Piracy and Prospects

“it’s often difficult to directly cite how piracy and copyright infringement have negatively impacted the film industry”

Difficult? Well, not really, but I guess it depends on sorting empirical evidence from anecdotal accounts or opinions.

As a working film maker, I can state with some confidence that the market for small indy productions has well and truly crashed, and this is in large part the predictable outcome of consumers choosing to take advantage of files that have been illegally ripped and made available for sharing free online. I’m not sure what the correct economic name for this is, but I prefer to use the word, “theft”.

Sure, there is no physical object being traded, but the reduction of value that occurs when a pirate or freeloader takes our work makes the distinction purely academic. There’s no innovation on earth that can compete with ‘free’.

In the 20th century, I felt secure in the knowledge that the law backed my right to own and control my own work; and I had a reasonable expectation that I could sell my work for a modest return. In the 21st century, I’m looking at a sizeable number of consumers who seriously believe everything should be free, and that creators have no rights to their work whatsoever.

If you think this worries me, you’d be right. We should all be worried.

We need to move on from complacently labelling critics of file sharing as self interested luddites. The roots of our enlightened, democratic culture depend on the free flow of ideas, but those ideas won’t flow when people can’t protect the fruits of their labours. That’s why the fathers of the age of enlightenment invented copyright in the first place.

The pundits who today scream loudly for dismantling copyright, in the name of “freedom of information” – let’s name them for what they are. Anarchists. Or worse, intellectual tourists, whose fat academic salaries (generally paid for by the companies that have most to gain from being validated by their theories) insulate them thoroughly from any kind of reality.

The internet can not be threatened by any law or technical restriction that controls piracy. The only thing threatened by such measures is the ability of moral pygmy internet ventures to colossally inflate their apparent book values.

If my input costs were zero, and I was trading in a commodity with red hot demand, I reckon I’d do okay too; but I wouldn’t do that because I (mostly) know the difference between right and wrong.

About Costa Botes

I'm a freelance film maker based in Wellington, New Zealand. I make mainly long form independent documentaries about characters I find interesting.
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