Saturday, 16 May 2009

A lawsuit waiting to happen?

One of the principals on which the MPAA (Movie Picture Association of America) and similar organisations pin their continued lawsuit-fest against average people downloading copies of DVDs and movies, is that ever download represents lost revenue. You are stealing from the movie companies, affectively for some amount that is a multiple of the profit they make on, what would have been a sale.

If you accept the premise that one download equals one lost sale then it isn't too much of a jump to accept the conslusion that it is theft (by some definition). However, the premise is, at the very least, based on no actual concrete evidence or reliable statistics and at worst is plain wrong. So while it is most deinitely illegal to copy copyrighted works more fuss is being made than is really justified given that alot of those 'potential sales' would never really happen.

Anyway, a thought just occurred to me: in my previous blog post I was hyping up the latest Dan Brown movie, Angels & Demons, and, while I can't claim to have a fantastically wide readership there might be the odd person who I influence to see the movie. I also mentioned Star Trek in negative terms so might turn people off seeing that.

I doubt I'm going to get anything for the free publicity for Angels & Demons even if my opinion did affect a significant number of people and equally it would seem preposterous for me to be sued/charged for the lost in revenue caused by me saying Star Trek is a bit pants and not worth a look. However, if I let someone have a copy of the DVDs for these films when they come out I would be liable for a trip to court.

But what if the people I gave the DVDs to were the ones that would never have bought it? There is no potential lost sale there. If I did NOT let them have a copy they wouldn't have bought one anyway.

So, the question is, should the movie companies try and squash bad reviews of their films to protect their profits in the same way they attempt to do with 'illegal' downloads? No, they can't do that (bet they wish they could). Should they be able to claim lost sales as a reason to sue people, no, that doesn't make sense either. Should they try and provide more sensible ways to get their movies, e.g. cheap lower-quality downloads (supplemented with advertising revenue and other techniques), yep, that seems like a better idea :D

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