Avast, there be pirates! A muse on the future of film distribution

In response to Mark Kermode’s Uncut blog, I posted the following thoughts on the future of film distribution:

I would draw comparison with the software industry. Having been brought up in the ZX81/ ZX Spectrum generation of home computers, I know first hand that piracy of media will continue, irrespective of how you tackle it. But there is no doubt that one of the biggest drivers is lack of availability. In the early days of home computing, very few people had access to legitimate computer software as it simply was not readily available; hence people copied the software tapes and either gave them to their mates or sold them at school. Wider access to legitimate software did away with much of this casual piracy, but then other factors took hold (such as high prices), which re-invigorated the piracy. The software industry has tried many different techniques since to protect their IP and profits, pretty much all of which have been defeated by the hackers and pirates. The one distribution platform that has really taken hold though is secure global digital distribution direct from developers (Valve’s Steam platform being the foremost), at reasonable prices. While there will always be pirates, most folks are prepared to pay a modest amount for a legitimate product that is available when and where they want it. The system is not yet perfect but it is the best available and a giant leap from where software distribution was only a few years ago. I see film distribution no differently – get rid of region coding on DVDs and Blu-Rays, and make films available on multiple platforms at the same time. I doubt any major studio would lose money on a big ticket release, as there will still be plenty of people who will want to pay to enjoy a cinematic performance, or for the Blu-Ray and DVD with a bunch of extras, or indeed the digital download for their PC, tablet or smartphone. Those that don’t want to pay can watch it on free-to-air but they may not have paid to see the movie anyway, so you aren’t losing much if anything. In fact, you may encourage those folks to pay to watch the movie a second (and/or subsequent) time, either in the cinema, or on disc (with extras). Publish widely I say and those who wish to make money from piracy will soon find their market has shrunk considerably, or been eliminated altogether

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