This week internet consultancy firm Envisional announced that the number of illegally downloaded films in the UK has increased by 30% in five years. This research has fuelled the on-going debate around the rights and wrongs on piracy.
The growth in piracy is said to be fuelled by advances in technology like faster internet speed and the increased availability of illegal download sites. Whatever the causes are, illegal downloading is fast becoming socially acceptable. The music industry has been criticised when it has tried to take action, for example when it tried to sue a 12 year old girl and a 58 year old woman with a personality disorder.
The biggest argument that the film industry bosses use against piracy is that it threatens thousands of jobs. Without the revenue from cinema and DVD sales, the film industry argues it cannot sustain the number of jobs and as a result there will also be a drop in the quality of film production.
The heavy fines and prison sentences do not seem to be effective in deterring piracy. The Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) recently reported that gang members who ran the UK’s biggest counterfeit DVD factory have been sentenced to seven years in jail. Police estimated that the gang was capable of generating £95,000 a day. Kieron Sharp, FACT Director General, said that “anyone who buys fake DVDs should think long and hard about what they’re doing. This is not a victimless crime. It not only damages the film industry but the huge profits generated are also often used to fund other criminal activities”.
The research also found a large rise in TV shows being pirated online. The report showed that the top five most popular shows were illegally downloaded a total of 1.24 million times in the UK last year, which resulted in a 33% rise in illegally downloaded television shows from 2006. Often viewers in the UK cannot get access to their favourite US TV shows legitimately. Shows like Glee and Desperate Housewives are shown first in the US and we have to wait months to see them in the UK. The only way we can watch them as soon as they are out, is if we download the television series illegally. So in those circumstances should it not be up to the television industry to make sure their work is available to all?
The question of where the responsibility to tackle piracy lies is difficult to answer. Does it fall on the consumer to uphold their morals and the law, the film and television industry to ensure they can compete with piracy, the internet provider to make it harder for piracy websites to operate, or the government to clamp down on piracy and prosecute those involved?
And more importantly will any of these measures be successful?
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