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TV and Film Piracy: Threatening an Industry?

Karsten Strauss, Forbes Staff

A journalist covering entrepreneurs, technology & business.

From Forbes , 3/6/2013

Rally in Stockholm, Sweden, in support of file sharing and software piracy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The pirates have outnumbered the watchdogs. If you don’t believe that, ask the watchdogs. They’ve been toiling in vain to stem the onslaught of viewers flocking to free streaming websites in order to enjoy the latest episodes of “Game of Thrones”, “30 Rock” or “Dexter.” The watchdogs can’t possibly keep up—they’re overrun like a hobbled survivors fleeing a horde of zombies on AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”
The TV and movie piracy issue seems to be causing many to take sides, but according to Jonathan D. Rose, intellectual property litigator with Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, a law firm in > Pinchefsky Contributor
Kashmir Hill Forbes Staff
Indeed, there are real dollars being lost to piracy. An 11-employee Independent U.S. film distributor, Wolfe >profits halved due to piracy and costs to mitigate damages from piracy, according to The >Netflix or bought the DVD?” Rose told Forbes. “Would the person buying a pirated DVD at a Chinese market actually have bought the genuine article otherwise? The answers to such questions are hard to determine. But it does seem fair to assume that not every pirated copy of an audiovisual work represents lost revenue to the content producer.”
The rise of streaming video content hubs like Netflix and Amazon has, to a certain extent, recaptured some users that may have resorted to piracy because in previous years there was no other way to find an instant feed of a movie or show without resorting to piracy. Now there are legitimate streaming services that offer that content, Rose explained. Will most stream it for free anyway? Possibly, but some will do so through legitimate channels. “Of course, this phenomenon may not slow the rate of piracy through, for example, hard copy DVD distribution in overseas flea markets, but it may be a positive factor domestically,” Rose said.
How Will Piracy Affect the Industry?
Jonathan D. Rose, intellectual property litigator with Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP in Nashville, Tenn.
Rose explained that piracy in TV and film is not new and many producers expect to experience shrinkage due to the practice. “So salaries may already be lower than they would be but for pirating, and the workforce in certain industry segments may be smaller than it would be but for pirating.”
Will it affect quality or entertainment project production? Rose thinks a more likely outcome is that marginal projects will be scrapped.
Loss of revenue is of concern to networks and film company masters because it is illegal, cutting into profits and virtually unstoppable. It may even be of concern to workers on the lower rungs of the entertainment industry who find their salaries the means of cutting overhead to make up for losses due to piracy. But for the actors and directors – those who may not be getting a considerable portion of back end money – it may not be that harsh of a reality to deal with. In a business where recognition of your work, your name and your face is paramount, free streaming is just another way of upping your visibility.
It’s a >United States may be imprisoned for up to 5 years and fined up to $250,000, or both. Repeat offenders may be sentenced up to 10 years imprisonment. Civil penalties may be even greater, from a financial standpoint. Statutory damages under the Copyright Act range from $200 per infringement up to $150,000 per infringement, depending upon the circumstances.
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