Here in China, piracy is rife. IP piracy, that is. Particularly DVD piracy. In fact, you hardly ever see a legitimate DVD anywhere, and they are so ridiculously expensive that I can't imagine anybody ever buys one.
I don't have too many moral qualms about taking advantage of this. I am too much of a film-lover to pass up the opportunity to build a library of classics (I had nearly 600 titles the last time I bothered to try to count them, and have inherited quite a few more from departing friends since then), whatever the legal or ethical implications.
And, frankly, I am not too concerned about 'stealing' from the Hollywood studios. Those guys are mega-rich and mega-greedy, and I don't see them going out of business because of me. I suppose I adopt the same kind of argument I did with that 'Home Taping Is Killing Live Music' campaign of a decade or two ago. Patently bogus logic! Home taping, for most people, was an addition to purchasing music (and attending concerts), not a substitute for it. By sharing music with friends, we were actually helping to increase demand for the product in stores; people got to know about stuff that they otherwise wouldn't have, and would occasionally want to go out and buy it. But, for most of us, we couldn't possibly afford to pay for all the music we wanted to listen to. It was unrealistic of the record companies to presume to control all dissemination of their material, unreasonably greedy of them to view every instance of home taping as a loss of income to them.
Of course, things have got a lot more complicated with the explosion of online streaming. Record companies are now facing a situation where they struggle to control any of the dissemination of their material, and might soon see their income dry up almost completely, unless subscription downloads can be made into an effective business model. Well, I wouldn't be shedding too many tears if the record companies go under. I'm not sure that we need an 'industry' around popular music. Good bands will always be able to make a decent living by playing live gigs. Their creativity might even flower brighter and for longer, they might avoid burnout and craziness if they weren't doomed to become multi-millionaires. You know, they might actually focus more on the music, rather than the 'rock'n'roll lifestyle'.
The music industry depends almost solely on mass reproduction of its product, so the new technology has left it up shit creek. The film industry does not depend on mass reproduction. Until 30 years ago there was no market for individual home consumption of films. For a few decades the film industry was spoiled by having this additional revenue stream open up for it. Those days may be coming to a close. Get over it. The major sources of income for the film industry have always been, and should remain: cinema screenings (there really is no substitute for the live experience of a big-screen film), TV rights, and merchandising (these days, often the biggest earner of them all). And the studios may be able to develop some subscription download revenue as a replacement for the moribund video/DVD arm of their business.
If the film companies really wanted to establish a market for legitimate DVDs in China, they'd have to get aggressive in their marketing; they'd have to be prepared to sell close to or a little below cost for a while, to drive the pirates off the streets. Pirate DVDs are often flawed (I find there's usually about a 20%-30% failure rate, even from the better stores), rarely have all, or any, of the 'special features', and sometimes don't even have proper subtitles. I'd be prepared to spend, say, 50% or so more for a legitimate DVD that I could be confident was fully functional. But, at present, they cost 3 or 4 times as much as the pirated product, so there's no competition.
Do the film companies really care about the piracy in China? I don't think so. They could lobby against it with the Chinese government much harder if they wanted to. They could fight against it much harder in the marketplace if they wanted to. I think they have greater concerns here at the moment: the relatively small cinema market in China (growing, but still pretty tiny; despite the vaunted economic growth, few people have any disposable income to speak of, and the cinema is still a very expensive night out), and the very limited access to that market granted to foreign films (the numbers go up year by year, but it's still a pretty tight quota - and, of course, only 'approved' films; i.e., pappy blockbusters).
DVD piracy can't really be said to be hurting the film companies at the moment in China, because there simply is no market for legitimate DVDs - no-one can afford them. At least the cheap pirate copies are building the Hollywood brands (people who've never been to a cinema in their lives know who Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts are from seeing them in pirated DVDs; don't tell me the film companies are unhappy about that), adding to the groundswell of demand for more foreign films to be shown in cinemas and on TV. And they support the market for merchandising as well. McDonald's tie-ins for films like 'Finding Nemo' have been hugely successful here. Hardly anyone saw those films in the cinema; they saw them on pirate DVDs.
So, the next time you hear somebody whingeing about how hard done by the film studios are, and how immoral and irresponsible it is of you to buy pirate DVDs, just tell them to FUCK OFF. Film studios get plenty of money from bums on seats. They get plenty of money from T-shirts and toys. They shouldn't expect to be able to also milk us when we want to watch a film again at home afterwards.