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. The bottom line is that nothing, and I mean nothing including the supposed freebies our government suposedly gives ups like medicare and the upcoming HealthCare which will probably be a reality soon, none of it is free! You may not pay directly for it but in the end someone will pay for it one way or another.

    When you commit piracy no matter what the justification you are at minimum helping make the case for stronger content protection which means we all get shafted in the end by tougher regulations & rules. Lte me be clear about Piracy which in my mind means getting access, for free to some protected content that you would normally have to pay for. I do not consider it piracy when someone who has bought for example a DVD, finds a way to duplicate it. I firmly believe it is the right of all users who have bought something to be able tyo make as many copies or duplicates as tehy want so long as they are for that persons use only. Disc technology is to fragile (a design flaw I belieev the industry intentionally put in place to llimit a products life) to not be allowed to make a backup and more the one since a backup disc could also go bad.

    You may think you are justified in pirating something because the owner (Studio, record lable) has made gazillions off of it already like TITANIC or THE DARK KNIGHT or the LORD OF THR RINGS Triology but even in that scenario you are only providing them with ammo to make the case for tougher restrictions/access which then screws us all and is therefore not really free.

    • Sorry thought police. Piracy is ambiguous. It destroys only evil.

  2. “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.”

    I know you’re joking, but this doesn’t sound like a bad idea–as far as justice is concerned. It would never work in this world for so many reasons, but it is one of life’s greatest ironies that those who decry the unfairness of withholding compensation for artists uphold a system that is inherently unfair.

    Admittedly, the ethics are complicated. But I wouldn’t balk at someone who participates in a non-zero sum game where the companies impose artificial scarcity on an infinitely reproducible (above the initial investment), the production companies make record profits AND millions get to see the movie for free. Is it fair? Well only as fair as it is for the people who are most likely to download movies to be put in that situation in the first place. Oh you don’t have the money to see the movie? Too bad, you should have chosen better parents that would have put you in a good college so you wouldn’t have to steal movies. And you (the author) speak of fairness?

    Granted it is the marginal cases that are the most controversial–those that can pay but won’t–well this is where the industry will have to adapt and prices will have to come down and the ethics will need to be evaluated by each individual–as you would expect with an infinitely reproducible good. These issues all bring very complicated questions, but don’t kid yourself into thinking that it’s somehow universally unfair to download–that’s just a tad myopic.

  3. Unfair?

    Oh right, we should just keep rewarding people for not wanting to better themselves. What would be the incentive to get an education and get a better paying job if you know if you’re lazy and don’t work you get to see movies for free, get free living, get free food… Why work??? Screw that, I would love to do that… Sit at home on my would-be fat ass and just get things given to me by the government, sweet deal…

  4. ah….. Ken J

    Does anyone even care what he has to say. He just loves to start arguements. I bet christmas at his house is just wonderful.

  5. LOL, ah, ad hominem, thanks for basically saying “I don’t have anything to actually disprove what you’re saying, so I’m just going to throw personal insults instead.” I love that one! ;-) I’m sure your insults are completely objective and are in no way motivated by the fact that you disagree with my opinion or anything… :-D

  6. The only reason I’m replying to your comment is to just say I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the way you were raised by your parents, in raising you to be such an arguementative man. I’m sorry for the way people treated you as you grew up (I’m sure you got in a few arguements there, eh?). And finally I’m sorry for leaving comments on this site that you disagree with.

    Feel better now Ken J.

  7. HAHA, you’re hilarious dude. I love my parents and have had a great life! But thanks for caring. :-)

    (Well, don’t love my job, but that’s a different story, lol)

  8. OK, I know we disagree on a few things. ie I think movie piracy is ok given the fact that the cinema is too expensive for me.
    And you think differently. Even so, your alright. So I apologise for taking the mickey.

    All the best and have a great Christmas.

  9. It’s ok man, no need to apologize. I’m opinionated, I like to state my opinion. Some people disagree with me, I know that.

    But anyway, glad I didn’t just make another enemy. :-)

    Merry Christmas dude.

  10. I’m confused… You say that movie piracy is bad. But you say yourself that these people pirated because they deemed it unworthy of purchase for whatever reason. So, if piracy did not occur, there would simply be 2 million less views. Not 2 million views worth of more revenue.

    And how do we know that these 2 million did not already watch it at the movies? How do we know they’re NOT going to buy a dvd later? Seems like you’re confusing maximum potential with statistical norm.

    Lastly, you end with saying that the industry should adapt. That’s what the pro-pirates have been saying the whole time!!!

  11. “So, if piracy did not occur, there would simply be 2 million less views. Not 2 million views worth of more revenue.”

    Exactly, 2 million pirated views does not eqaul 2 million sales. People need to understand that whilst many people pirate stuff, they wouldn’t bother buying it if they couldn’t pirate it.

    Many people download an album, flick through it and think “oh, that one song on the radio was good, but the rest are rubbish”, and then delete and buy the one song off itunes, (or keep the one song they like, which ofc is a bit naughty).

    Movies are different to music though, in that eventually all movies end up being shown on satellite or cable, or eventually on normal TV and we can now record them and store them on devices LEGALLY.

    A lot of people, if they couldn’t download a movie illegally would say, oh well, I’ll just wait until it’s on cable or TV in a year or so.

    You could even argue that if you pay for all the movie channels with your satellite / cable provider, when you pirate a movie you’re just getting what you’re already going to get in a year a little sooner. What difference does it really make? None really, because you were NEVER going to buy it.

  12. Piracy is almost always the result of bad service. If you don’t want your movies pirated then you need to offer a service to people that can compete with the pirates out there. You will never stop movie pirating but you can offer people a much better and legal option. Something like… after 2-3 weeks in the theater, offer a way to stream the movie at home for 5-10 bucks, in HD format. I’d gladly pay that instead of sitting in a cramped stinky over-priced theater and I’d much rather pay for that HD version than d/l some s***** copy made with a hand-held camera. The internet isn’t going anywhere…. so it’s time for the movie industry to adapt. The streaming and DLC market is only going to get bigger and bigger as high-speed access grows wider and wider. Bottom line is, less people are going to drop 25 bucks (average cost for 2 ppl to visit the theater) in this economy. Threatening legal action against pirating has never, and will never be a good deterrent unless you provide them with a better option.

  13. Oh do shut up. Boo hoo the giant movie conglomerate will make a few million less than the billion they wanted. I weep for them. As for an argument that the workers won’t have work – perhaps petition so called ‘stars’ to take a pay cut from their millions and millions AND MILLIONS AND MILLIONS salaries?

  14. The problem with the anti-piracy group is that they sit on a moral high ground. Whenever someone tells them why they pirate, the anti-piracy group responds by saying its wrong no matter what. In the process, they defend the industry that causes people to commit piracy in the first place.

    Most people that pirate, don’t want to. They would rather go the legal route but it is often at the own doing of the film industry that impedes that. Forbes had a good article on this issue.

    Most people before committing piracy look at the following factors:
    Availability: is content available to purchase legally?
    Affordability: is content priced fairly?
    Accessibility: are you allowed to download content to a variety of devices
    Reliability: Are you given an unlimited amount x to redownload?
    Convenience: Does it take as long as a torrent to download?
    Integrity: Does the company deserve my money (based on answers to the previous factors).

  15. Honestly, I felt like this sugessted piracacy. Why spend 7-12 bucks and just watch the movie once when I can “Illegally” download it,watch as many as times as I want and share it to all the others? And if the people want Zombieland 2 bad enough, sooner or later supply and demand will come along and make it happen. But when it does, I’ll be waiting in the mist just watching for my chance to pirate a copy.

  16. The reason they got more money when it came out on DVD is because it’s to expensive to go to the cinemas now and then they want to moan about piracy at least the pirates watch the film.If you stop charging silly money for DVDs and cinema tickets and stop putting cinema movies in 3D people will pay until then nobody can afford it.

  17. Before I start, I’m mainly going to be talking about art films. I don’t give a s*** about the Hollywood candy bar sell-outs this post mentioned (or anything like that)

    I do reward the filmmakers. I watched the film. An artist presents a message or meaning to the film that they made. They publish the film they created and hope that someone will watch it. An individual will watch the film and that will reward both sides of the party.

    ‘Movie piracy’ (the act of obtaining a film to watch it; watching to get something meaningful from an artist’s vision) isn’t a ‘crime.’ This act does not harm anyone in anyway; it can do the complete opposite. Cinema can very so create peace in each of every one of us (however, but can also be more destructive than a missile. Hollywood crap tends to create hatred).
    The only reason why there are complaints about ‘piracy’ is because businesses (emphasis on ‘businesses’) aren’t making as much money as they would have, despite even though most of these businesses are already multimillionaires who generally don’t give a f*ck in any way about the unfortunate in this world.

    By the way, there are many films that cannot be seen in a theatrical setting and can no longer be bought from whomever is selling it, filmmakers that are deceased, etc. which means that one has no possible way to give money out to the filmmakers to “support” them. The only way to watch these kind of films is to download them, or something like that.
    Also, if I would like to give money out to the filmmakers, I would do so. There’s no question about that. I see no wrong about giving money to artists for whatever reason that may be (for example, more food on their plates, camera equipment, etc.).

  18. @Joselie: All those reasons you listed are still no excuse to pirate stuff. For example, if you feel it is priced unfairly then you simply DON’T WATCH IT. You have no right to watch it if you are unwilling to pay the price set on the free market. Same with the integrity thing. If you don’t like the company, then don’t watch their movies. The fact that you don’t like them doesn’t give you the right to pirate their stuff. If you’re not willing to pay, then you have no right to own the movie.

    • From me having pirated movies actually made the movies more money from my pocket. I would honestly say 90% of the movies i pirate because of the “ease of use”. I may want to watch a movie tonight, but oh wait, for reasons tonight i wont be able to get a copy of the movie and watch it, so ill pirate it and watch it that night.

      But i will also go out and pay up money and buy the dvd. I’ve pirated movies i probably would never have even bothered to watch and found out the movie was actually good and me wishing i can own a physical copy of the movie i cough up my money. I dont care at all for buying digital copies of movies, especially with download limits.

      For me doing what i do it has made me buy more movies than i would have originally done. My own personal experience and opinion is that pirating movies has made the movie industry more money from my wallet, which is a fact.

      Movie industries, or well ANY industry, should always adapt to the consumers, no matter what as we are the ones who pays their bills and buys their products. If you are a company that will always stay 10-15 years behind you will always be losing out on potential growth.

  19. It’s ridiculous to try and fight it in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. I took over 100 illegal copies of movies, 3 of which were still in theaters to the Lawrenceburg Police Department for them to prosecute the Hughes family for selling pirated films. The police department refused to make a report and told me to take the movies and leave. They told me if I didn’t like pirated movies, don’t bring them into my home. They refused to do anything at all about the sellers. How can anyone be expected to report people if the police turn a blind eye to the thieves and the people distributing the illegal copies?

  20. This is a test post to see if this is the type of blogger who manually approves comments to ensure that they agree with his point of view. Or disagree sloppily and in so doing strengthen his point.

  21. Alright. So this blog is dumb and I’m going to explain why, point by point.

    All the quotes (and comments by this blog’s author) describe bit torrent as a platform. It is not a platform. It is a protocol. There is streaming, ftp, http, bittorrent, a bunch of other peer-to-peer protocols, a bunch of other direct-download protocols. Etc. It is nothing more than an algorithm by which data is sent from one computer to another. It in itself is not illegal or unethical or any other negative term you care to throw at it.

    You imply that “marketing in promotion” are fees on top of the stated budget. This is completely false. Either you know nothing about movie production or you are a liar. The fact of the matter is that marketing costs are included in that budget. The triple return means that the movie had a solid 200% profit. There is no question that the studios would be happy to create a sequel.

    If you look at piracy statistics you find they correlate with success. In other words, the most pirated media is generally the most successful.

    You implied that it would take 7-12 minutes to download it illegally. But you only said this because in the preceding clause of the same sentence, you’d described the price of movie admission as being in the range of $7 – $12. You did this to try to make the sentence seem clever. That was dishonest and everyone noticed it and hated you for it. I don’t hate you. I think you are too simple minded to be worth that type of emotion. But I know the majority of people who read this wanted to kill you in real life. Can’t blame them :)

    Stealing is stealing. That is correct. You are incredibly clever for realizing that something is itself. That’s quite an amazing insight.

    On a COMPLETELY unrelated note. (since it is a relevant point and your statement that stealing is stealing has no relevance whatsoever) Stealing is not always wrong. Would you steal a loaf of bread to save your family if the alternative was them starving? It’s a moral philosophy problem and the solution is generally obvious, despite creating a contradiction. The only reason a contradiction occurs is because of this unstated axiom that stealing is always wrong. False. I feel no shame at stealing media from companies/actors/studios/etc. that make hundreds of millions of dollars, producing trash half the time. When I see someone making 1000 times what they’re worth, I take pleasure in stealing from them.

    Finally, if they don’t make a sequel, it will be for one reason: to stick it to pirates and try to teach them a lesson.

    No lesson will be learned.

    We pirates will continue to pirate everything we can get our hands on which includes shows movies games animes music books applications etc. We will do it with a clear conscience and we will NEVER stop.

    In the end this is the lesson the studio will teach: the studio will teach ITSELF that failing to produce a cash cow to teach pirates a lesson only results in said studio failing to make all that green from said cash cow.

    Stew over this a bit. You’re a simpleton so it will take you a LONG time to see that I’m right.

    And while you’re thinking it over, I will completely forget you exist and torrent a sh*tton more media :)

    • wht if i told you that i have a solution to prevent movie piracy i every country .,., and it will also tell that this movie is download by which theaters, in which country and what time

  22. All that needs to be done is have a lead time in place. Allow the movies to be available for download after they are out of the theatres. They can charge for advertising on the torrent hubs. It’s theft only when the creators/distributes say it is..if they share it, it suddenly becomes a very good thing. Instead of a claim of theft it becomes a claim of love, of gifting. Don’t these big producers/distributes love their audience? They can create hype around being the movie goers and the one who’s with it and has seen it all..What about csr for these big shots? Or just a real gesture.

    • “Profiteering” and “piracy” should not go together. File sharing is not a problem to be solved per se, but only the author should be allowed to earn money off of it.

      This means that anyone running a torrent site will have to pay server costs out of his/her own pocket, without so much as a ‘donate’ button, much less adverts. Currently torrent sites aren’t set up this way, so they should be cut off from their revenue sources by various means. The only torrent sites remaining will be those run by people genuinely interested in sharing.


      Wow an actual rational debate that isn’t “you won’t steal a car”. Why did it take me this long to find it? …Oh, right, MPAA/RIAA propaganda.

  23. hi there i have a solution too prevent movie piracy the only probmlem is that i am a master chief from halo ring sence i am from the future that means barowing ufo technolgies from non human non earth species its callled block internet at theaters or make them pay full tiket price too download

  24. Hollywood won’t change. They’re at the top of the bell curve. Lower the price, and the new buyers still won’t make the same profit. Raise the price, and the loss of buyers will lose profit. Hollywood is making the maximum profits that it can in this economy. They’re only making an issue in the hope that the gov can force just a few more to buy their products.

    • I get the impression that you have no clue what a normal distribution is.. or how it is shaped.

  25. The day actors stop getting paid 30 million for a film and studios start charging reasonable prices for a movie—like, no more than 6 bucks a film and 3 for a matinee–is the day I’ll give a rat’s furry rear about the “poor” movie industry’s bottom line regarding piracy. I can’t feel sorry for anyone who charges exhorbinant prices for movies of which the majority are garbage. Actors are overpaid, studio execs, producers, directors, etc.–are all overpaid. I’ve got no sympathy for any of them, and using the excuse of “it’s the little guy at the bottom, i.e. gaffers, best boys, etc., that get screwed” as a way to try and make people care is nothing but a load. The big studios don’t give a rat’s about the “little people”. It’s all about the greed. Too bad, so sad.

  26. Download whatever you want. Except for the asshole executives and top talent everyone else I’m the industry is forced to get by with sub par wages and the satisfaction of knowing they worked on a fantastic POS like Bad Teacher or some or sh*t.

    • precisely. most people are anti-piracy because anti-piracy propaganda has been shoved down their throats and they buy it like they buy everything (including the media which i happily steal)

  27. Another 15-20 bucks is another 15-20 bucks…we aren’t all rich here.

  28. While I agree with the statements regarding the success of the first movie dictating the possibility of a sequel; we also need to consider the bad movies. A movie company can release a movie that is garbage and use creative previews to encourage people tp see it, but when the moviegoer finds out how bad the movie is they have no avenue to get a refund. So the movie companies dont even need to produce quality movies and can still make their money. Their needs to be a common ground. Perhaps movie companies could allow people to pay a few dollars to download a movie legally, or screen it online. People will still use cinemas for most movies but they would have this option for movies they are less confident about.