributor monetizing content without first having to go out and get a catalog of content.

A new subscription service putting content on cell phones in a foreign country, a new micro cinema network, a new company that gives you access to content but also lets you invest half of your monthly subscription fees into new works from your favorite artists. It’s in the interest of audiences and content creators to let other companies innovate new ways to bring the two of them together.

It should never be one company doing all the innovating. We see problems today with waiting for YouTUbe to have higher quality video while the technology exists today to get HD videos to the end user via Bittorrent Technology that YouTube doesn’t have the infrastructure to adopt.

In a universal media publishing standards environment, open source communities as well as companies could be implementing these solutions. So I propose Creative Commons gets a grant from someplace to get together a team of experts in their fields to spend a few days together in a room and draft this universal license.

It needs to be designed in a way that can likely be adopted by independent media. It might be sort of like drafting the constitution of the united states and there might be a few fist fights over how it should be made. I don’t think the people working on it should be representing any companies cause that will corrupt it’s design. It should just be people that happen to have the experience needed to make this thing in a way that is fair to filmmakers and gives enough incentive to new distributors to create platforms and services that do a good job monetizing content.

Susan and I hope to make a second film that will be done in a couple years and we want to see this system up and running by then so please, jump on it. Do you think this is possible? Please post comments below.

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