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Film Industry vs Piracy Part 1

Over the next few months I am going to discuss the whole connundrum of how the internet is single handidly both destroying and liberating the music and film industries.

Looking at what makes people think they can take other peoples work and listen or watch it for free?

Will downloading eventually mean that people no longer make art for profit? Who wins and who loses?

So to kick off with films and piracy - lets look a what is out there?

Asian Copies 

Once the only way you were likely to get hold of a film on DVD that hadn't appeared in UK cinemas was via black market sellers in pubs, boot fairs, street corners and markets. Between £2-5 would most usually buy you some piss poor low-res camera footage of Harry Potter, complete with someone getting up to use the toilet half way through. Cam versions of films still exist on download torrent sites, but they are more sophisticated and the video capture much higher resolution these days - although the sound is nearly always awful.

Torrent Sites 

No longer is it necessary to buy your copy of Die Hard 12 from a street seller, now you can go to enormous torrent search engines online and (then) through a third party download software help yourself to the following formats:

Quite a lot of screeners (films made available for review by the media by film companies) end up available for download. Most screeners are sent out with a seperate audio track to stop piracy - although what then reaches torrent sites is the screener but with sound captured seperately from within a cinema and then synched by the torrent creator. In fact hackers and geeks even create hand written hard coded subs for foreign films.... such is their talent for piracy.

As mentioned above already, these are films recorded by digital cameras in the cinemas themselves and mostly should be avoided as they ruin the experience of watching any film (as can be argued any download does).

DVD or Blue Ray Rips
A film that has been ripped directly from a DVD that somewhere in the world has been released. These appear after the official DVD release; but sometimes a DVD version of a film will appear in Asia or South America months before it evem reaches the cinemas over here!

PPV (Pay Per View)
This is a copy ripped from a pay per view channel, it seems that in America particularly a PPV channel will get hold of films still out in the cinema - much like some airlines?

Which leads me nicely onto the most controversial of all pirate film formats - the Workprint. Basically this is a leaked version of a film that is not yet complete and has been whipped from the post production cutting table. Usually it is missing soundtrack elements, whole scenes or CGI or effects that haven't even been finished. Although pretty rare the most controversial example of this was the leak of action sequel Wolverine Origins. Hell even the FBI went out for the culprits responsible for this one. Distributors Fox claimed the release would damage their profits and audiences for the film's release, it did neither. The film easily surpassed the profits predicted for it ($370+ million). So what does that mean - is piracy really not the death of film?

The honest answer is 'who knows?' - when i found out about the leak I had enough knowledge to be able to find a copy of the workprint, but instantly I thought why would anyone want to see a film that wasn't finished? I for one couldn't bare to see green screens were effects should be or silence where a compelling sound track should be building tension. Imagine if you will - watching a film and not knowing there was a scene missing and then finding out later??????!!!! Plus a film like Origins is meant to be consumed in the comfort of the cinema and on a enormous kick ass digital screen and speakers! Ok so Origins is a bad example because it was pants but you get my point. Some films were made for cinema and any experience less than that is just a waste, i say some films as certainly not ALL FILMS are good for just cinema consumption!

I Love Cinema - Piraters and Hackers Love Cinema
Most people if they see a downloaded film and love it will watch it at the cinema - as you seriously can't beat what a cinema offers especially with IMAX and the rebirth of 3D, most downloads act almost better than trailers for promoting films. Most downloaders are geeks who are passionate about film, they don't create the torrents and avi files to make money - they do it for kudos.... ok some they may do it to say 'fuck you' to the system, but those that challenge the system are more than likely also its core audience and beneficiaries. Most geeks and piraters want film on their terms and that is one factor that drives piracy.

The Cinema again
Ok so before i sign off and return for Part 2 I just wanted to state that ultimately it is the greed and limitations of the film industry that drives piracy. WHY? Well even when there was no internet Cinemas charged too much for people to see average production line films, whilst fleecing us senseless for drink and pop corn that had a 500% mark up. Surely if the big film makers want to compete with the pirate hordes then they need to make their product cheaper and more accessible and maybe just maybe once in a while fund or show something other than the mindless western block busters made purely for profit.

Why aren't films released the same date or week the world over? Why allow something to be released on DVD in another country before it has even had its full cinema run worldwide? Why do so few cinemas have a decent membership and rewards system?

More to follow......... 

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