This week Joe West deals with the tricky issue of nicking movies.
About 12 years ago one of my cousins started accruing a daunting collection of pirate movies. Since broadband internet was not available in the UK at the time, he was buying them on Video CD from a local dealer and keeping them in a massive wallet that could hold about 200 discs.
This was also an era in which DVD players were incredibly expensive, so the camcorded pirate copies had to be spread across at least 2 CDs and played via a karaoke machine, which when you think about it is fucking mental.
This approach to video piracy has become increasingly redundant. You now can not only download a full film in a matter of minutes, given a decent connection, but you can also find virtually any title you want to stream for free online, provided you are willing to navigate the ad-infested and malware-strewn sites that host them.
What sticks in my mind is that my cousin was happy to pay for his pirated movies. He was only taking the illegal route because he didn’t want to wait months for the home release and found a digital copy of a movie to be more convenient than clunky old VHS. It’s also worth pointing out that the walls of his room contained more legitimately acquired movies on video than it did bricks.
DVDs and even digital downloads have now become as archaic and inconvenient as analogue tapes. When the internet can and will provide endless streaming opportunities, any impediment to the immediacy of this type of access will feel like a huge problem for modern audiences.
Services like Netflix have overcome this to a certain extent, but I cancelled my subscription after a couple of months because my interest in its irregularly updated UK library had been exhausted. I’ve had a similar relationship with Love Film, Blink Box, Now TV and other paid services.
Like my cousin I am happy to pay for content, but I want providers to use the most convenient and affordable means of delivering it to me. There are millions of hours of video available to stream from illegitimate sources, and while movie studios and TV channels are haggling over broadcast rights and region issues, many people are heading to illegal sites which aren’t bound by these restrictions.
Add to this the ludicrous price of an adult ticket to an evening screening of a movie at your local cinema and it’s easy to see why so many people are willing to break the rules and effectively steal content. People know how much they are willing to spend on movies and by what means they would like to receive access. No amount of litigation is going to change that.
I’m not condoning piracy, I’m just pointing out that studios and copyright holders have the tools available to conquer it, but are simply refusing to properly exploit digital conduits and tackle illegal practises by replicating their convenience.