Thoughts on Movie Piracy


I like movies, but ever since November 2009 when LOVEFiLM started their dispute with Universal Studios I have not been able to rent any new Universal movies through their site. In the last few months, this has started to really annoy me as there are a growing number of movies I would like to watch but LOVEFiLM still is unable to offer.

The dispute rumbles on and there is no word about whether it will ever conclude. Blockbuster is still offering Universal movies to rent, so what’s up at LOVEFiLM?

I switched to LOVEFiLM about 2 years ago when Blockbuster had a similar, long-running dispute with Fox, so I have considered switching back but hoped that the dispute would resolve itself more quickly.

Given Blockbuster’s announcement in the USA last year (filing for Chapter 11 protection while it reorganises), I decided not to switch just yet and, frustrated, I looked to services like Zune on the XBOX360 and Sony’s PlayStation Store. Fortunately, for a one-off fee, they were offering movie rentals for the few films I could not get through my subscription.

Great – problem solved. Or so I thought.

Over the Christmas period, I decided to sit down to watch Green Zone, a Universal release, only to discover that Zune and the PlayStation Store no longer offer it as a rental. I checked Apple’s iTunes and the same story applied there too – no rental. So, my only choices are:

  • Buy the film for £6.99 from Apple (or even more from PlayStation Store or XBOX360)
  • Go rent it from Blockbuster stores (and sort out the membership)
  • Change my subscription to Blockbuster Online
  • Piracy

Fortunately, a friend bought the DVD so I borrowed his copy, but the options that the studios are offering limit the availability of films in 2011 which amazes me given the messages the Western media is selling us about the mobile Internet and being connected from anywhere to anything.

2011 starts with the appearance of availability, but in reality still consists of lots of walled gardens. It should not be too hard for digital services like PlayStation Store, iTunes and XBOX360 to offer a digital back-catalogue for rental (OK, they have to license the movie to store on their servers, and I expect that the studio’s licensing structure is the issue here) and if they could, a lot of casual piracy would disappear because people would be able to access rentals of any movie at any time from (almost) any device.

As Apple has proven with micro-payments for applications in its app store, a low-cost option helps remove these barriers. It doesn’t stop piracy entirely, but it would remove a lot of the piracy “noise” from frustrated people who would be happy to pay-per-view but aren’t permitted this option due to complex rules that close these doors prematurely (another odd example is that I can’t rent or even buy The Fringe from iTunes UK, but I can if I was in the US, and it has been released in the UK).

So, dear movie industry and related distributors, please sort out your licensing so that we, the consumer, can consume your output anywhere, anytime, and so help ensure your long-term revenues so you can continue to turn out great quality entertainment.

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By Edward

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    About me

    About 40 years ago, I discovered role-playing and Dungeons and Dragons in one of the after school clubs. It revealed a universe that allowed me to flex my storytelling muscles and enjoy a mixture of fantasy and sci-fi and feed the escapist dreamer inside.

    Over time, I played (and story-led - marked with *) many systems including Call of Cthulhu*, Shadowrun, Dungeons & Dragons*, Middle Earth, In Nomine*, Bushido, Chivalry & Sorcery, Chill, Warhammer, Warhammer 40k, Gammaworld, Hawkmoon, Stormbringer, Immortals*, Marvel Super Heroes, Paranoia, RuneQuest, Vampire: The Masquerade*, and a couple of systems my own devising (Medieval* and Parody*).

    I explored live-action role-playing – eventually running my own club and creating my own LARP systems (Fools Gold and Dream Conquest) – and usually found myself in script-writing or game-master duty, writing over 500 individual live adventures over the period (usually weekly), many linked into the world events of the fantasy land we created. I also volunteered for Curious Pastimes and Lorien Trust at their main LARP events (special effects at the Ritual Circle), and did a little script work, cameos and improv for Curious Pastimes. I was also the South East's Editor (UK) for the LARP magazine The Adventurer. The biggest event I ran was a 10-month modern-day "murder mystery" LARP set around parts of Kent where characters were "always-on" and could get updates and interactions at any time outside of scheduled events. That was in the 1990s.

    I was also the artistic director for English Heritage for their live Halloween Horrors events at Fort Amherst in Kent from 1998-1999.

    Now, I write as the mood takes me with occasional competitions and challenges, and this year (2020) I will be taking on #NaNoWriMo.

    Here's to the future!