Yarrgh! We be a society of pirates – and we pirates be at war with corporations. Little do we pirates know, the corporations are pirates too, and these corporate pirates are pirating their own booty.
Employees at Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros., Disney, Sony Pictures and 20th Century Fox (the companies that claim to be most affected by online piracy) have been caught openly pirating various forms of media including games, music, and movies. Does this mean they are on a holy crusade against themselves?
The airwaves have been abuzz with complaints of financial loss due to internet piracy for years. If times are so rough, why did Hollywood set a box office grossing record of over $10.7 billion in 2012? There are more pirates than ever, and Hollywood’s stacks are fatter than ever, even after adjusting for inflation.
So what’s the deal? Is there a way to satisfy both parties? What does each group of pirates want anyway?
The masses want free music, movies, games, and more, and they want them to be easily available. Hollywood and the major record labels want money, and lots of it. Artists want to accrue more fans and rake in some well deserved cash in the process.
What do all of these goals have in common? In many ways, pirating makes all of these dreams come true simultaneously:
A study conducted by the Copenhagen Business School found that there was actually a negative effect on box office sales after the removal of Megaupload.com in January of 2012, specifically for small to mid-range sized studios.
As for the artist aspect, music sales usually only account for roughly 6% of their total profit, with most of the profit going to the record labels and middle men. Many indie labels and artists alike are beginning to embrace the world of P2P sharing as a way to distribute and advertise freely and efficiently. Musician Derek Webb provides some excellent insight into the world of market and distribution, and why he thinks pirating is highly beneficial for artists in various ways. Many musicians, spread across all levels of fame, including Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, and Pretty Lights, offer their albums for free online, asking fans to pay exactly the amount they believe the album is worth.
Sounds easy enough right? Raise your hook hand in celebration and continue sharing the loot! The truth is that it isn’t actually all that simple.
The debate on internet pirating is an extremely complex issue that doesn’t seem to have a clear solution. However, what is clear is that in many cases pirating leads to bigger sales at the box office, larger revenues for the little guy, free/efficient marketing and distribution, free and easy entertainment for the masses, and a larger fan base. Unless our precious interwebz starts dancing China-style on us, pirating is here to stay. Doesn’t it make more sense to embrace change, rather than strip liberties for the sake of higher profits for the already colossal corporate giants?