“Porn, Piracy, & BitTorrent”


(How’s that for an attention-grabbing title?)

An August 10 feature story in the Seattle Weekly –“Porn, Piracy, & BitTorrent“–takes a deeper than ‘it’s wrong’ look at illegal file-sharing technology. What I found fascinating was the information on how copyright holders are using mass lawsuits to indict and fine people using such technology, a tactic that I (and other right-thinking people) see as extortion.

A recurring topic throughout the article is the reportedly devastating financial toll that piracy is taking on movie producers and distributors. There’s a problem with that: at least one study says that pirates aren’t the problem . . . and it seems that (so called) pirates actually end up paying for more content than the average consumer. That finding, according to several film-industry insiders is pure poppycock:

The film industry loses $6.1 billion annually to digital piracy, according to a study conducted by economist Stephen Siwek and cited recently by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). And the Independent Film and Television Alliance (IFTA) says royalty rights for indie films have been halved from what they were five years ago . . .. . . For better or worse, BitTorrent has made it easy to swap a DVD-quality feature film or a musician’s entire discography. The latest in peer-to-peer, or “P2P,” file-sharing, Torrents, as they are known in techie vernacular, are staggeringly popular. With more than 100 million monthly users–more than Hulu and Netflix combined–Torrent file transfers account for 20 to 40 percent of all Internet traffic at any given time, according to BitTorrent, Inc., the San Francisco company that developed the technology.

 On the other hand, the researchers at GfK Group, a respected German market-research company, found the opposite to be true. Via Geek.com:

The study states that it is much more typical for a pirate to download an illegal copy of a movie to try it before purchasing. They are also found to purchase more DVDs than the average consumer, and they visit the movie theater more, especially for opening weekend releases which typically cost more to attend.The conclusion of the study is that movie pirates are generally more interested in film and therefore spend more money and invest more time in it. In other words, they make up some of the movie industry’s best customers.

 Trouble is, the study in question has never actually been published. Telopolis, a German politics and media site, only learned that the research exists through an anonymous source at GfK. Apparently, the unnamed client who commissioned the research requested that it never see the light of day because the findings are “unpleasant.”

Pirates make a convenient scapegoat for struggling movie makers, and they undoubtedly do have some impact on studios’ bottom lines. But there are many factors–the struggling economy, unwillingness to embrace new technology, and fewer quality flicks –that have all played a part in the downturn. I look at the returns for fun, good movies (like Harry Potter, Thor, or Captain America) and I see healthy profits for all concerned.

What I find especially despicable is that some studios– primarily porn producers–have figured out a way to profit from piracy. Their strategy is to sue large blocks of Internet users and offer them a “get out of trial” settlement to make the problem go away. So if Joe Jones downloads “Anna Gives Blow” from the Internet, he might just get a notice that it was an illegal download and he’s one of 2,000 “John Does” who are being sued. Scary enough, right? What’s worse is the next missive, or later in the same Notice where it says that the so-called copyright holders are asking the Court to order the ISP to release personal information, so in the next round it won’t be John Doe, it’ll be Joe Jones at 123 Maple Dr. . . . and court documents are public records.

Read the whole thing: Invasion of Piracy: The film industry mounts a sketchy legal strategy in response to illegal downloads.

Also, this is one of the things the EFF is fighting. So, give ’em $20 (or more!) and let them know you care. 

EDIT: They have a great page of info about this topic, here: http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2011/08/open-wifi-and-copyright-liability-setting-record

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