Horror Debates: Is Pirating/Bootlegging Killing Horror?

The Horror Blogger Alliance is happy to present the first in what will hopefully be a long series of ongoing debates between members! Once again, the rules are only to be respectful, thoughtful, and to meet a 500 word limit for all fairness. Up first, B-Movie Becky from The Horror Effect and Venoms5 from Cool Ass Cinema will be taking on the following topic:

Is Pirating/Bootlegging Killing Horror?

"Yes" Venoms5:

I feel pirating, and or bootlegging does hurt horror, or any other genre for that matter. However, I feel it does far more to cripple the smaller companies than it does the big studios. The smaller DVD companies know in advance that their product caters to a limited audience. The appeal of some acquisitions will vary from one title to the next, but still, the newer releases are what most people, ie the mainstream audience, want to see.

The smaller outfits also have less chance of turning a profit versus a giant like Warner Brothers. For every obscure title they release, they will more than make up for it with a blockbuster hit such as THE DARK KNIGHT. These smaller companies generally have lower print runs which is why a lot of the titles are sometimes over $20 for a purchase. Torrents and pirates take away a portion of the pie due to the individuals who worked hard to get their releases to the already small number of fans that want them.

The bigger outfits can afford to take a loss here and there when they're going to move over a million units or more of a popular title(s). Bootleggers tapping into the bigger market is going to make a small dent, but this indenture is going to seriously cripple, if not mortally wound the little guys. So many great DVD companies have fallen over the last few years. Bootlegging isn't totally to blame, but it's clearly a problem, not just in America, but all over the world.

Furthermore, the bootleggers aren't totally at fault here. People buy them. They want them and don't care if their favorite film gets a legit stateside release. Then when there's no more releases, the "fans" complain. Sure, there's a select amount of buyers who are ignorant to what they are buying, but they don't know what they have in their hands is an unauthorized, non licensed release. They just buy it because it's what they want and it's cheap, too. If you were to place a bootleg (say $7) next to the legit release (say $15) on a shelf in a store, an interested or curious buyer is likely to take the cheaper one.

Because of pirating, there are a great many exploitation, horror (insert genre here), titles that will in all likelihood never see the light of a DVD player because of a number of contributing factors. The guy at home with two DVD players and or his trusty computer being one of them.

"No" B-Movie Becky:

There is a misconception that anti-piracy and copyright legislation are focused on the interests of filmmakers. However, they have become mechanisms of controlling the entertainment industry. Since nearly all the media in the U.S. is managed by a handful of companies, their lobbying power ensures their ability to control the type of media consumed. It also provides these major conglomerates a means of prosecuting individuals and artists. Not only do small violations add up to a large number in fines, but fear of prosecution adds to the atmosphere of control that is desired, creating an inevitable chilling effect on speech and ultimately, fewer means of expression. In the horror genre, the more options and the more access to different types of films, the better the genre will become.

Piracy-related loss is an industry scapegoat. Hollywood allocates more and more money to Blockbusters, consolidating studios to create mega motion pictures instead of moderately-budgeted films. “[S]ince it takes a much smaller audience to support a profitable lower-budget release, these films often focus on a relatively small demographic” (i.e. horror fans) and as a result, “the content and themes of independent movies provide a much broader spectrum of characters and issues than one finds from movies that cost $150 million to make and must be viewed…by tens of millions of consumers to return a profit.”1 The industry’s own practices are not even considered a factor in their alleged losses. Surely if internet piracy were as great of an issue as claimed, then box office numbers should give us some indication of an impact. However, they show no such trend and, if anything, show the opposite.

I believe that one of the reasons the film industry continues to succeed, despite piracy, is the growth of independent films hitting the box office as a result of an overall transformation into the digital culture. Niche audiences (dedicated horror fans) will ultimately pay to see the movies they want. Independent and foreign horror filmmakers will benefit from the exposure, fan base, and interaction created from piracy. Piracy may impact major studio films that need to make a return off immense budgets, but these are not the type of films that better the horror genre. In fact, the failure of these films may lead to an industry realization that producing creative, smaller budget films may be a better way to make a return on their investment—giving independent horror filmmakers a better shot at distribution. Paranormal Activity, for example, broke countless records, despite great amounts of piracy and screeners floating around. Horror fans will show their support for films/filmmakers they enjoy. General audiences will attend screenings if the buzz is good. Instead of focusing on piracy as a loss, Hollywood should focus on making a better experience for filmgoers, which should make horror fans and filmmakers happier in the long run.


Now is your chance to chime in on the subject! Feel free to post your thoughts on pirating and bootlegging below, and thanks again to our contributors in tonight's debate!

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


Highly Caffeinated said...

Great debate guys! Both strong cases. I myself am two minds about the issue. Bootlegging is definitely a heap of shit as some prick makes a bunch of dupes and makes money, with zero return to the artist. At least with torrent, no one is making money from it, even though both are great exposures for independent film makers.

I recently read that the creators of 'INK' released the film as a torrent, and it had hundreds of thousands of downloads in the first week alone. While they and their film got exposure, not many people have hit their website to donate money back, which you could imagine one dollar from every person that downloaded it, would cover their budget and fund their next film easily.

Whoops, looks like I just wrote the neutral entry for this debate, except I think I just went over the 500 word mark. :-)

Anonymous said...

I don't believe pirating has much effect on the industry at all. If it did, we'd see lower payouts for high priced actors, etc. They're not losing anything. Seriously, the statistics on piracy vs. paying customers would skew toward the paying end of it. Pirates are just a drop in the bucket. People buying tickets at the theater and packing the house for movies every week, buying DVDs when they release, there's no way I buy piracy doing much damage at all. It's just way for them to FORCE people to hand over cash.

B-Movie Becky said...

I think it's interesting that Venom and I both took the same sub-issue (Blockbusters vs. small films) and completely interpreted it differently.

venoms5 said...

My point was basically that the smaller companies such as Subversive and NoShame America, to name two of them, are no longer around. I'm sure piracy wasn't totally to blame for their demise, but their discs were kind of expensive, but well worth the purchase for the serious buyer. When someone wants said film, but doesn't want to pay the cost, they can go the torrent route, or buy a cheaper alternative. There are some releases that Synapse are sitting on right now because of sites such as cinemaggeddon. Without these niche companies, the dedicated fans will get nothing but bad quality VHS transfers and for some, that's just as well.

My response was initially much longer, but I was informed that it was a 500 word limit, lol. Your stance made for an interesting read, Becky, by the way.

Anonymous said...

I share my comment as a viewer and filmmaker. I am one guy who made his first horror feature. It's already on the torrent sites. Not surprised, and not a damn thing I can do about it. But come one, I'm the little guy here.

Anyway, I started to study the whole thing. People are tired of buying a movie with fancy cover art and such only to be let down by the final product. Well, it's happened to me too, so I understand.

Viewers want to see the film before they decide to buy it. Most say that they will go ahead and buy a copy if they like it. Doesn't seem to unrealistic to me. So should I go ahead and post my movie for a free viewing myself since it's already out there anyway? Take donations for the viewing and price it cheap (as it already is) as not to be a greedy asshole if they want to go ahead and buy a copy?


Anonymous said...

Personally, I refuse to participate in any bootlegging or pirate activity for the most part...although there are exceptions. If a work is made readily available to the public, be it on DVD or in theaters, I would rather drop twenty dollars for the legit release than five dollars for the illegitimate one. However, if a work is NOT readily available (say a film that has never officially been released for the home video market, or a CD of unreleased demos), then I'm not against picking that up--since the items are not *officially* available for sale, the money that I spend on the bootlegs wouldn't be going to the artist anyway. Nobody loses. For instance, years ago I purchased a bootleg CD of the Lou Reed/John Cale/Nico collabo "Live at the Bataclan", because the only way that you could own it was by purchasing the bootleg. Strangely, not long after I purchased it, it was given a legitimate release despite the fact that at that point the bootleg had already been circulating for THIRTY-TWO years. So I went ahead and purchased the legitimate release as well, and they're sitting side by side--such a pretty couple! I'd be more than willing to purchase an official release of the Roger Corman version of "Fantastic Four", but as the studio is sitting on it, if I ever come across it, I'll be forced to be the boot.

My 2 cents.

B-Movie Becky said...

I think most people will pay for the legitimate item if it's available, especially for indie films. Let's face it, the majority of torrenting is for large, studio releases. For rare titles, it's often difficult to find seeds since the demand is not high. Most people that torrent are in one of three boats: 1)They are a jerk who never wants to pay for anything. Thus, they're not going to pay for the movie anyway so no money is lost by them downloading it. Only a gain from more publicity. 2) People want to preview or test something out before a purchase (as anonymous mentioned). If they like what they see, chances are they'll buy it. Otherwise, without the torrent, they never would have taken the risk to purchase it without knowing whether or not it's good. This is common with indie horror films, which are a mixed batch of good/bad movies. 3) People are simply trying to access film that are unavailable in their country or unreleased. And most everyone seems to agree that this kind of pirating is ok because at least its building a market and potential for the material to receive a legit release.

500 words is never enough!!! Hahaha. It's a fun debate for sure.

Anonymous said...

Hello, anonymous here again. Well said B-Movie Becky. I actually have no objection putting my film out there to let people determine whether or not they want to buy one.

As said, it's exposure. Any exposure is good. I might as well make movies and post them myself for free and make it a convenience. It's going to wind up there anyway. No big deal.

Matt-suzaka said...

Great point by both Becky and Venom. I fall on both sides of this subject and hate that the little guys are the ones most hurt by pirating and I do not think that pirating hurts major studio films, Wolverine (barf), for example.

HC brought up Ink, which besides being a film that I loved, was downloaded and pirated to death, but that did give the film a lot of exposure that it may not have gotten. Then again, the film might have gotten exposure anyways, because it's pretty amazing too. You would hope that they have a small spotlight shining on them by people who have seen the movie, and will in turn support therm in future endeavors. Will that happen, on my part, yes, but who really knows, I guess.

I Like Horror Movies said...

My problem is that I completely agree with all of the points. I am objected to piracy in theory, because I absolutely feel that all filmmakers should be paid their dues for their contributions into the genre we love. Film, like anything else, is a business, and without profits, we will not get to see the films we love. At the same time, I firmly believe that downloading directly leads to increased purchasing by fans that are out to find new Horror that they never would have seen otherwise. Most film downloads are free of any special features and pared down to the film itself, so if a filmmaker has done their job right and created a unique and marketable product, the true Horror fan, the Horror fan that supports their genre, will purchase for the additional features and to show their support.

Excellent contributions guys, this is an important debate and one that will be ongoing as physical media continues to be replaced by digitalization

Matt-suzaka said...

I would like to add a little to what Carl just brought up and say that there are a few, A FEW, films that I have reviewed for my bog that were bootlegs, or somewhat shady in one way or another. However, I would like to think that some of these movies that I reviewed and loved, are movies that I spread the word about in a small way with the readership I have. It's "almost" like a screener or Netflix, because there are no profits to be made through either of those for the filmmakers, but it is the exposure and word of mouth, that is key to success for them. Still, I really do not support it unless it is for movies that take a long time to be released, or might never be released at all.

Highly Caffeinated said...

It seems no matter how we look at it, every one does at least torrent movies for whatever reason, and as a filmmaker it should be something we need to factor into our distribution.

I personally had already decided to release Relentless for free online, but it would be a different cut and a little shorter than the DVD version, and obviously again won't have all the special features or alternate endings.

Lot of discussion about this thread, starting to get concerned about being pelted when my defense of remakes goes up! :-)

Matt-suzaka said...

I am not a remake hater myself, just a bad remake hater, so I wont throw anything at you!

B-Movie Becky said...

Yeah I'm not categorically against remakes either, so I'd love to hear the debates! I'm just glad everyone is participating in the discussion and throwing around their ideas. :)

forestofthedead said...

I buy mainly VHS. When I venture out of my cave and buy DVD I've found huge cheap box sets, but VHS quality, better quality DVDs, but higher prices. I also poked into indie horror sellers, one site got me a lot of indie horror cheap, one got me an indie horror DVD that was not cheap. I don't endorse downloading illegally, instead shopping around or investing in the online rental site we all know about. Also, buy VHS. It's cheap. :) Going back to my cave now.

I Like Horror Movies said...

HC that is a brilliant idea for combating piracy, that is the kind of technique that I think will keep ahead of the game and will get you the word of mouth while still giving plenty of people cause to buy the DVD, good thinking!

I Like Horror Movies said...

Anon, its definitely unfortunate that the small guys get hit by all of this as well, since it will always hit you the hardest, but I think Matt does have a point about the word of mouth. The more people talk about a film, the more copies it will inevitably sell, because there will always be the hardcores that will only accept hardcopy. Its a double edged sword unfortunately

venoms5 said...

I, too, have reviewed "bootlegs" and own a number of them as, (1) said film/series has yet to receive a DVD release and (2) said film/series has no known rights holders such as so many Asian action pictures of years past. If it isn't Shaw, Golden Harvest or Seasonal, most of these "Fly By Night" companies were only around for one film. They were ultimately distributed by a major, but rights were simply not renewed.

The Sonny Chiba series, KAGE NO GUNDAN aka SHADOW WARRIORS was released here legitimately a few years ago. The set was kind of pricey, but worth it. If you do a search, you'll see at least 5 or 6 torrent sites offering it. Needless to say, the series didn't sell well enough for BCI to acquire any of the other four series'. I reviewed fan subbed versions of KAGE 2 at my site. I subbed 20 of the 26 episodes. It wasn't coming out here, and the Japanese set was $400 without any subs. The versions we used were from Toei's cable channel utilizing the restored versions. I asked, nor made any money off that job. I simply wanted to see the show uncut as well as learn about subtitling. Truth be told, it's a pain in the ass.

As others have said, if it isn't available, or isn't available in an English friendly format, than dupes can be essential. Among the many DVD's I have, there are a number of discs I purchased that have no English options, but I simply wanted to see the movies (the recently released and restored Paul Naschy movies being an example).

While those discs are pricey at around $34 US, Japan has the highest prices at $50 for one DVD. They are the highest in the world and relatively few of their discs have English options. I have purchased a few of their discs that were English friendly, but again, this all boils down to how much you're willing to spend and how bad you want to see it. For many, they'd rather go the easy route. In some cases I can understand and in some cases, I cannot. Either way, I think this is an argument with no easy answers and possibly no right or wrong ones.

Anonymous said...

I am a remake hater. As a whole. Nothing get my pants in a knot like remakes. If the remake is good, I'll let it slide, but there are damned few remakes out there that are worth the money they want us to pay for them. But, like a good little horror fanatic, I buy and pay for them. lol

About piracy, I'm going to say that I don't advocate it. But, I also can't get out of my house to a theater to see a movie. It's just not possible. I don't have the time, and I don't have the money(most of all). You can drop $60 at the theater in no time flat, and that price is just WAY out of line. I watch movies on the net before I buy them. Sounds bad, but what about those people who are bedridden? They can't go to the theater, either. There will always be ways to circumvent the system and see something before you purchase it.

For the record, I rip all my DVDs and keep them in external hard drives to stream through my XBOX360. And the I sometimes give my DVDs away. In the 1980s, we used to use dual cassette recorders to rip songs from friends...it's been going on for decades. The only DVDs I keep are collector's edition types and even then I don't always keep them.

Digital media is the way of future, eventually all movies will be in data format and DVDs, Bluerays and the like will be distant memories.

Matt-suzaka said...

LJ: I do not own, nor am I in a rush to buy a Bluray player for the exact reason you stated above. Many people say I'm crazy, but times are changing much faster than physical software can keep up with.

Zach S. said...

I gotta agree with Jonny Metro. Bootlegs should only be utilized if it's ben publicly aired or not available due to studio/legal issues.

This debate was fantastic as it challenged the perceptions of not only the current studio systems and their practices but how much of will or will not change in the future.

Becky, Venom - This Jedi Council of me alone, recognizes your skills at the Master level.

Kangas said...

Got here late on the subject, but we were having a discussion about this on a horror forum here if you want to see some of these fans take on it:


Anonymous said...

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