Dan Whalen is a JD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School.
Joining the arms race of online movie services, Cineplex recently introduced its own download store as part of a multi-phase strategy to create “one of the most powerful online entertainment experiences available to Canadians.” The announcement comes hot on the heels of a similar move by Netflix, and adds to the nascent Canadian marketplace for legal online movie downloads already occupied by companies like Apple and Sony. This paradigm shift from traditional physical media began several years ago in the US as a clear response to consumer demand for greater convenience and lower cost. Interestingly, such demand has manifested itself in the form of rampant illegal downloading that film studios and retailers have been desperately trying to stop.
Certainly, accessibility of legal alternatives is a significant weapon in the war on piracy. As one Australian industry expert explains of his country’s staggering digital video piracy rates: “Australians don’t have access to anywhere near the number of legal online content services that residents of the US and UK do,” where the per capita figures are much lower. Further support for such a view is drawn from a recent survey showing that nearly 80% of those who illegally download movies in Australia would be prepared to pay for that content if made aware of a legal option. Closer examination reveals cause for concern, however. Of the willing, only 42% would readily pay the going rate for a digital service like Cineplex, which rents titles starting at $2.99. Convenience is king, it would seem, but at a price.