By ©Jimi Wikman
Tomorrow Disney plus will launch and with it comes the much hyped series The Mandalorian. I am very positive to the Disney plus service that I will most likely get as soon as it is available. The fact that most of the world can NOT get the Disney plus service tomorrow however will probably lead to the fact that The Mandalorian will be heavily pirated as there is no other way to see this series.
I have never understood the concept of time gating movies or tv series based on geography. It is a strange practice, especially in the digital age where geography matters very little. It is a practice that has always been the source of piracy, even back in the days of the WHS and cassette tapes. While I am sure there are legal reasons for it, rather than simple greed, it does cause some interesting situations.
One of the strongest arguments when dealing with piracy is that illegally downloading a movie for example, or a tv show, is that by doing so you cause financial loss from the company that own the right to sell those. It's a logical claim, although the idea that everyone who download illegally also would have purchased the item is a ridiculous one.
Now, with time gated content such as the exclusive content coming with Disney plus the question is if this scenario will be a bit different. If you take for Sweden where I live we supposedly can get access to Disney plus sometime early next year. So if anyone in Sweden download The Mandalorian tomorrow will that change any legal claim?
No one in Sweden can purchase a legal right to see The Mandalorian at this time. This means that until the Disney plus service is available no damage can be done to sales in Sweden. Any legal claim would have to be towards future sales. This can be difficult because Disney plus does not exist in Sweden and it would be a theoretical value on how much illegally downloading one or more episodes would impact potential sales.
That is a tricky claim to make and since there is no official statement that Sweden will even get Disney plus at any specific date it could make the case even weaker. That would mean that at the time of the illegal download there was no guarantee that The Mandalorian would be ever be available legally in that country. I am not sure if that would have an impact on the legality, but I am sure it is something that a good defense attorney would throw in to see if it works.
I think a more likely scenario is that a legal claim would be done after the launch of Disney plus in the countries not included in the first release. Again this poses a bit of an issue as without history in that country any claim of loss of income will be theoretically. I know that all claims regarding illegal downloads are theoretical and, in my opinion, based on a flawed logic and a complete misunderstanding of basic consumption of movies and TV shows. In these cases however there are statistics going back decades to back those claims.
For Disney plus however it is a brand new service with no history to back up legal claims of loss of income. Sure they can look at other streaming services, but what other service are can Disney plus compare with? Netflix? HBO? None of those are really similar and even those services are very new with little history to back up a potential claim.
For me I am fine waiting a few months until Disney plus comes to Sweden, but a lot of people will not. Just like for many Manga lovers there are few if any legal means to consume The Mandalorian. This will unfortunately mean that The Mandalorian will be pirated a lot for the majority of the world that can not yet get Disney plus.
Hopefully this will not be a problem for anyone and perhaps it can even be a very strong selling point. Illegal downloads are not exactly very consumer friendly so if someone have the option to go through the hassle of downloading or just click on the TV, my bet is on the later. I just wish Disney would stop using obsolete sales tactics where they divide content based on region and time. That way this would not be an issue.
There would be other issues however such as technical and legal issues that they probably hope to ease out with a gradual release schedule. There are of course financial issues also where they probably want to use a successful launch in the US as a way to increase prices elsewhere.
Still it sucks that I can not watch The Mandalorian tomorrow or enjoy what I suspect will be a great experience coming with Disney plus.