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Critic's Notebook: Is It Wrong to Download Pirated Movies? Not Quite, Says One Critic.

By Mike D'Angelo | Indiewire March 30, 2012 at 12:41PM

Remember back in the '80s, when people used to engage in recreational drug use? Just Say No, Nancy Reagan told us, and a collective lightbulb clicked on over America, ending the drug war forever.
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"You're a thief. It's that simple. You want something for nothing. DIE MOTHERFUCKER DIE!!!!"

There's no talking to these people (who mostly emerged on Twitter). For whatever reason, piracy seems to provoke a deeply rooted emotional response in some folks, one that reminds me uncomfortably of the old saw that everyone on welfare is a lazy bum content to mooch off of hard-working citizens. I am honestly not trying to save a few bucks by downloading these films, semi-broke though I am. Give me a rental option and I'll happily fork over the cash. In fact, one reader of my blog post pointed me to an outfit I didn't know about, ClassicFlix, and I immediately signed up. But they only stock American films made before 1970, and not even all of those—I'm still in search of the Blu-ray for the seminal 1968 mockumentary "David Holzman's Diary," which isn't even available to pirate from any source I can locate.

Response to my blog post about this issue ran about 80% thoughtful and measured, 20% inane and heated.

"Dude, 'David Holzman's Diary' is readily available on ordinary DVD. Why not just watch that?

This is the hardest objection to counter, actually. Do I really "need" to see the highest-quality version, even if that means obtaining it illegally? Isn't Blu-ray already a compromise from 35mm? (And I'm watching Blu-ray rips, which is a further compromise—though still far superior to a DVD.) Well, no, I suppose not. But it’s ludicrous that we've developed this remarkable technology and yet films made more than about 10 years ago have become essentially inaccessible in the format, unless you purchase them outright.

Eventually, I assume, consumer-grade bandwidth will improve to the point where HD streaming looks as good as the rips I watch, and problems associated with physical media will disappear. I look eagerly forward to that day. For right now, though, I really just don't feel terribly guilty about downloading high-def copies of films that nobody in America has any interest in renting to me. There's a void here just waiting for somebody (with way more capital than I currently possess) to fill it.

Mike D'Angelo watches a whole lot of movies and writes about 'em, like almost everybody else these days. But he was among the first (online, anyway)! His reviews and essays have been published in Entertainment Weekly, Time Out New York, Esquire, Las Vegas Weekly, the A.V. Club, the Village Voice, and many other fine purveyors of cranky opinions. Follow him on Twitter here.

This article is related to: Critic's Notebook, Reviews