back to article Whodathunkit? Media barons slit own throats in flawed piracy crackdowns

Hollywood could slash piracy rates by simply making its content easily and legally available, rather than trying legal and technological hacks to sustain its current business model. That's according to researchers from libertarian think tank the Mercatus Center. The team analyzed file-sharing news website TorrentFreak's weekly …


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  1. Bill Neal

    Cold water?

    Typical MPAA spokeswoman sticking fingers in ears shouting, "I'm not listening!"

    1. g e

      Ahh, MPAA, how Kettlesome is thy Pot

      If "The MPAA is complaining that Google leads people to infringing links"

      Then why are they doing their apparent damnedest to encourage people to go search for them in the first place.

      La-La-La fingers in the ears indeed.

    2. Fatman

      Re: Cold water?

      Typical MPAA spokeswoman sticking fingers in ears her head up her ass shouting, "I'm not listening!"


  2. An0n C0w4rd

    "voluntary solutions"?

    So where are the "voluntary solutions" from the content industries to make their content more available? I recently tried to give them money for some content in HD just to find out it's not available in Europe. I could buy the stuff from Amazon in the USA and have it shipped over, but that's a risk since the MPAA love region locking crap for dubious reasons.

    If they keep shooting themselves in the foot, they shouldn't be surprised when people go to "unofficial sources".

    And maybe they should stop assuming that spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a single film will rake in the moolah. Make the films cheaper, and charge less for cinema tickets, DVD and Blu-Rays and see what that does for legal consumption.

    1. Mike Flugennock

      Re: "voluntary solutions"?

      "...And maybe they should stop assuming that spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a single film will rake in the moolah. Make the films cheaper, and charge less for cinema tickets, DVD and Blu-Rays and see what that does for legal consumption."

      And maybe they should also -- all together now -- stop making movies that SUCK.

      1. Metrognome

        @ Mike Re: "voluntary solutions"?

        Actually the "don't make crappy movies" is part of the "don't bet the farm on each film".

        Making films so expensive means that producers focus group and market test everything to death. The result is everyone playing safe and ultimately just copying what worked for others. (see stream of fantasy adventure films or vampire themed literature).

        Psycho as was pointed out on QI recently was vehemently opposed by Hitchcock's producers which resulted in it being black and white and using a TV crew instead of a film one to keep costs down.

        So fewer crappy movies requires less costly films and opportunities for risk taking.

    2. g e
      Thumb Up

      Re: "voluntary solutions"?

      Precisely. I don't go to the cinema because of that 'ripped off' feeling as you walk out 2 hours later.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Same old same old

    Haven't we heard all these arguments before?

    They are used to super profits and high revenue models (Read Rip off/Price gouging prices)and find it impossible to swallow the bitter pill about smaller paychecks.

    How else will they fund the drug fuelled and cocaine lifestyles they are so used to?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Same old same old

      What??! Ask record and film execs to get by sniffing glue and making bathtub meth?? The horror!!

      1. Ged T

        Re: Same old same old

        Maybe they could make a movie out of that scenario...

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

          Re: Same old same old

          "Maybe they could make a movie out of that scenario..."

          I'm in. Let's do lunch.

  4. Headley_Grange Silver badge

    Home Taping Killed Music

    Didn't it?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Home Taping Killed Music

      No, but Video killed the Radio Star by strangling him with cassette tape. :)

      (I'm sure I read that in one of Sherlock's adventures)

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I purchase and pirate the same movies

    This is a blizzare situation but I like HD movies but don't have a blu-Ray player in the living room though my Xbox360 is capable of streaming from my PC. So I bought a Blu-Ray drive for my PC just so I could buy the Blu-Ray, rip it and stream from the PC to the Xbox, iPad or just watch on the PC.

    Now technically that's illegal and realistically time consuming so I just go the full hog and buy the Blu-Ray and download a Blu-Ray rip as its quicker than ripping it myself.

    This is the sorry state of affairs where I'm expected to buy a Blu-Ray player for every room, where I'm expected to buy the movie on Blu-Ray and on iTunes just so I can watch my legally purchased movie wherever and whenever in my own home. Now triple play titles (Blu-Ray, DVD and Ultraviolet code in one box) do help but out of my entire collection only about five are triple play, the rest are straight Blu-Rays. Just give me a GoG style service where I give you money, you give me the file and let me use it for my personal needs as I see fit not how you see fit.

    1. Wize

      Re: I purchase and pirate the same movies

      Plus, the 'non-legal' copy of your legal film does not make you sit through the anti piracy warning. Some DVDs also force you to sit through trailers for other films by disabling your ability to skip forward.

      1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

        Re: I purchase and pirate the same movies @Wize

        It gets better. Most of my recent purchases, including eye-wateringly costly Blurays also try to get me to buy Mars bars and such :(

        (That reminds me - got to buy one of those firmware hackers for my Panasonic to disable region locks and enable skipping of adverts)

    2. Gerhard Mack

      Re: I purchase and pirate the same movies

      In one case I had a freaking Blu-Ray in my hand but somehow the Blu_ray I ordered on wouldn't play because it was actually sourced in the US. I simply could not play the movie I legally bought and had to rip it instead.

  6. ACx

    What kind of "special" journalist keeps using the idiot word "freetard" over and over again? What is this moron trying to prove?

    1. Suburban Inmate

      He doesn't.

      The last time he used that colloquialism was

  7. Tom 35

    "The Walking Dead was pirated half a million times in the first day of its release despite it being available on a free streaming service in 125 countries worldwide."

    It also broke viewing records for a cable show so it's not really hurting. Not that you can trust their 'pulled it out of my ass' numbers.

    “This is the ONLY episode being made available without a log-in requirement,” the network notes. “Future episodes of The Walking Dead will be available on the day after broadcast and accessible via log-in for select cable providers.”

    So only the first episode is available, you need to already have cable that caries the show to access later episodes so not a very good example of something being available. And it's a crappy SD stream too.

    Checking and both the DVD and BluRay seem to have high ranks, so people do seem to be buying when available, of course they are region coded and likely not available everywhere . I expect quite a few of the people downloading now, will buy the box set when available.

    P.S. It's not stealing / theft fool.

    1. Dave Bell

      Streaming depends on having enough connection capacity when you want to watch the material. Round here, on my line, that's not certain during evenings and weekends.

      Downloads can come in overnight.

      I'm currently struggling to download an ebook which depends on an Intel experimental viewer, and comes in at over 600MB. The whole system seems to assume a high-speed internet connection.

      The future is unevenly distributed. So, it seems, is the present.

    2. bep

      She answered the question

      but it wasn't the right question, which is "Are you the best source for your own contect"? If the answer is no, then people will pirate. If you are the best source, they will even pay for it.

      1. bep

        Re: She answered the question

        Don't know how to edit my posts: that should read: "Are you the best source for your own content"?

        1. tomban

          The Walking Dead was pirated...

          "The Walking Dead was pirated half a million times in the first day of its release despite it being available on a free streaming service in 125 countries worldwide."

          How can it be pirated if was available for free?

          Shirley, the more people that viewed the free episode will go on to watch it regularly, and probably even pay for the privilege to do so.

      2. Intractable Potsherd
        Thumb Up

        Re: She answered the question @bep

        Edited or unedited, you make an excellent point. I hadn't seen the argument put that way before, and I like it a lot.

  8. disgruntled yank


    "Over the past three weeks the data has shown that none of the pirates' top picks were available for legal streaming and only 53 per cent were available to buy at all, and only 20 per cent of which were available to rent.."

    I don't really see what this proves, except that the pirates want the new stuff, which the the media companies wish to hold on to. If 20th Century Miramax decides that Men in Black XXV will make more money in theaters if the Netflix release is held up, then no, the Netflix option will not be available during the period of most intense interest. If the point is that the motion picture industry can make less money by releasing the streaming stuff earlier, well, they've probably considered and dismissed that option. If the point is that they can make as much or more by releasing it earlier, did this study say how?

    And by the way, I find it annoying when 16 out of 30 is given as 53%. Why not "roughly half" or "just over half" or even "16 out of 30"?

    1. Tom 35

      Re: Numbers

      Where are you getting 16 out of 30? 53% is how it's listed on the source website linked to in the story.

      Not available is not as simple as you make out.

      It might be available on DVD / BluRay in one country but not another, or only available on DVD here but available on BluRay some place else. Digital download/rental/streaming much more likely to be US and/or UK only and not available in places like Canada. And not just movies, a TV show might run months later in a different country, or even never.

      And there are other things...

      Bad experience with digital download, need to use different players, limited devices (I tried one of the "free" digital copies that come with some DVDs, took two days of emailing to get a working code, then the quality looked like youtube. Now the card goes in the trash with the shrink wrap).

      Like music they need to drop the bogus DRM for download purchases, that would be a big step in competing with a torrent. What's that a standard MP4 would be uploaded to pirate bay? Why, there is already a BD rip available.

      1. disgruntled yank

        Re: Numbers

        "Where are you getting 16 out of 30? 53% is how it's listed on the source website linked to in the story."

        Indeed so, but at the bottom of the web page I find

        "Methodology: The way we develop this data set is very simple. We take the top 10 most pirated movies on BitTorrent as reported by TorrentFreak each Monday. Then we look up whether each movie is available in a legal digital format using the Can I Stream It service. We display the most recent week's data in the table above, but the entire data set, with fine-grained service availability, is available for download."

        Over the last three weeks, that would 30 movies, wouldn't it? And 16 would be closest to 53%.

        1. Kane

          Re: Numbers

          "Over the last three weeks, that would 30 movies, wouldn't it?"

          Not if certain movies appeared in more than one week, then no it wouldn't

          1. disgruntled yank

            Re: Numbers

            Depends on how you count. Look at their handy bar chart and look at the green line. If you come up with a number other than 16, let me know.

            For extra credit, tell me what Edward Tufte would make of the information density...

  9. Nathan 13

    I bought a legal digital copy of Scarface last year.

    Took about an hour to "activate", and I was only allowed to activate it on one pc and watch it.

    Needless to say I wont doing that again anytime soon.

    The "blueray rip" I now have is better quality, plays on anything, and doesnt expire.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "She pointed out that the recent zombie TV show The Walking Dead was pirated half a million times in the first day of its release despite it being available on a free streaming service in 125 countries worldwide."

    That number only means something if it represents the number of 'pirated' copies downloaded by users in those 125 countries.

  11. thesykes

    Anally speaking...

    "Our industry is working hard to bring content to audiences when they want it, where they want it"


    I bought a triple play DVD and tried to register the digital copy. It failed to work, of course. After at least 6 new codes from Fox, I gave up, and ripped the DVD. So, technically I broke the law.

    Also, why do I have to download a digital copy when there is quite probably plenty of space for it on the DVD? Just put a non-DRM'd MP4 (pick your format) and let me play it on my laptop, on my tablet. Is it really that difficult?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "most people prefer to stay on the right side of the law."

    I'm already on the right side of the law, but that's beside the point. The biggest motivator for is convenience. At the moment I'm watching The West Wing on Netflix. If I wanted to pirate that I'd either have to be tortured by horrific VHS-quality streams or try and find a torrent with enough seeders to try and push all 156 episodes to me 7 years after the last one aired. What an absolute bother.

    The same goes for another great example - Breaking Bad. I used to pirate it, because it's simply not on UK TV. That would again involve tolerating criminally poor quality streams or fighting with the hundreds of thousands of others trying to join the swarm at 4am. With netflix I just boot up and it's there, in HD, wherever in the country I happen to be.

    Convenience - real, hard value - that's what gets money out of pockets, not a vague sense of morality or obligation to the content's publishers.

    1. ChaosFreak

      Just don't leave the country

      "wherever in the country I happen to be..."

      Yeah, just don't try leaving the country. I found myself in Japan on a two-week business trip expecting to power-watch all the seasons of Breaking Bad I had just "bought" on Amazon Instant Video only to be slapped with a "This content is not available in your location" message. Needless to say, Amazon support claimed "licensing constraints" and couldn't help.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Our industry is working hard to bring content to audiences when they want it, where they want it, but content theft is a complex problem that requires comprehensive, voluntary solutions from all stakeholders involved."

    as the only 'stakeholders' are MPAA members, when can we expect 'comprehensive,voluntary solutions' to allow audiences to watch what they want, when they want?

  14. Franklin

    "Our industry is working hard to bring content to audiences when they want it, where they want it, but content theft is a complex problem that requires comprehensive, voluntary solutions from all stakeholders involved."

    Seems to me, judging from how the Motion Picture Ass. of America and the Recording Industry Ass. of America have operated thus far, that should read "Our industry is working hard to bring content to audiences when we want it, where we want it, but content theft is a complex problem that requires crushing anyone who dares want media on their terms rather than ours." Or am I being cynical?

  15. Graham Marsden

    "Hollywood could slash piracy rates...

    " simply making its content easily and legally available,"

    See icon for details.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    20 years on and the MPAA STILL haven't got the point that they don't own the bottleneck any more. People will cough up if it's relatively easy and the price isn't taking the piss. Not taking the piss is another concept that they seem to be having trouble with; apparently preferring to annoy and alienate their customer base.

    So the Walking Dead was available in 125 countries. What about the other 200 or so?

    Face it; pirates put out a superior product that plays on all devices and won't give you crap at a price that is fairly hard to beat. If the film/record industries put out a non-crippled product at a reasonable price point they'd be coining it in.

  17. Suricou Raven

    View from the other side.

    I'm an active pirate, and they are right - we've lost a lot of pirates over the last few years who 'went legit' once legal services became available, convenient and affordable.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: View from the other side.

      I used to be an active pirate, but I lost my parrot and my leg grew back.

    2. Random Coolzip

      Re: View from the other side.

      Won't SOMEBODY think of the pirates?

  18. ChaosFreak


    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    1. Intractable Potsherd

      Re: "Theft"?

      I'll go one better: I know it does not mean what he thinks it means. See the Theft Act 1968 for what it means in the UK ...

    2. grammarpolice

      Re: "Theft"?

      It's not theft of the content, at any rate (since the owner is not deprived of the content).

  19. ethicalfan

    Piracy has never decreased

    The conclusion that more availability and collapsed windows reduces piracy is not just false it is ridiculous. Piracy continues to rise . 24% of all global traffic was piracy in 2011 and two years later in 2013 when overall data traffic expanded by 20%. Meanwhile music and home video revenues continue to plummet.

    1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

      Re: Piracy has never decreased

      [Citation needed]

    2. Killraven

      Re: Piracy has never decreased

      But file sizes have increased a lot over the last few years as more people upgrade hardware and go after the better HD files. So increased traffic volume does not necessarily equate to an increase in the number of downloaders.

      Home video revenue increased in 2012, as did music sales, and the industries themselves are also publicly stating that piracy rates are decreasing.

      One major issue I've had with industry claims of loss due to piracy, is that they've always acted like they should be immune from being affected by downturns in the general economy.

  20. psychonaut

    Cinemas are going to die out. Most people now have a decent sized screen and maybe surround sound. If they dont then a simple cost analysis of going to cinema vs buying your own kit will show that its cheaper to have your own if you go that often. It cost us 10 quid each to go see a film the other week. Then its 3.50 for a fucking small tango and more again for popcorn. Throw in wankers in the cinema either on their phones or talking and id much rather be at home thanks.

    1. Intractable Potsherd

      I disagree - most of the films I want to see are big action sci/fi jobs that are *far* better appreciated on the huge screen at the front of an auditorium than sat on the settee at home. I might be able to improve the experience with kit, but I don't want a huge screen in the living room (about 40" is enough - oooerr, missus!), though I might get some better speakers at some point if I can persuade Mrs Potsherd of the business case.

      However, I admit that my opinion of cinemas is skewed because Mrs P wanted and got a yearly pass to Cineworld cinemas for Christmas, and I have an Orange phone, so it doesn't cost me anything to go to the cinema on a Wednesday ... especially if I eat and drink before I go.

    2. earl grey

      how much extra?

      So, how much extra for the wankers in the cinema?

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Cinemas are going to die out. Most people now have a decent sized screen and maybe surround sound.

      I have neither a "decent sized screen"1 nor surround sound - I just use the speakers built into the TV (horrors!) - and I haven't bothered going to the cinema in eight or nine years. Sure, the picture is bigger, but the audio is too loud,2 and the theater is generally full of obnoxious idiots talking, using their accursed light-emitting smartphones, etc.

      I used to live in driving distance of a small private cinema that showed third-run and art films, kept the volume at a reasonable level, had ushers to kick the twits out, etc. And they sold popcorn with real butter. I'd be willing to see the occasional movie at a place like that. But the big chains? I don't believe Hollywood has ever produced a film so compelling as to get me into one of those places again.

      1That is, I think it's fine, but I'm guessing most people who care about screen size wouldn't.

      2Likely loud enough to cause hearing damage. It's certainly loud enough that I won't go without hearing protection. When I use power tools that make that much noise, you can be damn sure I have earplugs in.

  21. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Big Media. Make the price reasonable and the collection process fast and people pay.

    "Yes I know you make most of the money on the popcorn, but think.

    No more film copying and distribution.

    Instant cash in the bank. Release on Monday. Profit on Tuesday.

    Some will do it slower, some will do it faster.

    And all those staff you pay for copyright enforcement are no longer needed.

    Result. $$$$."

    And then of course I woke up.

    You know it makes sense.

    1. Ed_UK

      Re: Big Media. Make the price reasonable and the collection process fast and people pay.

      "Yes I know you make most of the money on the popcorn, but think."

      Boy, am I in trouble? Just last night, I made a ton of popcorn, which was a direct copy of Genuine Overpriced Cinema Popcorm (TM). My offspring were unknowingly nomming PIRATED POPCORN, stealing money straight out of the mouths of the cinema industry, er- literally.

      I await the knock on my door and the prospect of a cold winter after having my gas cut off (because that was used for the copying).

  22. hi_robb


    In other news bear shits in woods.

  23. Ubermik

    The recording industries entire model is like something thought up whilst smoking crack and yet so many governments support it to already ridiculous levels

    As an example picture someone who is unemployed, a student on a bursary or someone who is still at school in fact we can now include millions of families who with the current cost of living have literally ZERO disposable income after paying their basic bills and food

    The recording industry claims that if any of those download lets say 10 films in a month they have "stolen" $50-100 from them based on what they WOULD have spent IF they had gone and watched them at the cinema, bought them on DVD/CD or if they had paid to stream them

    But as none of those people would, at any point in that month have had $5 let alone $100 to spend on luxury items then they would still have spent zero on that media whether or not they could or couldn't download it meaning the recording industry is out of pocket to the exact figure of zero dollars

    There SHOULD be some actual proof of actual loss when someone is being prosecuted instead of the recording industry just trying to blame someone else for their own demise due to their own inflexibility. overpricing and inability to realise what dinosaurs they are

    It should also be noted that a LOT of people have a fixed budget they spend per month or week on games, music, films etc but because of how much overhyped drivel there is in all forms of media what many do now is to watch several films or play several games before deciding which ones to spend their hard earned and FIXED amount of money on as there is no returns policy when you spend $15-60 on a film or game and find out its total crap and NOTHING like the adverts and magazine reviews claimed

    Another bogus aspect of this nonsense is TV programming where all people are doing in many cases with that is downloading a show they are already paying for via cable or satellite BUT where they want to watch it when THEY want to watch it and on their PC whilst doing other things rather than having to sit on the sofa to watch it and because its just easier that streaming services. Other times its a show that WILL be on a station they pay for, but is shown months earlier in another country which nowadays is completely ludicrous

    So again they pay a fixed fee whether they watch those shows or not, the networks aren't being deprived of a penny of extra revenue despite claiming otherwise and we once again have quite bogus financial injury claims where none exists

    I am not saying there is NO loss to the industry, but I do honestly believe that the majority of profits are due to their own mismanagement and inability to move with the times

    Its wholly ridiculous for ANYONE to justify earning $50 million dollars for acting in a film, and that sort of wage is a large part of the cost of the making of programming and music that then reflects in the price

    If no movie studio paid more than $2 million actors would have to choose between earning what is already a LOT of money or getting a job at starbucks. And I bet I know which they would choose.

    This would not only mean the industry could MASSIVELY reduce the cost of films, music, TV subscriptions making far more people not only ABLE to afford them, but also likely to buy them in greater numbers BUT it would also mean theres more scope for profit and therefore investment in future content

    Instead wage bills in all aspects of the industry spiral upwards like its a race and the consumer is then blamed for choosing to opt out of paying those increasing prices when the actual quality of content is declining noticeably as the price increases and it becomes like paying Faberge egg pricing for a standard poached egg that is highly likely to be undercooked anyway

  24. Dr.S

    Whoa. Déjà vu.

    A black cat went past us, and then another that looked just like it.

  25. BrownishMonstr

    Since everyone else is ranting

    I just wanna digress and complain about those fuckin' cable/satellite broadcasters like Sky who fuckin' force you into paying for those expensive channel subscriptions, subscribing to "OMG over 500 channels!!", even though you just want to watch half of a dozen. South Park got it right.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Since everyone else is ranting

      And I'd like to complain about those damn kids on my lawn. Damn kids!

  26. Filippo Silver badge

    Streaming is a bad substitute for downloading. With my connection, I'm unlikely to get a reliable SD stream, and a HD stream is mathematically impossible. This is unlikely to change any time soon. And how many streaming services work with the PS3 I mostly use to watch stuff? It's pointless for studios to offer me cheap streaming, as I can't trust it to work in the first place. I wouldn't even want it for free.

    And DRM poses similar problems - I can't trust it to work on my favored devices, I can't trust it to work ten years from now, I can't trust it to be able to be backupped or carried to a friend's home to watch together. Hell, even if they somehow came up with a DRM scheme that actually works perfectly, at this point the concept is so poisoned that it'd take years before I gave it a chance.

    A straight AVI is free, but the important thing is that it JUST WORKS. Drag'n'drop it on a USB key, and nearly everything on the planet will reliably play it with one or two button clicks. They need to understand that their problem is not "competing against free". It's competing against *easy and reliable*.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stop Geo Locking

    I live in North America and found some clips on YoutTbe of X-Factor Australia, so I go to its home page to watch the shows. Unfortunately, I can't as they are Geo locked for Australia residents only. If I want to watch them, I have to find a non sanctioned stream.

    The next tthing is that the songs sung on the show by the contestents are advertised as being available on Itunes, but when I go to Itunes to buy them, I find they are only available on Itunes in Australia.

    Reece Mastin, the winner of X-Factor Australia from a couple of years ago just recently released an album, which I bought on Itunes in North America. If I had not been able to see and hear him singing when he was on the show, (er from Youtube clips) I would not have known who he was, and they would have lost a sale.

    So why are they Geo locking content when it is resulting in missed and lost sales?

  28. psychonaut

    I dont like the blockbusting shit heaps that Hollywood pumps out anyway. The kind of films I like have a story. Yes people a story thats not ridiculously predictable. Id much rather watch that at home with my missus or friends. My rather humble home cinema system cost me about 600 quid. Its more than adequate. Fuck cinemas.

  29. psychonaut

    And upon further reflection maybe if they werent paying actors spastic amounts of money they wouldn't be so expensive to make. Its so expensive now that they simply look for a format that the retarded general public like and run with it. Over and over again. Such a shame.

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