Is film piracy becoming more normalised?

As films like Puss in Boots: The Last Wish and Pearl are finally making their way into UK cinemas, months after being released in the US, is film piracy becoming more normalised among audiences?

Jess Bradbury
20th February 2023
Image courtesy of @Terracotta_Dist
As films like Puss in Boots: The Last Wish and Pearl are finally making their way into UK cinemas, months after being released in the US, is film piracy becoming more normalised among audiences?

We all know the infamous film piracy advert “you wouldn’t steal a car”, in fact, I’m convinced that it’s ingrained into every child's brain who grew up in the noughties. With the rise of streaming during the 2010s, the frequency in which people pirated the latest releases dropped. After all, streaming and cinemas provide audiences with a goldmine of content, whether you’re feeling a romcom, a scary film or a really niche production that was only aired once in 2007. Chances are, one of the streaming services or big cinemas will be streaming it.

But going to the cinema and subscribing to all of the available streaming platforms is not cheap by any means, especially at a time when most people are feeling the strain in their cost of living. This combined with the fact that many releases are being distributed in the US months before they are released elsewhere (I’m looking at you Pearl, which is finally getting a UK release in March) means that many people are turning towards piracy sites to watch the latest blockbusters.

Since the Covid pandemic, release dates for films on home devices have shortened, dropping from approximately 90 days to around 45. This means that it is becoming easier for people to pirate the latest releases, even if they haven’t already been filmed via shaky hand cameras in the actual cinema itself. So it’s clear that the trend won’t be slowing down anytime soon, but the real thing to dig into is the moral implications of it. At the end of the day, it is unlikely that piracy is going to hit the big guys in Hollywood, particularly when films like Avatar: The Way of the Water are making $2.17 billion at the box office. A few pirated streams are definitely not going to hurt their success and so, audiences probably don’t feel too bad about watching them on a slightly dodgy site.

But piracy can really affect independent cinema, after all these sites don’t really care if your budget was £100 or £100 million - as long as it brings them ad revenue amongst other things then these sites will continue to operate. This of course brings a barrier to local films, adding a barrier to an already difficult industry. Should audiences stop pirating films? Probably, but actually stopping the issue is complex because the practice has become so normalised.

But next time you’re thinking of pirating a film, perhaps consider going to support your local cinema instead. Newcastle has a great venue in the form of Tyneside Cinema and there’s nothing quite like supporting independent cinema compared to using a dodgy pirating site.

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AUTHOR: Jess Bradbury
English lit student with a very good talent for rambling. Twitter/IG @jessbradburyx

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