The Right Way to Fight Movie Piracy

Reacting to this story about the “Pirates of the Caribbean” sequel earning $401 million its first weekend by opening in theaters worldwide nearly simultaneously, Thomas P. Barnett calls it “a good way to combat pirating,” meaning the illicit copying of new movies onto bootleg DVDs sold in advance of the movie’s opening in overseas markets.  

What the motion picture industry has perhaps figured out is that they were fertilizing the market for bootlegs with a mindless strategy of rolling out popular films in different markets over a period of months.  Well, it wasn’t a mindless strategy 20 years ago.  It was a way to manage the various costs and levels of effort associated with launching a big film — the ads, the PR, distribution of the film canisters. 

But now, PR- and advertising-fueled awareness of a sequel-ized hit featuring big stars like Johnny Depp can permeate most of the known world in mere days, especially a young market craving to be plugged in to whatever’s hot. There was an irresistable entreprenuerial temptation to service that market illegally.  If the movie-in-demand is playing at a theater down the street, there’s less of a reason for anyone to buy a bootlegged copy.

Rather than using copyright law to stretch a bunch of legal tripwires that, when triggered, make felons out their biggest fans, entertainment property owners ought to take a cue from Disney’s success story and give the people what they want.  They’ll pay a reasonable price for it if they’re given a chance.  You, the entertainment companies, have built this demand.  So service it.

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