Cyberclinic: Hollywood must sharpen up its act on piracy threat

Downloading copyrighted material without paying is supposedly a sneaky, clandestine activity, concealed from the raging, helpless copyright owners beneath some kind of impenetrable digital cloak. But it's not that clandestine.

Companies offering services to protect intellectual property have become adept at gathering information from peer-to-peer file-sharing networks about what's being shared and in what quantity. One of these, Envisional, recently published statistics showing that while music piracy is becoming relatively passé, the ransacking of films and television shows is significantly on the rise. Both have risen by nearly a third in the past five years; the top five box-office hits were downloaded 1.4 million times in Britain last year, with popular television shows trailing closely behind. While there seems to be an increasing appetite for buying digital albums – up by nearly 20 per cent in the USA in the past 12 months – it's film that's become the freeloading frontier.

What's the cause? With broadband speeds increasing, video-compression technology improving and more sharers on the networks, it no longer takes 36 deeply frustrating hours to get hold of a badly ripped copy of Caddyshack (pictured); you can have it in a matter of minutes. File-sharing software is easier to use than it used to be, and the torrents themselves are easier to find, with The Pirate Bay a convenient central hub. Playing that file back on a television, as opposed to a laptop screen, is no longer beheld as if it were some kind of modern miracle. And to generalise grossly, there's a generation growing up whose consciences aren't necessarily troubled by owning media they haven't paid for. Indeed, one file-sharer gave an interview last week to the BBC in which he congratulated himself for creating jobs within the internet industry by demanding and paying for faster broadband. This argument from the righteous crusader lines up alongside the mystified consumer ("Why would I want to buy something without knowing what it's like first?" – try that angle next time you're in a restaurant) and the confused economist ("Digital copies cost nothing to manufacture, so effectively I haven't stolen anything.")

At the opposite end of the debate sits FACT, the Federation Against Copyright Theft, which regularly issues stern press releases that appear to demand we be transported to some non-digital utopia where consumers are humble, honest and conscience-driven, and the few that aren't are brutally punished. It responded to Envisional's report by claiming film piracy costs British industry £500m a year, and while there's undoubtedly a big financial knock-on effect, many claims of this kind are based on the mistaken impression that a free download is a lost sale. It isn't; people amass digital media because they can do so for free, and if they couldn't, they may well spend their money on cake, paperclips or horse-riding instead.

Between these two extremes sits the more pragmatic Dr David Price, who compiled Envisional's report. "[Content producers] need to compete with piracy," he says, "and get their content out there... as quickly and as cheaply as possible." He's right. The recent decline in album piracy can partly be attributed to the likes of Spotify, which fulfils the "try before you buy" demand with a legal service that's free, and offers a limitless digital jukebox for those who pay monthly. Equally, Steam has soaked up 70 per cent of the $4bn (£2.5bn) market for online delivery of video games by providing a convenient service that makes the process of torrenting look as gruelling and pointless as manufacturing your own cornflakes. Whether the film industry will learn from the lessons that the music industry spent a brutal decade getting to grips with is unclear, but the 18-month spat over trading terms that still prevents anything by Universal Pictures appearing in LoveFilm's UK store might indicate some intransigence.

You could argue the film industry has more to lose from file-sharing, simply because most people watch films only once. While games are played repeatedly and albums are regularly revisited, films are more disposable. Powerful, impressive, moving – but after 90 minutes, done with. You download, you watch, you delete the evidence. Or you think you do... but you've just become another piracy statistic.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Arts and Entertainment
One of the installations in the Reiner Ruthenbeck exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery
artCritics rally to defend Reiner Ruthenbeck's 'Overturned Furniture'
News
John Cleese is promoting his new book
people
News
A-list actresses such as Deepika Padukone get paid a tenth of what their male counterparts make per film
news
News
The Black Friday Vines that will destroy your faith in humanity
i100

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special
TV
News
Robbie Rogers: US former Leeds United footballer, 25, announced he was gay in February 2013, shortly after he left Elland Road. Rogers 'retired' after writing on his blog: 'I'm a soccer player, I'm Christian, and I'm gay.' Has since signed with Los Angeles Galaxy.
peopleUS footballer said he had hoped Michael Sam and Jason Collins coming out might have helped
Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops
films
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'
TVGrace Dent thinks we should learn to 'hug a Hooray Henry', because poshness is an accident of birth
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
art

Presents unwrapped, turkey gobbled... it's time to relax

Arts and Entertainment
Convicted art fraudster John Myatt
art

News
The two-year-old said she cut off her fringe because it was getting in her eyes
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Opilio Recruitment: Senior Developer

    £50k - 60k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We have an exciting Seni...

    Opilio Recruitment: Senior Front End Developer

    £50k - 70k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We have an exciting Seni...

    h2 Recruit Ltd: Senior Sales Executive - SaaS/ Cyber Security - £60,000

    £32000 - £34000 per annum + Uncapped OTE £65,000 : h2 Recruit Ltd: Looking for...

    h2 Recruit Ltd: Sales Executive - Software-as-a-Service/ SaaS - £42,000

    £28000 - £31000 per annum + Bonus + Progression: h2 Recruit Ltd: Are you looki...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game