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Movies and Music Are Not One and the Same When It Comes to Piracy

10 Nov, 2003 By: Holly J. Wagner

The Los Angeles Times had an article over the weekend that pondered whether the movie industry waited too long to start quelling Internet piracy.

I take issue with direct comparisons to the music industry and what's happened there. To be sure, some aspects of this debate are comparable. Illegal downloading hurts both industries. Both have been slow to adapt to new technology.

It just irks me that so many people seem to ignore some fundamental differences between the two industries and the content they provide.

Musicians don't need a music industry to make their product; filmmakers still need a movie industry to make and distribute their products.

A few bands like Phish sell their music online directly to fans. These are perfectly legal downloads, proving the band doesn't need a record company to write, record and deliver its product. That may be bad for the music industry as it exists today -- an elite club of executives who control what gets produced and how it gets into the marketplace -- but it doesn't have to hurt the artists. In some cases it even helps them.

The music industry has been committing a slow, agonizing and very public suicide for at least a decade. Music executives decided to keep CD prices artificially high, even after promising consumers that prices would come down. The same moguls often decide to back one-hit-wonders and TV talent show winners based on record company criteria, not on actual fan appeal. Music executives chose to kill singles, a decision I'm sure provided plenty of motivation for youngsters to create file-sharing technology.

If the movie industry worked like the music industry, we would all have to pay $100 for a disc of The Lord of the Rings. And even if the disc would also have The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Freddy vs. Jason, Simone and The Real Cancun on it, I'll bet this industry would sell a lot fewer copies -- and send fans to the Web to get just the piece they want, too.

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