To Steal or Not to Steal?

Media piracy is everywhere. You have heard about what illegal downloading has done to the music industry, and you know that you can find ways to pirate movies and TV shows fairly easily. The MPAA, film studios, and record companies complain loudly about the money they are losing because of illegal downloading.  So what, you might say? A large media company loses a few dollars here and there—they’ll never miss it! However, as piracy grows, there is another way of looking at this issue: What is the human cost of piracy?  While this is not a matter of life and death, the stakes are high nonetheless.

In media centers like Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago, hundreds of thousands of people are employed by the industry (MPAA fact sheet). This includes people who work directly on a CD, film, or TV show as well as agents, costume designers and everyone who works in post-production. While living in Los Angeles I have met families where two or three members are employed in the media business. Needless to say, the media industry is an important part of the American economy.

I am working at a media post-production quality control facility in Los Angeles and piracy is a significant concern for us. Security is a top priority and something that is on everyone’s mind. The facility has security cameras inside and out, employees are given badges that will only open specific doors depending on their level of clearance. When movies or TV shows are being worked on the disks are checked out of a vault with a record kept of when and who checked it out. There are no windows close to workstations in the building and most other windows are kept covered. The MPAA actually inspects the building every few years and certifies it as a safe location.

The more piracy grows, the less money media companies make, and the fewer people they are able to hire to work on projects. This means, crews, audio engineers, gaffers, mixers, editors, promoters and everyone else across the industry will have an even harder time finding a job (AFL-CIO fact sheet). The security measures mentioned above may seem excessive but they are common for facilities that handle content for major productions. No one at my company complains about the security or would consider pirating content because they know their jobs depend on studios earning a lot of money.

The MPAA and the rest of the media industry may be fighting a losing battle. Technology to encrypt disks and files is evolving, but so is the technology to get around the encryption. The more prevalent piracy becomes the more jobs will be lost and certain facilities, such as the one I’m working at, will become less relevant. Will the battle rage on, or will the media content industries adopt a new business model?

– Amelia M. Torre

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