And now for something completely fantastic: The trick of making Monty Python videos available for free online has boosted DVD sales of the comedy sketch show. If you compare DVD sales figures on Amazon before and after the creation of the Monty Python YouTube channel, the boost apparently tallies in at around 23,000%.
Late last year the Python team, fed up by the tens of thousands of clips illegally uploaded to YouTube by fans, took an unusual step. Here's the offical Monty Python clip explaining what they did and why:
It was a brilliant move, making their intellectual property officially available, labeled, sorted and categorized in high-quality (versus the chaotic, low-quality database created by user uploads) and asking people to buy the team's DVDs. And it's interesting that this fabulously eccentric trick -- as befits the famously eccentric personalities of the jokesters themselves -- has had more success in returning revenue to the affected artists than the more legally-jackbooted actions of organizations like the RIAA and MPAA in the U.S.
Simultaneously in the UK, the government has admitted that it's had to abandon plans to punish illegal file sharers with net disconnections, under a planned "three strikes and you're out" scheme. The move has apparently dismayed UK record companies, but pleased the internet service providers: Under the proposed legislation, they would have been the ones enforcing any legal actions, and it would've been disastrous PR for the companies in a very competitive market.
In declaring the scheme as dead as a dead parrot, the UK government admitted that creating the laws would have presented insurmountable political and legal challenges. In response, the UK's biggest phone supplier BT is now said to be pursuing more "amicable" ways of preventing piracy without resorting to legislation, since "it doesn't make sense to try to get people online and at the same time scare them away."
23,000% is a fabulous figure, if true, even though the statistics are all relative. The move by the Python team, and the latest government and BT decisions, could represent a quiet revolution in the approach to online intellectual property. And the moves are unarguably better for public relations than threatening severe legal actions, in true Spanish Inquisition style. Which no-one expects.