Digital Piracy or Missed Opportunities?

Today's NYTimes brings up an interesting problem facing the film industry that I had been meaning to talk about. An article titled Digital Pirates Winning Battle with Studios brings to light the challenge that at one time faced the music industry in the guise of Napster and other peer-to-peer services and is now being faced with by the film/television industry. While the music industry faltered by limiting access to digital content before allowing for legal options, the film and television industry is already making headway by posting content online (particularly television). Just look at NBC or ABC for good examples of how to share content with viewers. Or look at the tremendous job that Monty Pyton has done with posting free content on YouTube rather than pursuing expensive (and often pointless) litigation.

Digital piracy is going to happen. People are going to steal copies of movies and television programs no matter what the stuidos do, unless they stop making movies all together. So let's look at this in a fresh light. Why not take this opportunity to do some positive PR and ad some advertising revenue to the budget? Studios should provide BitTorrent sites with officially liscensed versions of their movies, but throw some advertising in before the movie. Moviegoers have obviously accepted this in the theater (just try going to a movie today without seeing an ad for Pepsi, or the National Guard), so why not extend the reach to the internet. Television studios are alredy doing this (see the above mentioned sites), and according to the article "Heroes" is being downloaded at an average of 5 million downloads per episode. So why not sell that ad space? True they can be skipped over, but the ads in the theater can be ignored and those on the DVD can be skipped completely in some instances.

It seems to me that this could be a great positive all around. Studios will see increase ad revenue and exposure, while basking in the glow of positive word of mouth. BitTorrent websites will be able to sleep at night and see increase viewership. Brands will get their message out to a new audience. And consumers will have another option for viewing.