If Movie Piracy Is Really A Problem, It's Hollywood's Fault

from the walking-through-the-logic dept

The folks in Hollywood have been working overtime lately trying to convince the world that piracy is harming the industry, even as the industry is having its best year ever in terms of both money made and the number of movies released. It’s an uphill slog, so lobbyists, lawyers and execs from the various studios have resorted to what can only be described as “making stuff up.” But, like the poor corn farmers that NBC Universal lawyers think are being hurt by movie piracy, most of these claims don’t pass the laugh test.

But, of course, the story goes even deeper than that. As we’ve noted before, despite claims to the contrary, “piracy” is almost always an indicator of unmet consumer demand and a failure on the part of the industry to meet that demand. Matt Mason’s book from last year made this quite clear, and now the EFF’s Fred von Lohmann has done a great job detailing how any “problems” that Hollywood might face from “piracy” are problems of its own making. He points to the attempts by the major studios to block Redbox and delay movie rentals.

It’s the same thing we’ve seen over and over again. You don’t win customers by taking rights away from them. You win customers by adding more value. But that seems to be total anathema to Hollywood. Instead, it seems to think that the only way to run a business is to take away or disable rights and features from users, and then charge them to re-enable them. It’s not difficult to see why this is not just a recipe for failure, but one that will only drive more people to piracy, after the industry blocks them from getting what it seems perfectly reasonable to expect — and what the technology clearly allows.

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Comments on “If Movie Piracy Is Really A Problem, It's Hollywood's Fault”

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Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: sort of like this:

“The rapist often tries to blame the victim for dressing to provocatively or “giving them the eye”.”

You know, someone who writes a hell of a lot like you once said that if you had to rely on a fictional analogy you have nought a point at all.

In any case, as Michael Crichton once wrote, sometimes you have to wonder what the girl is doing in the alley at 2am….

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: sort of like this:

The rapist often tries to blame the victim for dressing to provocatively or “giving them the eye”.

I find it highly amusing that you are the same anon coward who in previous story mocked us for using an “imaginary story” to make a point. Pot? There’s a kettle over there you might want to apologize to.


vyvyan says:

Re: Re: Re:2 sort of like this:

I struggle hard to skip his posts, they are all over the page, and rarely if ever make any sense. No sides, no rationale, just babble. Sometimes there is interesting information in comments (not his!) but fishing them out in these coward posts is a pain in the ass.

Could we have an options to quickly hide posts from a user? one user 😛

Just Another Moron in a Hurry (profile) says:

Re: Wrong...

Dude… Biting on my name? meh.

Anyways, I have a hard time swallowing this pill.

Hollywood may be every bit to blame for not giving the customer what they want. But that does not mean that they are to blame for piracy. There are other legal alternatives that dissatisfied customers could have pursued. No one held a gun to anyone’s head and said ‘download this song/movie or else’. That was a choice made by each individual user. They could have chosen to do almost anything else, but they chose to download something illegally.

And to flip the coin around, yes, Hollywood has had several opportunities to handle the ‘problem’ in a better way, and failed to do so almost every single time. But no matter how many times they fail to satisfy their customers, that still is in no way forcing the customers to do anything illegal.

Jeffrey Nonken (profile) says:

Re: Re: Wrong...

Forcing? No. But people, like electrons, will take the path of least resistance. Oh, and water. Um, most things, really.

So Hollywood may not have FORCED people to download illegally, but they’ve stacked the deck so as to strongly encourage it. And from actions come consequences; choose to exploit and alienate your customer base and they will find ways around it.

A friend of mine — big black guy named Lee — once (on a dare) walked into a redneck bar and yelled “Who wants a piece of me?” or some such, probably adding racial slurs into the mix.

I know he made it out alive because he told me the story.

But whose fault was it that he was attacked by a mob? You could cite the personal decision of each and every person who threw a punch and claim virtuously “That person was wrong to do that”. But Lee walked in there and threw the challenge specifically knowing that he was going to get into a fight, and that the odds were not in his favor. Having chosen his action, he also chose the consequences of that action. Blaming the rednecks does not change the fact that he deliberately placed himself in harm’s way.

There’s another saying that you can find posted on signs at any zoo: “Don’t tease the animals”.

The RIAA and MPAA et. al. could turn this into a fortune and make everybody happy. Instead they have chosen to turn this into a fight, harm their customer base and ultimately themselves. Bodies strewn all over the landscape.

It’s testosterone time at the local redneck bar.

Dave (profile) says:

The irony of all this

If the MPAA’s moves are such a recipe for failure, why does it seem like the movie industry is making more money than ever?

I mean, we keep hearing that the movie biz is booming in spite of all the MPAA’s lies that piracy is killing their business. Piracy clearly isn’t killing their business, but neither are any of the MPAA’s anti-consumer business practices. So are they just succeeding in spite of themselves?

senshikaze (profile) says:

Re: Re: The irony of all this

reason for that is because going to the movies is generally cheap entertainment, and with the economy in the tubes, that is very important.
People want their fantasy for 90 to 130 minutes.
Of course the economy is still in the straights after the movie, but now the MPAA execs can buy a second gold plated yacht.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The irony of all this

Well, some would arguing that they are succeeding in thanks to efforts that have absolutely no relation to them. Spiking theatre sales, for example, are helped largely by the ease of communication today (while at the same time, communication will kill the bad movies, of course).

For the most part, the MPAA is not succeeding in the places they want to succeed, which is mostly “shiny disk” sales.

1DandyTroll says:

Re: The irony of all this

You could call it reversed psychology, but I don’t think the hollywoods are all that bright.

It’s prolly just a simple equation of prior economic progress coupled with dire times, i.e. more people can afford to spend a bit more on “cheaper” enjoyment, and due to dire times, ever more people seek enjoyment.

Or, after having slept for eight hours, worked for eight hours, had sex for a meagre eight minutes, and all the while the wars, the ice and the friggin economy, you have to’ve some enjoyment, and where else to go but to the hollywoods.

wvhillbilly (profile) says:

Re: The irony of all this

Piracy clearly isn’t killing their business…

The MPAA should be thanking pirates for free exposure instead of suing them. Same for the RIAA.

Better yet they should take a lesson from the producers of “Nasty Old People” and put stuff out for free with “contribute” buttons on it and see what happens. It might just be that it would pique enough interest that people would want to go see it in a theater, further enhancing their revenues.

But I guess they’re just too stubborn and set in their ways to change.

Anonymous Coward says:

“But, like the poor corn farmers that NBC Universal lawyers think are being hurt by movie piracy, most of these claims don’t pass the laugh test.”

So piracy is hurting those who make equipment, which hurts the tractor (or whatever) industry, which hurts the steel industry, it hurts the industry that makes engines too, which somehow affects Airplanes, which hurts national defense, which promotes terrorism, which hurts Nasa and our space agencies, which hurts the government, which hurts the education, which hurts medicine, which promotes bio terrorism.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

If piracy isn’t stopped this instant it will eventually lead to a comet hitting earth and annihilating mankind.

See, here is my reasoning. The trickle down effect it has on the economy will force congress to underfund NASA which will serve to hinder the advancement of technology that prevents comets and meteors from hitting earth and hence when the next comet or meteor does come for earth we will be defenseless and it will wipe out humanity.

Skeptical Cynic (profile) says:

I bought a DVD/Blu-Ray/Digital Version


You have shown the error’s of the movie industry many times, and for the most part I agree.

Recently I bought a movie on DVD (which I have not done since Netflix was created, over 7 years) because they DID provide value for the product they are selling. They included a DVD/Blu-Ray/Digital Version for less than (on sale) the cost of a Blu-Ray version. So please give some kudos to Disney for offering a product that gives you options. They which have been militant in their control are doing a better job then all of the other content providers.

sehlat (profile) says:

Hollywood has bigger problems than "piracy."

I posted this over at Lohmann’s column and am repeating it here:

Hollywood isn’t just losing out with this “buy from us or else” attitude, but with sheer lousy product quality.

From my standpoint, with the sole exception of Pixar, nothing that’s come out of Hollywood in the past three years has been worth going to a theater for, never mind renting in DVD. If it’s worth DVD, my family calls it “Waiting for the paperback.”

In the meantime, Netflix has come like manna from heaven, and we’ve found absolutely marvelous foreign films to be a bonanza of solid entertainment. Recent views have included “Twilight Samurai” (Japan), “In July” (Germany), “Bread and Tulips”(Italy), “Family Flaw” (Italy), and “O’ Horten” (Norway). Plus others. And the ratio of good stuff to clunkers runs about ten or twelve to one.

So my question is fast becoming: Who the hell *needs* Hollywood?

McBeese says:

Re: Hollywood has bigger problems than "piracy."

“I” need Hollywood because I can’t survive on vegetables and the movies you listed alone. Sometimes, I like a bit of beef. “No” movies out of Hollywood in the past three years worth going to a theatre for? Nonsense. You destroy your credibility with a statement like that.

sehlat (profile) says:

Re: Re: Hollywood has bigger problems than "piracy."

No movies, with the exception of Pixar’s. That is my considered opinion, expressed via my bank account and my behavior.

My wife and I have gone to exactly three movies in the past year, “Up”, “Eagle Eye” and “Star Trek.” I had to be dragged to the latter two by my wife, who insisted on seeing them in the theater.

Hollywood can try to control how I buy, what I buy, and when I buy. They cannot control if I buy.

sehlat (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Hollywood has bigger problems than "piracy."

Oops. Forgot to mention “Coraline,” which was very badly paced. One of our kids is a big Gaiman fan and pushed us into catching it. Was not worth going to the theater for, and my wife agrees with that evaluation.

As for the others: We’ll maybe catch the paperbacks from Netflix. It costs a lot less per month for the three adults in my immediate family than one theater visit for same. Plus I don’t miss anything if I need a biobreak. And I get subtitles, which helps as my only working ear deteriorates.

McBeese says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Hollywood has bigger problems than "piracy."

So let me understand this. You’re suggesting that movies aren’t worth seeing in the theater without disclosing that you have a physical disability that prevents you from appreciating the value of a theater?

You like foreign films with subtitles because you can’t hear well and you can’t appreciate adventure blockbusters for the same reason. I get it. That doesn’t mean that the Hollywood movies with great sound effects aren’t worth going to see for everyone else.

Your opinion is highly tainted.

McBeese says:

Yep, Hollywood is leaving a LOT of money on the table

Just because Hollywood is having it’s best year ever (assuming that’s correct), doesn’t mean they aren’t being hurt by piracy. After all, every pirated movie is lost revenue potential (note that I said ‘potential’ – many people pirate music and videos that they would not ever consider paying for).

However, the narrow-minded thinking in Hollywood is causing them to leave a lot of money on the table. I tend to agree that a pirated movie is an indication of a need that is not being met. Hollywood ought to be taking a position of trying to understand that need and the ways to make money from it. After all, even if they only make $0.01 per movie, that is upside over what they’re making today.

Somewhere in the combination of cost, convenience, value bundles, incentives, promotions, etc., etc., there is a a great business model to start making great money on what is lost revenue today. Hollywood isn’t going to find the new model by refusing to believe that it exists and not looking for it.

sehlat (profile) says:

Re: Yep, Hollywood is leaving a LOT of money on the table

And while Hollywood delays, their customers look around, find ways around the barricades and get out of the habit of bowing and scraping to them.

Brand loyalty is something marketing people will sacrifice their firstborn children for, and meanwhile, the Big H is busy micturating it away.

“What fools these mortals be!”

Frank Blackenfoot says:

I'm done...

Mike, you have officially pushed me away from TechDirt with your self righteous writing/thoughts. It’s called PIRACY. It’s ILLEGAL. Who gives a $hit if all the kiddies out there say, “Boo whoo…we deserve this for free cause they don”t get it to Blockbuster fast enough”. That’s Bull$shit. You all f’ing know it but make up fricking excuses to justify PIRACY…

You can all get back to jerkin’ each other off.

senshikaze (profile) says:

Re: I'm done...

I thank you, as a loyal reader of this site, for leaving. I am troubled that you didn’t enjoy your stay, but you can’t please everyone.

At least now we can have people who can type and don’t use CAPITAL words to PROVE a POINT.

And i would have to say that your last suggestion would be one hell of an RTB+CWF experiment.

Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

Re: I'm done...

Rewarding authors and their readers was an excuse made up to justify copyright’s suspension of the public’s cultural liberty.

It was actually all about consolidating the Stationers’ guild’s de facto monopolies and providing a proxy censor for the crown against sedition. ACTA is exactly the same.

The natural right to make copies dates back to copying cave paintings and is supposed to be protected by all enlightened and egalitarian societies.

So, from the perspective of natural law, copyright is illegal, a privilege and an injustice, and piracy (like liberating slaves) is an ethical assertion of fundamental rights.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: I'm done...

The natural right to make copies dates back to copying cave paintings…

So does the natural right to club bitches over the head.

Despite your broken record rants, there is no “natural” right to pirate. Taking other people’s hard work for free and against their will has exactly ZERO to do with your right to liberty no matter how infinitely malleable you believe that word to be.

Put the bong down, dude. No, don’t break out your shaman hand drum, no one wants to hear you —

(boom bada boom bada boom boom bada…)


Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: I'm done...

You really must read up on natural rights.

Clearly, people have had a natural right to protect their lives against violent attackers since homo became sapiens (you’ll get there too one day). That right to life supersedes the right to copy, so does the natural right to privacy.

The right to copy was suspended in the 18th century – a fundamental injustice – to create the privilege of copyright (from ‘right to copy’).

So, I quite agree with you that taking other people’s hard work against their will is nothing to do with anyone’s right to liberty, indeed, it’s a violation of other people’s natural right to privacy. Such a natural exclusive right was even recognised by the US Constitution.

However, when you sell someone your work (or a copy thereof), when you give someone your work of your own free will, then it is theirs to do with as they will. In other words they are naturally at liberty to make copies or derivatives of what is now their private possession, and to give or sell their work in doing so to others. This cultural liberty is unnaturally suspended by the privilege of copyright.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 I'm done...

Do they tax your law mower? Do they tax your clothes? Do they tax your refrigerator?

My lawnmower, clothes, and refridgerator are not worth thousands (or millions) of dollars. My home, for example, IS, and is taxed. It’s called “property tax.” If I film my son’s birthday party, that’s surely lawnmower-class property. But why is it that house-class intellectual proprty, like the multimillion-dollar films holiwood puts out, aren’t taxed?

McBeese says:

“…And to flip the coin around, yes, Hollywood has had several opportunities to handle the ‘problem’ in a better way, and failed to do so almost every single time. But no matter how many times they fail to satisfy their customers, that still is in no way forcing the customers to do anything illegal.”

No, Hollywood is not forcing customers to do anything illegal, but I’ll argue that Hollywood is motivating people to things that are illegal.

For example, if I buy a movie, I want to be able to watch it on my choice of players: DVD player, PC, iPhone, iPod, Apple TV, PS3. Today, if I buy a digital copy of a movie and copy it to a DVD so I can watch it on my DVD player, that violates the TOS. If I buy a DVD and rip it to a digital file so I can watch it on my Apple TV, that also violates the TOS. If I buy a digital movie and copy it to my locker in the Cloud for backup and so I can have access to it when I’m traveling, that is also supposedly illegal.

Guess what? The MPAA is STUPID. Do they think it makes sense for me to buy 3 or 4 versions of the same movie so I can watch it when/where I want? Do they think that’s reasonable? Do they think I’m going to do that?

Here’s a better idea… Why not sell me ONE version of the movie and then sell me additional formats for a buck or two each. THAT is something I would be interested in because the quality would be assured and the time and hassle to RIP or copy movies would be avoided.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

And then someone comes up with a way to lessen the cost from a buck or two, down to mere pennies. Rejoice! Except the method violates the DMCA and the MPAA are angry at having someone doing it better than they ever could and that someone is either run out of business or taken to court. Joy.

And in the end, it’s the consumers who lose.

Anonymous Coward says:

If Movie Piracy Is Really A Problem, It's Hollywood's Fault

“If Movie Piracy Is Really A Problem, It’s Hollywood’s Fault”


That’s not at all a cop-out. I hate what the **AA’s have done to copyright probably more than a lot of people here, but *blaming* them for the complete lack of integrity or responsibility of others?

Yeah, the **AA’s suck. But so do the entitled brats who think that just because it’s easy to do, they somehow *deserve* it.

Hell, more than anyone, they actually *do* deserve all the BS the **AA’s have done to copyright. The rest of us however, get punished alongside them.

Lucky, lucky, lucky….

Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

No McBeese, you’re naively confusing ‘the law of the jungle’ with natural law.

‘Might is right’ is the strategy adopted by multinational corporations in their litigious persecution of individuals sharing the music they like.

You should read Wikipedia some time, if you aren’t too offended by its neutralisation of copyright’s constraint on the sharing of mankind’s knowledge.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Quote from your link:

“Credit also has to go the music industry for licensing its music far more widely, often to innovative Scandinavian companies like Spotify and Nokia, which is offering the Comes With Music plan on selected phones.”

So, the music industry offers more ways to buy the product legally and allows more places to sell more music to Swedes (not a small issue – for example Amazon is still not allowed to sell MP3s anywhere in Europe except the UK, France and Germany). Sales go up. Not exactly a surprise, and nothing to do with “piracy” or lawsuits.

Funny how you ignore that story in favour of your preferred viewpoint.

Anonymous Coward says:

Some ideas for Hollywood

Let’s admit that all the unions, gilds, licensing rights are the result of crappy management over the years. Let’s just burn the damned thing down and start over. No unions this time, and management will be voted to officer positions by employees.

I propose moving Hollywood II to some place where logic and reason are plentiful. Like Sweden.

Or India. Let’s move Hollywood to India.

RD says:

I'm done...

“Mike, you have officially pushed me away from TechDirt with your self righteous writing/thoughts. It’s called PIRACY. It’s ILLEGAL. Who gives a $hit if all the kiddies out there say, “Boo whoo…we deserve this for free cause they don”t get it to Blockbuster fast enough”. That’s Bull$shit. You all f’ing know it but make up fricking excuses to justify PIRACY…

Bye! We wont miss you! Dont let the door hit you where you live on your way out! In fact, we are falling over ourselves to HOLD OPEN the door for you to exit!

It’s called “copyright infringement.” “Piracy” is armed theft on the high seas (or similar). There can be no piracy without armed theft that deprives someone of something permanently, either their property and/or their life. Your faoming-at-the-mouth denouncement only proves you are as ignorant of the issue at hand as the Big Media Corps are, and have even less to contribute to resolving the problem than those you accuse.

Bye now!

Anonymous Coward says:

Quick Question

Something I’ve yet to see answered by all those in favour of protecting copyright is this:

How do you stop copyright infringement?

Take a minute to actually think about a sensible answer to that and you’ll very quickly realise you don’t have one.

Once you do realise that, your next question should be – how do you compete with it?

You can bang on and on about morals, lost revenue, lost potential revenue, little kiddies, cheap skates, etc. etc. But guess what? You still do NOTHING to prevent or even reduce copyright infringement.

It’s amusing to read about people deluding themselves about copyright infringement, when the most delusional are those trying to prevent it.

You may as well start moaning about the sun rising in the morning and while you look to implement ways to prevent it, that guy down the road selling parasols makes a killing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Quick Question

Last time I checked, you don’t stop speeding by treating every driver as a criminal, installing mechanisms in cars that don’t allow you to control your own speed, not allowing anyone to remove those mechanisms without being threatened with legal action, and spying on every driver at all times.

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