The biggest reason people pirate, isn’t because it’s free, it’s because the service offered by it has always been better than the legitimate one. Netflix gets this, it’s why the CEO recently stated in a letter to shareholders that piracy was its real competition and it’s why music piracy has been hit so hard by services like Spotify. If you need any better example though of why Piracy is still leagues ahead of those selling movies, it’s that downloading a movie illegally gives you access to a better quality copy of a film than even those that screen them for Oscar voting.
Screeners have been a source of pirates films for a long time, despite all the watermarks that are placed on them by studios to try and prevent them being uploaded. In the last few years however, the numbers of screener copies being pirated has fallen dramatically. According to Medium, it’s as low as 36 per cent this year, compared with over 80 per cent back in the early 2000s. The reason? Higher quality versions of the film are already available online by the time the screener copies (almost always standard definition DVDs) go out.
How is this possible? There’s a lot of people involved in film production, many of whom have access to high quality versions of the film. All it takes for one of them to be affiliated with one of the big upload groups out there and studios can watermark their screener copies all they like, it won’t matter.
What seems crazy too, is that screener copies often come out way before commercial releases of films. Foxcatcher for example, isn’t due out for DVD release until March this year, but there’s been a pirated version of the film available online since the 27th December.
Funnily enough, one film of recent memory did beat the pirates to the punch however, releasing before HD streams appeared online: Sony’s delayed, The Interview. It was available for purchase and rent before full quality torrents appeared and that was because it skipped the big chain cinemas and went straight for a digital release.
For some reason Columbia Pictures decided to make it a US only digital release, so the film was still pirated hundreds of thousands of times around the world. Even with that though, the film has made its budget back on the digital release alone.
KitGuru Says: If the movie studios really believe they lose money through piracy, then they need to offer a better service, but at the moment, even their most privileged members, the Oscar academy, receive films covered in watermarks and at a lower quality than pirates. How can they ever expect to win against piracy if they won’t offer a better product?