Scare Tactics

In this scare story in today’s Guardian, the movie industry claims one of every four Internet users has downloaded movies, and says, “The MPAA’s findings are backed by a report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which says more movies were illegally downloaded last year than music tracks.”

Given that the average movie — even after being heavily compressed — is still not much less than a gigabyte in size, and that the average song is a couple of megabytes, this OECD assertion seems ridiculous on its face.


Posted by: on July 9, 2004 09:11 AM

While I have friends who used to download MP3s on a regular basis, none of them have ever downloaded a movie. One in 4 internet users? That means one person in each household in my neighborhood must be a pirate! Absurd.

The loss in quality from the compression required to reach 1 Gb/movie is substantial. Besides fewer than 1 in 4 internet users have the bandwidth (or DVD burners) to make such a transfer worthwhile.

Even backing up your own DVDs for use in the minivan takes time and you almost always have to recompress (degrade quality) to make it fit.

How they can make such claims with a straight face is beyond me. Or perhaps they really are that ignorant.

Posted by: on July 9, 2004 09:37 AM

Is it remotely possible that they’re mixing the statistics for pirated DVDs with downloaded films? Given the number of questionable DVD’s I’ve seen from sidewalk vendors and internet firms, it’s not inconceivable that 1 in 4 sold are counterfeit…but downloaded? Nah!

Posted by: on July 9, 2004 09:38 AM

>>How they can make such claims with a straight face is beyond me. Or perhaps they really are that ignorant

The people behind this are not ignorant at all. They do not believe they are fighting for their survival anymore than you or I do. They just had their best month ever in June, in a entertainment/leisure industry during a fairly bad economy. Those record sales are not JUST because they have been arbitrarily cranking up ticket prices at several times the rate of inflation; somebody still had to buy a lot of tickets to set the record.

These guys have intelligent consultants working for them; they know that, like Napster, Internet downloading tends to expand the market by making people desire to consume more of their product.

The only explanation for their actions is that they do not see an immediate increase in profits as part of their strategy. Just like they complain about analog VCR piracy out of one side of their mouth, while they thank Blockbuster for the billions they rake in because of the success of this general-purpose device out of the other side, their ultimate goal is the same as it has ever been, since the music industry tried to suppress the use of the player piano and the introduction of radio.

With each new technology, they realiZe that it will eventually offer them the opportunity to get even richer and boost their profits ever more by expanding the siZe of the market; however, the overriding desire is not JUST the boosting of profits, but, rather, the EXPANSION OF THEIR SPHERE OF CONTROL AS REGARDS COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL / INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY.

Their ideal world is one where all expression is controlled by the copyright cartel — where the general-purpose computer is turned into a restricted, media-consumption, rental and billing machine.

I believe their thinking is along the lines of: “Once we have ultimate control of the consumption of all media, we will be able to charge as we choose for it, and then our profits will be as much as we desire them to be … as much as we can extract from the market without totally bankrupting Joe User en masse.”

Viewed in this light, their statements / actions make sense. It is not their desire to appear credible to an intelligent person, rather, to misrepresent their case for how they have been “damaged” to the techno-illiterate in Congress, while trying not to appear too ridiculous to the general public (who are also, by-and-large, clueless concerning tech issues). This gets them the traction they need, while avoiding a general outcry against the draconian technological measures they seek to have implemented.

This is why they try to re-cast the largely academic-sounding term “copyright infringement”, with the far-more-serious-and-emotional-sounding terms “stealing” and “piracy”. It helps to convince Joe User that they have been somehow violently wronged, thus keeping him watching “Temptation Island” and “White Chicks”, instead of calling his Congressperson to try to put a stop to their ludicrous demands, as he would if he understood the true nature of the issue, and how he will be impacted 5-10 years from now if Congress passes the ugly, one-sided, club-like excuses for balanced legislation that they seek.

Posted by: on July 9, 2004 09:42 AM

I have legally downloaded movies from

They *are* big, but the download happens in the background while you can do something else in the foreground. If you have cable or DSL, it’s no big deal. Would a long download would be successful often enough with dialup to attempt more than once or twice?

Still, 25% of *all* internet users seems pretty high. What’s the percentage of cable&dsl internet users?


Posted by: on July 9, 2004 10:12 AM

The latest Pew Internet report says 32% of home internet users have “high speed” access of some sort. Even assuming a 1-for-1 home/user ratio, that’s a 78% piracy rate!

Posted by: on July 9, 2004 11:09 AM

On the 1 in 4 users downloading a movie (or more accurately, 1 in 4 consumer household connections), the only way you could get a rate that high is to include porn clip downloads, where the download is a tiny fraction the size of a feature-length movie. (not that I would, er, have first-hand experience)

Posted by: on July 9, 2004 08:21 PM

Like Fred, I too have downloaded a lot of movies – all perfectly legally. Example site:

So to me the disinformation here is the implication that every movie download is illegal.

Posted by: on July 9, 2004 09:02 PM

Somebody please lemme know when Jack Valenti and everyone else with/at/formerly RIAA and/or MPAA stop suing/filing charges/whining about this activity which [as they well know] puts money in their pockets by increasing demand for their products.

When they STOP, I will resume purchasing their merchandise. Until then, I will simply voluntarily restrict myself to what I have on hand.

Oh yeah, in answer to the questions I infer to be flying around out there — NO, I have not/don’t/won’t download them.

This is a one man boycott.

I’m ready to sell some of m
y money for movies & music. Just begin acting like grown-ups.

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