Piracy is destroying pop culture

Piracy is destroying pop culture

27 April 2017

Articles Piracy

Could we review the timeline of the most awaited movies to be released in 2017?

It pretty much goes saga, remake, remake, remake of an adaptation, indie film, sequel, sequel, saga, saga, children’s movie, saga, sequel, sequel, remake, saga, remake, remake, saga, saga, sequel, saga, remake, adaptation, sequel, original, sequel, sequel… Is this what pop culture has turned into?

On this list of 27 films, only 2 are original productions. (Granted adaptations have given us some of the most iconic films in history like Shawshank Redemption, Psycho, or Silence of the Lambs.) But even after filtering adaptations, we mostly get sagas and sequels and remakes. Television faces a similar state: adaptation, remake, saga, spin off, reboot.

But hey, not all is bad. We do have great deliveries among these, on the big screen and the small. Westworld and Daredevil are remakes and saga respectively but both are new and different and innovative. Mad Max surprised the world, as Gone Girl left everyone in awe and Scott Pilgrim created a cult classic. Great shows and movies contribute to pop culture and create general knowledge.

But, these are still few gems lost in the continuous search for blockbusters. And we hear everyone complain about remakes and famous TV show tropes. How many will-they won’t-they crime dramas, with a headstrong cop and the convenient consulting side-kick can there be? Castle, Bones, The Mentalist, Forever, Perception. Even Germany has Einstein.



This is the question: why are television and film studios still producing them if everyone complains?

Well, first of all, because people keep going to see them.

The thing is, show business is just that: a business. And just like every other company, their goal is to make money. This means that producers become famous and make a name by following the money. And thanks to piracy, the money leads to blockbusters.

Lord David Puttnam, a copyright infringement expert from Australia Creative Content, explains that piracy is a “zero sum game”, because piracy doesn’t only lower gross box-office income. It “results in less money being invested in new product; in less interesting, less innovative, less exciting material being available”.

We can argue that we have learned how to cook meth and how to save Hell’s Kitchen without our sight, meanwhile becoming kooky parks department deputies and never-yielding defense lawyers. We can also claim that we have surfed from dream to dream and gotten over a crippling stutter while looking for inhabitable worlds through black holes. But these productions that have transported us to amazing places are just a handful when measured against everything that is being produced today. Our pop culture has been reduced to superheroes and the apocalypse.

Seriously, how many superheroes can New York hold?

Piracy is destroying pop culture
The answer is a lot.


Are studios to blame?

No, studios are not to blame. After all, they do depend on income to stay in business. And it’s producers job to sniff out where the money leads. But as piracy increases, more and more people pay nothing to watch movies and shows, and the millionaire investments that back them become less affordable. The threat of not making a lot of money harms blockbusters a little less than original and independent productions because more people want to watch them. Remakes and reboots already have a built-in audience. Comic book fans and manga fans will go to the movies. So will hopeless romantics and adrenaline junkies.

Blockbuster demographic is so wide that, even if a lot of people download it or the film gets leaked, many people still go to the theater. But, small directors that are still making a name for themselves, daring movies that need a studio to take the leap for them, original and exciting content all demand a certain risk from studios.

See, original, experimental, exciting and innovative content can go either way. They can be a huge hit or a huge flop. Either way, in the face of piracy, when these investments carry a greater risk, studios have to be even more careful. An independent movie can be a hit, but make no money in theaters because everyone downloaded it. This means that a producer’s faith in the film doesn’t hold a light to “will it fill the seats?”.


Piracy and the movie theaters


Critically acclaimed comedy Swiss Army Man suffered over 7 million torrent downloads, and an estimated double of illegal streamings. This, if we assume only about 5% of those who torrented the film would have paid to see it, amounts to $1M revenue loss. However, studies show that at least 20 to 37% of those who watch illegal movies would pay to see them. This amounts to 1/3 of the budget that went into the film.

According to an Indie Wire article, the amount of movies that release independent labels has decreased by 63% (82 movies released in 2007 while only 30 in 2013). But major studios have also made the same decisions. They have cut down their film production by 37%, releasing 204 in 2006 and only 114 in 2013.

As a matter of fact, major film studios have decided to shut down different divisions, like Warner Independent and Paramount Classics. Disney had to make major layoffs in its hand drawn animation department.



The argument that seems to apease some people’s view on piracy is the thought that actors and producers already make millions on each movie. But the pirate, those who steal and distribute films, don’t care if the film they are distributing is backed by a big studio. Furthermore, they defend themselves by saying that these films (the independent films) aren’t distributed in every country and, since they are important contributors to pop culture, people have a right to watch it.

In the end, every time that one of these pirates uploads a film, far from allowing you to watch it and bringing it closer to you for consumption, they are pushing you away from it. In the long run, they are building a brick walk between you and all the possible content you could consume and enjoy and explore. New and exciting content that would give you thrills and leave you in awe.

Meanwhile, we have to sit and watch New York be destroyed over and over again.


Piracy keeps destroying New York City
Credit to Jonas DeRo


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