Written by a Human.

The Advantages of Piracy (for consumers)

Posted in: Matthew's Tech Posting

You will always hear of large media companies crying about how piracy is killing their industry, even if the evidence for these claims are uncertain with some studies claiming small positive, small negative or near-no affect to sales of media, depending on the type of that media.

Even if you believe the major media conglomerates about their claim, that piracy is killing their industry. The question has to be asked why some people pirate media over legally "buying" it on disk or paying for a subscription to a service like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video that would allow them to stream from a large catalogue of content for the cost of a couple of DVDs monthly.

In order to understand the reasons someone might find it an advantage to pirate content over getting it from legal sources, we need to go over the advantages that piracy presents to the consumer.

Advantage #1: No DRM, Use anywhere and any resolution

A listing on a Torrent website showing Netflix Chernobyl freely available

Every movie you watch on a streaming service are protected by DRM schemes such as Googles' Widevine. These allow streaming companies (often forced by contract) to limit the end user to watching a TV Show or Movie though means approved by the corporation.

This a big problem for the consumers as these platforms will either limit the resolution of video content or will not allow the content to play at all on the consumers' device of choice.

As pirated content that is available on Torrent and Usenet websites are just normal compressed video files captured without DRM or had the DRM removed. This means that if the playback device you are viewing supports the codec they encode the video, you can play it as many times as you like and on any device you like.

Advantage #2: No need to pay for multiple services

As we have seen more media companies open their own streaming services, we have seen these same companies remove content from services like Netflix, in order to offer it only on their own new competitor services.

This leaves consumers with a couple of choices if they want to watch content from the major media conglomerates. They could subscribe to an ever-increasing number of streaming services and eventually end up paying as much as a cable or satellite service. The other option suggested by certain defenders of this content exclusivity is that you should subscribe to one service at a time and switch between them multiple times per year, a process so inconvenient that it would be easier to just get a cheap VPN and pirate the shows instead of faffing around with cancelling subscriptions every month.

That is not even going over the fact that content is often removed from streaming services, leaving viewers having to "purchase" the movie or TV-Show on DVD/Blue-Ray or even having to pirate it if the content is niche enough where sales were so-low that there are not even second hand DVD's available (a lot of Autism related content falls into this category).

The worst part is that even if "purchase" the digital copies from places like Amazon Video or iTunes, it does not guarantee that your access to the content won't be removed in the future.

How does piracy fix the problem of disappearing content?

This mostly applies to TV-shows over movies (as movies are normally available on DVD's or Blue-ray). As often, when TV shows get removed (often for legal or copyright issues) there is no alternative way of legally acquiring the content.

Torrent and Usenet websites will still offer the TV-show even if its official distribution has been ended. Of course this advantage of being able to download shows that are no longer available is not limited to joe-public, in fact this is a very useful tool for people tracking controversial topics or for people who want to keep track of the actions of the media companies.

How could the media conglomerates attract pirates away from piracy?

There are a few ways of encouraging people to stop pirating content, putting stuff on streaming services stops Normie pirates from wanting to jump through the hoops of torrenting but the media conglomerates mess that up by pulling content from rival services to start their own services.

The best change could be possible with TV-Show/Movies "purchases" is to accept that the DRM schemes don't stop piracy and to offer a video file that the customer can play on any device.

The problem with this is that big media companies want as much control as they can get away with even if it ultimately costs them money, thus any sensible solution will not be adopted and these companies will continue to lobby to punish the pirates.

This tactic will only work on normies whose anti-piracy solution of opening up to all streaming services will cost very little compared to having to pay for expensive lobbying and even more expensive lawsuits. The people who pirate full-time will see very little affect from this spending on "anti-piracy" laws and will continue to download what they like.

Published: 9th of December 2020

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