Dear Movie Fan…

Here’s the thing: I LOVE films.

There’s something magical to me about getting caught up in a story on film, especially in a darkened cinema, with the sound all around you, and nobody to interrupt you and break your concentration. TV box-sets are another guilty pleasure.

I’m not picky when it comes to watching movies – my collection includes everything from French indie films to Gossip Girl downloads and Vampire Diaries box-sets. This weekend I sat in a packed-out cinema to see Les Miserables – it was fantastic!

But every single one of those items is legally purchased. I buy DVDs from HMV, my downloads come from iTunes or Amazon, and I pay an annual subscription to a TV streaming website. I have a loyalty card for my local cinema and know exactly which showings are cheapest to attend.

I cannot STAND the idea of illegally downloading content. I saw something on Facebook this weekend where some friends were celebrating Oscar season because the films up for awards are sent out to voters to review, and inevitably leak online – where we can download them. Seriously? How is that okay?

I know that one in six of us downloads content illegally. Many of my friends have done it. And I try (honest) not to get all preachy about it, but as someone who’s earned a living from creative endeavours for the past 20 years, I just get so sad about the philosophy of “It’s on the Internet so it ought to be free.”

My view is that downloading films illegally is theft. By downloading a film from a file-sharing site, you’re depriving the company that made the film of income. And that means less money to make new films. Let’s face it, Tom Cruise isn’t losing too much sleep over this sort of thing, but the people down the food chain are the ones losing out.

For me, film piracy and illegal downloading is part of a wider culture that doesn’t value creativity, when that creative work is online. “The Internet is free, it shouldn’t be controlled,” people tell me, as though downloading a dodgy version of the latest Twilight movie is striking a blow for libertarians everywhere. It just makes me sad. Films are made by people’s hard work and skill and talent – and that deserves to be valued. Doesn’t it?

It’s not just about films – it’s music, and words, and pictures. These things are all produced by people who use their skill, talent and time. And they deserve to be protected. I’m happy the UK and US government are bringing in ย new lawsย that will track and identify Internet users who download illegal content. Because maybe, over time, that will do something to address the view that online content doesn’t need to be protected.

I’ve been banging on this particular drum for more than a decade – as a journalist, I watched first-hand what the “It’s online so it’s free” philosophy did to professional writers – many of whom are now writing for rates that are less than half what they were 15 years ago.

As a blogger, too, I understand the value of content. My words and pictures are my own and if someone wants to use them – I expect them to ask, and potentially pay. Certainly, as a writer, I charge for my services. Someone paying for my words isn’t just paying for those words, after all – they’re paying for 15 years of professional experience and all the skill that I’ve accrued in that time.

Ultimately, then, I can’t bring myself to play pirated video games or watch pirated movies. Because how is me stealing someone else’s content different than them stealing mine?

What do you think?


Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

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  1. 13th January 2013 / 10:01 am

    It’s a tricky one. I know exactly what you’re saying as I’ve worked in music since 1993 so seen how much it has all changed – from signing a 20 page contract to listen to an Oasis cassette in a room (talk about paranoia) to these days and watermarked CDs to try and stop leaks.

    I have to download a US tv programme we like to watch as it’s my only option – it gets taken down from YouTube, isn’t available to buy and no UK tv channels show it (The Amazing Race) – it’s really silly, and I know I can be penalised and my only argument is that I want to watch it and no channel in the UK seems prepared to make it happen – not even CBS Reality on my V+ box who make the show in the US.

    I even had to download one of our work albums a few years ago which had leaked as they were keeping it so tight in the office nobody could play it. Fortunately things are a bit more relaxed these daysโ€ฆ

    So essentially I agree, especially films and games. Streaming films and tv programmes seems to be the way forward, but as ever it’s too little too slow. There was a news article recently which had the company I work and how quite a large percentage of our turnover came from Spotify and YouTube – and a few other indies – so I wonder how much is going to change that way in the forseeable future.
    jo recently posted..What On Earth Is Aussiemite?My Profile

    • 13th January 2013 / 11:20 am

      It’s tough if you’re a fan of US shows that aren’t broadcast here, I know! For the longest time Gilmore Girls wasn’t available in the UK, I had to buy US DVDs and have them shipped over – argh!

  2. Suzanne
    13th January 2013 / 12:22 pm

    For me it’s a moral choice. I wouldn’t do it and wouldn’t ever allow my children to watch a pirated DVD that had been passed to them either. I am a stickler for right and wrong so this doesn’t sit right with me either. It totally is stealing and anyone who argues otherwise is just watering down the truth! Having said that, we all have our own view of right and wrong so what’s right for me may be wrong for someone else and vice versa. I respect that too.

    • 13th January 2013 / 11:09 pm

      Yes, it’s SO widespread and so many of my friends do it that I’m ultra-wary of putting on my judgmental hat but I think because of the job I do, I just can’t feel okay with doing it.

  3. Jean
    13th January 2013 / 12:43 pm

    Totally agree. I’ve never watched a pirated film either for two reasons: it’s theft and because I have that type luck I’d get caught. Simples.

  4. 13th January 2013 / 3:26 pm

    Absolutely agree – I wouldn’t walk into a shop and take something off a shelf so how is this any different? Just because it’s harder to get caught?

    I am good friends with one of those ‘lower down the food chain’ types in the music industry, who is phenomenally talented but scrapes and struggles a living in an increasingly difficult industry. I wouldn’t be able to download a track without feeling like I was taking money directly out of their pocket.
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    • 13th January 2013 / 11:10 pm

      Yes, I know so many creatives who simply can’t make a decent living, and end up leaving, and what we’re left with instead is mass-produced corporate alternatives. Sigh..

  5. 13th January 2013 / 7:25 pm

    I agree with you – it’s not right and it’s probably the reason why cinema tickets are now around ยฃ8 a ticket just to see a film. We’re probably paying extra for people who don’t go to the cinema and choose to illegally download it instead!
    Cass@frugalfamily recently posted..Easy Coconut and Lime Marmalade muffins….My Profile

    • 13th January 2013 / 11:11 pm

      Amen – although we love the weekend morning showings at the cinema, Orange Wednesdays, Odeon Tuesdays and using a loyalty card – all brings the cost down ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. 13th January 2013 / 10:20 pm

    I wish the film and TV companies would put half as much effort into making their content available legitimately to those who wish to purchase it as they do in trying to clamp down on illegal downloads. I certainly don’t condone illegal downloads, but I completely understand why people do it.

    I’ll give you a couple of examples. First of all I have a friend who is a great CSI fan. A while ago he missed the first couple of episodes of the new series as he didn’t realise the it had restarted on Sky. Sky only keep last week’s episode on their “on demand” service, and the series is not yet available on iTunes or anywhere else, so he had no way to get hold of the first episode of the series, and therefore his Sky+ box is filling up with all the other episodes which he doesn’t want to watch until he’s caught up from the start. He desperately wanted a legitimate way to get hold of that first episode, but there wasn’t one.

    Another example – another friend is a great fan of audiobooks. There are many titles that are not available in the UK but widely available in the US. The author of one particularly popular book has actually advised UK fans that the only way they can listen to his book is to download it illegally!

    Hope you don’t mind me posting a link here, but I found this a really interesting read: – again this seems to provide some evidence that availability is a significant factor in piracy.

    It used to be OK for TV series to run in the US 6 months before here. It used to be fine for movies to open in the States 6 months before they opened here. But I don’t think there’s any justification for that any more, and with places like Twitter and Facebook being a hotbed of spoilers, more and more people are going to want to get their content when THEY want it.

    Thankfully each of your blog posts enjoys a simultaneous world-wide release ๐Ÿ™‚
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    • 13th January 2013 / 11:04 pm

      I do see where you’re coming from but I just don’t see “I would like to see a TV programme and don’t want to wait” as being justification for breaking the law. And I think that’s really an exception – most illegal downloads are of products people could buy perfectly easily – they just choose not to. Normalising the issue doesn’t help, I don’t think. Oh, and you can legally buy TV from the US – it’s not straightforward, but it’s possible ๐Ÿ™‚

      • 14th January 2013 / 11:06 am

        If you’re referring to proxy services that trick places into thinking you’re in the US, that’s still in breach of the terms of service of sites like Hula, Netflix etc. It’s to do with distribution rights to the material that they’re showing.
        Alex recently posted..Time to step up to the plateMy Profile

        • 14th January 2013 / 1:22 pm

          No, I don’t use proxies to dodge that sort of thing – it’s a short-cut to getting all kinds of nasties on your computer, I reckon.

          • 14th January 2013 / 2:36 pm

            I was about to come and say the same as Alex – I’m not aware of any “legal” way of buying TV from the US, as it comes down to distribution rights, and technically the content is not licensed for use in the UK.

            Interestingly this is something the Americans have traditionally been completely unaware of, until the 2012 Olympics, when they suddently found out that the BBC coverage was vastly superior to whatever was available in the States, and there was a huge rise in non-UK users attempting to access iPlayer and the BBC live streaming services. The BBC was trying to shut them down as quickly as they could…
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  7. Fee Horne
    14th January 2013 / 9:38 am

    Spot on. I absolutely agree with you. So you don’t get to see your favourite movie/tv show when you want to? Since when was entertainment enshrined in the Human Rights Act?!!!!!Where I used to work there was a guy who would regularly do the rounds of the office with pirated DVDs of current films hawking them to his colleagues. None of them seemed to get where I was coming from when I pointed out it was stealing. As far as some of them were concerned, they were paying him and he’d paid his mate in the pub so how was that ‘stealing?’.
    It’s all part of the mental culture of ‘I’m never going to see the person that’s most affected by my actions, so who cares’. Probably best not to get me started that one!!
    Absolutely agree with you.

    • 14th January 2013 / 1:23 pm

      I keep telling off my parents because some friend of their gives them pirated movies. Now I think they’re just too scared to tell me ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. 14th January 2013 / 9:51 am

    As a musician and writer I could not agree more – more and more we see people seeming to act as if tho those who create art, be it writing, music, art, film etc should do so just for love. Love does not put a roof over heads, fill bellies or buy necessary equipment! So while yes, it is a lucky person indeed who can earn a crust from something they love, it is still necessary for them to be paid – or the art will stop while the artists are too busy in other work to dedicate the time it requires to creat something beautiful or thrilling. I am more than happy to pay to enjoy something created with love and passion, and I am rarely disappointed with my purchase.
    Sonya Cisco recently posted..6 Things in 6 MonthsMy Profile

    • 14th January 2013 / 1:29 pm

      Yes, so few creatives now CAN make a living because the Internet makes ripping things off so easy and widespread. I just think it’s shocking when people don’t even realise that’s what they’re doing, as though the Internet is just some candy store where everything is free. Sigh.

  9. 14th January 2013 / 11:02 am

    I have DVD Decrypter on my PC at home because it lets me make ISO’s out of my DVD’s by circumventing the encryption. Hopefully I’ll have a PC powerful enough to do the same with BD at some point.

    All my films and CD’s sit on a NAS box which I stream to my Boxee box and Sonos music centre. I can watch films I’ve paid for without the unstoppable piracy spiel and can listen to my music without having to dig stuff out. All our DVD’s (700+) and CD’s (900+) are boxed up in the loft.

    Strictly speaking, making copies for personal use is illegal in the UK and always has been since the days of home taping, so by ripping your CD’s, you’re breaking UK law.

    Of course, Media producers don’t help themselves, as this excellent comic strip from the Oatmeal describes:

    It gets more complicated though, a study by a major US university showed that music file sharers actually buy 30% more music than people who don’t file share. That’s pretty confusing if the industry spokes voice, the RIAA is to be believed. ( . I’ve never bought their talk about piracy costing the music industry xx$bn a year, because spotty 14 year old who bittorrent couldn’t physically afford to buy the 10,000 albums they’ve downloaded. In a lot of instances a pirated CD does not equate to a lost sale. I’m not saying it’s right, just pointing out the flaw in the logic.

    Personally, I think borrowing a CD off a mate and copying it is just as morally wrong. And home taping was supposed to kill the music industry back in the 80’s wasn’t it? In fact the report mentioned above shows that as much “copying off friends and family” occurs as does internet pirating.

    At home we have Spotify, Netflix, SkyGo and Lovefilm subscriptions. As well as Blockbuster membership, we also occasionally get films out of the library.
    Alex recently posted..Time to step up to the plateMy Profile

    • 14th January 2013 / 1:28 pm

      I don’t think the “downloaders buy more music” argument is still credible – it’s surely the old causality/correlation chestnut. Without downloading, those individuals might buy even more music than they do now. I think in many cases, it probably does equate to a lost sale.

      And I certainly don’t imagine those people downloading, reproducing and selling on movies via download sites are spending more on films and TV than they ever used to.

      For me it’s just a broader issue – if someone puts their work and time and talent into creating something, and you’re stealing it, that’s not something I think is a good idea.

      • 14th January 2013 / 2:19 pm

        Do people really sell on stuff they’ve pirated? That’s as unethical as the 2nd hand market, which sees the original producers get nothing as well ๐Ÿ™

        The research I linked to is bang up to date though, not an old argument that is now discredited. It was conducted in 2012 by the American Assembly and Columbia University. As for cause/causality, I imagine the majority of people spend what they can afford to spend and then pirate what they can’t, or pirate shedloads and buy what they really like.

        I can’t prove this of course but if there’s something I really like on Spotify, I tend to buy the album as well. I like physically owning something, because I own it, not a license to listen to it. Bruce Willis is currently engaged in legal action with Apple because his iTunes library will become defunct on his death. The kids will be able to bin my CD collection with all it’s fuddy duddy music when I pop my clogs.

        Magazines, online and off, are complicit in it too. There are far far too many Photoshop tutorial features in magazines and on Youtube for a piece of software that costs 600 quid- professionals that buy it aren’t going to rely on a brief how to in a magazine. Yes, Elements has most of the features but this sort of article has been doing the rounds for 15+ years because it’s been one of the most pirated applications in PC history.

        If you read any magazines review of a media streamer, they always make a big point of how many formats it copes with but if you’re ripping your own stuff, why does it matter that it deals with some esoteric version of RealMedia encoding? It’s because the people making the devices, reviewing the devices and buying the devices probably intend the device to be used for downloaded material.

        I think the “Media Producers” need to be proactive in the new and emerging marketplaces; rather than suing anyone that moves (people who are also their customers), they need to look at the reasons why people pirate (and by pirate, I mean illegally download, copy off a mate, copy off a Blockbusters or library borrowed DVD). Ease of availability, as the Oatmeal strip shows, is often a key concern.

        SkyGo is another one; stuck in the 20th century subscription model if you want to watch football, whereas if they did pay per view they’d make more- I’d pay a fiver to watch a footy match against ยฃ15 a month sub and I’d probably watch more than 3 games a month too.
        Alex recently posted..Time to step up to the plateMy Profile

  10. 14th January 2013 / 10:43 pm

    So that would be me then… yes, I have just watched a leaked version of Les Mis, and yes, I have and will carry on downloading movies.
    Why? (please don’t take this as snarky, as I know how easy it is for things to be read the wrong way, and it’s genuinely not being “said” that way in my mind as I’m writing this out- I’m just putting across the point of “the other side”, know what I mean?)

    Do you know how likely it is that I’ll ever get to see any of the movies I like the look of at the cinema? I’m lucky if I get to go once a year. Maybe twice. Because it’s expensive, and I’ve not got a sitter on tap.
    I don’t sell anything on. I would never do that. I buy dvds and blurays for movies that I REALLY loved (Les Mis will be on that list, but not until October at the earliest, most likely as a Christmas present to myself, in bluray, with all the extras). I buy music on iTunes.
    I download tv series that aren’t airing here in the UK for another 6 months or more, because they ARE available online to people in their countries, just not for us here.
    Downloading a movie is my way of a- getting to see it at the same time as my friends, or not too long after (as I wait for a decent copy rather than a cam or something equally as pointless). b- it’s a way for me to decide whether it’s something I’d want to watch again, so I can basically vet the movies I know I will want to watch again and again. And c- it’s a way for me to save money.
    It’s not like these movies are strapped for cash – have a look at the sell outs at the box office of the big movies. Their “largest grossing movie” records are constantly being smashed.
    So yes. I’m one of the “pirates”. I will continue to be, for certain movies, and certain tv programs that I like, or want to watch from the start when they’re currently on season 4-5-6 etc.

    That’s why I do it. It’s either that, or I don’t get to see them. I’m a massive movies fan too. I’m just not in a position to be able to just go out and earn more money to be able to afford them, you know?

    Also, re the oscars and leaking dvds… I wonder at times whether they are genuinely accidental leaks. They provide so much PR for the movies, as in general, those of us who download them are still few and far between. Food for thought, maybe?

    *cowers in a corner awaiting complete social suicide… yay!*
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    • Sally
      15th January 2013 / 9:35 pm

      I do see where you’re coming from, and I hadn’t really looked at it from that perspective – thanks for commenting, honestly – I was wondering WHO does it, since everyone was agreeing with me! And I’d never have a row with you ๐Ÿ™‚

      Having said that, I think it’s really interesting that piracy is obviously seen as a victimless crime – people like us don’t generally steal things they want because they can’t afford them, but with films, it’s somehow seen differently. It’s a cultural thing, innit? Maybe the new laws will start to shift that over the next few years, it’ll be interesting.
      Sally recently posted..Dear Movie Fan… My Profile

  11. 16th January 2013 / 3:05 pm

    Heard the news about Blockbuster and thought of this post…

    Ah, the happy hours I spent in Blockbuster choosing a film or two and a big bag of popcorn. *sigh*
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  12. 16th January 2013 / 11:30 pm

    Me and my hubby argue over this a lot!
    When I was kid my dad used to sell boot leg tapes and my playroom would be full of them we wer very cool because we had everything straightaway and we wernt rich so it was nice to be first…but it was wrong an it was stealing and made my mum tut a lot. now I tut about people using photos and content that isn’t theirs to use and downloading movies and bringing them round for my kids as a ‘treat’ almost proud of the theft.
    My personal view is to steal is wrong whether its form someone rich or poor, but Robin hood remains a hero so I don’t think that view is a popular one.
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  13. 19th January 2013 / 11:44 pm

    I have had to give back pirated DVD’s to a member of our extended family a number of times and tell him my kids don’t want to watch it, thanks. He is finally getting the idea that we do not accept stolen goods into the house!

    As for downloading, I’m so clueless I had no idea that joe average could do it, but even though I do know I won’t be, laws are there for a reason.

    Mich x
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