How Much Does Hollywood Really Lose to Piracy?

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There is an interesting video of a recent TED talk regarding something the speaker calls Copyright Math. In it, he comically destroys the numbers that Hollywood uses to scare Congress into doing its bidding via ill-conceived laws like SOPA. He demonstrates how if the numbers the media industry pedals around as its “losses” due to piracy were even remotely true then we would have to assume that both the film industry and the music industry would have grown exponentially over several year. The very concept is laughable on its face.

Where Does Copyright Math Come From?

Piracy is a real problem, and it does hurt the creative industries. However, the so-called losses are greatly exaggerated.

The problem with the loss numbers that Hollywood and the music industry cite is that they assume that nearly everyone who downloads a pirated copy of something, like a movie or CD, would have bought the item otherwise, at full retail price. That’s right, the same people who illegally download free content, would, of course, simply pony up the full retail price for every DVD they download for free off the internet.

Does this make even the littlest bit of sense?

Of course not.

It is ludicrous to think that someone who might be willing to watch Cowboys vs Aliens for free, would shell out $19.99 for it otherwise. They would never rent it for $1.20 at Redbox. They wouldn’t dream of getting it from Netflix. And, they most certainly would not try and find a discounted or used copy online. They would buy it, except, you know, for piracy.

Pirates who download lots of movies often have hundreds, if not thousands, of movies saved on their disk that they will never watch.

After all, a bittorrent user can easily download 100 movies per month, but it takes a dedicated movie buff to watch that many. And, who in the world would even think about buying that many?

Check out my Quizzle Scam article.

The truth is that most pirated movies result, at best, in a lost rental. The vast majority of them represent a lost discount rental like the ones from Netflix or Redbox. In other words, even if piracy were stomped out tomorrow, DVD sales would not increase.

Indeed, in France, where tough “three-strikes” piracy laws led to radical declines in the amount of piracy did not increase sale of movies or music by a single penny. In fact, sales continued to fall.

Why Don’t People Buy DVDs Anymore?

Wonder why people really don’t buy DVDs anymore?

Because Hollywood got so blinded by pirates that it forgot about its customers. Those of us who do buy a DVD find that we have to sit through several unskippable screens of piracy warnings in both English and French. Then, we have unskippable menu animations and unskipple warnings that the commentary is not the official view of the studio and so on. In other words, it’s a pain to even play a DVD, and that’s after you find it.

I haven’t bought a DVD in years. I have over 100 sitting in boxes that never get played. My favorite movies of all-time come out maybe once per year. The reason is that I have to really want to watch it to dig the disc out, put it in, wait through all of that startup nonsense and then finally¬† get to see my movie.

What I do instead is watch Zombieland from my DVR. I recorded it off of USA. It’s edited for TV and I have to fast-forward through commercials, but at least if I have 30 minutes to watch some Zombieland, I don’t waste 15 of them setting it up. In fact, I might start buying movies again if I could put them on some sort of digital device like my iPod, but those that exist aren’t any simpler.


Because, once again, Hollywood cares more about pirates than it does about paying customers.

I might buy an iFilm box and connect it to my TV, load all my movies, and then play Zombieland whenever I want, but by the time I get around all of the DRM and restrictions and storage blocks and inability to backup or play on more than one TV, it isn’t worth it again, and I’m not buying movies.

And, neither is anyone else.

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Enjoy your continuing losses Hollywood. You’re bringing it on yourself.

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