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Box Office Records and Whining Twatwaffles of the MPAA

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Industry | August 31, 2011 |

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Industry | August 31, 2011 |

Piracy is bad mmmkay. We’re more or less agreed on that. Don’t do it. Even if you’ve got a carefully prepared moral rant, consider a simple cost benefit. Is watching Pirates of the Caribbean 7 RIGHT NOW so important that you want to take the chance of getting dragged into court? Lawyers are expensive, even the incompetent ones will take your liver just for a retainer. That said, the MPAA has a special gift for being such enormous twat waffles about the topic that it makes you just want to go download movies, delete them, and then download them again.

Despite the worst economic climate since we had a President who pulled wheelies, the movie industry just had its largest summer take of all time, with three different films topping the billion dollar mark world wide. The MPAA has celebrated by releasing a fancy little infographic (in irritating Scribd format just so that no one downloads and pirates a PNG file that they’re giving away for free).


So according to the MPAA, piracy cost them $58 billion last year, making movie piracy a bigger industry than the GDPs of 10 American states. To put it even starker perspective, look at it this way. The film industry gets about $10 billion from the box office, and about $30 billion from the after market of DVDs, streaming, etc. So they’re claiming that piracy costs them almost two-thirds of their business. At $10 per DVD, every household in the United States would be buying an additional 50 DVDs per year if they weren’t so busy downloading. The technical term for a statistic like that is “fictional.”

See, they also claim that 29 million adults have ever illegally downloaded a film. But since that’s only 13% of the adult population, it makes the figure even more absurd. By their own estimate, those adults in question would have on average purchased an additional 200 DVDs each year if only they were still on dial-up. The problem with these absurd figures pulled out of the air, is that even if they are an accurate measure of how many movies are being illegally downloaded, it is not a measure of loss. As has been argued countless times, a bunch of zeros and ones do not cost the industry a dime unless they actually represent something that would have been bought otherwise. Anyone think the average downloader would actually have bought 200 more DVDs? Hell, are there even 200 new DVDs released per year?

The industry is no stranger to hyperbole, Jack Valenti famously told Congress back in the eighties: “I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone.” This sort of hyperbole is entirely counterproductive.

There are a couple numbers on that infographic though that do matter, the figures about employment and jobs. Sure, they’re victim to hyperbole as well, seeming to count every one who ever sold a cup of coffee to an actor, but there’s a hint of truth in there. The film industry is one of the rock solid cornerstones of the American economy. 96% of tickets sold in America are for American films, and even more tickets are sold overseas. Industries have faded, factories have closed, but movies still get made here. That’s the angle the MPAA should take instead of this exhausting and alienating shame show. Play to the pride and patriotism of being the place that makes the world’s dreams.

(sources: THR and SlashFilm)

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Steven Lloyd Wilson is the sci-fi and history editor. You can email him here or follow him on Twitter.