A closer look at Internet piracy

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By mattwu

How and why we pirate content online is evolving, in more ways than one

Remember Zombieland? Okay, good — now how about Zombieland 2?

You should not, because it does not exist.

Even though the original film tripled its budget and grossed over $85 million worldwide, a sequel still has not been made.

According to ScreenRant, an independent movie and film website, this disappointment results from one simple activity: Internet movie piracy.

As the “most pirated movie on bit torrent,” Zombieland did not crack the triple digit earnings that it easily could have accomplished. Sony Productions has thus far withheld the highly awaited sequel as a result.

Internet piracy can be defined as acts of infringement on the Internet that are of commercial nature. The definition covers a variety of unauthorized uses of creative content. In particular, it affects the entertainment industry heavily.

The movie production industry loses billions of dollars in profits each year from illegal Internet piracy. According to Forbes, these dollars are very real and have deep consequences for real people.

For example, it says that Wolfe Video has had its profits halved due to piracy, affecting its employees and their families all around.

But while in the entertainment industry and government’s eyes, Internet piracy is absolutely wrong — a first time offense can include jail time for up to five years and $250,000 worth in fines — some claim that the issue is not as clear-cut as it seems.

An intellectual property litigator speaking with Forbes Jonathan D. Rose makes an argument that the dollars being lost to piracy may not be as severe as they initially appear.

“Would the college student watching the pirated movie download have otherwise seen the movie in a theater, subscribed to Netflix or bought the DVD?” he asks.

“It does not seem fair to assume that not every pirated copy of an audiovisual work represents lost revenue to the produce,” Rose continued.

Interestingly, even some producers claim that Internet piracy may actually be lucrative for their shows.

If Zombieland claims the title for most pirated movie, Game of Thrones claims it for pirated TV show. The estimated download number reaches a staggering 3.9 million worldwide. However, Game of Thrones director David Petrarca seems passive to this fact.

When questioned about his sentiment in regards to profit losses, he simply shrugged and stated that the show thrives off of the “cultural buzz” it generates. Regardless of viewing legality, the more the show is watched, the better.

Though HBO has issued a statement that it does not share a similar stance, viewers eagerly agree with Petrarca.

Some regions of the world cannot access the channels online or on television and thus must resort to Internet downloads to be able to watch shows.

Some countries run behind the U.S. release schedule and therefore, trying to use legal channels inevitably result in plot spoilage.

Additionally, it has been noted that movies and shows are prevalently unavailable for legitimate purchase online.

PiracyData.org compiled a list and found that out of the past top 10 movies from October, only three were available for rental. After a couple of weeks, six became available for purchase. As a result, during that waiting period, viewers defaulted to illegal downloading in order to watch what they wanted.

The entertainment industry has been progressively developing techniques to combat piracy. Movie theater employees use night-vision goggles to catch the poorly hidden video camera in the audience. Verance Corporation has designed a light humming watermark signal that will shut down a Blue-Ray disc if a video camera is recording the movie.

But as a greater response, TV networks and movie companies are aiming to make their products more accessible and available legally online. Hopefully, in that way, both desperate viewers and equally-desperate producers will find compromise.

Whether that compromise comes from movie studios and TV networks or governmental legislation remains to be seen.

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