Hollywood is gripped by a piracy panic, and has been for the last 15 years. Recent incidents at Netflix, ABC, and Disney suggest that the pirates, hackers, and leakers are getting bolder (and greedier). These attacks have resulted in popular shows and movies reaching infamous web sites like The Pirate Bay ahead of their intended release dates. Some industry insiders blame the studios themselves for poor security practices, which inflames the problem. Regardless of who or what you believe, everyone seems to agree that the problem is only getting worse and it isn’t going away any time soon.
According to THR, the latest incident involved the theft and release of 8 unaired episodes of Steve Harvey’s Funderdome by a particular group called TheDarkOverlord, a hacking collective. They released the following remarks this week:
“Hollywood is under attack, and we’re at the forefront of this most recent offensive. We’re not in the business to scare anyone. We’re in the business of earning vast amounts of internet money. There’s always more.”
The group claims to have additional movies and TV series from IFC and NatGeo, in addition to the media they released from Netflix and ABC. The danger is not only to the studio’s bottom line, but also to the end consumer downloading these illegal materials, who run the risk of contracting viruses, being hacked themselves, or worse according to a source at THR:
“Hackers have paired up with pirates to inject anyone searching or downloading leaked content with malware of all kinds to steal info, spy on you or destroy your computer with ransomware.”
So what is the cost for Hollywood piracy, and (more important) why should you care? According to some industry outlets piracy costs the movie and TV industries tens of billions of dollars per year. The movie industry alone made $11 billion domestically in 2016, but that’s before international box office and secondary markets (airlines, OnDemand, cable, YouTube, etc.) The entire industry (including television) collected more than $324 billion last year — crazy numbers, right?
Let’s say the piracy pricetag reaches $30 billion (a figure some contend), this represents less than 10 percent of the total industry take, which is still an astronomical sum. Believe what you will, Hollywood says it’s cutting into their bottom line and the result for consumers is likely either fewer films or higher ticket prices. Even with the FBI involved, it’s very, very hard to locate and catch these pirates — many are located overseas.
So how are the pirates getting access to films and TV shows? About a third of all piracy can be traced back to “screeners,” which are typically sent to reviewers and other industry insiders, but are often intercepted or outright stolen from offices and mailboxes, according to THR and Variety. Additionally, the shift from physical to digital media has exacerbated the problem, as many films and shows are now stored on remote servers, which can obviously be hacked.
I spent nearly twenty years working in the videogame industry, where piracy has always been prevalent (remember code wheels from the floppy disk and early CD-Rom era?) Piracy is often crippling to small studios who might only produce one or two titles per year, which is not dissimilar to the impact felt by small film or television production houses who stand to lose crucial residuals or other ancillary income due to piracy.
The bigger issue, in my opinion, are the people who download pirated materials — and many of them are actually working in the creative fields affected. I knew many colleagues in my video game career who regularly obtained movies, TV shows, games, and music illegally, which is galling and unconscionable. Bottom line, there’s always going to be a segment of the audience who’s going to access pirated content (for some, it’s the only way they consume media). Another segment of the audience will never seek out pirated material, as it goes against their belief systems or they fear contracting a virus or ransomware themselves. This is an issue that affects all of us, whether we realize it or not. Where do you stand?
How do you feel about Hollywood piracy and the potential impacts to the industry? Let us know in the comments down below!
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