The Motion Picture Association of America as released some figures from an industry-funded piece of advocacy research outling the ‘impact’ of piracy on… something (they don’t actually say what). There is little indication in the press release where they came up with these figures. It is disturbing to see these figures reported in the media without any comment about their legitimacy.
How are the ‘losses’ calculated? Do they guestimate how many movies are pirated, copied, or downloaded and then simply assume that for every copied, pirated or downloaded movie that is one less ticket sale at the cinema or one less DVD/VHS sale at the store? Is that how it works?
I think the relation between circulation and access to copyrighted IP and the alternate channels of content distribution opened up by consumers is much more complex than a simplistic profit/loss equation.
So there are not any cinema goers who will see a movie downloaded off the internet in shitty quality produced through a smuggled in-cinema camera and then decide that the movie was great, and worth taking one’s girlfriend/father/car club along to? Well that probably does happen, but I would suggest it doesn’t happen anywhere near as much as the reverse.
Someone will download some stupid shit produced in the Hollywood machine, then they write about it on their blog warning all their readers not to see the movie. This will take sale away from those represented by the MPAA. Not because of piracy per se, but, for example, because the critic-function of the cultural industry is circumvented by a thousand little blog-critics. Moral of the story? Don’t try to strengthen one of the main circuits of information and desire layed out in the previous incarnation of the cutural industry (studio-critic-audience-cinema) and do two things:
1) Stop producing shit movies. MPAA, please make this recommendation to those you represent and I can promise they will make more money. Make films that people want to actually pay money to see at the cinema. There IS a difference between shitty in-cinema camera films downloaded off the internet and the ‘cinema experience’. That is the ONLY difference that the ‘motion picture industry’ has working in its favour.
2) Simultaneous global film releases. Do they think it is smart to stagger releases so as to tweak the massive advertising campaigns for their pieces of stupidity? Here are some figures; advertising is more than one third (over $36 million on average) of movie budgets. Over $30 million to advertise shit. Release a film globally and people in countries other than the US will have no desire to see a film as soon as it becomes available using channels of distribution that do not make MPAA members any money.
They blame piracy for loss of profits? Yes, and this is the last insult. Accordig to their own figures:
Worldwide box office held steady at $23.24 billion in 2005. Although down 7.9% from 2004, the worldwide box office reflected a 46% growth over 2000.
46% growth in box office over five years? Huge losses, huge!