Piracy - What Can be Done?
Piracy is not rampant in this country. Rampant suggests something that is spreading, and has negative connotations. It is far worse than that. Piracy of cinema and television in this country is the norm, and is seen as a perfectly valid way of viewing something we want to see. There are no repercussions for the committal of the crime. Anyone can watch the latest films, at any time, for free. There seems no way to stop it. Looking at all the copyright theft available, from a one minute clip on Youtube to pages upon pages of the latest entertainment, is there anyone reading this who hasn’t pirated at some level? And can the entertainment industry do anything about it? The regular argument found in adverts and posters is “it’s costing people’s jobs” and “you will miss out on the magic of the cinema.” Although I personally very much agree with and support these ideas, they will have very little impact on those who watch movies for free. In the days of multi-tasking and Iplayer, I myself rarely watch anything on a screen bigger than a postcard, and this is not even as small as a videophone. So why pay more when you can have the same for nothing? Going to the Cinema is a relatively old and passive form of entertainment, and very expensive considering there is no tangible product you can take away with you. Imagine how many second hand books you could purchase instead of going to the cinema (the best book I have ever read cost me eighty pence, and it’s mine forever). By getting it for free you won’t have to sit through adverts, trailers, and noisy audiences. Their other argument, describing those who pirate as losers and criminals, is simply laughable. The people I know who pirate are normal, hard-working, decent human beings. To demonise them in adverts is patronising, a patent untruth, and leads to nothing but parody and ridicule. If we look at active piracy; that is to say creating DVD copies of releases or posting them online; it is equally easy. Indeed, if taken purely in economic terms, a fantastic business opportunity. Let me give you an example. I did some research, and within minutes had found links to download software that not only allowed me to rip DVDs, but to bypass any security locks, all for free. The average price for a blank DVD is around ten pence, and a very basic case a quarter of that. If I go HMV, buy the latest release, I can then copy it for anyone, as many times as I like. Even if I sell them for one pound twenty at a thousand percent profit. We are not talking shaky grainy images, but perfect quality, with all extras intact. And I can return the purchased DVD. If I look at online piracy, I can easily post links to foreign websites with more relaxed copyright laws. Filmmakers are also a pretty hard bunch to sympathise with. Hollywood films do make massive amount of money, and it's hard to create a sob story in the year of the highest grossing movie ever. Is Johnny Depp really going to into poverty if we don’t watch Alice in Wonderland at the cinema?
Still, there are reports of such extreme theft in Spain that filmmakers are seriously considering dropping it as a market. You need only go to a car boot to get any latest release, and the money you would of spent on that DVD simply isn’t going to get to those who actually worked to make the product. Low budget films really can be hit very hard indeed. Regardless of how much money it actually costs the industry, when you think about the figures of piracy, it is quite terrifying how much you can steal. If someone watches ten new releases a year online, or less than one a month, if we take an average ticket price to be seven pound fifty, that’s seventy five pounds worth of entertainment stolen. Imagine going into a shop and taking that amount. Piracy is an issue, but to challenge it requires such a massive change in the public ideology. It is up there with the challenges of binge drinking and speeding, because all these things are dangerous, but easy to do and get away with, and when you are in the moment, incredibly fun. The industry has got to accept that piracy is here to stay. The market is there to create easy to access online entertainment, and for cheaper DVD releases - is anyone who isn’t called “Mum” by somebody still impressed by swooshy menus and clips of the film as they hit play? It must look at making the cinema a magical place to go once again, and the success of 3D shows the market is there to do so. But at the same we must take our own responsibility on the subject. Piracy does affect people’s lives, and although we will not be caught, and we will get entertainment for free, we must make a genuine moral decision not to do it any more. Unless you think stealing is right. In which case, see you in HMV; I’ll be the one returning a stack of the latest releases.
Read Dylan's other 'Film Talk' articles: here, here and hereand here