Last Sunday, The New York Times ran an article on Hana Beshara, the founder of the pirate website NinjaVideo who was convicted for conspiracy and criminal copyright infringement and served 16 months in prison.
The story raised more than a few eyebrows for its sympathetic treatment of Beshara, whose only remorse for her crimes seemed to be the loss of her status as “Queen Phara,” the pseudonym she used as moderator of the NinjaVideo’s forums.
At its peak, the illegal website attracted 60,000 registered users and took in an estimated half million dollars in profit from stolen creative content, in part from selling advertisements.
None of that profit went back to the creators of the films and television shows the site hosted.
In the video that accompanies the article, Beshara lists Battlestar Galactica as one of her favorite shows and what got her into piracy in the first place.
Dawn Prestwich, current showrunner for The Killing, was a writer on that show, which makes her response that ran in Variety yesterday all the more relevant.
As a television drama writer who works mainly in the cable world, my writing partner Nicole Yorkin and I write characters like Hana all the time. Engaging characters with questionable morality who gleefully commit crimes for the thrill of it. It makes for good TV.
Hanna would be one of the archetypes — lost and without much of a sense of identity, until she stumbles into the world of online piracy. Her life changes dramatically as she becomes the “hot-tempered,” powerful Queen Phara, lording over her own online community of 60,000 devotees.
Oh, yeah. Move over Walter White. This is the stuff that cable dramas are made of, right? Sure, unless it’s your creative sweat and blood that’s making someone else money they haven’t earned. The unfortunate reality: the Hanas of the world are damaging our creative ability to tell those stories, and the entertainment industry in general, with their theft of our content.