Dear Summer Movie Fan,
I am writing this to you because it seems to me that you may not care enough about piracy. And you should!
You seem to love movies. I hope you believe that the people who make the movies and television shows you love deserve to be paid for their work – from the actors, to the screenwriter, to the director, to the location manager, to the last cook who serves the last meal from the catering truck on the final day of filming. Because there are hundreds of people, if not thousands, who work hard on every single movie or show that you watch.
Would it surprise you if you discovered that one “harmless” illegal download or stream helps facilitate a worldwide network that enriches criminals at the expense of the artists and workers who create the movies and television shows that you love?
These are especially important questions as we embark on yet another summer of big-budget movie magic. With the warmest season comes Hollywood’s annual competition for which blockbuster is the most blockbuster-y, which box-office records will be broken, and which big studio movies and franchises will sink or swim. Monetary figures will fly through the air like stock market tickers on the most bullish trading day. Hundreds of millions of dollars in ticket sales will be reported every weekend.
This is the season when moviegoers, such as yourself, might get the impression that piracy is over and all is well in Hollywood, because look at all these big-budget movies breaking records and raking in the big box office hauls!
Not so fast.
A recent Newsweek piece, “Fast 8 Kick-Starts Summer for Hollywood – and Movie Pirates,” shows how the summer season is both undeniably lucrative for big-budget films, but also is open season for the world’s pirates. It also shows how the issue of piracy can get lost in the narrative of a handful of giant blockbusters making unimaginable amounts of money even in the face of rampant theft.
Here’s the thing: When we talk about piracy, we’re not just talking about films such as The Fate of the Furious. The long-running Fast franchise has a built-in, large, and loyal worldwide fan-base who will gladly pay to see the latest chapter on the big screen during its opening weekend.
When we talk about piracy, we’re talking about illegal streams and downloads of stolen content that siphon away hundreds of millions to billions of dollars annually from the creative communities we all depend upon to provide us with the works of imagination that comprise the very fabric of our shared culture.
There is no such thing as a harmless illegal download or stream. From malware, to cookies, to ads – the ways that pirates make their profits are well-known, money lining the pockets of felons instead of the filmmakers who made the movie you just enjoyed and all the working people who depend on that revenue. When someone watches a pirated film or TV show, the pirates make money on something that they stole. So, your seemingly innocent click of a key isn’t innocent at all. It diverts money to criminals and away from the people who gave their time, their talent, and their sweat to make your entertainment.
According to Newsweek, “Universal’s box office haul hasn’t been dampened by illegal downloads…. Fast 8 had the biggest global debut of any of the films in the action series and made history with the biggest global debut for a film, ever. The blockbuster generated $532 million worldwide, beating the $529 million record set by Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015.”
Anyone who reads that might be led to conclude piracy is over. They’re wrong and Newsweek is leaping to a bad conclusion. In fact, piracy keeps getting worse. If you pirate a blockbuster, you’re hurting the profitability of that runaway success – such as the Fast and Furious franchise. But, if we can’t convince you that pirating a blockbuster movie is harmful, maybe we can convince you that you have a choice: you can fund criminals, or you can fund the actual people that worked on the film you are so eager to see.
As the summer rolls on, almost every potential major studio blockbuster, from Guardians of the Galaxy to Wonder Woman, will likely both make a profit and be stolen more widely than most films throughout the year.
This is not evidence that piracy is not harmful or on the wane.
Piracy is harmful and it’s growing – and the big studios know that it’s the summer tent-pole season that helps them to finance smaller, riskier films during the majority of the year when it is not summer and to cover the losses of those other movies that don’t make huge box office.
Don’t get us wrong: We all love a good superhero movie. But we can’t survive on superheroes alone! The power of cinema is that it brings us into the lives of people we might not ever meet in the course of our own lives. In fact, as you revel in the spectacle of Wonder Woman this summer, don’t forget that the film’s director – Patty Jenkins – made her mark with the powerful indie film Monster back in 2003. And, as you breathlessly await the arrival of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, directed by Rian Johnson, maybe you can revisit his debut independent feature Brick, that was made for less than a half-million dollars.
So, when a pirate steals and distributes The Fate of the Furious online, there is an economic argument to be made that they are also stealing from the risk takers who have stories to tell that we haven’t heard yet – some of whom might just end up helming your next favorite blockbuster.
Here’s the good news: We can still have blockbusters and indies, if we respect copyright.
So, enjoy your popcorn and the thrill rides. That’s what summer is all about. We’ll be right there with you, sharing the popcorn. But when you see more stories (like Newsweek’s) keep reporting the big bucks raked in despite the pirates, don’t forget that these big movies are the exception, not the rule, and that they are getting hurt, as well.
We’re also happy to do all the heavy lifting and keep you informed throughout the summer (and the year): All you have to do is join us. #StandCreative™