How Hollywood Is Encouraging Online Piracy

David Pogue, writing for Scientific American (instead of the NYT), makes this interesting observation:

The people want movies. None of Hollywood’s baffling legal constructs will stop the demand. The studios are trying to prevent a dam from bursting by putting up a picket fence.

And if you don’t make your product available legally, guess what? The people will get it illegally. Traffic to illegal download sites has more than sextupled since 2009, and file downloading is expected to grow about 23 percent annually until 2015. Why? Of the 10 most pirated movies of 2011, guess how many of them are available to rent online, as I write this in midsummer 2012? Zero. That’s right: Hollywood is actually encouraging the very practice they claim to be fighting (with new laws, for example).

Yes, times are changing. Yes, uncertainty is scary. But Hollywood has case studies to learn from. The music industry and the television industry used to fight the Internet the same way—with brute force: copy protection, complexity, legal challenges.

Right now, most movies are available illegally online to download in DVD or Blu-Ray quality within three to four months of its opening day in the theater. That’s reality.

You can argue whether its right or wrong, but there’s an entire generation of people — customers if you will — that would pay for a digital download as soon as it is available to do so. But, because they are not available legally, they have no qualms about obtaining it illegally. There’s no getting around that fact. Once someone downloads a high-quality copy of a movie, they sure as shit ain’t shilling out $15 when it becomes legally available in another few months or paying a few bucks to rent it years later.

The whole system is blown up and Hollywood doesn’t seem to have any plan. And if they don’t change that pattern of behavior it will quickly become codified in the majority of people under 30. It’s not right, but business is business. The music industry has made it plainly obvious that if you sell your product at a fair price and make it easily obtainable people won’t pirate it.

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