MPAA makes it harder for digital pirates

Jason Okamoto

Ang Lee’s “Hulk” is a bad movie. I know this because I saw it. Not in the movie theater, but on a pirated VCD that my friend bought from some guy at the mall.

The kicker was that the movie hadn’t been released in theaters.

While watching the movie, half of me felt pride for the fact that I was experiencing something that others had not yet had the opportunity to experience. The other half was nervous.

What would the authorities do if they have found out that I have obtained an illegal copy of a movie? What would friends in the Hollywood Industry think if they found out? They’d probably shake their heads in disappointment.

Over the past year movie piracy is something that the Motion Picture Association of America has been deathly concerned with. As a result of piracy, the movie industry reported an annual loss of $3 Billion worldwide.

This could cause some workers to be out of a job. Mostly specialists that we don’t think about when watching a movie, like painters, electricians, caterers, make-up artists, etc.

Much to the dismay of independent studios, President of the MPAA Jack Valenti, recently got the seven major studios (Disney, Fox, MGM, Paramount, Sony Pictures, Universal Studios and Warner Bros.) to sign an agreement to stop distributing Academy Award screeners. Screeners are tape cassettes or DVDs given to Academy members to watch before they place their vote. Most of the pirated copies come from these screeners, which are top quality recordings.

All it takes is one insistent family member to borrow the video before he or she burns it on their computer and begins to share with countless strangers via the internet.

Also, this last September, the California Assembly passed a bill to place video piracy in the definition of “high technology crimes.” These are misdemeanor white-collar crimes consisting of things like credit card fraud and unauthorized entry into government computer networks.

The Hollywood industry is not only important to the American economy but also to the culture. Movies tell stories that captivate audiences, and give something for people to do on a Saturday night. Movies have the power to educate and inspire the widest range of people more than any other art form in the world.

It just happens to be convenient for movie lovers now that everything has gone digital. Everyone is logged onto the web, especially young pirates in search of digital treasure.

According to Josh Bernoff at Forrester research, surveys show that 20 percent of kids between 12 and 20 years-old have downloaded at least one full-length feature film. To an extent, this is understandable under certain circumstances.

Most young people find themselves strapped for cash and would rather pay for the Internet time than nine dollars at the local Cineplex. Others might do it for novelty reasons. I admit, having that copy of “Hulk” just felt cool.

According to a study done by AT&T the primary source of copies of unreleased movies is Hollywood insiders. The study indicates close to 80 percent of file sharing movies have been leaked by industry insiders, including “Hulk.”

Rather than hunting for pirates, Hollywood needs to work on the quality of films they distribute as well as the creativity of marketing departments that sell the movies.

People will continue to go to movies if they are good enough, even if they have seen them on a computer first. Just ask the nerds who downloaded “The Matrix Reloaded” then were the first in line when it came out.

By looking at this years earnings, it seems that Hollywood is doing just fine. “Pirates of the Caribbean” made $299 Million, second to only “Finding Nemo” which made well over $300 Million. Keep in mind that the year isn’t over yet. And these numbers don’t even include the amount racked in from licensing merchandising products.

Video piracy may be cool and convenient, but going to the cinema is an experience all in itself. The variety of people, the smell of overpriced popcorn, and the sound of the theater speakers crackling seconds before the coming attractions roll. Watching a poor quality movie in front of a high-powered PC can never duplicate all this.

The people’s cinematic experience is what the industry needs to focus on. Either way I’m still upset about wasting two hours of my life watching “Hulk,” but in a theater at least I could have enjoyed a five-dollar box of Whoppers while doing so.

Does Jason make a point of cinematic proportions? Send comments to [email protected]