Update - 19january2004: Seems many folks are arriving at this page while searching for a place to "download pirated movies". This page discusses the phenomena of downloading pirate movies, but you'll find none of them here. What follows is the original post from 04november2003. (end update)
60 minutes, the popular, prime-time weekly television program produced by CBS News, featured a segment titled Pirates of the Internet. In it Lesley Stahl delved into the (under)world of downloaded movies. They quickly discovered that you can download pretty much any movie you want, often before the official release date.
She mentioned Kazaa: the "world's most downloaded software application", as the tool of choice, and how a federal judge ruled that such file-swapping programs are perfectly legal. She interviewed Wayne Rosso, president of Grokster, a similar peer-to-peer file-sharing program. One comment Rosso made really stuck with me. He said, "The hacker will always win."
I agree. If a protection scheme is based on *software* of any kind, some hacker somewhere will break it. It's just a matter of time. And it usually doesn't take them very long, either. There is no such thing as an uncrackable software protection scheme. Anything can be "reversed".
Despite spending million$ on an elaborate protection scheme for DVDs called CSS or Content Scrambling System, it took a 16-year old kid from Norway named Jon Johansen no time to defeat it. Now anyone can find the crack almost anywhere. More here.
The industry's response to the problem is to flood the Net with fake copies, so you download something that *looks* like a movie but isn't .. become frustrated and give up. Wishfull thinking, if you ask me.
Doom9 and its popular forums are *the* place to find info on this type of stuff (I hear). There you'll find detailed guides for all aspects of "backing up" your DVDs. Most of this stuff originates outside the US, where the laws are less draconian. The problems faced by movie producers aren't limited to the US. The Internet is a global phenomena. Welcome to the digital age.
The reason this has become so BIG is because so much MONEY is @stake. The industry claims to make *half* its profit$ from the sale and rental of DVDs. Here in Southern California, where we live in the shadow of Hollywood, where so many of our friends work in the Film industry, and where movies represent a major cash crop, we are perhaps more sensitive to this type of thing.
To work at some 'sensitive' industrial facilities, you often have to take a psych test. I remember one question on such a test. It asked: "If you could sneak into a movie theater and knew for certain you wouldn't get caught, would you do it?" I answered 'No' .. thinking this was the obvious right answer. Not!
They didn't like my answer and called me into the office, where they told me they thought I was lying on the test, specifically citing this question, saying that a 'normal' person would answer 'Yes'. I said, "Oh, I meant to say, 'Yes'". They said, "That's better," and gave me the job.
So, it seems, the "normal" person, if he knew he wouldn't get caught, would answer 'Yes' to the question: "Should I download movies off the Internet?" .. especially if he can't afford to see every movie in a theater .. and who can these days, when movies have become expensive? Findings by Lesley Stahl in her 60 Minutes segment seem to support this psychological perspective.
For those of you (like me) who prefer to watch movies in a theater, on the silver screen, rather than your computer screen, Rotten Tomatoes is a good place for reviews.
Update - 22december2003: A Norwegian court has acquitted 'DVD Jon' - a second time. Norwegian authorities have also decided *not* to take the case to their Supreme court. DVD Jon (Johansen) was accused of 'breaking into' DVDs that he legally purchased and owned, and then sharing his findings on the Internet.