.Let's start the new decade with a look back at an issue which has, in one form or another, rumbled on as a controversy since the invention of the domestic VCR: Piracy.
I recall my first pirate video was in 1982. It was E.T. It was a fuzzy nth generation copy of a tele-cine transfer, so degraded the colour had been leeched out of it and so badly recorded the dialogue was barely audible. That was back in the day when people really did take video cameras into cinemas and record the movie. One also heard stories of cinema managers being held hostage by gangsters intent on getting hold of some precious print of a movie. Hmm … now there’s a premise for a Bruce Willis movie!
A whole generation and several thousand bootlegs later, video piracy has changed beyond recognition. Gone are the dodgy dealers in smoky pub corners, even the car-boot cowboys seem to be a thing of the past. It’s all web-based now and the majority of the films seem to be leaked by the companies making them, or are mastered from a preview DVD issued somewhere in the world.
The ease and speed of distribution has increased exponentially as has, generally speaking, the quality of the sound and picture. Surely, then, this should be sounding the death-knell for legitimate mainstream movies, shouldn’t it? The empty cinemas should be echey and dark. Blockbusters should be pulling down the shutters and laying off their staff. Unemployed movie-stars should be sitting on street corners offering autographs and catch-phrases for food. But it doesn’t seem to happening that way. Instead we seem to be getting more ‘event’ movies than ever before. There appear to be queues in the cinemas and clusters of new DVDs and Blu-Rays hitting the shelves each and every week.
How can this be?
Well, is it possible that allegations about the profits of video piracy funding terrorists are a bit over-blown? After all, a transaction where films are uploaded for free and downloaded for free, copied for free and shared for free doesn’t strike me as the kind of transaction from which there will be an awful lot of profit to fund the afore-mentioned terrorists.
..Is it also possible that the timely release of certain bootlegs help create the awareness and buzz that a film needs to get that all important bonanza opening weekend? Last year’s Wolverine controversy would seem to be a workable test-case, given all of the adverse publicity that threw up. The delightfully insightful yet deceptively entitled Den of Geek looked at that in detail here.
And now, additional grist to this particular mill has arrived in a report about J.J. Abram’s Star Trek, which has the dubious honour of being 2009’s most pirated film. Not quite sure how they would measure that. Did you tell anyone you’d downloaded it? I certainly didn’t … or wouldn’t have, if I had downloaded it, which I haven’t … obviously. Anyway, this report looks at the effect this piracy has had on the film’s profits and then goes further to discuss the general state the movie industry is in.
I think it makes interesting reading, hence why I’m sharing it.
Lemme know what you think.