If the film industry dies from piracy, I'll laugh -- hard

Film analysts think piracy could kill the film industry. Don Reisinger thinks those film analysts missed their calling as comedians.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
3 min read

Ars Technica has an interesting story up today detailing the Association Against Audiovisual Piracy's analysis of P2P traffic of illegal movie downloads in France between November 2007 and June 2008, which found that more people than ever are illegally downloading some of the top domestic and foreign films.

The organization found that 90 percent of all P2P downloads came from the most popular films in theaters and that a "daily average of 450,000 downloads (in December, it was 536,000 per day), and a monthly average of over 14 million downloads" was witnessed.

Allegedly stunned by the gall of all those awful pirates, the organization felt it was necessary to send one of its hacks out to make a statement detailing how appalled it was at the information it obtained. But no one saw this one coming.

"We are facing a major phenomenon that can endanger the film industry and audiovisual industries. We did not expect such figures," ALPA director Frederic Delacroix said in a statement to the AFP.

Wow. Hold your horses for a minute here. This piracy problem can "endanger the film industry?" This should probably be filed under the "dumbest things I've heard all month heading."

If piracy kills the film industry and suddenly theaters from across the globe are closing up shop, I'll be the first to laugh, and I'll bet I won't even be laughing the loudest.

If piracy kills the film industry, we will witness the greatest management mishandling in the history of the world. Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, and the rest of these superstars will soon be sweeping aisles at your local grocery store and producers and directors will lose all faith in the world, try to move to television, and create the world's first ever three-hour television show.

But in all seriousness, the AAAP is kidding, right? How can it analyze piracy trends over the past eight months and then suddenly claim that the film industry is in serious trouble and could succumb under the pressure of piracy?

Look, piracy is a very real problem all over the world and there are a slew of websites that make watching popular movies for free about as easy as a few clicks of a mouse. But to say that it could somehow destroy the film industry is ludicrous.

In an effort to give the organization the benefit of the doubt, I'm willing to believe that maybe it is possible that piracy will destroy the film industry. Of course, the only way I see that happening is if the film industry fails to adapt to the changing times and instead chooses to cling to its old business model.

And although I still don't believe that the film industry will die anytime soon, it is entirely possible that it fails to adapt to the changing times and it enters one of the worst slowdowns the industry has ever seen.

Regardless of whether it wants it to happen or not, people are going to download popular movies for free. Sure, it may be illegal, but most realize that the chances of getting caught are slim and there are millions just like them doing the same thing.

Realizing that, the film industry needs to use that mentality to its advantage and start creating a real value proposition for those people that download movies online. Why not offer a free film streaming service like Hulu that's supported by advertising? Although there are some movies on Hulu and Netflix streams movies as well, most are downright awful and not at all what people are looking for.

To curb that problem, the film industry should invest in a real streaming service that it controls itself and provide popular films from the past and present for streaming. In the process, it can work towards increasing advertising revenue and finally finding a way to embrace the changing times and curb piracy in a way that was once unimaginable.

The film industry isn't going anywhere. But by scaring everyone and saying that it could if this rate of piracy continues, the AAAP isn't helping anyone. The film industry needs to start adapting and realize that what's best for consumers is actually best for movie studios as well.

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