For some time the film industry has been running an anti-piracy campaign with slogans such as “you wouldn’t steal a car”  in an attempt to draw a false analogy between downloading a movie and stealing a significant and valuable object – the modern equivalent to being a “horse thief“. One of the many ways that such poor analogies break down is the fact that downloading a movie is not a crime, it’s copyright infringement.
The best analogy that I can think of for non-commercial copyright infringement is the practice of short-changing. I expect that almost everyone has at some time received less change than they deserved when buying something at a shop, the cashier aims to collect $1 or $2 from each customer and can easily double the amount of money that they take home at the end of the day. When a customer complains they just pretend to have made a mistake and although short-changing is a crime (unlike copyright infringement) it almost never results in police action. The practice is tolerated to such a degree that some people know the shops where they are likely to be short-changed, they count their change more carefully and demand the full amount – but don’t bother complaining to the manager!
The film industry also tries to portray itself as representing struggling artists who deserve the money, it’s described as a moral issue – good people pay for movies while bad people download movies and steal cars. But then there’s the case of Roman Polanski who is a well known movie director and child rapist . I expect that most store employees would gladly palm some of the change if Roman Polanski was a customer – that is of course if they weren’t too busy arranging a lynch mob.
So instead of “you wouldn’t steal a car” a more reasonable statement would be “you would short-change a pedophile if you weren’t organising a lynch mob“. Please note that murdering a criminal as part of a lynch mob is a crime (unlike making an unauthorised copy of a DVD), so I encourage people not to perform lynchings.
Many important people in the movie industry have different ideas, the Wall Street Journal has an article about the petition to free Roman Polanski which demonstrates the difference between Hollywood attitudes and those of the rest of the world . For them, violent crime is no big deal if the criminal is famous and the victim isn’t – but anything which affects their own wealth is regarded as a serious issue.
Indiewire has a copy of the petition to free Roman and a list of the names of 100 people who signed it  (I heard that the latest count was nearer 150 but couldn’t find a reference). I believe that the matter of morals is not whether someone who rapes children deserves jail time (that issue is really clear) but whether it is morally acceptable to give money to such a criminal – or their supporters. I suggest that the list of signatories to the pro-rape petition be black-listed, any movie that involves any of them should not be paid for – either don’t see the movie or download it without paying at your own whim. If anyone knows of a web site that is being regularly updated with a list of all past and current projects involving people who signed the petition for Roman then please let me know – it would be good to have a list of movies that I will never pay for.
Anyone who feels morally obliged to pay something for a movie and who has a great desire to watch a movie made by Roman Polanski or his supporters could download it and then make a donation to a charity equivalent to the purchase price – rumor has it that women’s refuges are always short of funds.
As an aside I find Wikipedia a good reference for movies that I don’t plan to see, I read the plot summary on the wiki page and then have no curiosity about what happens in the movie – if that isn’t adequate I ask friends for spoilers or do a Google search on the movie name and “spoilers“.