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DVD Piracy on the Rise?

by July 23, 2008
Arrr... give me a yer dvds or youll be walkin t plank!

Arrr... give me a yer dvds or you'll be walkin' t' plank!

When a report comes across our desk about DVD piracy, we take notice. We are certainly no advocates for illegal piracy but we do believe that people should have the ability to copy their legally obtained discs for backup or personal use. Futuresource Consulting's report seems to suggest that there is a lot of lost revenue based on piracy. But is that really the case?

Surveys were sent out to a representative sample of respondents in the US (3,613) and UK (1,718) about their DVD copying. Around a third of all respondents (36% US, 32% UK) reported that they had copied a pre-recorded DVD in the last 6 months. Copiers tended to be males 18-24 years old and tended to use a DVD to DVD-recorder or PC software method. New releases tended to be copied the most (13 per person on average in the UK, 7 in the US) versus older movies (9 in the UK and 6 in the US on average).

What was interesting was that around 60% of the sources for the copying was their own purchased copy in the US and 50% in the UK. This means that over half of the discs that were being copied had already been purchased by the copier.

An interesting statistic - no?

Futuresource goes on to ask if the respondents that had copied movies would have purchased the movie if they couldn't copy it. They combined all the All, Most, Some, A Few responses together to arrive at 63% for the UK and 77% for the US. Of course, the majority of these respondents would have bought them new on sale rather than at full MSRP or waiting for the used copies to go on sale at their local rental place.

But what does this all mean?

Let's take a look at the numbers - 36% of the US and 32% of UK  respondents said they copied DVDs - that's 1300 and 550 respectively. Of those, 40% of US and 50% of UK did NOT own the movies (i.e. borrowed or rented) which reduces the number to 520 and 274 (or 14% of the total respondents in the US and 16% of the total in the UK). These are people that are a pure loss for the studios as they did not purchase a copy of the movie legally. Of course, there is no guarantee that these people would have bought the DVD if they couldn't copy it and no data to indicate if those copies are only for personal use or for distribution (over the Internet or physically).

But what about the rest? All those that purchased the movie and made a copy. Why would one do that? What about all those people that have young kids that love to use their DVDs as frisbys? Maybe they just want a backup? Or maybe they have a DVD player in the car and don't want it to get scratched (or just want a copy for the car). Or maybe they travel a lot for business and don't want to risk losing their original.

Remember making copies of your vinyl records on cassette for your car? Did you feel like a pirate?

The real question that was missing from the survey was why the respondents are making these copies. This should have been the question at the forefront and not whether or not the respondents would have bought the disc if they couldn't copy them. If they are making copies for the car and they are forced to buy an extra copy, the studios are probably just going to lose out on another sale rather than recoup movies from a malicious bootlegger.

While this report is an obvious attempt to drum up press to support the studios' claim that they are losing millions to pirates, it seems to more support the notion that many of the "pirates" are just consumers that are making copies in what is essentially a legal way. As long as they are making copies for themselves and not selling or giving them away, it is covered under the Fair Use Act. The fact that the percentages of people that are making copies from their own DVD collection overlaps with the percentage of people that would purchase the DVD if they couldn't make a copy just means that the studios would be making a sale to the same person twice. Of course, maybe that is the whole point.

About the author:
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As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

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