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Movie industry veteran Werner Herzog says piracy “has been the most successful form of distribution worldwide.”

Over the weekend, legendary film director Werner Herzog was honored with a lifetime achievement award.  But at the Visions du Réel Film Festival in Nyon, Switzerland, Herzog grabbed more attention for some comments on the topic of piracy.

“Piracy has been the most successful form of distribution worldwide,” Herzog flatly declared.

Herzog noted that when he released his first film in 1962, movie piracy wasn’t an issue. However, it’s now the only way a significant portion of the world can experience the content he creates.

Piracy is obviously a sensitive topic within the movie and music industries, though Herzog noted that piracy is often a problem rooted in access (or lack thereof).  Perhaps because of his more independent, documentary-focused profile, Herzog was free to cross a few industry taboos on the subject.

Herzog was quick to point out that he was not advocating for piracy or promoting the practice. But he noted that despite his distaste for the practice, more people get to experience his work as a result of unauthorized distribution.

“I don’t like it because I would like to earn some money with my films. But if someone like you steals my films through the internet or whatever, fine, you have my blessing.”

Piracy at its core is a service problem.

Game piracy was rampant in the game industry before Steam became the ‘default’ place to download games. Valve cofounder Gabe Newell addressed this issue recently by noting that if a pirated ‘product’ isn’t region-locked and placed behind regional restrictions, it is inherently more valuable to the end-user.

That’s a controversial opinion to some, though game piracy rates have dropped stunningly as Steam has grown as a platform. Music streaming services have also addressed some — though not all — of the rampant music piracy, with similar effects on broader piracy levels.