The computerized piracy of video did not become common until recently.  In the past, an entire movie took up at least two CDs.  And even then, the quality was not very good. But with the invention of video compression formats, it is possible to fit an entire movie on on CD, with near TV quality.  Or, with lower quality, it is possible to fit two or more movies on one CD.  Also, the invention of DVDs has only made it easier to transfer video to the computer, and the image quality is much higher.  In years past, downloading a movie that is 1300 MB in size over a 28.8 modem would have taken many days or even weeks.  But with the introduction of high speed internet technology into the home, such as DSL and Cable Modems, and with the possibility to compress a movie down to 300 MB or less, it only takes minutes or hours to download a full movie.  

There are 4 common video compression techniques:

Each format has good and bad qualities.  DivX will usually have the best video quality, but will take up an entire CD.  DivX is to movies what MP3 was to music piracy.  Real Video and Asf are the competing formats from RealNetworks and Microsoft.  Both will compress the file size of a movie very small, but the quality is greatly degraded.  With the Asf and Real Video formats, it is not usually possible to view a movie in full screen mode.  MPEG is the standard format of video on the computer.  It has the largest file size, with picture quality about the same as TV.  The MPEG format is not as popular as the other three formats for playing a movie on a computer, but an MPEG movie can be converted to a VCD.  VCD stands for Video Compact Disc.  This is where a movie is put onto one or two CDs, in MPEG format, for use in a standalone DVD/VCD player.  VCDs make it very easy to rent a DVD from blockbuster, copy it with your computer, and play it in your DVD machine hooked up to your big screen TV.

Another aspect of movie piracy are "screeners" and "cams".  A screeners and cams are filmed while the movie is still in the theater.  A screener is a copy of the movie sent from the movie company to the rental store while the movie is still in the theater.  And a cam (also called "Telesync") is a movie recorded with a video camera.  A screener will usually  have much higher quality than cam.  Screeners and cams make the movie industry extremely upset.  What is the point of paying $7 a person to see a movie when you can download it and watch it on your computer on the same day, or in the case of The Blair Witch Project, one week before it is released in the theater?

Computerized movie piracy is still in it's infancy, just as MP3s were a few years ago.  The main opponent of movie piracy is the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

With the new technologies of MP3 and the video compression formats (VCF), there is the potential to do extreme harm.  But there is also the potential to do good.  Of course the music and film industry will resist any change in their current system.  In the current system, THEY control the distribution format.  MP3 and VCF allow independent movie studios, and music artists without a label to release their works over the internet for free or at a low cost.  Without the intervention of a label, the artist will receive much more profit.  With the internet, there is a potential to reach millions of people worldwide.  There has never been a better time to be a band in a small town trying to promote your music.  You will have the ability to instantly promote your latest song across the entire globe, for free.

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Copyright 2000
Brian Cole