Piracy-Mikey La-Barbera

This commentary will be investigating the effects of technology’s impact on piracy within the film industry, making reference to an array of external sources to support any claims made, and to provide an in-depth analysis of technological advancements and the role that plays in the realm of film distribution.

Piracy protection of films was introduced very early on in the silent era of cinema (1895-1929), with many believing Edison was the initial creator of an anti-piracy regulations[1]. During the silent period, film theft was the act of venues screening a film for longer than the period of time agreed on by the filmmakers and distributors[2]. Despite this not being a particularly technological approach to piracy, it is worth noting that these kind of practices were undertaken even before the major technological advancements prior to the new millennium and beyond.

In recent years, films have been known to be illegally copied onto VHS tapes and DVDs[3]. It all began when VHS tapes and, later, DVDs came into use during the 1990s and early 2000s; as by purchasing the films for private use gave access for anyone to now share these films with whomever they desire. This may be via personal screenings or by using projectors and the suchlike to showcase the films to a wider audience. Before the films are ported to DVD and VHS however, some people would enter the cinema during the film’s initial screenings and record the film, in its entirety, on a camcorder before distributing these bootleg versions of the DVDs months before their official release, so cinemas are not visited by as many people, causing issues for the industry[4]. There were drawbacks to this way of pirating; sellers would still have to advertise their bootleg tapes and DVDs, resulting in many of them being caught and criminalised. Physical copies of the film were much easier to track and, so piracy was not used to its full potential until a decade later, during the mid-2000s.

Since the 2000s up to this modern day, due to mainstream internet usage, films have been made available for digital download (free of charge), which has been linked to not only affect cinema profits, but also licensed DVD sales[5]. Nowadays, it is common knowledge that the internet is the main source of film piracy. This is a result of the sheer vastness of the internet, the accessibility of distributing and receiving the films and the overall anonymity the users can have[6]. Another point worth noting is the fact that with new technologies constantly being produced, there is a window of opportunity after the technology is commercially released where there are no laws in place to legally stop these new means of piracy[7].

By comparison to the modern day, pirate DVDs and VHS tapes are seen as archaic. When a film is first released, within a few days or maybe weeks, the said film is usually available in full HD via digital download on the internet, using torrents to gain access to these films, and some websites even allow for streaming of these movies[8].

Piracy in general is highly illegal and since the jump to internet-based piracy, it is much harder to trace individuals. As a result, authorities are looking to shut-down the and many major file-sharing websites such as The Pirate Bay have been apprehended in an effort to prevent this type of piracy spreading and becoming even more mainstream than it already is[9].

Piracy being so popular and easy to perform has impacted heavily on the film industry, stealing millions of their potential market[10]. Films such as “The Wolf Of Wall Street” (2013) have lost millions of dollars’ worth of revenue as a result of piracy and illegal downloads claiming a huge portion of their audience, as it is a cheaper alternative to watching the film legitimately[11]. To compensate the financial losses caused by pirating films, the cost of viewing films has had to increase[12]. This, in turn, puts more people off going to the cinema to watch a film, leading to more piracy. It is a cycle which could cause the collapse of the film industry in the coming years. This has only been a major threat since the internet was fully utilised for pirating films in the mid-2000s and up to present day.

The less profit a film makes, the more it can jeopardise film makers, directors, cameramen, audio technicians, producers and studios to the very realistic possibility of putting all of the above out of business. This then affects the consumers as they have no new films to consume. On the individual level it may seem harmless, but the combined damages it causes could be a serious problem. This is why there a huge efforts to prevent piracy from spreading[13].

To conclude, pirating films has become so mainstream that it has singlehandedly changed the dynamics of piracy and the ways in which piracy is achieved. It is clear to see that there is a race between the authorities and file sharing services. However, with technology advancing at a slower rate now, only time will tell if that is enough to flush out piracy from potentially destroying the industry.

[1] Decherney, Peter. “Copyright dupes: piracy and new media in Edison v. Lubin (1903)” (2007) Film History. 19:2. p. 109-124

[2] Decherney, Peter. “Copyright dupes: piracy and new media in Edison v. Lubin (1903)” (2007) Film History. 19:2. p. 109-124

[3] Yar, M. “The global ‘epidemic’ of movie ‘piracy’: crime-wave or social construction?” (2005) Media, Culture & Society. 27:5. p. 677-696.

[4] Garrahan, Matthew. “Film industry demands UK piracy crackdown” (2007) FT.com; London

[5] Martikainen, Emmi.  “Does file-sharing reduce DVD sales?” (2014) Netnomics : Economic Research and Electronic Networking; Dordrecht. 15:1. p.9-31

[6] Beck, Roman. Interview with Peter Tauber on “Internet Anonymity: Human Right or Protection for Criminals?” Business & Information Systems Engineering. (2012) p. 89-91.

[7] De Vany, A. & Walls, D. “Estimating the Effects of Movie Piracy on Box-office Revenue” Review of Industrial Organization (2007) 30:4. p. 291–301

[8] Smith, Michael. “Competing with free: The impact of movie broadcasts on DVD sales and internet piracy” (2009). MIS quarterly. 33:2. p. 321-338

[9] The Pirate Bay Brought Down by Swedish Police http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/the-pirate-bay-brought-down-by-swedish-police-raid-but-is-it-already-back-online-9914666.html

[10] Wolf of Wall Street ‘is most pirated film of 2014’ – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-30622914 (accessed on 27/4/17)

[11] Smith, Michael. “Competing with free: The impact of movie broadcasts on DVD sales and internet piracy” (2009). MIS quarterly. 33:2. p. 321-338

[12] Will raising ticket prices decrease movie industry profits and increase piracy and illegal downloading of pirated Hollywood films? http://musicmusic.com/articles/will-raising-ticket-prices-decrease-movie-industry-profits-and-increase-piracy-and-illegal-downloading-of-pirated-hollywood-films-.html

[13] The Pirate Bay Brought Down by Swedish Police http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/the-pirate-bay-brought-down-by-swedish-police-raid-but-is-it-already-back-online-9914666.html

 

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