August 28, 2005

Scaremongering? One View of Movie Piracy [6:19 pm]

At least, this one gets to some of the counter-points to increased control: King Kong vs. the Pirates of the Multiplex

But even the mighty Kong may not be safe from the clutches of a nebulous, tech-savvy network of film pirates who specialize in stealing copies of first-run movies and distributing them globally on the Internet or on bootleg DVD’s. While Hollywood has battled various forms of film looting for decades, this time seems different. Piracy in the digital era is more lucrative, sophisticated and elusive than ever - and poses a far bigger financial threat.

“Piracy has the very real potential of tipping movies into becoming an unprofitable industry, especially big-event films. If that happens, they will stop being made,” said Mr. Jackson in an e-mail message from New Zealand, where he is putting the final touches on his version of “King Kong.” “No studio is going to finance a film if the point is reached where their possible profit margin goes straight into criminals’ pockets.”

[...] Universal, aiming to protect filmdom’s mightiest gorilla, is watermarking and encrypting copies of “King Kong.” It is also supervising access to the film during all phases of its production, monitoring online any machinations involving the movie and planning to guard advance screenings. Other Hollywood studios, including Warner Brothers, whose fourth installment of the “Harry Potter” film series is due this fall, are taking similar steps to combat piracy. For the time being, however, the bootleggers remain a moving target.

“This is not just about the film industry: whether you’re talking about the pharmaceutical industry, the information technology industry or filmed entertainment, the protection of intellectual property is crucial,” said Darcy Antonellis, who helps oversee antipiracy efforts for Warner Brothers, a unit of Time Warner. “If we can’t build businesses around ideas, and feel comfortable that we have the right to those ideas, then our entire business is threatened.”

[...] “I don’t believe piracy can be easily beaten; fighting fire with fire by releasing movies on DVD at the same time as cinemas is probably where the industry is heading in the next few years,” said Mr. Jackson, the director. “Electronic delivery directly into both cinemas and people’s homes will not necessarily beat pirates, but it will mean studios are at least on a similar playing field.”

[...] Others watching the wrangling between Hollywood and film pirates say the online world offers an alternate distribution system - free from the confines and control of movie studios and television networks - that will allow independent filmmakers to reach a broader audience. Their concern is that antipiracy efforts will stymie innovation.

“The physical part of the Internet might get stifled because these things are being demonized,” said Mr. Smith, whose Morpheus software was in dispute in the Grokster case. “That’s what I’m worried about when people begin to talk about the darknet and the need to protect content.”

Later: Slashdot’s King Kong vs Movie Pirates

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