Big screens and piracy

There was a time, not that long ago, when it was easier than it is now to make a movie at modest cost, and maybe even turn a profit. But those days appear to be gone.

Young people nowadays seem to have no qualms about watching pirated downloads of new releases. If you try to question their ethics, they can just shrug and say “it’s all freely available”.

Which may account for the precipitous rise in recent years of the Hollywood special effects blockbuster.

The economic logic of these big budget films is unassailable: The only way to lure young people into theaters is to create visuals that are so spectacular, they need to be seen on a giant screen.

The one remaining defense against the attitude of “all films want to be free” is to make a movie that can’t really be seen at home.

2 thoughts on “Big screens and piracy”

  1. I think you’re probably right. You’ve pretty much summed up my attitude toward streaming pirated movies online. The only thing that I’d add is that for the vast majority of the films I watch, especially for the first time, I’d never have watched them in the first place if the only way to see them was to pay for them.

  2. A solution to this is to offer subsidies on entertainment media provided for by taxes on various technologies, e.g. blank storage media, laptops, phones, etc. Make the free distribution of subsidized media legal (content creators could, of course, opt out of the subsidy) and, in turn, the creator maintains most rights, including rights on selling fan merchandise and licences to display in front of a large audience (i.e. theater). People will still go to theaters not just for the cool effects but also because it is a social occasion and excuse to eat candy and soda. The remaining restrictions are easier to enforce and everyone gets media provided for by a semi-progressive tax. I would gladly pay such a tax. What I think content distributors don’t understand is that people don’t mind paying for their content, they just like it to be convenient. Living in the United States, the only way I can watch episodes of Doctor Who as they come out without paying for Comcast’s largest cable subscription, just for the one channel I need that carries Doctor Who once a week during the season, is to pirate the episodes. Other TV shows I do get on TV or wait to come out on Netflix, but most of my friends watch Doctor Who so I want to keep up with them. They too are mostly stuck in my situation and pirate the show. The BBC does provide a web player to catch up on episodes you may have missed on TV, but it is restricted to the UK and any attempt to circumvent that would also be piracy. Sometimes Netflix streams very slowly too. You cannot tell it to just sit there and buffer the whole thing, it will play in jolts and starts. While I feel guilty about pirating Doctor Who, I feel no qualms about pirating a show I have already paid to watch but can’t because a bad piece of software is acting up.

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