Is There An Upside to Piracy?


There has been a lot of chatter on the ole’ interwebs about piracy lately. Come to think of it, there is always a lot of chatter on the internet about movie piracy. This is where it happens, where it is championed, where it is railed against and where its most common victims desire to make their money. Hollywood wants to find a way to make money online, and many users want to find away around paying for the movies they want to see.

dvd-inkAnd so it is, a tale of two viewpoints. First is an interesting story that has caused a bit of an ethical dilemma here at Reject HQ. Earlier in the week, our friends at Double Edge Films — friends enough to put a quote from Dr. Cole Abaius’ review of their film Ink on the DVD cover — were all over the place talking about piracy, and how it has affected their film. This week, Ink was pirated and quickly rose to become the #1 download on popular Bit-Torrent sites such as The Pirate Bay. This also catapulted Ink into the top 20 films on IMDb’s Moviemeter, for the first time giving this brilliant little film the attention it so desperately deserves.

We were brought into the mix when the folks at Double Edge Films sent us a message on Twitter (@DoubleEdgeFilms) asking us to cover their story. So I considered it. In long-form, they sent the following to their mailing list:

Dear Fans and Friends,

Over the weekend something pretty extraordinary happened. Ink got ripped off. Someone bit torrented the movie (we knew this would happen) and they posted it on every pirate site out there. What we didn’t expect was that within 24 hours Ink would blow up. Ink became the number 1 most downloaded movie on several sites having been downloaded somewhere between 150,000 to 200,000 times as far as we can tell. Knowing there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it, we’ve embraced the piracy and are just happy Ink is getting unprecedented exposure.

As a result, Ink is now ranked #16 on IMDb’s movie meter and is currently one of the top 20 most popular movies in the world.

This all started as a result of the completely underground buzz that you’ve each helped us create. We’ve had no distributor, no real advertising and yet the word of mouth that you’ve generated has made the film blow up as soon as it became available worldwide. So many of you came to see the movie multiple times, bringing friends and family and many of you have bought the DVD and Blu-ray from us. All of this built up and built up and suddenly it exploded.

We don’t know exactly where this will all lead, but the exposure is unquestionably a positive thing.

Ink hits Netflix, Blockbuster, iTunes and many more tomorrow! Remember to get your signed copies, t-shirts and posters at the Ink Store.

Thank you so much for the constant love and support.

Jamin and Kiowa
Double Edge Films

Since this was sent out, reports have been flooding in about Ink, saying that it has been downloaded over 400,000 times since it was pirated earlier this week. What our friends Jamin and Kiowa have gained is exposure, exposure that will hopefully propel the proper release of Ink on Netflix, iTunes and in stores.

I was personally hesitant to report such a story though, as I’m not one to champion piracy as a winning strategy. Sure, every once in a while something like this happens and there’s an implied benefit. But on the whole, piracy is, and never will be beneficial to the filmmaking profession. So I’m not ready to throw in the towel and say that piracy is going to make Ink a surprise success. The fact that Ink is a quality film will determine its success. This is an inadvertent publicity stunt.

hollywood-piratebayThen there is the potential negative side of the situation, of which we hear so much about. The MPAA will never hesitate to remind us of the millions of dollars that piracy costs the studio system every year, and the effects these losses have on the viewing public. A study conducted in 2006 (as reported by The Washington Post) said that the effect piracy has on the U.S. economy could be as big as $20 billion dollars, crossing over into other sectors beyond entertainment. That was 2006. Imagine what it must be now, as the economy dips, unemployment rises and more and more folks at home sign on to Torrent sites and download movies.

Beyond that, there is fear. Fear that studios have over how much money they stand to lose if their systems are breached and their movies make it out into the wild. As an example, check out the comment made today via Twitter by Zombieland screenwriter Rhett Reese (@RhettReese) on the impact of piracy:

Zombieland currently the most pirated movie on bit torrent. Over one million downloads and counting… Beyond depressing. This greatly affects the likelihood of a Zombieland 2.

This is someone within the industry who is showing fear of piracy, and how it may affect his ability to make a sequel for a successful, fan favorite film. Whether or not his statement is completely true — as we’ve never been shown evidence that piracy impacts studio decisions on sequels — it is indicative of the mindset around piracy within the industry. And if the trend continues, it isn’t all that insane to think that it could have such an effect.

Don’t get me wrong, I know just as well as any of you that piracy is out there, that it cannot be stopped outright and that just about anyone who has grown up in the internet generation has download something illegal, be it software, music or movies. My stance is simply that I support purchasing movies. And at no point would I go so far as to say that piracy is a viable marketing tool — no matter how inadvertently it changes the fortune of a small movie like Ink.

These little “victories” for piracy shouldn’t be celebrated, because who knows if they really are victories. How many people will really go out and buy Ink after they’ve already downloaded it for free? You tell me…

Neil Miller is the Founder and Publisher of Film School Rejects. For almost a decade, he has been talking movies on television, the radio, and the Internet. As of yet, no one has stopped him.

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