According to at least one study commissioned by the MPAA a few years back, piracy strips the global film industry of billions of dollars every year, costing people their jobs and making it harder for movie studios to make the movies they think we want to see. Box office receipts and movie studio profits would tend to put the lie to that study’s claim, as Hollywood has seen both monetary and attendance records broken for several consecutive years now.
Hollywood really started ramping up their war on movie and DVD piracy around the turn of the millennium. 2003 was a big year for the studios in that regard, because it was the year they could point to pirated versions of “The Hulk,” which popped up online a little more than two weeks before the film was due to be released in theaters.
In 2005, Star Wars fans scored the ultimate coup, acquiring a version of the last film in the series, “Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith,” mere hours after it first appeared on the big screen. And last but not least, in 2009 there were major complaints from movie studios following the online release of an unfinished print of “X-men Origins: Wolverine” a month before its theatrical debut. The studio that produced the film then went on to claim that the movie didn’t do well at the box office because so many people (more than a million by some watchdog estimates) had downloaded it and seen it for free at home.
I admit that movie and DVD piracy is most likely a problem. I admit that it costs the studios some upfront cash. I don’t, however, buy that it’s single-handedly killing the movie industry, the way that they want to claim that it’s doing.
Movie studios, as I mentioned above, have seen attendance records shattered and box office receipts go through the roof the last few years. So where’s the death knell? We’ve heard a lot about how DVD piracy in countries like China, which has some very lax copyright laws, is harming the movie studios’ ability to make money in the overseas market. Yet all indications are that the movie industry in China is booming. So again, where’s the death knell?
It’s more probable that while piracy is causing some upfront harm, in the long-term it may actually provide the studios with some benefit, by more widely distributing their product to emerging markets, like China and India. Again, I’m not advocating for it necessarily, but I will point out that movie and music bootlegging has been around for decades-and movies and music still get made.
There’s a happy medium in all of this. It’s a lesson that the music industry is only now beginning to understand and adapt to.The difference between bootlegging now and bootlegging back when is that the Internet is unstoppable, which makes bootlegging possible on a scale never before imaginable. That’s where the actual problem lies, not in the idea of bootlegging per se.
Movie studios, like music execs, need to figure out how to use the Internet, to promote their content and distribute it in a way that makes piracy less attractive. If people burn discs, it may not be because they won’t pay the studios for their stuff. It’s that the studios still haven’t realized that it needs to be accessible at a speed and availability to satisfy the appetite of the Internet generation. If I or one of my friends can’t get something because it’s available only in the U.K., how else to get a copy? Use the Internet to your advantage, my movie studio friends, not to try and catch us all in the act.
Lisa Respers, ” In Digital Age, Can Movie Piracy Be Stopped ?” CNN
Ernesto, ” The Cost of Movie Piracy to the U.S. ” TorrentFreak
Mike Masnick, ” If ‘Piracy’ is Killing Filmmaking, Why do Nigeria, China, and India Have Thriving Movie Businesses? ” TechDirt
Matthew D. Loeb, ” Film Piracy is Robbing American Workers ” HuffingtonPost