– by David Morgan-Brown
Movie piracy is killing the entertainment industry, apparently. To combat piracy, many of the entertainment industries have turned from physical to digital, with ebooks and music streaming services now the main source of profit for these industries and it seems to be what the consumers want. But the film industry is still stuck, still not giving the torrent-savvy audiences what they want and they’re losing money (apparently) because of it. Australia has one of the highest rates of illegal downloading in the world, so here’s a list of steps movie companies can take to help combat the amount of movie piracy, mostly don’ts.
- No more unskippable piracy warnings. Even if you are a respectable citizen who has legally paid the appropriate price for a DVD, you STILL will be guilt-tripped through inane warnings about piracy. No other payable good or service does this to paying customers. If you go to the grocery store and you bought some grapes, there’s no-one at the other end of the check-out to yell in your face “the copyright proprietor has licensed these grapes for private use only. These grapes are not to be exported, distributed and/or sold by way of trade without a proper license from the Grape Manufacturing Co. By stealing grapes, you are devaluing the Australian foods and drinks industry and harming many innocent workers. The taste and texture of the grapes are not indicative of that of the Grape Manufacturing Co.” If this happened every single time, you’d probably have a lot more incentive to start stealing grapes. DVDs should get straight to the point, and by that I mean the main menu – no more anti-piracy wastes of time, no company logos and idents, because at this point everyone’s got the point. The DVD company Criterion have all their DVDs go straight to the main menu, everyone else needs to follow suit.
- Better distribution. A great man once said “leaked screeners equals international release.” That great man was me and he got to see all the hot new films before they even got released down under. Global film distribution has been trickier in the past, with having to ship off spools of heavy and sensitive film reels, but now with digital projection it can be as easy as sending a hard-drive. Seeing films at the cinemas, especially the already struggling independent or foreign ones, can be months or years after their initial release and/or their high-quality leak online. Blockbuster films don’t usually go through this problem, as their release dates between countries are pretty close, but low-budget films that are already struggling gathering profits are put at even greater odds when they’re freely available through torrent sites long before they grace our Australian cinema screens (if they ever get shown at all). People can still solve this issue by buying DVDs/Blu-Rays online, though movie companies even have a way of screwing with these well-intentioned folk trying to hold onto their entertainment consumer integrity, and that is with region codes.
- No more region codes. Most DVD players have region code restrictions, meaning they can only play DVDs with a region code correlating with the one the player supports. This usually isn’t a problem for locally bought DVDs, but a DVD bought overseas may have a different region code, meaning it won’t work on that DVD player. We should be a world without borders and here’s a great place to start because whenever I’ve got to download a film because its DVD that I bought won’t work on my player because it’s of the wrong region code, I feel like the terrorists have already won.
- Easier accessibility. I’m trying hard not to be a salesman for torrents right now, but they are a fantastically accessible way of attaining entertainment. Even compared to regular web browser downloads, they’re far superior – not only can they be paused and resumed for later downloading (which is really only handy for those suffering from Australian internet speed), but torrents being seeded make them download faster. If a film were to be released via a torrent (which needed to be payed for or not), the more popular the torrent, the more seeds it will get, the faster it will be able to download for everyone. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to download a movie, album, or comedy show then have to “donate” the money I would’ve spent to the original artist because torrenting their work was the easiest option. Musician Thom Yorke released his last album through torrenting with a price of $7 and made a few million dollars that way, film companies may see a profit if they wean themselves into this way of distribution. Netflix, Presto, and Stan are great services to stream TV shows and films, which may just reduce the already high number of illegal downloads Australia gets up to (as long as our Australian internet speed can keep up).
- Give the audience what they want. This isn’t as much of a problem, though it does affect one of the most well known films ever — Star Wars. If you were to buy the first three Star Wars films (that is 4-6), you’d be getting the 1997 remastered edition. For purists wanting the originals (as they were from the ‘70s and ‘80s), they can get the limited edition dual DVD — but those versions are in the academy ratio rather than their native anamorphic ratio! Folks that wish to hand over money (perhaps for more than the first time) for the original Star Wars actually can’t even get them. The best they can do is illegally download fan-made versions of the original films, a rather isolated, but classic example of movie companies egregiously not giving the consumers what they want, forcing them to pursue illegal means of getting what they wished to buy.
Although these complaints still stand, they are thankfully being eroded due to the continuously advancing technology allowing for an easier and more immediate relationship between content and consumer. Hopefully movie companies will take these points into consideration and make home video as pleasant as a nicely seeded torrent.
Picture credit: Film School Rejects, 3Yen, J-Lawler tumblr