Survey: DVD piracy on the rise in the UK

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A new survey suggests that DVD piracy is on the increase in the UK. Armed with a wheelbarrow of scepticism, we bring you the results from an analysis conducted by Futuresource Consulting: 36% of Brits (who responded to the survey) have copied DVDs within the last six months compared to 25% last year. In that time, an average of 22 movies were copied, including 13 new releases, and a “significant portion” of people were copying from rental and borrowed DVDs.

Here’s the kicker though: 63% of respondents admit they would have purchased (some) proper retail DVDs if they hadn’t been able to copy. Shocking, eh? That distant mewling sound is thousands of outraged content providers birthing kittens like they’re flakes of dandruff.

However, our alarm bells are ringing all over this one, not least because whenever a consulting company comes up with these figures it is usually in its very best interest to say that piracy is killing the entertainment industry.

First of all, it is interesting that Futuresource has been avoided measuring the more appealing source of piracy – Peer-to-peer filesharing. I believe that if Hollywood is ever to wake up and realise that trying to stem the piracy tide via lawsuits is doomed to failure, and that the role of disc rental is going to continue to be of huge importance to that effort. The results of this analysis look worryingly like scaremongering and risk painting legitimate disc rental services in a bad light.

Quoting from the survey itself (PDF): “In the last 6 months, what % of respondents have made copies of DVDs?” Answer: 36%.

Let’s not forget that the creation of backups of your own DVDs is an extremely grey area at the best of times, and though I believe it is technical still illegal in the UK, it is widely used for entirely personal reasons and by no means for the illegal distribution and sale of content. Incidentally, in the US a fair-use clause protects those who want to make backups.

So, a good proportion of that 36% of respondents could well be protecting themselves against damage to their very own discs.

In fact, the report even says as much: “The majority of people are copying from their own purchased DVDs”. However, as mention earlier, it also notes that “a significant proportion of people are copying from rented and borrowed titles.”

Fair enough. Clearly one of the major risks when it comes to DVD rental services is that you could happily copy everything you get sent and build up an enormous collection in no time flat. However, it does go back to the now rather weary argument that ‘you wouldn’t have bought it anyway’. Yeah, it’s an old one, but I think it’s still relevant in this case. No, you wouldn’t have actually bought all that stuff if you didn’t copy it. You probably couldn’t even afford to.

However, the survey also observes “If [copiers] had not been able to make copies of DVDs, 63% of respondents in the UK would have purchased all, some or at least a few of the titles; clearly indicating the scale of the lost revenues to the home video industry from home copying.”

I’m particularly interested in the part where it says “had not been able to make copies of DVDs”. Does that mean that if it was just impossible to copy DVDs at all, or if no rental service was available from which to copy? It is a very ambiguous question. Is this survey taking into account the revenue being generated for the content providers by the rental services? I doubt it.

Therefore, this is hardly a clear indication of revenue being lost to this practise. Yes, I’ve no doubt there are people out there stealing when they could easily be buying. But I think there’s a hell of a lot more to lose from demonising legitimate services with, at best, shaky piracy concerns.

Futuresource Consulting (via PC Advisor)

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