Do DVD Pirates Say "Arrrrrrrgh!!!!"

In perusing Time this week, I ran across a short article about two dogs who had been trained to sniff and search for DVDs. That in itself is amazing. Congratulations, dogs! But what really got me thinking was how these dogs were searching for pirated DVDs in Malaysia. While the amount they found was pretty insignificant, and more of a media/political statement than anything, I think it raises important issues.

Specifically, I would like to know how much movie piracy actually hurts the movie industry, especially financially. My instinct tells me that the big movie studios are trying to cause a big scare that DVD pirates and illegal downloaders are ruining the industry and taking away millions from their warehouses of money. That type of rhetoric seems a bit silly and overblown to me. But then again, I have no proof. It's all opinion. Or instinct.

From personal experience of downloading movies, I don't think I cost the movie companies much money. I pretty much only watch movies online that I had no intention of ever, ever seeing in the theater anyway. The worst case scenario is I confirm that it was a crappy movie, and the company doesn't get the $10 I was never going to spend anyway. The best case scenario is that I find the movie is actually quite good, and maybe buy the DVD at a future date. As far as I can see, that sounds like a win-win for the studio, including a bit of free advertising. But again, this is just my personal experience.

I feel like this would be a brilliant topic for a master's thesis, or any sort of professional research paper. Do movie studios actually lose money to pirates? How does downloading/viewing illegal copies of movies affect individual consumption of other movies through legal means? What do average people think is important about downloading movies? As you can see from my questions, I'm actually more interested in the downloading of movies, rather than just purely copying them.

I think this would be a golden opportunity for the movie industry to learn from the mistakes of the music industry. Don't go crazy trying to prosecute every single little violation. Yes, it's technically illegal. But how much is it hurting you? Think about the future, when downloading movies will become more and more prevalent as broadband Internet becomes more advanced and accessible than ever. Maybe the studios should listen to the consumers for once.

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