Thursday, 6 September 2007

Avast Me Hearties!

You pay the money, you put the disc in, and the first thing that you are confronted with is a really annoying advert/announcement that video piracy is bad.

Now, let’s get a few things straight here – Monkey Pipe is not pro-piracy; from a purely consumer point of view, the idea of spending money on something of such inferior quality just to “see it” seems anachronistic in a day and age of downloads, multi-regions and cheap air travel, plus it can be irritating having to fend off malnourished Asian men while trying to read the paper and drink a coffee in peace (asking if someone has a copy of Star Wars: Episode Seven is only funny so many times) – Monkey Pipe does however balk slightly at the notion of piracy of films being seen as such a heinous crime as to warrant an unlimited fine and prison sentence.

“You wouldn’t steal a handbag!” The infom-ert asks as a guitar screams out and tricksy camera angles flash about in a cheap recreation of bullet-time.

Hang on – I bought this DVD, legitimately, paid hard cash for it. Why are they trying to guilt me into not buying something that I haven’t bought? Why aren’t these commercials on the pirate DVD’s that I have seen? (For the record I saw a copy of King Kong at someone’s house once – the quality was so bad that at first I thought it was the 1930’s black and white one, and then became convinced that it was actually an 1880’s version that no one had hitherto seen, before settling on being convinced that someone had actually videoed someone playing Donkey Kong on their phone and was now selling copies of it).

“You wouldn’t punch an old woman in the stomach!” The inform-ert shouts out.

It’s a little presumptive as well, I note. It’s not asking if you would commit this other series of in-no-way comparable to pirating a film crimes, it’s actually telling you that you wouldn’t.

“You wouldn’t set fire to an orphanage during a drought!”

Now here’s the thing, the film industry has to take some responsibility for this too. If they insist on catering to the lowest common denominators, if they insist on distributing films in a manner that sees them getting less and less return but having to pay more and more to produce, then they need to think about what they are doing. If they, and the entertainment business in general, seem to think that it’s okay to use lesser formats and think that the prosumers won’t notice, and then complain that the consumers are not playing fair, then they need to think about what they are doing. Piracy is a big crime, losing studios millions, they say. Yeah, two words – Adam Sandler.

The spectacle of cinema is dying, with every film that is shot on low format, or looks more like a computer game, then the happier people are to accept films on smaller screens or lower quality. I’m pretty sure that reality television can be blamed for something here, and probably, in England at least, Thatcher.

Ultimately there should be some respect afforded from both sides here. Remember the spectacle of watching “making of” programmes on television when a film came out? It showed the work that went into making a film. Don’t save those just for the blasted DVD that you want us to buy! Now days anyone with a camera-phone and a Mac thinks they are Spielberg, remind us that this isn’t true! And respect the audience! I can guarantee that there were more pirate copies of Spider-Man 3 or Transformers watched than of say Good Night and Good Luck or Zodiac.

And for goodness sake, lose that patronising, loud and completely misplaced in its tone anti-piracy campaign.

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