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Online Piracy: A Global Epidemic and its Effect on the Movie Industry

Have you ever downloaded a free movie from a site like Glow Gaze on the internet? Are you ahead of the curve on the latest television series? Chances are that your source was illegal and that youre a pirate, and not in a cool wooden-leg-with-a-parrot way. 

We know that its much more comfortable to watch a movie on a laptop in bed than getting dressed up to go the cinema, but consider these shocking stats about movie and television series piracy

· 22% of the global bandwidth is dedicated to online piracy
· 91.5% of content downloaded from cyberlocker sites (sites that stores downloadable files) are copyrighted
· Piracy sites receive 146 million visitors per day which means 53 billion visitors per year.
· A shocking 70% of internet users think there is nothing wrong with online piracy.
· 95% of all music downloaded off the internet is illegal.

If these figures dont scare you, you need to read on, because the impact of piracy on industries, economies and real people are the truly shocking realities of the game.

What is piracy exactly?

The term piracy is not written into the law books, but it refers to the violation of the law that one may not make copies of copyright-protected material, or make the material available to the public via online channels without the nod of the owner of the rights to the work. And when we say works, we mean anything like music, literature, films, and software, videogames, and broadcasting programs. Websites, like Glow Gaze, that streams fresh of the press movies to internet users are breaking the law. There are two ways for movies to be pirated. The first provides low quality goods as it is literally someone sitting in a cinema and recording it from the movie theatre. Sometimes, when this is done during the pre-release of the film, which is supposed to create publicity, the film loses even more money. Nowadays, film producers build artefacts into the films that distort the images when recorded so as to render the recorded film useless.

The way to watch high quality pirated films is to get a copy of a film that was hacked digitally from the studios. The irony here is that the FBI has tracked down a leak of a HD film to a Hollywood executive producer and apparently, this happens all the time. These are often screeners sent to reviewers. According to Piracy tracking firm, Irdeto, these screeners accounted for 31 percent of illegal downloads tracked in 2015. Oscar-nominated films are especially vulnerable to being leaked this way, especially during the awards season. Screeners are supposed to bear forensic watermarks to identify them as stolen goods if they are ever leaked. The main driver for shooting the industry in the foot this way is promoting the films that are being leaked.

The cost of piracy to industries

The US industry loses $50 billion dollars per year due to piracy. That means that in the United States alone, over 70 000 people lose their jobs every year. A whopping $2.7 billion is lost in workers earnings per year.

In the UK, almost 30% of citizens are watching movies illegally, costing the UK film industry overI£500 million per year. Phil Clap from Cinema Exhibitors Association estimates that cinemas are losing £220 million a year at the UK box office. This equates to about two months income in an average year. While this extreme situation is still a long way off, the reality is that if the industry takes a big enough knock, popular films and television series simply will not be made. £250 000 jobs hang in the balance in the UK film industry if nothing is being done about the effect of piracy and illegal streaming from sites like Glow Glaze.

The USA film industry is by far one of the largest film industries in the world, apart from Bollywood. Smaller film industries such as the Australian film industry have a lot more to lose than the larger film Industry. Australian actor, Roy Billing, reckons that piracy and illegal streaming is jeopardizing the ability of the Australian film industry to produce quality home grown films as their budgets are usually quite low.

Bollywood is in the same predicament. Piracy costs them about Rs 50 billion in revenues and over 50 000 jobs every year. This is a shocking statistic, considering Indias high unemployment rate. India is one of the top countries where films are shared illegally. 

To add insult to injury, the illegal streaming and torrent sites, such as Glow Gaze, are making money of providing stolen goods through advertising. So not only are illegal downloaders committing crimes that affect honest people, they are also boosting the profits of an illegal industry. The same goes for buying counterfeit DVDs, youre basically financing a criminal.

The effect of piracy on the economy

Over 20% of all jobs in the US in 2010 have been in industries where intellectual property is a major deal. The thing about these industries, such as the film industry, is that their employees are paid a higher salary and they contribute more to trade. By violating intellectual property through piracy, companies lose revenue and are harmed through the cost of maintaining their intellectual property. In turn, the government loses tax revenues and bear enforcement costs. In the US, where the film industry is such a major player, the economy takes a massive knock, if this industry is harmed. Ultimately a weakened economy leads to less job creation and there you have it again that piracy is not a victimless crime.

How piracy cheats great films out of their profits

One must look at the reasons why people pirate certain movies over others. Some movies that are publicized up to be action packed are more likely to be watched in cinema – even if they are bad. In contrast, dramas and stories based on real-life events do not necessarily warrant being watched on the big screen, and people prone to piracy have no qualms to just download it illegally on sites such as ‘Glow Gaze’. These may be brilliant, academy award-winning films, but because of the greater incident of piracy, the producers make much less of a profit of the film. A great example is the film ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ that suffered amazing losses in the box office, despite being a high budget film, just because of over 30 million illegal downloads. In contrast, you get action packed blockbusters with lots of lame one-liners and no plot that rakes in the chips despite being a substandard film, just because people wanted to see it in the movies. The effect is that we see a lot worse movies in theatre while the good, serious films are losing out all the way.

Popular opinion of piracy

As mentioned before, most internet users don’t have problem with piracy using sites like ‘Pirate Bay’ and ‘Glow Gaze’. A common rationale in favor of piracy is that ‘the movie stars and studios already earn a lot of money, the profits from one less movie wont’ make a difference’. Other excuses include that downloading a movie will mean that the downloader might like the movie and pay to see future productions by the same artists or producers. Doubt it. Some feel that the US copyright laws are unfair. Some justify their actions by downloading items that they’ve originally bought, but lost. Others think that the studios should just adapt to change. Most commonly, people just want things for free. Tell that to the 70 000 people who have lost their jobs over piracy. The best way to sum up the popular opinion of piracy is this quote from Reddit: ‘It’s wrong, but hey’.

The reality of online piracy

The thing is that it does make a difference. Imagine that your boss tells you that because some of your goods were stolen, he’s going to take it away from your salary. Or worse, so much of your goods have been stolen that he would have to let you go. It’s not only the stars and the studios who cash in on copyright royalties. The profit that these movies make also pays for scriptwriters, cameramen, stuntmen, graphic artists, sound engineers, gofers and even janitors. Movie pirates do not only steal from the stars they also impact on the smaller cogs in the machine. In fact, the impact is higher on the lower tier employees in the film making industry, as the actors and actresses do not feel the damage as much and may actually view it as extra publicity. But the long and the short of it is that piracy is hurting some very real people who very much need the money. By downloading pirated movies from sites like ‘Glow Gaze’, you are not only robbing people of their money, but you are also robbing them of their ideas and creative expression.

The legal penalty for copyright infringement in the United States amounts to 5 years of imprisonment and a maximum fine of $25 000. Repeat offenders may even go to prison for 10 years. If this is not a deterrent to watch movies legally, we don’t know what is.

Does legal video streaming affect piracy?

The release of legal video streaming such as Netflix, now gives access to movies to those who would otherwise not have been able to see the movie without streaming it illegally. These packages are low cost and has the same benefits as illegal streaming e.g. being able to watch it immediately in your sweatpants on the couch. Whether this actually has a negative impact on the amount of illegal streaming and downloading is yet to be decided, but we know for sure that it would not make an impact on the selling of counterfeit DVD’s, which is a big part of the world of movie and TV series piracy.

The role of internet service providers

Many are pointing fingers at internet service providers and search engines to clamp down on piracy and illegal streaming websites like ‘Glow Gaze’. In Canada, users who download pirated movies from torrent sites receive notices showcasing the legal consequences of their actions. This does not mean that the illegal movie downloader is being sued, but it is hoped that the shock value will be a discouragement of doing so again in the future. The same concept has been introduced in Australia and internet service providers are hoping that this approach will appeal to the conscience of those who illegally stream movies. All the big internet service providers in the UK have promised to do the same. 

When Indian internet service providers threatened consumers with the message that viewing illegal content on the web was a crime it caused a break-out of panic.The Bombay High Court quicklyannounced that it is not illegal to watch pirated films on the web. The judge made it clear that it was only a crime when the perpetrator distributed, sold, hired or publically displayed copyrighted materials. Making the streaming of pirated films legal in the country with the largest film industry in the world will have an even bigger impact on the Bollywood film industry than ever before. The Bollywood film industry plans to make digitalised versions of their movies available to consumers sooner and in higher quantities to encourage consumers to view them legally through on-demand TV channels.

Taking all of these facts and figures into account, there is no way that one can argue that illegal streaming, downloading, or selling of copyrighted movies or television series is a victimless crime. Not only does it affect the studios and actors, it has a major effect on the lives of the unseen employees such as make-up artists and cameramen who are all at risk of losing their jobs if a studio feels the financial impact is pressing too hard on their pocket. This is especially the case for indie film makers and film industries with smaller budgets. Furthermore, using counterfeit goods has a real impact on the economy. Whether legal streaming networks such as Netflix will have a role in reducing illegal streaming remains to be seen, but the efforts of internet service providers are a comforting sign that something is at least being done to educate users about the real impact and possible consequences of copyright infringement.