Yo Ho a Pirates Life for All

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What was once reserved for the stage, where civilians and powerful public figures from all walks of life would come together and immerse themselves in the genius that was Shakespeare’s plays had later moved to the big screen, and then to the small.
Movie piracy has always been present since the development of the magic that is the Internet, and although it has always been around it seems it has all but piqued. I remember when I was younger going to Video easy and browsing the aisles like one would in a book shop, wondering what I’m going to watch next, although I can honestly say I cant remember the last time I rented a movie.
It seems that ever since the release of series such as The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and the Marvel franchise, piracy has risen to an all-new high. But why is this? Why do we download knowing the repercussions if caught? And what causes us to change our behaviour?

When someone spoke of piracy, I have always associated it with the act of illegally downloading a file, although it is not as simple as that. Whenever I have been in a discussion where piracy is mentioned I rarely ever think of how the film came to be available to download and got me wondering what else can be considered as pirating.
Various ways one can pirate a film include:

  • ‘Leaking movies’ – actively recording a movie with a camera in the cinema, this also happens during special premiers and often result in decrease in box office sales (hart, 2014)
  • Digital hacking – involves hacking into a studio or companies computer system and taking the movie from the files directly.
  • Burning – copying movies onto blank discs, and selling them
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20 Most Pirated Movies of 2014

With so many people illegally downloading it is impossible that this comes without any damaging consequences to the industry and economy in general. According to Wolf Creek actor John Jarratt, Online film piracy is a ‘cancer’ that will eventually kill the movie industry (Judd, B 2014). In 2014 The Wolf of Wall Street went on to be the most pirated film of the year with over 30 million illegal downloads, if you calculate the number of times this film was downloaded and the money lost due to fewer cinema attendees and product purchases it is easy to see how this could effect this industry. Although in saying this, the loss of money affects more than just the film industry, but also the economic growth, this is due to a loss of jobs and closing businesses.

Through the surveys I have conducted I found that 93% of the 43 participants had illegally downloaded at least once, and amongst those who had 47% stated they felt no guilt in doing so, but why is that so?’ It is clear that among all the criminal offences, illegal downloading is considered to be the most normal and accepted’ (Yiannopoulos, M 2011), and this is not due to a lack of knowledge regarding it’s legal standing.
I found during my 3 interviews that all participants were completely at ease discussing their interaction with piracy. ‘Naomi’, one of my interviewees had said

“I feel that the act of downloading isn’t a criminal act itself, it’s not as if I’m walking into a store and shoving things into my pockets and walking out and besides everyone does it!”

And perhaps she’s right it is hard to feel guilty when the content is so easily accessibly and the act itself is so common. It became apparent through the surveys conducted especially, that the users often disassociated themselves from the issue one participant stating that it has “became more culturally acceptable especially since everyone I know does it”(anonymous survey participant).

Naomi and Brian, both participants I interviewed share something in common, they are university students. This within itself I can empathies with, as a student myself it comes with the territory that you are instantly short on cash, many a times I have seen a meme pop up on Facebook that I have instantly connected with.

At the beginning of my project I had thought this would be the dominating reason for piracy although was surprised to find there was another player in the mix.

There are many reasons why people download apart from simply not wanting to buy the product. We live in a digital age where we require instant gratification for cravings or wants such as watching a particular movie or series. Both the survey and interview I conducted presented an interesting idea, results showed that the biggest reason people illegally downloaded was due to the time delay in release dates between Australia and America, in fact 76.92% stated that this was one or the main reasons they pirated.

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For example one show I am enthralled with is BBC Sherlock. Sherlock’s third season had aired in the US in early 2014 yet was not released in Australia for another 45 days (Spencer, G 2014), and if any of us know the Internet we know it is a relentless minefield of spoilers for those of us immersed in pop-culture. It is almost impossible to scroll through Tumblr or Facebook without accidentally happening upon the entire plot of the latest Game of Thrones episode and every time a new plot twist occurs that is all anyone can talk about, both on the internet and IRL (in real life), might as well become a hermit by that point…
It seems it has become a race to stay on par with America and the UK when it comes to media.

The revolution of the digital age and the ease of access to content, has made piracy and copyright infringement convenient and seemingly risk free, but what is being done to decrease piracy? Currently there has been a shift in the environment including the introduction of a number of legislations and services in an effort to stop illegal downloading, these include Copyright amendment, Proposal of warning letters from ISPS and the shutdown of torrenting sites such as ‘Pirate Bay’, but is this enough?

Personally I know many of my friends have stopped downloading upon subscribing to paid services such as Netflix and was curious to see if this was a common occurrence amongst others. I decided to further explore this in my survey and found that almost half of those who have a paid services have in fact stopped downloading.

“Netflix has been a major factor in stopping me and others from downloading films/TV shows as it is now right at our fingertips legally”- anonymous survey participant 

Although this does not mean there are no issues. People are still irritated by the time delay between Australian and the US Netflix. Tanya one of my interviewees is an inactive movie downloader as she hah recently subscribed to Netflix, but has expressed that she often uses a proxy to get on the US Netflix as many of the shows and new series such as madmen are not on the Australia’s Netflix.

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All in all as technology continues to advance, no matter how many torrenting sites are shut down and warnings are given out people will continue to find a way around the system and pirate films, the only thing that has so far that has proven to initiate behavioural change is to make media easier and more accessible to the public in a way that is inexpensive and allows us to attain films at the same time other countries such as the US do.

Refrences

Jager, C 2015, ‘It’s Official: Australian Movie Piracy Is On The Wane’, Lifehacker, 15th october, viewed 25th October 2015
<http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2015/10/its-official-australian-movie-piracy-is-on-the-wane/&gt;

Judd, B 2014, ‘Piracy cancer’ will kill Australian film, TV industry: Wolf Creek actor John Jarratt’, ABC news, 15th October,viewed 25th October 2015
<http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-10-15/piracy-cancer-will-kill-australian-film-tv-industry-john-jarratt/5815864&gt;

Norkey, T 2015, ‘Film Piracy: A Threat to the Entire Movie Industry’, MOVIEPILOT, 25th April, viewed 25th October 2015
<http://moviepilot.com/posts/2889420?lt_source=external,manual&gt;

O’Connell, S 2015, ‘The 20 Most-Pirated Movies Of 2014’, CINEMABLEND, January, viewed 25th October 2015
<http://www.cinemablend.com/new/20-Most-Pirated-Movies-2014-68883.html&gt;

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