game-of-groans-HBOHBO’s programming president Michael Lombardo recently spoke to Entertainment Weekly about the massive piracy of their hit series “Game of Thrones”  and in doing so gave pro-piracy apologists a glorious soundbite:

“I probably shouldn’t be saying this, but it is a compliment of sorts…The demand is there. And it certainly didn’t negatively impact the DVD sales. [Piracy is] something that comes along with having a wildly successful show on a subscription network.”

Lombardo’s hubris was magnified as he went on to stick his foot further down his throat by adding:

“One of my worries is about the copies [downloaders are] seeing,” Lombardo said. “The production values of this show are so incredible. So I’m hoping that in the purloined different generation of cuts that the show is holding up.”

Come again…He’s more worried about production values than piracy?  I’m sorry, but a man with the stature and success of Mr. Lombardo should know better than to blabber on in such a thoughtless way about an issue, that for many filmmakers, cannot afford to be taken so lightly.  Sure, it would be great if everyone had the reach and resources of HBO, but the fact is we don’t, and for us–no matter how you spin it–piracy is not a positive.  The arrogance Lombardo showed in blithely dismissing piracy’s impact on HBO’s bottom line did a huge disservice to the many content creators for whom piracy negatively impacts both their bottom line and their livelihoods.

For HBO, the popularity of “Game of Thrones” translates into mega-bucks.  Embracing worldwide piracy of the show as a sign of success is a choice made by HBO and, more significantly,  it’s a clearly a choice they can afford to make.  If only we should all be so lucky.  Mr. Lombardo should have considered the impact of his words on an online audience that does not necessarily appreciate nuance.  He should have known that by inferring that piracy’s impact on “Game of Thrones” was positive, his choice of words would only serve to propagate the false narrative that piracy is somehow “good for business.”   It’s a generalization that will, thanks to Lombardo’s glib comments, likely be applied to other pirated movies, music and art.  If it’s good for HBO how can it not be good for everyone else?

Mr. Lombardo attempted, rather meekly, to put the genie back in the bottle when he (sort of) qualified his remarks to EW by saying, “We obviously are a subscription service so as a general proposition so we try to stop piracy when we see it happen, particularly on a systematic basis when people are selling pirated versions.”    Clearly, however, the damage had been done  as the meme that “HBO says piracy is a compliment and doesn’t hurt sales” spread like wildfire across the web.

I wrote this the other day in my post “Pick a Side, But Don’t Call it Piracy”  in response to the band Ghost Beach’s lame “artists for or against piracy” campaign, but it’s appropriate to repeat here:

When artists choose to give their work away, they’re not choosing to support piracy, they’re choosing to offer their creations to the public at no cost.  It’s a distribution decision any artist is free to make, but please don’t call it piracy…

I’m sure Mr. Lombardo has a nice car, hefty bank account, and few financial worries.  Too bad the same can’t be said to the many creative artists, independent and otherwise, who aren’t so lucky.

This week, Mr. Lombardo clearly made himself into an April Fool…