It’s madness: movie piracy sites turn consumers against the American movie studio by charging a premium for illegal movie streams and downloads. Americans are being made fools of, to the tune of billions of dollars in lost revenues and lost jobs (according to the MPAA-funded LEK study, the movie industry lost $ 1.3bn in the U.S. and $ 6.1bn worldwide; 141, 030 jobs have been lost as a direct result of movie piracy).
I have been preoccupied with the problem for some time. It seems that everyone and their cousin downloads movies illegally or goes to streaming sites. What is especially troubling is the fact that illegal movie downloading has become a fact of life.
Last March, Chris Dodd, the former senator from Connecticut, took over the MPAA (the Motion Picture Association of America). Will he take an active role in the fight against movie piracy? In 2010, the first iteration of the Protect IP Act was introduced by the Senate to help protect intellectual property of all kinds. Under this new set of protective measures big-studio fare was bundled with Louis Vutton bags and anything else that might be easily replicated and sold on the street or online. More recently and significantly, the law was refined to make it difficult for foreign site operators to use the credit-card processors and other third parties necessary to conduct their illegal trade. And while foreign operators are out of the law’s reach, the IP Act might go some way in disrupting their ability to do business (that is, if the law were ever passed—it’s already found some bold-faced detractors, like Google’s Eric Schmidt). After all, and according to the LEK study, 80% of the loss attributed to movie piracy comes from overseas consumers.
Another similar provision would make it a felony to download pirated movies, which brings the legislative approach to the movie piracy problem in line with peer-to-peer-related legislation.
The awareness of movie piracy on a grassroots level has been waning. It’s stopped being attention-grabbing a while ago, and is now more of a pit stop on the news cycle more than anything. In comparison it seems like the music industry has fought the good fight more ferociously. I would be a little more terrified of downloading Gaga’s latest song than something from the Weinsteins’ studio, wouldn’t you?
A few months ago I contacted the MPAA with a proposal. I told them that Screen Comment had been displaying their anti-piracy ad in our sidebar and asked whether they had a partnership program or not. The idea was that we would do our part to talk up movie piracy and the MPAA, in turn, would include us on a list of media partners on their site. Their answer was that no such program existed and there weren’t any plans to start one.
Screen Comment will continue to support anti-piracy laws and programs, but the sophisticated quandary posed by movie piracy in an age of I-want-it-here-and-now calls for a fresh approach, one that would include forming partnerships with the media, publish the names of blacklisted sites and extend support of Congress and the Senate in their fight to put foreign site operators out of business. Only thing left to do after that will be to convince that DVD salesman in Kandahar to cease and desist.