Downloading movies, nothing legal about it!

I guess it was Judd Apatow’s ‘The 40 Year Old Virgin’ that got me into downloading movies from the internet. It was since I missed the movie when it was released in the city and there were only a few options left anyways - buy the original disc, wait until HBO telecasts it or just download it online.

Since I’m not someone callous enough to deprive the producers of their royalty by not buying the original CD, I decided to hunt for The 40 Year Old Virgin and did find, quite unsurprisingly, from the stores in the city that seemingly stock almost all the existing titles on planet earth. But it came at a price. That it almost made me pop my eyes out.

Shelling out 600 bucks for a movie (on DVD) that would have otherwise cost me a mere 70 had I watched it in the theatre didn’t make any sense to me. Besides, I’m not much of a VCD person. The disc changing business in VCD can be quite irksome. Most of the times, the first

disc decides to stop midway of the movie jarringly indicating the end of its capacity. And if you are watching the movie at the comfort of your laptop in your bed, most of the times you would be tempted to just go to sleep rather than taking the pain to change the disc. That’s the case with me anyways.

Buying pirated discs is another thing, but my moral workbook holds that act in much lower ranks so I decided to skip that option altogether.

That said, I resorted to the easily available next option – downloading them online. Thus started the spree of movie downloads, old and new, often yet to be released in India, most times missed while they played for a measly period at the theatres. BitTorrent has opened up an online treasure trove of movies for me, not only English movies, a whole lot of excellent foreign language movies that are otherwise either unavailable for buying or not screened anywhere (be it at a theatre or television).

The legality of BitTorrent is largely disputable and there are controversies over the usage of BitTorrent trackers. There is widespread opinion that since the BitTorrent metafiles do not store copyrighted data, they are not illegal. This goes on to say that while sharing itself is not illegal, it is the use and further distribution of the material that breaches the law in many jurisdictions. Besides, according to a recent estimation, the torrent exchange accounted anywhere from 27 to 55% of the world’s internet traffic.

While the torrent sharing is hugely popular, there are no two ways about it not affecting the business of movies. For instance, a full-length DVD-quality workprint of the latest X-Men movie, X-Men Origins: Wolverine was leaked online and was downloaded an approximate 5 million times before the movie actually hit the screens. The fact that the movie had some awesome graphics and visual effects that can only be enjoyed in big screen did not stop people from downloading it.

Notorious gossip reporter Roger Friedman lost his job at the Fox News for reviewing the film using the leaked version before the movie released and his article was removed from the website subsequently. All this amounted to Wolverine underperforming in some markets as well during its opening weeks although it ended up grossing about $363.1 million in worldwide collections.

Since Hollywood movies have a worldwide market, such torrent downloads either leaked before the movie’s release or after it, only creates little more than a dent in the movie’s business unlike Indian movies that have a lesser command in the market. Much worse in the case of regional movies that has very less business potential than English and Hindi movies.

That is where I took the stance – download movies only if they are not accessible by any other means. And yes. All the cinema halls in the city are accessible to me anyways.

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