Pirates of the cineplex


POST EDITED: I wanted to include a link to Disney’s “co-chair Anne Sweeney who has broken with studio convention and recognised piracy as a business model to compete with, as opposed to simply an illegal threat to be battled.” Funny that I just chose to blog about this today…

I love movies! I love how an idea moves from a twinkle in the eye, to paper, to storyboard, to media (well its a little more involved than that, but you get the idea) . I love how Jack Nicholson acted his way through an entire movie, maybe one of the greatest scripted films in the past 20 years, with his entire nose bandaged. I love how a Hollywood unknown took a minimally funded film (El Maricachi) and turned it into a Hollywood smash and became a household name alongside Quentin Tarantino. I love movies and can talk about them ad-nauseum.

But there is a battle raging in movie land between Hollywood and the digitally elite. Star Wars III Revenge of the Sith was available for download from a bittorrent site before it was in theatres, anyone who has taken a walk down any street in Bangkok can find pirated movies of every flavor, quality is poor – or so I have heard, but sometimes the thrill of watching a movie at home, before it is in theatres is exciting – or so I am told. As long as there are movies, and as long as there is an appetite for it, there will be pirated movies.

Trying to address the problem through technology is a losing battle. Sony tried to prevent digital copying of Cd’s with its Key2Audio technology. They spent millions and it was defeated with a $1.35 sharpie marker. Their attempts to install a rootkit were even less successful and the backlash was pretty strong. Students at Georgia Tech are working on a technology to block the funcitoning of video cameras in movie theatres, and Thomson is working on a technology that inserts “artifacts” into the the frame that are picked up by camcorders, essentially the movie could be covered with watermarks such as “you are viewing a pirated film”.

Unfortunately, those who want to pirate are clever and will find ways to bypass all these mechanisms. Millions, perhaps billions, will be spent trying to stop pirated films and there will still be movie piracy and there is nothing the movie industry can do about it – nothing!

Well except one thing. That is to lower the demand for pirated movies. Bollywood does this by releasing DVD’s at the same time movies are released in the theatre. Wouldn’t this lower theatre profits you ask? The same thing was said about VHS and video rental stores. Hollywood seems to have a lack of understanding for the appetite of the consumer. If they want to be successful at limiting piracy, and all they can do is limit piracy, they have to lower demand (BTW – lowering demand is the same solution to the problem of drugs in our society, trying to stop the supply is a war that cannot be won). They can lower the demand for pirated film by releasing movies through DVD, cable TV, and the Internet at the same time movies are released in the theatre, and find unique ways to partner, license, and charge for them. Simply put they either figure out how to leverage the new digital mediums to satisfy the consumers appetite or they lose out on billions of dollars in potential revenue and licensing fees.


One thought on “Pirates of the cineplex

  1. Pingback: Apple Plans to Open the iPhone Kimono but Needs a Clean Pair of Undies First « Observations of a digitally enlightened mind

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