“With great power comes great responsibility”. The words of Peter Parker’s late Uncle Ben ring true to many aspects of life. Peter takes his Uncle’s words to heart and learns to control his superpowers and uses them for the good of mankind and to punish evil. But what if he hadn’t been bitten by that radioactive spider? Would Peter still attempt to do some good in the world or would he remain a quiet, nerdy, socially awkward teenager? More than likely the latter case is a more logical conclusion to Peter’s dilemma. Without a choice to make, his life remains the same. The same can be said for modern conveniences when it comes to the music we listen to and the movies we watch. Blu-Ray movies come with digital copies ready to play on most mobile devices and offer the luxury of playback anytime, anywhere. But, just as Peter learned of the dark side of power, so too do we as members of society.
Online piracy has reached an all time high and films can be downloaded and shared almost instantaneously after a theatrical release. Now, let’s be honest. The quality of said film is barely watchable and usually boils down to some shady individual lurking in the back row with a video camera. But for a casual movie goer who may be on the fence when it comes to a particular release and cannot afford to run off to the theater every weekend, the allure of watching a pirated copy, no matter how horrible it looks, is substantial. If a shaky, grainy copy is not your cup of tea, all you have to do is wait a few months and a direct DVD rip will be available and has little to no difference from a genuine store bought copy.
So where does all of this start and where does it end? Hollywood and Congress like to put the blame entirely on the seedy underbelly of the piracy business. They paint a picture of shifty looking men and women, lurking in alleys and online file sharing sites, cackling madly as they rob the industry of precious box office dollars. But the reality is that the perpetrators of movie piracy are people you know, love, work with, play chess with, and go to church with: Everyone. According to the MPAA (the Motion Picture Association of America), 13 % of all Americans pirate some sort of copyrighted material and would likely spend in excess of $1000 more per year on said material. While impossible to quantify what a pirate would or would not spend, it does make a splash on the statistics of piracy itself.
As technology continues to improve to make our lives more convenient, so too will the amount of content that goes online illegally. That digital copy of “The Lion King” you just bought can go up to the internet in a matter of minutes and the amount that Disney will lose on every copy that is downloaded far outweighs the cost of convenience. You upload the movie and 3,000 people download it. Those twenty bucks you just spent turns into a $60,000 loss for Disney. While that may seem like small potatoes to a huge company like Disney, imagine this happening every day for a week. It doesn’t take a math genius to realize the financial repercussions all in the name of “convenience”.
Now, just because the technology exists, doesn’t mean we have to abuse it. Just because we can make a nuclear bomb, doesn’t mean we have to. But just like nuclear advancements, what sort of positive affect can such a thing really have on society? What cost is Hollywood willing to pay and when will they start taking just a smidgen of responsibility for the skyrocketing piracy rates in the world? It would be like handing a small child and ice cream cone and telling them not to eat it. While a child does not possess the same amount of self control as an adult, the desire to give in is overwhelming. Online piracy will probably never stop, but if Hollywood wants to make a dent in and reduce their losses, they should stop all forms of digital distribution. But herein lays the conflict, companies like Apple would take a terrible dip into profits if iTunes were to suddenly cease to exist. No matter how you slice it, it’s a money game.
Defenders of piracy will state everything from the lackluster quality of films these days; to only downloading “backup” copies of movies they already own as the reasons they pirate movies. What it boils down to is this: It’s there. We know it’s there and would rather make a few clicks than spend our hard earned cash on something that may or may not be worth it. It is the option that serves as foundation for piracy. Take away the option and what have you got left? Pay to see the movie, or wait 5 years for it to debut on good old fashion free broadcast TV. Some may say that taking away the option violates our civil rights and borders on fascism. To play devil’s advocate here and to quote Anakin Skywalker from “Attack of the Clones”: “Well, if it works”.
Kyle Hall is a movie nut and loves to write about the thing he loves. You can find him on Facebook and loves to read email at email@example.com