According to data from HBO there were over 14 million illegal downloads of Game of Thrones last year. While that figure is staggering itself even more staggering perhaps is that if even half of those downloads were to have purchased the box sets then HBO would have received a cool £175 million in return, give or take a few pennies of course.
And, popular though it may be, is just one series among many series – when the (hypothetical) figure is translated into other franchises and films this figure easily reaches into billions of pounds. This ‘lost economy’ is one which, for many in the industry, is more than a tragic loss it amounts to robbery and, so far, the punishment for such theft has been disappointingly low. This may well change however after the government made moves to increase the maximum jail term for copyright infringements from two to ten years.
What might have been?
While ten years may seem like a long time and certainly those who are opposed to the legislation change point to the fact that the sentence length is sometimes longer than more ‘serious’ offences such as rioting,
There are currently a lot of grey areas involving copyright infringement with individuals unlikely to be punished for minor infringements or transgressions especially if they didn’t know what they were doing was copyright theft. As Government spokeswoman Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe stated: “criminal offences should not apply to low level infringement” while the head of the Open Rights Group has argued for the implementation of tests to ascertain an individual’s knowledge of copyright: “to ensure these new sentences are not abused to threaten people whose civil copyright misdemeanours are not deserving of custodial sentences.”
There is clearly further to go before the proposals can become legislation with arguments for both sides yet to be fully heard.
One thing of interest is that, ironically, perhaps piracy is actually harming those who pirate themselves for production companies would likely place a good portion of the revenue lost due to piracy into new productions and shows.
Never go back
While piracy is clearly still a problem it cannot be denied that piracy itself as well as online streaming, digital downloads, the speed at which a film goes from the cinema to our TV screens and the changing ways in which media is viewed has changed the film industry forever. The days of £25 for a DVD without any special features are simply behind us.
This is a good thing, as we all want to be able to consume the media content that we love at a reasonable price and receive added value to boot.
The arguments between ‘privateers’ and production companies are set to continue but with tougher legislation and actual jail time involved it is clear that this particular argument is set to become more heated.