Victimless Crimes and Innocent Wrongdoers

It can be hard to argue with people about the illegality of buying rip off discs in a market or downloading films illegally online. People don’t see any real harm in it and it suits the Irish psyche of pulling a fast one and being a cute hoor. They quote Hollywood studios and rich actors earning millions and say they are just a drop in the ocean with no significance to such a huge industry.

However, tell that to the 18000 people who work in the film, TV and games business in Ireland. Tell it to the writers, directors, actors, cameramen, electricians, gaffers and other people working to put a film together and struggling to get it distributed. Tell it to the cinema workers, marketing people, distribution companies, retailers and dozens of other businesses involved in the entertainment business. For many of them the 10-20% loss of revenue to piracy is the difference between a viable business or closure.

I’ve seen huge changes in the home entertainment business I work in over the past 20 years. Originally the market was serviced by dozens of independent rental stores all around the country, renting out VHS tapes. This was followed by the development of DVD and the huge growth in retail verses rental, with people building up their own libraries of films to watch on much higher quality home cinema systems. Then the launch of Blu Ray, which is still easily the best quality format out there, followed quickly by the ongoing growth in digital sales and rental online.

During all this time I have heard the same lament from my customers, big and small. It is the effect that piracy has on the viability of their business and the difference it would make if the revenue we all lost from it went back into the business that created it. As I sit here and look around an office that once had six people working in it and now has two, I am sorry to say that I understand only too clearly how they feel and how much it hurts when a friend or neighbour boasts about how they just watched that big current cinema hit at home for free. “But sure it does no harm….”