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The Digital Recession, Pt 2: The Problem With Piracy
By Jim Cummings
The amount of digital piracy in a country is correlated to the average internet speed. It would be very time consuming to download Avatar on a dial-up modem, so many in El Salvador will have to buy a hard copy, but Americans often watch movies online for free simply by googling the movie’s title followed by the word “streaming”. As if this isn’t already easy enough, advancements in internet speeds will only make watching movies for free easier, or in my opinion, ubiquitous.
In 2010, a filmmaker friend of mine raised 125,000 dollars from family and friends for a feature film. He submitted it to festivals, received glowing reviews from hundreds of media outlets including Indiewire and Variety, and premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival. A reliable distributor bought the film, promising a small theatrical release and contractually guaranteed revenue from future sales. Again, this sounds a great deal like success and many filmmakers dream of being in this position; a Hollywood deal, signs of interest, and the potential for financial return and future projects. Months later however, the distributor released the film for sale on iTunes and within days the movie was popping up on free streaming websites like putlocker.com. Within 1 month the film had countless views and it still lives illegally online for free. Many filmmakers suffer this fate, unable to recoup their investment because of the nature of the internet. This is not solely a failure in business, this is a failure to understand the value of art in the digital age. If all that it takes to separate a filmmaker from revenue are the odds against one person uploading a copy of their movie to the internet, then the future of film is only growing more unpromising.
Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Steven Soderberg have recently spoken at engagements about the terrible state of the film industry, (we can only wonder who guards their piles of money when they climb down from them to speak) and yet none of these successful businessmen enlightened the world to the obvious fact: that it is not the film industry that is collapsing, but the value of video, that overwhelming supply has devalued it as a whole, that cameras in every phone will only further push it off the cliff, that people are becoming less likely to pay for moving images in a rectangle, and that there is no stopping it.
How should we cope with this future?
Tomorrow, we continue this discussion with “The Dreamer’s Disease“. It concludes the next day with “The Future“. If you are just now catching up on it, we started our conversation on The Digital Recession yesterday. Check it out here.