April 18, 2024

How Disney and Warner Bros. Are Driving the Internet Piracy Boom

In our digital age, movies and TV shows were supposed to be easier to watch, not harder. But it turns out that media companies are fickle, and media distribution can get complicated as it crosses borders.

Warner Bros. Discovery has axed a ton of high-profile movies and shows, canceling them in post-production or removing them from the Max platform. The science fiction show Western world disappeared from Max after its fourth and final season. WB ended the superhero movie completed Bat girl without ever letting go. Hulu, Disney+ and Paramount+ have also carried out their own smaller purges.

So what are a viewer’s options when a studio or streamer abruptly pulls a movie or series from distribution or, considering a tax write-off, cancels it just before its release? These problems are also exacerbated as physical media like DVDs and Blu-ray disappear from more and more stores and film distribution remains divided by geography.

For a growing number of people, the answer is: snook. After falling in recent years, online piracy is rising again. And a not insignificant contingent of filmmakers and their fans believe this theft is justified.

David Zaslav speaks on stage during the New York Times Dealbook Summit 2023 at Jazz at Lincoln Center on November 29, 2023 in New York City

David Zaslav speaks on stage during the New York Times Dealbook Summit 2023 at Jazz at Lincoln Center on November 29, 2023 in New York City. In January 2023, he told reporters in Variety that the movie “Batgirl” would not be released on any platform because it was “unrevealable.”

Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images

Perhaps the actor and director Werner Herzog was the one who best expressed this attitude. “Piracy has been the most successful form of distribution around the world,” Herzog said at a Swiss film festival in 2019. He was responding to a comment by Ukrainian film producer Illia Gladshtein, who admitted that while in Ukraine he could only get Herzog’s film. movies through torrent websites.

Torrent sites allow users to quickly download large files. Today they are synonymous with television, music and movie piracy.

“If you don’t get [movies] through Netflix or state-sponsored television in your country, then you access it like a pirate,” Herzog said. “I don’t like it because I would like to make some money from my films.”

“But,” he added, addressing Gladshtein, “if someone like you steals my movies over the Internet or whatever, that’s fine, you have my blessing.”

Herzog is not the only one who gives his blessing to piracy, when piracy is the only way to see a certain movie in a certain country. “I don’t hack much, but I honestly don’t care if people do,” Alfred Giancarli, director of the award-winning New York-based drama. weeknightscurrently on the festival circuit, he told The Daily Beast.

The people I know who do it [pirate] They are some of the most rabid movie buffs I know.

Alfredo Giancarli

“I think there are many reasons why people download or share digital files to access movies,” Giancarli said, “from ease of use, cost and space savings, to the fact that the film may not be available where they live or where they live. It may be too expensive to obtain it through traditional means.”

But Giancarli noticed an ironic twist: “The people I know who do [pirate] “They are some of the most rabid moviegoers I know.” They would gladly pay for a movie. if they could.

Herzog and Giancarli are not the only ones to reach this conclusion. “The irony of this situation is that the most avid [paying] Consumers are also the most likely to pirate,” Ernesto Van der Sar, editor of the trade publication. TorrentFreak, he told The Daily Beast. “They just can’t pay for everything they want to see.”

“In a way, it makes sense because people who are not interested in movies [or] Television has no intention of pirating either,” Van der Sar added.

Piracy of movies and TV shows really took off when torrents first appeared in the early 2000s. It seemed to peak five or six years ago, when new streaming services proliferated.

This made sense. Streaming promised to make virtually all movies and shows available to everyone, all the time. Indeed, The Software Alliance, an anti-piracy organization in Washington, DC, stated that digital piracy decreased by 37 percent in 2017.

According to the European Union Intellectual Property Office, piracy hit rock bottom in 2021, before rising again. “Current levels of piracy are still nowhere near those of five years ago,” Van der Sar wrote in a recent article. “However, a change in trend is notable and may suggest that we are at a crucial moment.”

Geography is a factor. Studios sell media distribution rights by territory for defined periods of time. One distributor may handle North American distribution of a given film for 10 years, while another sells the same film in Europe or Asia, but only for five years.

In other words, certain media are available in certain countries at certain times. These licensing “silos” help explain why, for a time, Christopher Nolan’s film could be seen. The dark knight on Netflix in the US, but not in the UK.

But the industry’s own inconstancy is also to blame. “Streaming services have the power to promote or bury movies depending on their goals,” film critic Travis Bruce told The Daily Beast.

It may not make sense to movie fans that Warner Bros. would prefer to cancel the entire movie. Bat girl to release it, even after spending $90 million to make the film. But it made sense for Warner Bros. The company described the cancellation as part of a broader “restructuring” that it anticipated would help it save $2 billion.

Most people don’t care about corporate restructuring. They do They worry about movies and TV shows, and the increasing difficulty of finding some movies and shows. “Subscribers experience exhaustion and frustration when they cannot access ‘their content,’ or when titles, even titles produced for a streaming service, are removed from that streaming service, or when titles bounce from one streamer to another.” “Giancarli said. .

Not everyone turns to piracy when a streamer abruptly releases a movie or show. While overall DVD and Blu-ray sales continue to decline (and could take a big hit next year when Best Buy pulls the last of the discs from its shelves), some movie distributors report growing interest in physical media from of the most committed film buffs.

The streaming industry needs to converge toward a system where consumers can watch virtually anything they want at an affordable price.

Ernesto Van der Sar, TorrentFreak

After all, you can’t lose access to a movie. if you own it. “People are always surprised when we tell them that we still select, package, ship and sell DVD movies every day in quantity,” Sam Napolitano, vice president of sales at BayView Entertainment in New Jersey, told The Daily Beast.

“The market will bottom out,” Napolitano said, “but for quality films we are not there yet. “The market will begin to recover again as a new generation of film lovers with disposable income discover that they can own a physical piece of their favorite films.”

But not all distributors bother to release a new movie or show on DVD or Blu-ray. And some older movies or shows may be on some out-of-print DVDs, but not on the newer, higher-resolution Blu-ray format.

If a movie or show is not streaming or currently printed on any physical media, what can a fan do but steal? There is an obvious way for the industry to prevent this theft. Obvious, but no simple.

“The streaming industry needs to converge towards a system where consumers can watch virtually anything they want at an affordable price,” Van der Sar said. “That sounds simple, but in an industry that relies on licensing silos with billions in revenue at stake, it’s easier said than done.”

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