Studios urged to compete with torrents

Hollywood studios should back-down from pushing for tougher copyright laws and make movies and music for nix, according to a piracy expert.
Written by Darren Pauli, Contributor

Hollywood studios should back-down from pushing for tougher copyright laws and price movies and music cheaply, according to a piracy expert.


(Sales image by Roger Price, CC 2.0)

Copyright pundits have pressed for laws that toughen penalties against piracy and make it harder to obtain copyright-protected works, but according to University of Queensland distinguished professor Stuart Cunningham, Hollywood studios should expend their energy on competing against free illegal sources of movies available on BitTorrent websites, not on eliminating them.

"They need to know how to compete with pirates by reducing prices and making content available with the same ease of access as pirate content," Cunningham said.

"They should look at ways to conduct business in a high-piracy environment that has been massively impacted by free pirate content."

This includes dropping the price of content to compete with torrent sites.

"It's better to make some money than none," he said, noting that Hollywood and its old enemy, the pirates who hawk burnt copyright DVDs, are both losing revenue to torrent sites.

Cunningham said Apple iTunes had "cleaned up" by offering cheap and readily available content.

Cunningham said that copyright pundits often exaggerate the economic damage inflicted by piracy.

"A lot of the methodology massively overstates the impact ... just to make a headline."

Cunningham also doubted that organised criminals would significantly benefit from the proceeds of piracy.

He plans to air his views in response to a report to be released this week that claims tougher laws will be ineffective to curb piracy in developing nations.

The report, dubbed "Media Piracy in Emerging Economies" and written by the New York-based Social Science Research Council, has blamed the problem of piracy on high prices, low income and cheap technology. It also said that piracy actually increases demand for Hollywood films by making them more accessible, an idea buoyed by some social think-tanks.

The report monitored piracy in India, China, Brazil, Bolivia, Mexico and Russia over a three-year period.

"Previous policies have focused on enforcement, like tougher laws, stronger police powers and heavier penalties to curb piracy … However, our studies of developing countries show that piracy should be viewed as an economic problem, not merely a crime," lead author Joe Karaganis said in a written statement.

Copyright reform in Australia is an interesting field at the moment, being influenced by its ascension to the European Convention on Cybercrime, the negotiations for a Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and the outcome of a legal stoush between the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft and internet provider iiNet. The latter last week called for an independent third party to police internet copyright infringement.

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