First let me state up front: Piracy IS Murder. No wait Meat is Murder – Tasty, Tasty Murder. All kidding aside Piracy IS Theft. There is no grey area. There is no “well it’s not really stealing because I would never have watched it otherwise.”. Everyone who does it knows that they are stealing.
The hilarious part is that I don’t mind the theft so much as the denial that it is theft. That’s just an attempt to make yourself feel better about what you are doing.
Apparently our old ten second unskippable piracy warning on DVDs was insufficient. New rules and warnings have now gone into effect so that we will be shown twenty seconds of unskippable warnings in front of every DVD and Blu-Ray.
These people (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement among others) have absolutely no sense of irony. You will only be forced to watch these warnings if you are NOT pirating a movie. Pirated copies of movies obviously do not make you sit through these warnings every single time you want to sit down and watch Ishtar.
For that matter pirated copies don’t force you to sit through five to twenty minutes worth of previews every time you pop in the disc either (I know pirated copies are mostly downloads these days but I still remember the days of seeing them in the flea markets). This is another case of corporate stupidity. Making the previews unskippable just means that I get up and fix a snack or check my email and makes it less likely I’ll purchase the next DVD. I already find it hard to justify purchasing a movie when I have a backlog of things to watch on instant Netflix (for which I only pay eight dollars a month).
I’ll tell you what I like: Incentives! I bought a Resident Evil Blu-Ray because it came in a steelbook. If you haven’t seen a steelbook, they are metal DVD (or Blu-Ray in this case) cases and they are beautiful. Right now Best Buy has a FREE steelbook for Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance if you put five dollars down on the upcoming 3D release. This would be nice if it weren’t the single worst movie I’ve seen so far this year (at the theater anyway).
My daughter recently bought The Muppets at Wal-Mart because it came with FREE finger puppets. I almost bought the BBC Frozen Planet series there because it came with the BBC Life series for FREE.
Anyway back to piracy. I understand that there are a lot of reasons for piracy. Besides the aforementioned forced viewing of warnings and previews, there are myriad reasons to pirate.
I loved season one of HBO’s Game of Thrones. I’d gladly subscribe to HBO to get HBO Go to watch Game of Thrones and True Blood. I am not however willing to subscribe to basic cable, extended cable, and a movie package just to get a series. My service provider will graciously allow me to pay them $28 a month for HBO if I first pay them $57 a month for what they call “family cable”. So I can pay them $85 plus all the other charges (box rental, party fee, etc.) each and every month or I can wait and get Game of Thrones season two next spring for $35 (based on what I paid for the first season). I would even happily pay per episode like I do on Amazon for Walking Dead but no such option exists. This is the type of situation that drives people to piracy. I can wait until spring because I’m patient but I understand others are not.
Another reason I see for piracy is similar: availability. Every major science fiction, comic, or gaming convention I’ve been to has at least one dealer who sells bootlegs of shows that, quite frankly, the studios have been embarrassed to release. If you want to see the 1978 version of Marvel’s Dr. Strange, the 1974 Cathy Lee Crosby version of Wonder Woman, or the Star Wars Holiday Special then these guys have a very grainy barely watchable bootleg for you.
Movies that go out of print on DVD go for outrageous sums. There is a terrible movie called Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. that stars David Hasselhof. The cheapest new copy on Amazon goes for $78. The cheapest new copy of Anchor Bay’s release of Quatermass and the Pit goes for $140. Those prices are obviously ridiculous and beyond what most people are willing to pay.
Worse still are films that have never seen a U.S. DVD release. I have a German box set of Christopher Lee’s Fu Manchu films because only three have ever been released in the U.S. and there are five of them. I also bought the British version of 2009’s Day of the Triffids miniseries because it was unavailable (at the time) in the U.S. Cold Prey 2 is not available in the U.S. but is fairly cheap in the U.K.
All of this adds up to plenty of reasons why people pirate. The problem isn’t just the pirates though but the system itself. Hollywood has tried to address some of the issues by shortening the length of time between theatrical release and Blu-Ray release from one year to six months to the current average of three to four months.
Making films more affordable is another important step. I almost never spend more than $10 for a Blu-Ray and it is usually either $5 or $10 and I’m getting a FREE movie ticket out of it. Still buying the Blu-Ray even on release day is far cheaper than buying tickets and snacks at the theater.
I’d love to have something pithy to wrap this up but honestly I just went on a rant here. How about a quote from The Office’s Mindy Kaling?
“I was at the movies and I saw those ads, the ones that say things like ‘You wouldn’t steal a purse, would you? You wouldn’t steal a car.’ I was thinking about it when I was watching it and I was like… you know what I would steal a car. If it was as easy as touching the car… and then 30 seconds later I owned the car. And I would steal a car if the person who owned the car… they got to keep the car. And I would also steal a car if no one I had ever met had ever bought a car before in their whole life.”