When I were but a simple country lad, I would wait with baited breath for the video van to pull up the drive. Every Thursday it came, with boxes full of VHS recordings, and a fiver would get you three or four movies for a week.
All the videos had one thing in common – they all had the title of the movie written in marker on a little white sticker. They were all pirated, every single bloody one of them. You could sprain your wrists digging through piles of medium-to-low quality movies looking for an original.
Figure 1: Look out behind you…
And then there was the video shop in the local village. This was a newsagent where they had a few dozen real movie boxes on display. However, if you should ask to rent one of these movies, you would be brought into a room at the back of the shop – into the private house of the guy who owned the place – and he would open a cupboard, displaying box after box of pirate movie. Again, not an original in sight, but a good selection nevertheless.
This friendly local video pirate would even take a fiver to copy a movie for you, so you could have your very own copy of a copy. Quality…well, let’s not talk about that, but I did manage to see E.T. before it was released in the movies, a fair feat in the early 80s.
And now today the media giants are whining and complaining that people are downloading too much and “stealing money” from them. Yeah right, you wankers, and you’re NOT stealing money from me by charging me 15 or 20 euros for an “original” copy of some shoddy, piss-poor movie with Richard Gere, Jodie Foster or Melanie fucking Griffiths in it.
The media conglomerates complain about all the theft these days, but seriously, when was this “golden age” when people did NOT buy illegal copies of movies? Because I don’t remember it, and if you ask anybody brought up in the 70s and 80s, they won’t remember it either. I had pirated movies, pirated albums, pirated computer games…and despite this, I still shelled out most of my disposal income on new movies, albums and games.
The media industry works out their “losses” from pirating in the following, brain-dead manner: estimate the number of illegal copies in circulation, multiply by the cost of a legal copy, and there you have it! Anybody with a brain will realise that if I spend 100 euro on pirated movies, it is because I have 100 euro to spend. If I was forced to buy only original movies, I would still spend…yes, you guessed it, 100 euro. Just because I own 20 pirated movies does NOT mean that the production company has “lost” 20 times the cover price of a new movie.
My basic point is that pirated media has always been around, and while today these things are easier to get hold of, it is by no means a “new” problem. There will always be enough people who consume entertainment media in a standard way to keep these companies alive. There will always be people (like me) who like to support movies or bands they like – although these days I am more likely to donate money via PayPal to projects and artists and like rather than stuffing it into the already over-stuffed pockets of Sony, Viacom or Google.