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Can Film Survive Piracy?

Downloading movies illegally has never been easier. What is the film industry doing about this? Are they doing enough to stop these pirates? Is this even possible?

On the 7th of June two companies that deal with copyright, The BVA (British Video Association) and The Industry Trust, hosted Insight 360° a series of talks and interviews discussing the business world of film and television. People from Disney, Warner Bros, Cinemax and the other companies all agreed that film must do what it has always done and adapt with new technology.

3D (really 2 ½ D. It simply isn’t good enough yet) in recent years has made more people go to the cinema rather than stay at home. The British film industry is using 3D successfully; this year’s documentary TT3D: Closer to the Edge dealing with a motorbike race on the Isle of Man is currently the 8th highest grossing documentary of all time (in the UK).

Equally 2010’s Monsters, a terrific monster movie filmed in Central America, used digital cameras and a small crew to make the film for under $500,000, therefore turning in a healthy profit.

However nearly 50% of revenue for a film comes from video (video meaning DVD, Blu Ray and download sales) and these sales are being hit hard by piracy. Statistics show that cinema is doing well but that video sales are under threat.

Last year 81% of video revenue was made up by physical purchases (people going to stores or online buying DVDs or Blu Rays) but the number of people streaming and downloading films is constantly increasing. On the Internet you can download films for free, so it begs the question… why pay? Film companies believe that by giving faster downloading times they can beat the free competition but this will do little to correct the problem. People can be very patient if it will save them money.

Another way they are trying to combat this problem is by providing systems and tools that make everything easy. Love Film provides a huge selection of films that can be sent in the post or simply streamed on Playstation 3. Ultraviolet (a consortium with 58 major companies attached) lets you buy a movie and then watch it in anyway you want; the Internet, set top boxes or mobile devices, therefore giving people flexibility. But will all these bonuses appeal to someone who doesn’t want to spend money?

The problem, as always, is people. A survey mentioned at the event showed that many people think that downloading illegally is wrong but do it anyway. Why? Because it is easy and free, and you’re rarely caught or punished for it. The only way to stop this ever-growing crime is by adopting a 1984 Big Brother government to run the country and Internet but this isn’t going to happen (probably). In this time of recession it’s hard to convince people to spend their hard-earned cash on something they can get for free.

So what happens if video sales dropped by 50%? Well production costs would go down but much more worrying is that film companies would take fewer risks. Alternative films would start to disappear, until the film world is dominated by safe choices that are certain to make money. This is a world I don’t want to live in. I am going to keep buying DVDs and going to the cinema, as many of us still do.

Can film conquer the Internet? No. Much like the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, the pirates are winning.

-Harry Davenport


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