Wednesday, October 10, 2012

music and film: online piracy

As the availability of pirated media continues to increase on the internet, the more that individuals are taking advantage of these websites. With the introduction of websites like Napster and Limewire around 2000, P2P file sharing allowed for users to download music, tv, movies, and more for free. Since then, the number of piracy websites has grown exponentially and remains a threat to media industries, including television and film. 
While I wouldn't say that everyone is watching or participating in pirated movies or tv shows, I think it is a fair claim that a good portion of the youth, and in particular college students and young adults, take advantage of such services. For example, more than 75% of computers have at least one downloaded illegal application and although that does not mean that 3/4 of the population are constantly watching pirated movies and tv, I do think that number reflects the availability of illegal media. Perhaps an even more alarming for those involved in the television and film industries is the fact that worldwide, there is approximately 53 billion visits per minute to websites that provide pirated downloads. 
An important part of addressing this issue is understanding why people decide to "steal" film and television in the first place. I think an obvious factor behind this is cost. It is easy to justify illegally streaming a new release movie for free rather than spending $10 to go watch the same film at the movie theater, especially for young adults and individuals in college who just don't have the disposable income to spend money every time they want to see a new movie. This goes for television as well. Rather than paying a cable bill every month, which by no means is cheap, some individuals would much rather visit websites like where new shows and episodes are posted regularly and after only a couple days of the show airing on cable, the episode will get posted to the website. 
Besides saving money, I think another reason people steal film and television is convenience. Due to the fact that it is so easy to find websites that post new movies and new episodes of television shows, it makes it incredibly easy for some one who is willing to spend 5 minutes searching on google to find a specific film or show. The somewhat unregulated growth of the internet has made it incredibly easy to pirate and steal these forms of media. And I don't think its the fact that there is nothing that can be done to stop these websites, but more so about the sheer number of websites that offer pirated films and television that make it so difficult to control. Steps have been taken, however, to reduce the amount of media that is pirated with legislation like SOPA being introduced. Although the Stop Online Piracy Act was not passed, the bill sought to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property as well as stop unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content. This has been just one step taken to try and cut down on illegal pirating but I think due to the fact that the majority of online users, 70%, find nothing wrong in online piracy there is much resistance to the idea. Another strategy that has been introduced to disrupt those who continually infringe copyright laws is the Copyright Alert System, a strategy that issues "warnings" for copyright infringement and hopes to slow down online pirating.
As the television and film industries begin to see that this problem may not be able to be stopped by merely passing an act, I think they have started to accept the changing landscape of media consumption and are beginning to work with the internet to provide ways in which consumers still benefit without damaging these industries on such a large scale as online piracy has. Netflix has been a beneficial option for television and film producers as it compromises incorporates convenient online streaming and a paid service. 
As far as looking at online piracy from an ethical standpoint, I think it is obvious that "stealing" film and movies is not morally perfect but I do feel that in some aspect, it is a way for the little guys, us as individuals, to stick it to the man, referring to big media corporations of course. The amount of money that some producers, actors, and other big-wigs in these industries make is absurd and online piracy, in some sort, has been able to bring these " one percenters" down to earth. I'm not saying I don't feel bad the 71,000 jobs that are lost each year due to online piracy, however, I do find myself smiling when watching Avatar at the fact that none of George Lucas' 3.2 billion net worth comes from me. In a way, I feel like it gives a little bit of justice to the people. On the other hand, I recognize that many people, many of whom are not worth 3.2 billion dollars, are negatively affected by online piracy in a huge way. 

Sources: - Online Piracy in Numbers - Stop Online Piracy Act Internet pirates will always win - how hollywood is encouraging online piracy: scientific american -internet pirates: your days are numbered

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