This one be about piracy me land-lubbing friends…
There’s a nervous man driving from one housing estate to the next. He’s inviting adults and young people into his dilapidated van to show off movies. No, it’s not the opening sequence to an uncomfortable CSI episode. It’s the 1980s. And this is the video man, peddler of knock-off feature films, the majority of which will contain either blurred subtitles or Chuck Norris. Ever wonder how Teenwolf or the Goonies would look with a Crazy Prices bag covering your telly; get a film from the video man and you’ll have a fair idea what it’s like.
‘Isn’t that piracy?’ You might ask.
Aaarrr, it is. And there be plenty of talk about copyright infringement these days, but it’s nothing new. Piracy has been around since…well… pirates. Hardy adventurers traversing the seven seas in their vessels, cutlasses and eyepatches, burning CDs and selling them on to their mates.
The major problem these days is the speed at which contraband can be produced and shared. It has led to changes in how movies and music are released, and spawned countless websites, most of which make hefty profits from the sale of advertising space. In the academic world, it is one of the factors for increased electronic book prices, a cost transferred to the individuals and institutions playing by the rules.
Excuses are made, some claiming they would never have watched a particular movie if it wasn’t for free, others stating they are making a stand against big corporations. A predominate one seems to be that piracy is a good thing for an artist, that it amounts to publicity and increased ‘genuine’ sales of their material. Even if this is the case, surely it’s up to the artist whether they want to give their work away for free. Otherwise it’s a case of taking, without asking, which is commonly called ‘stealing’ and is pretty frowned upon in most societies.
It’s difficult to estimate exactly how much revenue is lost through piracy but the Motion Picture Association believe that over one million people in Ireland may be involved in illegally watching films online. But it’s not just about the loss in revenue. It’s about ownership and respecting the work of others, no matter what that work is.
With so much information coming at us these days, often in bold headline tabloid-esque format, creative ventures can offer time to pause and reflect. If anything, they are a tool to remind of the things that are good about us as a people. If a society doesn’t value creativity, it puts forward the question; will people still want to create?