Piracy by Joanna Tull

In this essay I intend to examine and illustrate how piracy has impacted and affected the film industry. Arguably one of the biggest players in the entertainment sector; since its origins beginning in the late 1800’s, the film industry has had the ability to captivate audiences and sell dreams. Where once audiences could only pay for the experience of being transported to another world, the rise of piracy means less people going to cinemas, causing a loss for cinemas, which in turn affects the film industry itself.

IP rights are extremely important within the film industry, out of all the IP rights; copyright is the key one- ‘it protects the rights of creators’. The intellectual property (IP) system is clearly designed and promoted by media industries and is distinctive in its ‘common-sense way of thinking’ of protecting the ideas and concepts belonging to a person or persons. The role of copyright acts as a balance between producers and consumers. It is a fundamental legal doctrine and must be upheld for the film industry to continually prosper.

A BBC News report from 2004 detailed that one in four people have illegally downloaded films on the internet and that online piracy is only set to rise. To understand the effects of piracy, we must first understand what piracy is. Piracy refers to the ‘unauthorized duplication of copyrighted content that is then sold at substantially lower prices in the ‘grey’ market’. The ease of access the piracy provides has caused piracy to become more prevalent in recent years. The act of piracy has become so common; most people who download films illegally do not see it as a crime and do not realize how harmful it is to the film industry. ‘Piracy is not a victimless crime’.

With its continued growth, piracy is no longer a ‘hot topic’. Although being such a threat to the film industry through its forms which include illegal downloads and bootleg DVDs, piracy is such a normality. With major US studios loosing $6.1 billion annually, while audiovisual industries worldwide making a loss of $18.2 billion. This loss of revenue and profit is hurting the film industry; financial loss massively contributes to the continued downfall of the movie industry. Most popular films released by studios are available to purchase and download on the internet legally; however, these films are also available in pirated versions. Online streaming is very much legal, but the fact remains that there are platforms in which people are able to access copyright content for free.

80% of global piracy takes places outside the US, with the highest percentage of consumption taking place in China (90%), Russia 79% and Thailand also 79%. In the US, an estimated 375,000 jobs are lost each year as a result of internet piracy, and in the UK, around 8,000 jobs are lost every year. Before filing for bankruptcy in 2010, American video and game rental chain; Blockbusters estimated that 6 out of 10 DVDs viewed in European countries were pirated. These dramatic statistics of the economic and social costs are startling.

The practice of piracy has evolved and advanced over the decades. Where previously, the most common way to get illegal copies of films were from bootleg DVDs and videos, which could be purchased from dodgy market stalls, car boot sales- essentially unregulated commercial spaces. Nowadays the internet is the most established way to access films illegally. When users visits sites such as “putlocker” and “watch movies online”, in which they can stream films- that are often still in the cinema, they feel as though they have ‘hit the jackpot’, as they do not have to fork out £10 pounds for a cinema ticket. Most of these websites look professional and kosher, but play the card of plausible deniability as they pass the buck for hosting certain material. These illegal sites available for downloads and streaming affect legitimate businesses, by taking away their well deserved profits and earnings. It is not only the film industry that is affected by piracy; users themselves feel the brunt of illegal downloading and streaming. When users torrent- download files, many viruses are embedded in the file corrupting the device in which they are downloading from. Also, many films available online are poor quality as they gave been recorded in cinema, taking away the pleasure that true film fans get from watching films.

In chapter five of Roman Lobarto’s Six Faces of Piracy, he points out that piracy debates need to be ‘opened up to a more diverse range of voices, in terms of their implicit geography and conceptual foundations’. By this, Lobarto believes that the issues of piracy needs to be discussed in it simplest form. Once must also ask the question as to why piracy is so popular? What do cinemas not provide well or good enough? Piracy is easy to access and cheap, you can watch what you want when you want.

The significant decline in cinema attendance has dropped so low, and according to The Hollywood Reporter the numbers in recent years are the worst in two decades. In 2015, cinema attendance was at an all time low since 1995 at roughly 1.26 billion. Going to the cinema was once a part of the whole movie experience: going out, buying popcorn and other treats from the concession stands, being in a dark room with surround sound. You can not get these same gratifications elsewhere- yet the threat piracy to the film industry continues to intensify. Ticket prices are the number one reason as to why less people are going to the cinema. Over the years with prices fluctuating and rising, moviegoers are not as willing to part with their money- despite the advance of digital technologies such as 3D movies and more.

Finding ways to end piracy are futile with the advancements of technologies every year, however, the can be ways to curtail piracy. Tactics have been employed by the movie industry to dramatically cut back piracy. Simultaneous cinema and video-on-demand releases have been extremely popular in the last decade, not only increasing profits for the movie industry, but reducing the window for ‘pirates’ to take advantage of. Online demand providers such as Netflix and UK based providers which include Blinkbox, are a big source for the ways in which piracy can be reduced as users have to pay or its services- it is essentially a home cinema. Governments themselves must also get involved in the war against piracy. With recessions and financial instability, we must to the most obvious reason people are turning to online piracy- cinema ticket prices are too high, the film industry and Governments must work together and find a way of tackling this obvious issue. Illegal websites are closely being monitored and taken down, although monitoring internet usage is a long and difficult process, it must be done as the war on piracy wades on.
















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