This post, from screenwriter Brad Riddell (American Pie films, Road Trip, Slap Shot 3 and the upcoming Road Trip-Beer Pong) originally appeared on his The L.A. Dime on 7/30/09. If you’ve ever considered confronting pirates to call them on the theft of your work, read on to discover what happened when Mr. Riddell did it.
I’m kind of a Twitter and Facebook fanatic. I like to see what people are doing, saying, and thinking out in the world, and both of those applications cater to my need for people knowledge. They are also great for market research, and to that end, I have a saved Twitter search for “Road Trip-Beer Pong,” which updates me when anyone says anything about the movie. On Tuesday, I awoke to discover dozens of tweets offering links to illegal downloads of the film, which apparently was leaked overnight.
This is not a unique situation. Nearly every movie made is leaked to the internet, these days. And most pirates don’t bother to think about what they’re doing — it’s free, they want it now, and it’s easy. Those who do think about what they’re doing believe they’re “sticking it to the man” atop the rich, powerful, corporate studios.
While the studios do lose a lot of money because of piracy, it’s artists like me who really take a hit to the pocket book. Each sold DVD equals a very small payment to many of the key creative people who made the movie. These “residual payments” help artists pay the bills between jobs, because contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of writers and directors are not hopping from one seven figure contract to another. Most film artists are middle class folks, living on a budget, doing the best they can in an expensive city to get buy week-to-week as they fight for their next gig.
So, for two days, using Twitter, I decided to send a personal message to each pirate who admitted to downloading and watching my movie. My message wasn’t about their opinions, good or bad. It was about their actions. And at first, most were astounded to hear from me. Then they got angry. “How dare you challenge my right to steal?” was the general attitude. Or, “your movie sucks, so who cares if I steal it?” They got really mad when they found out I was reporting their user info to Twitter and the Anti-Piracy folks at Paramount. I was threatened, black-listed (from future robbery, I guess, because they never actually BUY anything), called a tool, a twat, a cry-baby, and told to #$%& off. One guy suggested I was an idiot for relying on residuals — that I should instead ask for more on the front end. Sheer ignorance. The system doesn’t work that way at all. And that’s my point. People will always steal. My goal was to put a face on who they were stealing from, and they didn’t like that one bit.