Wikipedia defines theft as the taking of another person's property without that person's permission or consent with the intent to deprive the rightful owner of it. Since the birth of the computer age, the definition of property has expanded. Consider plagiarism; increased access to information has prompted authors to protect their ideas from theft. To control this we expanded the definition of property to include not only physical objects, but ideas and artistic creations.
The music and movie industry has been hit hard by internet piracy. Anyone can download their favorite album from their home computer. And many people do. The Directors Guild of America claims the industry lost $25 Billion dollars in revenue in 2009. Additionally 375,000 jobs were lost in the US due to internet piracy (DGA Quarterly PG 1). It’s hard to support any crime that leads to job loss. In this slow economy, Americans should be supporting jobs rather than stripping them.
But piracy is more than an economical matter; it’s also a matter of freedom. The freedom to express and share ideas, the freedom to be entertained, and the freedom to choose grainy bootlegged Skyfall rather than paying $30 at the movie theaters.
Consider a simple paperback book. Let’s say its Salem’s Lot because Stephen King books are so common on bookshelves. West Plains High School bought it for $5 and put it in circulation in 1987. 30 high school kids read it before I accidently kept it and forgot to return it my senior year. In a sense, I pirated that book. On a much larger scale Pirate Bay is like my high school library and each file is a paperback Stephen King book. One person buys it and uploads it, and two thousand people forget to return the files after senor year.
My analogy marginalizes the issue, but consider box office earnings in the last 15 years. In 1997, Saving Private Ryan was the top box office earner making 216 Million domestically. Last year, The Avengers was the top box officer earner making 623 Million in the United States (Box Office Mojo 2012). Despite the rampant piracy movies are making more money than ever in the theaters. Then again, if Hollywood had its way we would pay $4.25 every time we wanted to watch a movie (OnDemand anyone?).
Piracy is a crime and there is no doubt someone is losing money, but the response to the loss of revenue has been increased prices at the theaters. The increased cost has forced more movie goers to stay home and save money.
The solution is already out there. Netflix and Hulu charge low monthly fees for personalized access to media. If Hollywood wanted to curb piracy (rather than just increasing their profits) they would embrace the low cost, easy access options. Most customers will choose the cheap but legal option.
Until then expect piracy to continue without much relief. Much like the war on drugs, piracy is wide spread and easy to do. If corporate Hollywood truly wants to end piracy, they will find a legal way to provide their entertainment at lower costs.
Box Office Mojo. 2012. “2012 Domestic Grosses.” Retrieved on March 19, 2013 from http://boxofficemojo.com/yearly/chart/?yr=2012
Box Office Mojo. 2012. “Saving Private Ryan.” Retrieved on March 19, 2013 from http://boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=savingprivateryan.htm
Directors Guild of America. 2012. “Piracy by the Numbers.” Retrieved on March 19, 2013 from http://www.dga.org/Craft/DGAQ/All-Articles/1001-Spring-2010/Internet-Issues-Piracy-Statistics.aspx
Wikipedia. 2013. “Theft”. Retrieved on March 19, 2013 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theft.