By Max Clarke

Johnny Depp may be a hero at the box office in his role of the wicked but lovable ‘pirate of the Caribbean’, Jack Sparrow, but it is pirating of another sort that continues to cause concern for Hollywood movie moguls.

“I’m willing to bet that thousands have already illegally watched the latest much-anticipated “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie (On Stranger Tides) which has just been released at cinemas in the UK, without giving a thought to what this means for the movie industry,” said Mr McCluskey, CEO of British-based video hosting service, vzaar, who suggested wryly that perhaps online pirates should be made to walk the plank.

He believes that piracy is being exacerbated by “ad-supported” video streaming websites:
“Websites that are offering ‘free’ movies by means of financing the service with advertising breaks are just muddying the waters — people are now confused about which sites are illegal and which not.”

As head of vzaar Mr McCluskey oversees the delivery of hundreds of thousands of hours of high quality online video, both embedded and streamed on his client’s websites through the feature-rich vzaar platform. He has a particular interest, however, in feature films because vzaar’s ability to stream full-length features in high definition is one of its strengths — and what brought it to the attention of top Hollywood director, Oliver Stone, who was so impressed he has invested in the company.

“Having worked closely with Oliver I understand the implications of movie piracy — it is a problem he and his colleagues in Hollywood are constantly discussing,” said Mr McCluskey.

Although huge efforts have been made to stamp out “free” pirated movie download sites, particularly in the United States where many high-profile prosecutions have taken place, the practice still continues, and, judging by the results of a recent study by Price Waterhouse Coopers, the pirates “just don’t give a darn”.

“From the study it appears piracy is still a far more attractive option than any premium video on-demand service. People want something for nothing, regardless of quality.” said Mr McCluskey.

He said Oliver Stone — currently working on his new movie, Savages, with its all-star cast including John Travolta and Una Thurman — believes that piracy is seriously damaging the movie industry.

“One thing that we can do to decrease piracy is to ensure that there are sites available that offer far superior, high quality delivery of movie content which viewers are willing to pay to access, rather than resort to second-rate copies on pirate sites. Also, earlier movie release dates for legitimate pay-on-demand sites may deter impatient pirates,” suggested Mr McCluskey.

He said vzaar’s premium video platform was the ideal vehicle for delivering impeccable movie content online, and was being increasingly sought after for the purpose by pay-on-demand movie website owners — “those who want to support the film industry and keep the hit movies coming”.

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