Images of a criminal stealing a car, shoplifting, have been used in the past by the Hollywood studios to help portray the seriousness of web piracy, but the Motion Picture Association's (MPAA) boss, Chris Dodd, says the comparison should no longer be used.
Comparing unauthorised downloads to "theft" has always been problematic, according to tech experts and critics of Hollywood's anti-piracy initiatives. With traditional theft, such as stealing a car, the owner has had a physical loss. And with shoplifting, the seller has to physically replace the stolen item, and if the item was low on stock, it could also lead to lost sales while a replacement is being sourced.
But with downloads, the original is never touched. Instead, a copy of the original is made, and copies of that are being distributed. The seller's ability to sell the good has not been diminished in any way. So the worst case scenario for an unauthorised download is a single lost sale, which may or may not have happened (it would be like expecting a shoplifter to shop normally, had he/she been prevented from the criminal act).
Hollywood, and the music industry, however, have ignored these subtle (or not so subtle) difference in their goal to demonise the downloading public. But given that so many people have downloaded pirated content, and continues to do so, it may be a strategy that has backfired.
Which is probably why, in an Interview with Variety, MPAA Chairman and CEO Chris Dodd wanted to change the conversation. "We're in a transformative period with an explosion of technology that’s going to need content… We're going to have to be more subtle and consumer-oriented ... We're on the wrong track if we describe this as thievery," Dodd told Variety.
So while the MPAA isn't saying copyright infringement *isn't* theft, it appears they no longer want to call it that.