Rampant movie piracy?


Last weekend I went along to see Shrek 2, a great movie :wink:, however that is not the topic of discussion today. There are I’m sure many other places you can go for a review of Shrek 2.

What I am more interested in is two trailers that were on during the 20 or so minutes of ads before the movie started.

First there was a trailer for Spiderman 2, wow Hollywood is really going out of there way this year to give us something we’ve never seen :roll:, however this was not one of those standard teaser trailers to get you to come back to the movies when it was released. It was a trailer showing off all the wiz bang special effects that was going to be in the movie. Telling you that the cinema is the only place to get the real movie experience. I thought to myself “Hey they are really trying to get people to stop downloading pirated movies here.” but that didn’t prepare me for the trailer after it.

Second was a trailer in a similar visual style to the tough on drugs ads that the federal government run, i.e. a grungy style of lighting and locations. It went through a standard run of how people wouldn’t steal a car or a physical movie, so why would you download a movie from the internet? This argument is very similar to that of the music industry and the related ARIA against Kazza. Are we headed for another battle, this time from AFACT?

What has changed?

Why Hollywood is now so worried about piracy? Haven’t we all been taping movies and television shows with out VCR since the 1980’s? Taping a show or movie from the television is copyright theft just like taping from the radio. Even converting your CD collection, which is all bought and paid for, to MP3, or OGG in my case, to listen to from your PC or to place on you iPod, is illegal under current Australian copyright law. So why now, at this time is the film industry so worried about theft of copyright? Quite simple really, Divx and its sister Open Source project XviD (Divx backwards) . For those of you who haven’t heard of it or simply don’t know the details of what it is Divx is a CODEC just like MP3. Divx is what’s called MPEG5 it is a video CODEC, it was originally back in version 3 a rip of source code from Microsoft, which after Microsoft realised was too powerful so when they released the CODEC it was reduced in the resolution that it could display.

When version 4 Divx emerged it was a complete rewrite and the CODEC was faster and the output of higher quality. With this you could fit an almost DVD quality movie onto just one 700mb CD. All you needed to copy a CD was the original DVD some easily available software from the internet 5GB free on you hard drive and about 24hrs. Then all you needed to do was rip the DVD to your hard drive set-up the conversion software and just leave your computer alone for a day or so come back and you had an avi file with MP3 stereo audio track and an Divx video track in ~700mb rather than 5GB.

This on it’s own really wouldn’t worry Hollywood because this technology was really only accessible to those who new where to look, i.e. Geeks :wink:, and when this was happening (2002) broadband internet was not as accessible as it is today so most of this movie copying was for personal use or to be copied for friends to be physically shared. So this was very similar to one of my friends going to an Asian country and bring back a suitcase full of VCD’s of movies that were tapped from inside a cinema. You all know the kind with people’s heads down the bottom of the screen and really bad sound. Sure this was bad for the movie industry but it really wasn’t worth worrying about because of the physical sharing that took place.

But today broadband internet is common place and there seems to almost no one who doesn’t know how to share files using kazza or the like and if you don’t have broadband you usually know someone who does. So now you don’t just have people copying DVD’s they hire or VCD’s they buy overseas, actually since the rise of the DVD-R you can now get DVD’s overseas not VCD’s. But what about DVD-R’s that people have here? Well you still have to get your hands on a DVD to copy it. So this type of piracy will be no more common place than someone with 2 VCR’s that makes a copy of a VCR that they got, besides the fact that you can copy a DVD at up to 8X not having to play the whole movie etc. the problem is that you still need a physical copy to create a pirate.

So now we have a community that has access to fast internet which shares a highly compressed, high quality, reasonably small copies of movies. But why are people “stealing” these copies of movies and what can be done to stop them?

Why steal?

We in Australia have always seen ourselves as “the lucky country” so why now are we “stealing” movies? Simple, because Hollywood has always released movies to best fit with Australia’s seasons, which are the complete opposite to the USA (Southern hemisphere, school year begins in January etc). The best example of this is that when I went on a holiday to the USA in the summer of 2000 I saw Chicken Run as one of the in-flight movies. Now we all know that in-flight movies are newer than the ones that you can get down at the local video store. But what makes this mentionable is that Chicken Run was not even released to cinemas in Australia yet. Because the studio wanted to release the Film in the Australian summer the movie was released 6 months later than it was in the USA. I could have purchased the film on DVD when I was over in the USA and when I came back it was just being released to cinema’s here.

Now this was all fine back in the days before broadband and DivX but today something needs to be changed. Films like Star Wars II were released the same day or the next level Matrix Revolutions was release at the same second all around the world. This makes it basically impossible for any pirated movie to hit the net before it is released. And seeing the movie as soon as possible is the key here. People generally want to be the “first” to see a new movie, especially a sequel to an extremely popular movie. So people will “steal” from the internet what they can’t see at their local cinema. Coming back to Shrek 2 I heard two people say that they had seen the movie before it was released here in Australia. Now these aren’t people I know one was an employee at my local Supermarket just talking to one of her friends that was in the line before me. It is “ok” in the public mind to “steal” these movies now or else why would people discuss these things in public?

What has been done

With the launch of AFACT the movie industry expects people to go out “dobbing” in movie pirates. See here on the movie piracy website, this tough on copyright laws stance is similar to the Australian government’s policy on drugs, no tolerance. You can also read about the launch of AFACT on the Australian Attorney General’s website here

What can be done

What Hollywood needs to do is realise that we now live in a global community and they can’t release movies in the same way they used to. They need to release movies at the same time around the world and they need to change the way they think about distribution. And please for goodness sake if you are asking people to go to a website to report “piracy” please make it a good one. The current site only has a link to the trailer I saw at the cinema and a link to the form to report piracy please give us more information about the “problem” and why we should report it. We aren’t stupid and I for one want to know what the information I report would do and about the organisation I am reporting it to before I would say anything.

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