Movie piracy in the UK: what's the film industry doing?
16th Oct 2013 | 15:35
Online piracy is rife but education may be the key
Why do people pirate movies? It's an age-old question with an answer that always seems to boil down to: because it's free.
The Industry Trust in the UK doesn't see it this way, though. In its studies it has seen that the most prolific illegal downloaders are also the ones who go to the cinema the most. They love movies, regardless of where or how they watch them.
So, is illegal downloading all about availability and convenience? A new website has popped up with the sole purpose of crunching the data surrounding illegal downloads on the web, and its findings seem to point to this.
PiracyData.org looks at what is being downloaded and tries to come up with a reason some films are chosen and some aren't. The conclusion of its latest figures is stark: out of the top 10 illegal downloads, none were available to legally stream anywhere, while just 53% of the most-pirated movies were available in digital form.
It's not conclusive that a lack of availability is the reason these movies – with Pacific Rim topping the chart – are on this list, but it is certainly a factor.
In the UK, FindAnyFilm is a site that is trying its best to combat illegal downloads by offering a comprehensive database of movies and where you can find them to watch legally – whether on the web, bought from a retailer or at the cinema.
Its latest push is to get movie sites and the like to make use of a FindAnyFilm widget on their website, so that filmgoers can find out where to get a movie as soon as they read about it.
"In the 10 years since the Industry Trust was set up we have seen piracy hugely change, from counterfeit sellers on the high street to the move online, and the way we look to engage audiences changes as well," explains Liz Bales, Industry Trust for IP Awareness.
"The Digital Economy Act hasn't been enforced, it is still stuck in the Treasury – so there is no change in ruling from the government on the way.
"With the arrival of Netflix there is a whole new range of ways that you can get content. What we are trying to inspire people through legal channels and directing them where to go."
Beware of the silver surfers
A big concern for the Industry Trust at the moment is not your typical illegal downloader – 35 and under, predominantly male – but those who are older, perhaps new to the idea of downloading or streaming movies.
The Industry Trust is hoping it can target the 40 plus category that currently use Google to 'find any film' and click on the first link that comes up, which is inevitably an illegal torrent.
"We are seeing a lot more infringement in the 40 plus," says Bales. "They tap film titles into the search engine and then become involved in piracy that way.
"Encouragingly, though, those people who have been exposed to the education are twice as likely to buy rather than infringe."
This education does seem to be key and also shows the inherent problems with digital downloads at the moment: as there are myriad stores offering up DRM-heavy files, downloading movies for consumption isn't a great experience.
TechRadar spoke to Twentieth Century Fox's Keith Feldman recently about this situation and he is hoping the movie industry's backing of Digital HD – a hi-def download that can be downloaded and streamed from the cloud – will make things easier.
"Digital HD should be seen like Blu-ray," explained Feldman. "When you buy a movie digitally that should be Digital HD. Some digital consumers are worried about whether or not what they are getting so we are hoping that Digital HD will stand for quality, affordability, authenticity and all the benefits."
Living the stream dream
TechRadar's Reviews Editor James Rivington isn't convinced, though. He believes that the movie industry's worry about making sure digital files are packed with DRM and can't be copied has actually had a detrimental effect, pushing people to illegal downloading.
"The movie industry is so far behind the times it's laughable. Instead of shepherding people into pens and pushing closed services and formats it needs to look at the way people want to consume media and work out a way of providing that experience for a fee people are willing to pay," says Rivington, who believes the Netflix model is the one that will eventually succeed.
"I'd pay double or triple the Netflix subscription if it meant I got timely access to all the things I want to watch, with offline access, but sadly I think we're a long way from this becoming a reality," he notes.
Mark De Quervain from FindAnyFilm believes that services like the one he represents are essential to make sure that money goes back into the movie industry.
"It is not alright to pirate film even if you love film. Findanyfilm seeks to solve the problem that when you go on many websites where they have sold the film to you with a passionate review and then there isn't a link to download it.
"There isn't another service like this anywhere. If FindAnyFilm didn't exist then there would be a blackhole with them finding film in an official way."
Battle with technology
Lis Bales admits, though, that the Industry Trust is fighting a losing battle with technology when it comes to piracy so education may be the best fighting tactic going forward.
"We know the challenge to get Google to change its algorithm - the first thing that comes up when you search for a movie is a torrent.
"So we have to do things to alleviate the idea that you have to type things in to find a movie. If we do a better job of connecting content to people then it will help stop piracy."
One way the Industry Trust is doing this is with a short film called Vin Diesel's Socks. The short was commissioned by Film Nation UK, the organisation behind The National Youth Film Festival, in collaboration with The Industry Trust.
Vin Diesel's Socks will hopefully target the 11- to 12-year-old demographic, which is increasingly getting into piracy in a similar way that the 40-plus are: by tapping in titles to Google.
"The film brings to life the craft and hard work that goes into creating films and TV and has been created to point more young viewers to FindAnyFilm, as a gateway to films across all formats, all above board and all in one place," Bales explained.
But what about availability? As the info from Piracydata.org shows, speeding up the move from cinema to online for movies may well be the key to stemming online piracy. Make it easier for movie lovers to get the films the want and then you will have a viable option to piracy.
TechRadar asked Fox this very questions and is said that although its DHD files are released weeks before Blu-ray discs, it had no plans to change its release schedule to go day and date with the cinema.
Peter Gerard from Distrify, an online film distribution site, was a little more optimistic (or should that be realistic?) though, saying that: "technology is driving the pacing and this will eventually lead to day and date cinema and download releases, as price and convenience do play a huge role in piracy."