Escaping Davy Jones' Locker: How the Motion Picture Industry Can Stop Digital Piracy Without Unnecessary Litigation

Robert H. Wright


Contrary to popular belief, motion picture piracy is not a modern phenomenon.

2 Indeed, Hollywood studios have been engaged in a continuous battle against pirates ever since theatres began showing films in the late nineteenth century.3 One of the earliest methods of motion picture piracy, for example, was the “bicycling of prints,” a practice by which a theatre operator would literally transport film reels between multiple theatres by bicycle to avoid the cost of licensing reels for each.4 With the advent of the Internet, however, the rate of motion picture piracy has increased exponentially. While truly measuring the extent of such illegal activity is impossible, recent estimates by the Motion Picture Association of America (“MPAA”) suggest that somewhere between 300,000 and 350,000 motion pictures are illegally downloaded from the Internet every day.5 With Hollywood studios already losing four billion dollars in potential profits each year to analog piracy,6 the continuous growth of digital piracy threatens the very existence of the motion picture industry. It is no surprise, then, that industry trade organizations like the MPAA are now feverishly searching for an effective way to address the problems posed by digital piracy.

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