Author Rob Levine goes to bat for anti-piracy movement

Rob Levine, author of “Free Ride: How Digital Parasites are Destroying the Culture Business Can Fight Back,” is no fan of copyright theft – in case the name of the book didn’t already give that away. A new NBCUniversal video has Levine espousing the perils of piracy, taking a stroll through New York City to illustrate a point.

Author Rob Levine goes to bat for anti-piracy movement

Moving to NYC in 1997, Levine was an avid music buyer. “One of my favorite neighborhoods was St. Mark’s Place. I used to come here to go record shopping all the time,” he reminisced. “At any given time there must have been four or five record stores on this block alone. Fifteen years later, all that’s gone.”

Kim’s Video and Music, one such St. Mark’s staple featured in the video, technically did close up shop. It shipped 55,000 movies – its complete rental roster – to Sicily, Italy. The chain is somehow still alive and kicking. Piracy and sky-high rent helped kill many other NYC music shops in the last few years, including Union Square’s Virgin Megastore in 2009.

Levine sees piracy as the main culprit – one which has now invaded other industries.

“What’s interesting is that the same forces that really just decimated the music business are now starting to affect these other businesses – film, TV, book and newspapers,” he said. “Everybody who works at those companies are suffering, and fewer people are working there then were working there before.”

Levine continued: “Fewer films get made. The films that get made have smaller budgets. And that doesn’t only affect actors who are making millions of dollars. It affects people who do hair and make-up, the set designers, the crews.”

The argument is not new. A video released by ICE early this year – and reused last month for an NY-based anti-piracy effort – brings up similar points. Most have been dubbed fiction by critics.

Levine remains convinced that the Internet needs creativity, but not the other way around. “Creativity without the Internet is still a business,” he said. “The Internet without creative content is not much of a business at all.”