Illegal downloading ‘costing State €60m a year’

Film and TV piracy has resulted in job losses, industry body says


Ireland has one of the highest rates of illegal downloading of films and TV shows in the world with digital piracy costing the Irish economy €60 million annually, a TV and film industry body has said.

Film and TV privacy is a real and direct threat to people employed in the creative industries and is resulting in the loss of jobs and opportunities, Alison Crinion from Industry Trust IP Awareness warned.

Speaking following Monday’s High Court injunction blocking several websites involved in illegal downloading and streaming, Ms Crinion said TV and film piracy was continuing to rise alongside advances in technology.

She said the introduction of IPTV piracy (illegal set-top boxes) represented a serious threat to the Irish entertainment industry and was allowing families to watch illegal content in their living-rooms for the first time.

Industry Trust research between 2016 and 2017 revealed 43 per cent of people who use these boxes spend less money on DVD and Blu-ray purchases, while 69 per cent spend less on TV subscriptions.

She added that downloading illegal content also carried the significant risk of exposure to explicit and age-inappropriate content and was estimated to cost the State €60 million annually.

Film piracy dates back to arrival of video recorders in private households when people got illegal copies of movies from friends in the workplace, pubs or at market stalls, said Ms Crinion.

“In Ireland, we have a rich heritage of storytelling which set the scene for wonderful cinematic landscapes and we have a fantastic talent pool in front and behind the camera. More infringing means less film production - especially of smaller independent films, means fewer jobs for our creative and artistically talented population.”

Andrew Lowe, company director of Element Pictures, says that per capita, Ireland is 12th in the world for piracy while the United Kingdom has a rate in the 50s.

Mr Lowe told Newstalk Breakfast on Tuesday that if content was blocked it might make people think twice about illegally downloading and encourage them to seek legal alternatives.

He described online piracy as disastrous for the film industry, saying there have been “massive implications” for the home entertainment business.

The market declined by 75 to 80 per cent over the past five to six years which means less income for production companies to invest in film making, said Mr Lowe.

He highlighted the demise of Xtravision was another indicator of the impact of piracy on the home entertainment business. “There used to be over 200 Xtravision stores around the country. They’re all gone. You will now struggle to find any shop selling DVDs. The Irish market has more or less dried up.”

Michael Hinkson, an intellectual property solicitor, said it would be “impractical” to try and invade people’s homes to stop illegal downloading and welcomed the injunctions against websites providing free links to films and TV shows.

“The existing ways of dealing with this problem are firstly to take down the streaming websites and secondly to try and prevent the sale of the media players which provide this access. There’s no doubt that new technologies will develop new ways of infringing but it’s an ongoing process.”

Mr Hinkson said an awareness of how illegal downloading directly affects those working in the Irish film industry might compel people to spend money on their content.

“Sometimes there’s a perception that it’s the film industry - this huge colossus- and it doesn’t hurt anybody if we don’t pay for what we view. But if you look at the fact that films made in Ireland can be undermined and it can become uneconomic to make them if they can just be pirated, that’s when it maybe brings it home that isn’t a victimless crime.”

A spokesman for the Irish Film Board said it was vital that Irish film industry be given a “a fair opportunity to find an audience without being undermined by digital piracy. Irish film professionals are helping to promote Irish storytelling and arts on the world stage and they deserve our support.”