Piracy: the good, the bad, and the alternatives

Since the invention and utilization of Napster in 1999, a peer to peer application which allows users to download music from other users, piracy has become an ever present part of our society. Several bills were even introduced to try and curtail piracy, but were eventually shot down. This blog aims to discuss what piracy is in today’s world, the effect it has on the movie and music industry, and any good that may come of it.

Piracy in Today’s World (and what it is exactly)

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What do you do if there’s a new movie out that you want to see but you don’t want to pay for it in theaters? Or a new album was just released by your favourite artist and you’re waiting for your next paycheck? You download it online for free, of course. Everyone else does it, so why shouldn’t you? I myself pirate along with numerous friends and family members and with countless articles popping up about pirating it can be seen in almost every aspect of our modern world. I hear conversations on the bus about shows that aren’t available on Netflix with others responding they download them from torrenting sites or stream them online. Even Netflix uses piracy to decide if it should bring a show onto its service. This raises the question of what exactly is pirating and what aspects of it are against the law? Google’s definition of internet piracy is to “use or reproduce (another’s work) for profit without permission, usually in contravention of patent or copyright.” Using a bit torrent to download digital media (music, video games, textbooks, movies etc.) is illegal for both the user and the site distributing the torrent files and falls under this definition because you are redistributing parts of the digital media, or file, back to other bit torrent users. Streaming on the other hand, is another form of pirating that is legal for the user, since you are viewing it but not sharing it and redistributing it with others, but is illegal for the site unless they have express permission or have purchased the rights to redistribute the digital media in question.

The Effects on the Entertainment Industry

Since these torrent sites are so hard to shut down, the entertainment industry is left trying to combat these illegal downloaders, sometimes through extreme means. Many claim that piracy will be the end of the entertainment industry, but even more say that there are no negative effects. The truth of it is that it almost impossible to track how much money is lost to pirates each year for several reasons including:

  1. Are pirates just downloading to demo content, and then buy it after the fact?
  2. Pirates will share content among friends and then their friends will go out and pay for the product.

A study done by the London School of Economics found that pirating may actually be boosting revenues. This could be due to the above reasons or it may be due to innovation in the field of digital media distribution. Canadian comedian Louis C.K. bypassed entertainment industry giants completely by posting his movie on his website for $5 and actually made over a million dollars with most of it being donated to charities.

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Is Piracy really so bad?

With Netflix using pirating sites to determine what shows they should license, studies suggesting that pirating may actually be boosting revenue and the general public opposing bills to censor the internet to get rid of piracy, why has the entertainment industry gone so far to try and get rid of pirating entirely? Entertainment industries and Hollywood should be reevaluating their priorities but it is entirely possible they are maintaining the image that pirating is bad to prevent more consumers from jumping aboard the “pirate ship.” Warner Bros has even come out and said that pirating may be a good thing “sometimes.” More specifically the chief of anti-piracy operations, David Kaplan, has come out in defense of piracy stating that it is necessary to adjust business models for consumer demand. HBO head Michael Lombardo had similar sentiments saying that the piracy surrounding HBO’s Game of Thrones has been a “compliment of sorts” and that DVD sales for Game of Thrones have not been hurt as a result of piracy. With so many major entertainment heads defending the use of piracy, sort of, I think it is quite safe to assume it is not going anywhere and may actually be beneficial to Hollywood and the entertainment industry.

Money Pirate

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