Why Movie Piracy IS Bad (And What To Do About It)

Published 5 years ago by , Updated June 4th, 2014 at 10:09 am,

hbo header Why Movie Piracy IS Bad (And What To Do About It)

We here at  Screen Rant recently took notice of a post over at Shock Til You Drop referring to a Twitter-based message from Rhett Reese, writer of the recent horror/comedy  Zombieland, in which Reese claimed that a Zombieland sequel is now a questionable endeavor, largely due to the film’s current status as “the most pirated movie on bit torrent.”

Here are the numbers behind that statement: Zombieland‘s current worldwide earnings – according to Box Office Mojo – approximate to about $85 million, more than tripling the movie’s $23.6 million production budget. Looking at figures like that, a sequel should be a no-brainer, right?

If only it was that simple…

Here’s the message that Reese posted on his Twitter page:

“Zombieland currently the most pirated movie on bit torrent. Over one million downloads and counting.”

That tweet was quickly followed by this ominous statement:

“Beyond depressing. This greatly affects the likelihood of a Zombieland 2.”

The bottom line: it only matters to certain degree that Zombieland earned triple its production budget; when you factor in marketing in promotion, that margin gets a lot slimmer and really, in the end, studios watch the much-lauded bottom line to measure how well their films have done. To guarantee a Zombieland 2, Sony was no doubt looking for Zombieland 1 to crack the triple-digit millions – a feat the film should’ve easily accomplished, if those one million people sitting at their computers had decided to drop 7-12 bucks to see the film in theaters, instead of 7-12 minutes downloading it illegally.

And now the fate of Zombieland 2 hangs in the balance, and that just SUCKS.


The movie piracy debate isn’t new. Since someone first came up with the bright idea of hooking up two VCRs to record their rented videotapes, movie piracy has been a rampant crime. With the Internet and digital filming/editing came the chance to get a movie in one’s hands before said movie ever even made it into theaters. I highly doubt that many (if any) of us can claim 100% angelic behavior if pressed about our history with illegal downloads (or streaming services), but I think this Zombieland case is one where we are now seeing clear, indisputable evidence of the damage that piracy can cause.

dvd piracy 03b Why Movie Piracy IS Bad (And What To Do About It)

And yes, we’ve already heard all the “reasonable” arguments for piracy – in fact, we here at Screen Rant hosted an epic debate about the subject just this past spring, when a early, rough-cut of X-Men Origins: Wolverine was rampantly pirated by the online community. Our stance was and is this: “We at Screen Rant will never support this kind of behavior…” Stealing is stealing (or so WE think), no matter how hard you want to argue the point.

To be fair, here are the most comment arguments for piracy: Movies are too expensive these days; lack of etiquette amongst movie audiences can ruin the theatrical experience; movie marketing is often so misleading that it could be considered stealing; or (my personal fav) the time-tested “I’m just one person, I’m not hurtin’ anybody,” defense. We’ve heard it all…

IMHO, the bottom line is that most often, people pirate movies they want to see – or, at the very least, movies they “kinda want to see” (read: see, but not pay to see). But no matter how they try to quantify it, some degree of desire or interest must exist for people to even bother downloading a film. Of the percentage of people who do choose to illegally download a flick, a certain percentage (sometimes over 50% I’d say) actually enjoy the film – they reap the pleasure of a good movie without ever rewarding those who worked so hard to entertain them. Doesn’t sound fair, does it?

zombieland header Why Movie Piracy IS Bad (And What To Do About It)

Worse yet: if you do enjoy a film like Zombieland, don’t you want to see Zombieland 2 get made? Of course you do. But how will that happen if the movie doesn’t make enough money to convince the studio suits that a sequel is worth making??? Your movie ticket money isn’t just throwaway capital – often it is the measuring stick for how the ever-shifting landscape of cinema will shape itself next. If studios don’t think films like Zombieland are what audiences want (And we do! Really, we do!) then what we’re going to get instead is something we DON’T want. And if I have to watch eight more Saw movies because of some misinterpreted low profits caused by piracy, needless to say, I’m going to be PO’d!

Of course, the piracy issue isn’t going to just vanish, so what can we do to make both movie goers and movie makers equally happy in the future?

Keep reading pg. 2…

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TAGS: Zombieland
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  1. “Now, imagine a world when you see a friend has a new iPhone and you want it, and you magically clone it, with no cost, would that be wrong? Illegal perhaps, but not wrong, in fact it’d be wonderful”

    Yes, it would be wonderful until so many were cloned and so few sold that the company no longer saw any profit in creating new models and therefore stopped doing it.


  2. @Vic

    Stuck in the office all day today…Yawn!…Boring!…Ah! BUT from the corner of my eye a great analogy.

    Clear, sensible logic.

    Too bad so many people have a self centered notion for instant gratification.

  3. LOL. (read this with that movie announcers voice): in a world where wrong is almost non-existent, humanity struggles on blindly, trying to make sense of why.

  4. “Yes, it would be wonderful until so many were cloned and so few sold that the company no longer saw any profit in creating new models and therefore stopped doing it.”

    Which is exactly why I said a new way of thinking would be necessary.

  5. @Mycroft

    True, you did say that. And those systems of government have always looked great on paper and failed miserably in execution (<- no pun).


  6. @Vic

    I’m not sure what you mean by that, but if something has failed something else should be tried, and that is why I said a NEW way of thinking, meaning that hasn’t been tried before.

    I want to clear out that I’m not saying it’s absolutely fine to download movies, but I think going to jail for it is absurd, and I don’t find the “cinema being too far” excuse as a valid one, I’m talking about cases when the movie isn’t even out in theatres and when buying the DVD requires you to be rich, and I should note that in some cases it has nothing to do with the company releasing them but the stores re-selling them, who literally steal with the law on their side.

  7. I think what Mycroft is getting at is that when you are in the position where all options for legally obtaining some type of content (be it a video or music or whatever) is not available to you is it then a clear case of theft when you download the content because the contents owner will not make legal download an option for you or some outside force (namely the government) prevents the contents owner from making it avaiable. For example in China where everything is filtered, is it really theft for a citizen to download an unpaid copy of a movie that is not made avaiable to them in any other manner because of their country?

    The answer is Yes. It is still theft. What is however not as clear is what you do about if you are the owner of the content. It is unfortunately not always a simple answer of Guilty or Not Guilty.

  8. @Mycroft

    What’s “failed?” when it comes to the movie industry? Who has to be “rich” to watch a movie on DVD? Geez, it’s what, $4 to rent it? Less?

    Problem is everyone thinks they’re entitled to everything today. Maybe soon we’ll have legislation for “movie viewer rights” and force companies to let folks under a certain income level into theaters for free or be given new releases on DVD without having to pay for them.

    But then, I get the feeling you probably wouldn’t see anything wrong with that (not being snarky here, just making a statement based on your past statements).


  9. Vic,
    I think I know what the problem is… we have ethics. Damnit. I hate when that happens. It gets in the way all too often.

  10. Sorry Vic, but that was very snarky you can’t even deny that one.

  11. @Daniel

    Uh, no, I wasn’t being snarky. Based on previous comments that’s what I figure his opinion would be.

    You should know me well enough by now to realize that if I’m going to be snarky I don’t hide behind anything. 8)


  12. Mycroft: What an incredibly awesome insight to what folks have to deal with outside of the U.S.. Thanks. That was enlightening.

  13. Man, this is still going on??!! If you all keep this up, you will beat the Star Trek Review thread. 😛

  14. You do realize this is one viced circle where no end is in site? Movies cost a lot to make (for the most part), which makes DVD’s and movie tickets rather expensive, which makes, like BlueCollarCritic point out, the means for legally obtaining them not accesible universally, which is why there is illegal downloading for a lot of places (I’ve lost count as to how many of my friends have told me “Dude, they’re not gonna bring it here, I must see it, so I downloaded it, big deal”), which means less profits for a movie (at least worldwide), which means the prices will go up… and so on.

    Yes, a new business model is needed. That’s why or at least one of the reasons Google became one of the biggest companies in the world, because they learned a new business model. But again, there’s also an artistic and social aspect that I don’t know if people have been considering. Not everybody can afford a HUGE TV set and hook it up to the Internet so you have as close an experience to the movie theater as possible. And all movies –except the direct to DVD’s– are MEANT to be watched in a big screen with a group of people. But no, then comes the “it’s too far away”, “people are a*holes in the theater”, “I don’t like crowds”. Seriously, people, the Internet has made agoraphobic hermits out of the lot of you. Or, sadly, it’s become too unsafe to go out (my country’s case), which is another problem. But man, why has HOME become better movie-watching place than the movie theater?

    This is far, far, FAr away from over. And sorry if I ranted there. (But hey, it IS Screen Rant, right?) 😉

  15. One last thing: @Mycroft has the same issues I have, as we’re both in Latin America. But he’s much less of a purist than I am, which is OK, I don’t think he’s the bad guy (I just disagree with some of the things you said). I want to ask you hermano (soy de Venezuela), if the laws in your country were actually enforced, do you think we’d be having this conversation? I say Creative Commons, man…

  16. @Bruce Simmons:

    I suppose that was sarcasm, which I don’t see the point of since you didn’t even make a point at all.

    @Juan Carlo:
    It is pretty unsafe here too, but regrdless of that, I love the whole experience of going to the movies. Sure, the popconrs and drinks are twice the cost of the ticket, the kids can start crying in the middle of the movie, the screen might not be big enough as you expected, and a huge list of etceteras, but I put up with it.
    My personal problem is as I mentioned before, things like Thrist, which I would be willing to pay a high price to go see in theatres, but it’ll simply never happen.

  17. @JCR:
    “EVERY movie downloaded is money that not only doesn’t go to the studios, it makes the creators less inspired to make them, as this article and the Wolverine one has made clear.”

    And yet the “part 2s” continue to flow.

    So if I download a movie I would NEVER see in a theater or on DVD just to sample 15 mins of to see if it is bad as they say it is is that ok?

    Yes outside the US it is worse and THAT is why the studios lose money. A crappy quality on that table of a street vendor for $6 as opposed to paying $20 for it? In a country that may not even be allowed to show it.

  18. @Mycroft I vouch for Bruce, he’s a cool guy whom I’ve never spoken to. I think he was being honest, given how much I don’t know him. (Hey Bruce!) 😉

    Seriously, yes, I feel the same about THIRST (and for FANTASTIC MR. FOX, although there’s more of a chance with it). And you don’t have to deal with the curency exchange control we deal with here (you’re only allowed to spend a certain amount of foreign currency each year, and it applies to exports, which includes movies). I think it should end with copyrights being drastically modified, and movies being able to open EVERYWHERE the same day, only being delayed by the adding of suntitles. That day, mis amigos, will be a glorious day indeed.

  19. @Mycroft
    Is your name from the Seaquest TV series? That name was used by a hacker played by the same actor who plays Tuvok from Trek: Voyager. Just wondering.

  20. @Aknot So true, that applies for the single in movies. But if you’re only going to watch the 15 minutes, shouldn’t the trailers suffice? If not, there are the reviews, the early buzz, the experience you have with the actor(s) or filmakers, etc.

    I’m glad we agree on the street vendor bit. And yes, it’s hard for us purists (me? am I alone in the outside-of-the-US world to refuse to buy bootlegs or to wait for a movie on the theater?) to resist the temptation to watch a movie that may never show in local theaters. But I’m thinking big picture: while the costs to show the dang thing keep being a deterrent, and piracy is a HUGE part of that, the movies will keep not being shown. (And bootlegs will continue, prices will go up, and on and on.)

  21. I meant for the single in MUSIC in my last comment.

  22. Nope as the trailer is usually some of the best parts of a movie. You know the way they get you into the theater…when the movie is crud.

    Usually (least for me) 70% of an album if not more is not worth it anyway.

    I believe (as I said, and no it doesnt make it right just doesnt hurt the movie business as much as everyone says it does) most people DL it and then see it one way or another. I DO DL movies on occasion… yet I dont put them on DVDs and drop them in my collection.

    From that I make my decision if it is worth my time to go to the theater, buy on DVD or rent it, or not watch it at all.

    Case in point i just rented and watched Let the right 1 in and Timecrimes… Everyone tohught they were the cats meow… I should have DL them and saved my 4.99 each. Yet someone got my money for what I thought was crap. So whos fault is it that the LTL1in was crap? Who should I not support to show my displeasure…. wont matter…

  23. Hey Juan Carlo Rodríguez! Thanks for the vouch.

    Um, MyCroft… He’s right. No sarc intended. I found what you had to say about the processes outside the U.S. enlightening. Not everyone here is on the attack bud.

  24. @MyCroft

    Didn’t know you were outside the US, I’m speaking about here. Plenty of people without the hardships who still download without paying.

    I *do* think they need a new system – seems to me the music industry has done quite well after they went through their free downloading birth pains. Of course it’s not exactly equivalent.

    And I don’t think you’re a bad guy at all – you’re the sort of commenter we welcome here: well spoken, intelligent and polite. I don’t have a problem with opposing opinions as long as the debate is civil. :)


  25. @Bruce: Oh, I apologize then, I was a bit deffensive.

    @Juan Carlo: You’re right about that, and it’d be even better if DVD’s didn’t have to go through so many taxes, which happens here not because of the movie industry but because of our government. Let’s not even mention Blu-ray discs…
    I can’t say much about music since I’m a musician myself, and while I’m not much into contemporary popular music I believe that good music should be “open source”, and I know that if I composed something worth listening to I wouldn’t have a problem with people listening for free. On the other hand, if I had to sell it, I would make sure it is worth the price.

    @John Taylor: Sorry, no, I don’t even know that show. Mycroft is the name of Sherlock Holmes’ brother.

    @Vic: That I agree with, when I see the prices of DVD’s there I cannot understand why wouldn’t anyone buy them.

    As for a new system, in a way both artistically and to attract people to the theatres I think stuff like Avatar can help, at least until everyone has their own 3D cinema in their living rooms.

    To wrap this up, and now that someone has mentioned Let the Right One In, I want to say that I read about that film about 3 months ago, saw that it was from Sweden and from last year and didn’t even think about it, I downloaded it, watched it, loved it. I even downloaded it a second time with better quality and a week after I had rewatched it, I see in the newspaper that it was out on theatres. I couldn’t believe it, and tomorrow I will spend all the money I have in my wallet to go see it. If I didn’t know it’s so good I probably wouldn’t go. So there you go, an example when piracy can actually help pushing people into the cinemas.

    And thanks for that welcoming :)

  26. What I find fascinating/funny is that your all/mostly/kinda arguing behind the righteous perspective of “Online Piracy” yet have any of you awakened to the fact that file sharing and a free internet is the root of your evil ??? The very same free platform/medium (Screen Rant) we all ultimately converse on ???
    I leave with this,,, if things continue to stay the course the movie studios will survive (wheeew! what a friken relief!?!), the online piracy issues will be forcibly resolved and the free internet of today will be a distant memory…
    It seems that’s what some of you (unconsciously) want anyway, write posts about the “Evils of Piracy”,,,?
    Oh the stigmata, let the global restrictions commence so the studios can maximize their profits. Lord knows their hurting for cash,,, 😉
    To Steal or not to Steal, that’s the question Kofi,,? To feel good now or to feel bad later that’s the answer,,,

  27. Well you know what, I find it funny that I could probably make money rather than write and read about someone else’s self righteous indignation or someone’s complaints of poverty, like they were the only one to ever grow up poor. If you can’t support the infrastructure, why are buying TV’s, DVD players, computers or burning electricity to use them? Sell that useless stuff and invest the money from the proceeds somehow. Try a little business, grow a garden and sell vegetables, whatever. You want to be entertained get together with friends and play cards. That’s what we use to do. Today their are all kinds card games, even ones that for example, simulate other games, like American football. Why not bring friends together and write your own fictional stories or read a book. If your under forty you should be focusing all your time to advancing yourself. Whether it be spiritually, monetarily, physically, mentally, socially. If your past 40 and your wondering how your going to pirate the latest movie, you’ve got bigger problems than where your next bit of entertainment is coming from! Be grateful for what you have rather than covetous of what you don’t. I don’t sit around wishing I had Bill Gates money. I’m grateful that I don’t have to face the grind everyday at my age. I worked to achieve that. Some of you youngsters should give a little more thought to that, when you wake up in the morning and get to moving about that your joints aren’t stiff and aching. That you had 8 hours sleep and you still don’t feel rested. That you can’t do anything as well as you use to. That your passing blood when using the toilet or your side and stomach hurts when you eat certain things, stand up or walk too long. Imagine having the continued grind of earning a living and feel like your mom, dad, or grandparents? Is that how you want to spend the golden years as they call them? Wake up and get your priorities straight…

  28. @OldMan

    NOTE: The belos is a generalization and not meant to imply every person of an age range falls into the belowdescription. Every generation has it’s group of exceptions so if you are 30 and under please don;t assume I am including you unless you do fit the description.

    Amen OldMan! Weel put!

    I myself will be leaving my 30’s and entering the 40 next year and I already can sympathize with much of what you say. I believe my generations (those around 40 +/- 3-5 years) are the last or close to the last to have any measurable number of those who don;t believe they are owed something by the world and that you gotta work for what you get and that no you aren’t owed your own Reality TV Show. We also don;t believe our lives are all so important that everyone needs top know what we are doing minute by minute via Twitter. I use Twitter and have been for sevarl months and if I have ‘tweeted’ more then a dozen times I’d be suprised. I also have kept my followers & following list to less then a dozen b/c I’m not interested in every spammer following me so as to increase my follwers count.

    Sadly it seems that is what the current Highschool agee +/- 5-10 year range group seems to believe; that they are owed something and deserve whatever they want. Just the other day my wife was watching Dr Phill (or Dr ‘Fill-good-then-bad-then-good-again’ as I call him) show and he had on it several early 30 somethings who fit the description above and it was so sad to see these kids talk and act like they deserved something they had not worked for. One guy, who clearly acted and looked like he could really go places if he applied himself, was working connecctions by dating the daughters of those people in connected positions in the industry he was shooting for.

    I have 2 daughters and if I found a guy doing that I don’t care if he is the next Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Einstein, I’m kiccking his butt out and he is not going to get anywhere with my company.

    • @bluecollarcritic

      Thats not really fair and it’s a stereotype of people in my age bracket.

      Yes theres a lot of people of this age who cant see past themselves to better themselves but im pretty certain that was true of your generation too!

      i came from a very poor background, very quickly realised it wasnt what you knew but who you knew, dropped out of uni and worked my way up the ladder and at 28 im 1 step away from becoming a director

      We arent all lazy and we dont all need things handed to us, if you want something you have to go and get it yourself

      going back to the issue. Movies on DVD/Blu ray are just too expensive to justify buying. As soon as the industry wakes up and realises they are holding on to an outdated business model that does not actually cater to the way the current generation uses content they will see piracy rates drop significantly