Legal, global video streaming options which help fund independent movie productions

I dream of the day when I can easily, financially support people who
make great things and share them freely. Whether that be media, tools
or, more radically, social systems, infrastructure or field trips to
Mars. Right now it’s a challenge to be able to legally acquire movies
that I want to watch at all, but it is slowly getting better.

I live in Germany, so, thanks to regional distribution restrictions my
choices for watching movies which haven’t been dubbed are really
limited. I can rent DVDs online, which seems comical to me in this day
and age. The selection isn’t great and it’s über cumbersome. There is
one streaming service in Germany which has some titles in English, but
again the selection is very limited and it’s also a terribly clunky
system which depends on Microsoft Silverlight (a technology even
Microsoft has turned its back on).

The other thing that bothers me about the mainstream services is that
I doubt the creators see much of the money themselves. The kinds of
indie movies which can actually make it into such distribution
networks have already sold their souls to corporate giants so the
rental fee I pay mostly gets gobbled up by the suits.

Technologically, it’s such a trivial task to share data globally that
the powers that be feel the need to artificially impose restrictions
and limitations which don’t make any sense. It’s a perverse form of
backwards compatibility which attempts to keep things working within
the slow moving legal and financial structures. Indeed, it’s dangerous
to support such distribution systems because they seriously infringe
on our personal privacy and human rights. To ensure that you can only
read an electronic book a certain number of times before it
“disintegrates” means that they need to keep track of your reading
habits. As long as consumers accept these terms and conditions such
practises have no reason to change.

Enough with the waffle, I really just wanted to mention some movie
streaming services I’ve been using recently which I hope are a sign of
things to come.

http://www.indiepixfilms.com/on-demand has some good ones. I quite
liked http://www.indiepixfilms.com/film/5476 Williamsburg and a
documentary http://www.indiepixfilms.com/film/4023 Hell On Wheels
about roller derby, a must for anyone who loved Whip It (only
available from indiepixfilms on DVD, sadly).

Then there’s http://www.vhx.tv which has some great independent
movies. Bizarrely, it doesn’t list them all on the website which is
obviously geared more towards movie creators than consumers. I asked
them if there was any available listing but didn’t get a
response. They obviously intend for each movie to have its own URL and
themed version of their interface. I did figure out a very silly way
to find films they host. I search the Internet for an exact phrase
from the terms and conditions page. With some movies you have the
option of paying more than the minimum price, which is cool, and they
also offer DRM free downloads. Here are some films I can highly
recommend:

Birth Story: http://watch.birthstorymovie.com
Sleepwalk With Me: http://watch.sleepwalkmovie.com
We Are Legion: http://wearelegionthedocumentary.com
TPB AFK: http://watch.tpbafk.tv
Beauty is Embarrasing: http://buy.beautyisembarrassing.com
I AM NOT A HIPSTER: http://www.iamnotahipster.com

Some of these are also available on the new vimeo on-demand service
https://vimeo.com/ondemand which is brilliant. Some Girl(s)
https://vimeo.com/ondemand/somegirls is a great film which isn’t
available on VHX.

These services all fall considerably short of my dream, and I can only
think of one example which doesn’t, Nina Paley’s ground breaking: Sita
Sings the Blues: http://www.sitasingstheblues.com/. Crowd funded
movies such as Iron Sky are also a step in the right direction.

Of course, there is no technical reason why creatives can’t tell the
world what they want to create, add a bitcoin wallet address and
continue pushing until they get enough people to back it, then make
the thing, pay everyone involved handsomely, and share it for everyone
to enjoy. There’s really no need for these intermediate services
except that society isn’t there yet.

Even though Free software is widely used, it can hardly be held up as
an example of a system where developers are rewarded financially by
end users for the work they share freely. Many improvements are funded
by large companies, perhaps by loosely related services such as
support, or even indirectly by means of spy-ware and ad-ware services
which rely on them. I guess I’m just an incurable optimist, but I sure
hope that will change.

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