Studios Need To Replace BitTorrent, but users have to stop stealing

Dave Hamilton at TMO has some good thoughts to share on the new “Six Strikes” punishments American ISPs are getting ready to inflict on consumers who download copyrighted content. Make no mistake, this is bad policy. Like, War on Drugs bad.

I agree that punishing BitTorrent users places emphasis on the wrong thing, much in the same way that arresting drug users does absolutely nothing to get drugs off the street. And I think the studios can be doing a better job of getting content to users in a timely, reasonable and affordable fashion. And big strides have been made there – like Dave, I have a wealth of options for getting content I want to watch: cable TV and “On Demand” service, Apple TV, Netflix, TiVo, Redbox.

So I mostly agree with everything that Dave writes.

But I get impatient with Dave’s conclusion, addressed to the content producers: “I’d love to have the convenience of not stealing from you.”

There are lots of things I want that I can’t have because I lack the resources like a Viking range, a BMW X5 and washboard abs. Doesn’t mean I’m allowed to go out and steal them. Same goes for music, movies and video games. Just because I want the content and it’s convenient to steal doesn’t mean I should.

There’s right, and there’s wrong. Stealing stuff is just plain wrong. We learn this as children, yet somehow we make elaborate excuses for it as we get older, like “Well, I’m just copying bits. I’m not really stealing.” Or “If it weren’t so hard for me to get legitimately, I wouldn’t have to steal it instead.”

When the studios make it hard for you to have content you want, you should just live without it, or reward other content providers who make it easier for you to do business with them.

Consumers have to stop expecting to have everyone kiss their ass just because they want something. This is the warped, misguided reason why “Six Strikes” policies are created to begin with.

In closing, I’m gonna let Mick and the boys speak for me:

  • I mostly agree here – I rarely use Bit Torrent – if it is on iTunes I will buy it – the convenience and quality assurance is great. I don’t pay for cable, but because I buy my content I can turn on and stream over 300 great movies (that number grows by a few every week) – and I can stream the TV shows I actually like (where is Seinfeld?).

    I pay for MoviePass to – I go to the theaters at least twice a week and by the time content is available to buy I have a pretty good idea if it was good enough the first time to shell out some more money on.

    I understand the studios wanting to maintain that premium nature of the theaters. It is especially funny this time of year when Oscar winners are put back in the theaters only a week or two before its iTunes or BluRay release – it proves your point that people will go to the theaters and pay for that even when it is pretty much released.

    For people that pay for content the Apple TV is a wonderful thing – I don’t need a bunch of services as long as the content providers don’t get stupid with allowing people to buy their content.

  • Jared

    My problem with the “you don’t steal a car just because it’s too expensive” analogy is that you can actually buy the car in the first place. In many cases, you can’t buy the TV show or movie you want to watch, or pay to stream the NFL game that’s not on TV, because the owners of that content are hellbent on protecting old business models, which make you buy a whole bunch of other undesirable crap along with the thing you want.

    Music studios were forced into the digital age largely because of Napster. They were forced to move away from selling CDs (the music equivalent of cable bundles) and the end result was a legal marketplace for digital music that is great for consumers. I tend to avoid pirating content, but I don’t shed a tear when it happens.

    • Peter Cohen

      “…which make you buy a whole bunch of other undesirable crap along with the thing you want.”

      No, that’s the choice you make. The other option is to, as they say, vote with your wallet, and not buy it, and live without.

      • Hardik Panjwani

        I have to agree with Jared again here. Say the studio invests in 5 shows and only 1 of them turns out well. But the studio will make deals with cable companies for all the 5 shows and the cable companies in turn charge customers for all 5 shows. Where is the so called free market in all this? Why cant the studios sell directly to us consumers?

        • Who said it was a free market?

          No one has to like the business model, or bundling, or time delays, etc…..but if you download it and don’t pay then you’re stealing. End of story.

          • Hardik Panjwani

            i dont disagree with the fact that i am stealing. but that is not the end of the story. or do you believe that the studios going to change the old business models out of the goodness of their hearts?

          • KvH

            As long as people are stealing and not boycotting they won’t change the business market, just look for ways to have the ISPs/Gov’t enforce their business model.

            If you really want to change it, deny them the money legally.

          • Hardik Panjwani

            Let me give you a specific example. I follow pro snooker. But by and large it is not shown in India. And even when it is on cable it may be replaced with other sports programming at a moments notice.

            Now I have looked at a few legal online streaming sites and they wont take my my money and let me watch the games (live or afterwards) because of ‘regional restrictions’. I have sent them emails and have come up against this wall of regional restrictions every time.

            So it is much easier for me to just stream the games illegally and keep bugging the legal streaming sites every few months with emails saying ‘can I pay you for access?’ for the next few years. Hopefully at some point, some sense will get knocked into their heads.

          • KvH

            I don’t have cable, i’m not on an ISP where, in the US, I could watch ESPN 3 streaming even though I don’t have the TV package. I’m not a huge sports fan but would enjoy the occasional soccer or hockey match. For hockey I have access to the NHL app on Apple TV, but as far as I can tell I can’t buy just a game or 2. There isn’t a soccer one. No, I don’t stream any of those illegally. I just do something else instead. I have an embarrasment of alternatives. 24,000 (legally obtained) music tracks in my itunes library. 100’s of TV shows. Maybe a 100 movies. I have an XBox. In other words, screw them I’ve got other things to do. Personally the idea of illegal streaming sports around regional restrictions doesn’t bug me nearly as much as people downloading something that is, or will be available in iTunes or on DVD or on Amazon Prime (I waited a long time for the last Torchwood mini-series to show up, but i had plenty to do while i waited.)

          • Hardik Panjwani

            Here’s the other thing that happens:

            A friend in the UK (F) : Hey, did you catch that snooker game last night?

            Me: No, they did not show that in India.

            F: Too bad. There was this awesome game that went down to the wire.

            Me: Ya, I read about in the news earlier today.

            F: It was brilliant. Robertson and Allen just kept piling pressure on each other. In the 4th frame, there was this shot on the brown… Oh wait you did not see the game no?

            Me: Nope, they did not show it here.


            F: So did you at least catch the latest Downton Abbey episode?

            Me: Headdesk.

      • Jared

        True. But the thing about piracy is that it’s measurable. A studio can take stock of how many people are watching bootleg copies of Game of Thrones, but it would have a tougher time knowing how many people would like to watch Game of Thrones, if only there was an easier way to get it. The record labels could see how many people were using Napster, and realized they needed to address that market. If people had simply stopped buying CDs, who knows what conclusions labels would draw? Maybe they’d just assume they needed lowest-common-denominator drivel to sell in mass quantities instead of making it easier for people to buy really great content.

        • KvH

          When they evaluate how many people steal a media company’s first response has never been “how can we sell to these pirates” but “how can we force the pirates to buy.” That’s when you see lobbying to make the crimes worse, involving ISPs is stupid plans, etc… When people stop buying something it’s not like companies do nothing. They spend money on finding out why. And then they figure out how to sell to them. They don’t have to go through the process of 1) lobby, 2) more laws, 3) stricter fines/penalties, 4) a 3rd party comes in (itunes) and says “well, just let us sell some easily. we’ll put DRM on it and lock it down, you’ll at least make something off online” pirating just causes them to try and stop pirating, not solve the actual problem.

    • Hardik Panjwani

      Agreed. I live in India and I have a good amount of discretionary income to spend. Currently most TV shows in India are made for housewives or adolescents and there is a huge segment of 25-35 year old people that goes unserved. I would gladly pay HBO for Game of Thrones or AMC for The Killing so that I could watch quality TV and watch it at the same time as my friends in the US. But that is not an option for me. I can buy the shows on iTunes only months or even years after my friends in the US have watched the show. By this time my friends are on the next season and we cant talk about the show or discuss how the story will develop next week. I pirate the show because that lets me talk about it with friends the very next day. The media companies are totally oblivious to this social component of entertainment. I do buy episodes that I thought were particularly good at a later date but not all the episodes.

    • JohnDoey

      No, that is bullshit.

      Content is a SERVICE, not a PRODUCT.

      When a waiter brings you a meal and you tip him, do you get to own the waiter’s service? NO. You enjoy the service and you pay for that.

      If you don’t want to pay the waiter for his service, go to the market and buy groceries and make your own meal.

      Don’t want to pay for NFL the way NFL wants? There is High School football. Or go play football yourself.

      I agree the service provider should be responsive to what the customer wants, but if they are not, your only moral/legal choice is to move on to another service provider.

      CDs (the music equivalent of cable bundles)

      Also bullshit. The equivalent of a cable bundle would be you can’t buy Bruce Springsteen’s album without also buying all of the other artists on Bruce Springsteen’s label.

      Whether it is convenient to buy a whole album or individual single is just a function of the current technology at any one time. You could buy individual songs in the vinyl era, there were both albums and singles. You have always been able to listen to individual songs on the radio or on MTV or similar. You could buy individual songs in the CD era either as CD single or in compilations. Movie soundtracks that have 8 pop songs in them are examples of that. Most artists who published on CD have Greatest Hits collections where you can get all the singles.

      One of the advantages of digital music is you can pick and choose song-by-song while browsing through iTunes. That option did not exist until around 2000. The CD was created in 1982. There was no bundling plan or some other bullshit.

      • Jared

        Yes, CDs were a function of existing technology at the time. But once technology allowed for a better solution, the labels resisted it until piracy forced them to compete in digital music. They clung to the bundle of songs– sorry, sticking with this analogy– because it made them more money than selling individual tracks. (CD singles were different, by the way. They too were often bundled with another song or two, and sold at a huge cost per song mark up.)

        Likewise, cable bundles made sense before Internet video was feasible. Now content owners are hanging onto the bundle for dear life, just like record labels did.

        For what it’s worth, I never said piracy was morally or legally right. I just don’t think you can compare it to automobiles (or in your case restaurants), which is not an market with built on duopolies designed to limit consumer choice.

  • mgold

    I disagree with this post totally.

    This is not a theoretical issue where education might possibly help. This is a factual thing. Consumers don’t care about massive content conglomerates and a 6 point education system will just shift this from torrents somewhere else.

    And FYI if a consumer could dowload a viking range, or a X5 instead of paying .. you honestly think they wouldn’t?


    • “Consumers don’t care about massive content conglomerates”

      Care or not, conglomerates the ones that make the content for a profit.

      …”and a 6 point education system will just shift this from torrents somewhere else.”

      Not if they don’t have internet access.

      “And FYI if a consumer could dowload a viking range, or a X5 instead of paying .. you honestly think they wouldn’t?”

      I’m sure they would, and they’d be just as much in the wrong. (Not to mention that if such a thing were possible the entire worldwide economy would collapse)

      • mgold

        Firstly conglomerates do still make plenty of profit. There is not a single metric anywhere showing piracy causing an actual decrease in profit (making it hard to prove “theft”).

        Education clearly doesn’t help, thats been their MO since the late 90s.

        Secondly check out this site

        • matthewmaurice

          That’s like saying it’s OK to steal iPads from the Apple Store because Apple gets 35% margin on them in the highest grossing per sq. foot stores in the world.

  • Dion V

    Perhaps a better link to illustrate the point would have been the official Rolling Stones video of this song:

    Or was that your point?

    • Peter Cohen

      Ironic, eh?

  • This is completely wrong.

    1) Drug dealer is arrested based on warrant and goes to jail if found guilty. “Six strikes” arbitrally gives ISPs rights to punish me (limit my rights granted me by service contract) all by oneselves.

    2) Per my knowledge (and i am not actively monitoring trials/judgements for last 5 years) downloading music or movies is not forbidden by law. There is (was) no precedens when one was found guilty for downloading contents (this excludes computer programs). Sharing is prohibited….

    • “my rights granted me by service contracts all by themselves.”

      It’s a contract, not the Bill of Rights.

      • Oo.. so you are for punishing customers without a court ruling? Are you for granting ISP rights to decide what is and what is not lawful? Will you support punishing for downloading even if it is lawful?


        • Unless internet access is deemed a basic human right you have to operate under the current system.

          • Unless movies and music are are deemed vital to humanity survival, companies have to operate under the current system.

  • lkalliance

    This post is absolutely, 100% spot-on. You can’t get it when you want? Wait. You can’t get it at all? Tough. It’s not yours. You have no right to it. Find something else to watch. Find something else to do. Upset about it? Don’t buy any of the company’s products. If these companies continue to make the content difficult to access, then that means they are making money doing it, and that means that you are on the wrong side of supply and demand. Man up, shut up, and find something else to do.

    This particularly:

    ‘There’s right, and there’s wrong. Stealing stuff is just plain wrong. We learn this as children, yet somehow we make elaborate excuses for it as we get older, like “Well, I’m just copying bits. I’m not really stealing.” Or “If it weren’t so hard for me to get legitimately, I wouldn’t have to steal it instead.”’

    You’re just giving yourself permission to take. “Thou shalt not steal,” It’s one of the basic ten! And the easiest to understand! If you’re going to steal, call a spade a spade. “I’m not stealing, I’m helping their marketing.” (that one particularly galls me) “I’m not stealing, they deserve it for making it tough to get.” Give me a break. It’s stealing. You are stealing. It’s wrong. It’s not right. Look in the mirror and tell yourself, “You are a thief. You are taking something that’s not yours.” Then if you can live with yourself without feeling guilty for stealing, more power to you, asshole.

    God damn it, this issue makes me angry!

    • Patrick Henry

      Except its not stealing, and you are doing yourself a disservice to call it that. Its copyright infringement. Stealing results in the original owner no longer having an item. Copyright infringement results in the owner still having an piece of IP, but the infringer enjoying the benefits without paying. And there is the issue that the infringer may or may not have paid for it if the situation was different (ie it was actually for sale).

      • lkalliance

        Absolutely wrong. I’m not talking about the semantic difference between stealing and copyright infringement. I’m not talking about the law. I’m talking about right or wrong.

        Whether something was for sale, whether the infringer may have paid for it is beside the point. If the owner of the content wanted you to have it, he’d make it available to you. That’s that. You don’t have a right to watch it just because you want to watch it. It’s wrong, it’s theft: the taking of something that isn’t yours and wasn’t offered (in fact was specifically not offered.)

        “Well he would have paid for it if you’d let him” is an evasion, a rationalization, a weak excuse for doing something wrong. The owner of the content didn’t make it available. We can debate why that is or whether it’s a wise choice, but it’s the decision of the owner of the content. You can’t just rationalize taking it, against the specific desires of the owner.

        • rj

          “It’s wrong, it’s theft: the taking of something that isn’t yours and wasn’t offered (in fact was specifically not offered.)”

          Its not theft, because the person who made a copy hasn’t deprived the owner of the use of it (unlike the BMW X5 example). That is the crucial difference. It may be morally wrong (depending on the circumstances), and it may be illegal (depending on where you live), but it isn’t theft.

      • matthewmaurice

        “Except its not stealing,” keep telling yourself that. You’re not paying for content that the creator/distributor specifically intends to be compensated for. That is stealing.

        • kibbles

          stealing != copyright infringement.

          words matter.

          • matthewmaurice

            manslaughter != murder, but tell that to the dead guy. Sometimes end results matter more than words.

  • GTWilson

    Personally, I’ve taken the “live without it” route long enough that I wound up at “no interest in it at all”.

  • It’s all fine and great to take a stand about what consumers should or shouldn’t do, but that’s all academic. People are going to download as long as it is the easier option. No amount of education, pontificating on blogs, lawsuits, or shutting off internet connections will do a single thing to stop downloading. The pragmatic answer, regardless of how it’s actually rationalized, is that the studios should give consumers what they want where/when they want it. Also, at any rate, there will be a minority of people who steal content regardless. Those should just be ignored, because even if you were able to completely stop their theft, they would not turn into consumers. At some point the benefit of preventing the piracy is not worth the cost.

    • Patrick Henry

      Bingo. We can all complain about what people SHOULD do and feel all moral, but that’s pointless. That bus has left the station. Young people don’t understand copyright like older generations. For them, they are going to get it, what ever is easier or available.

      So the answer is to continue to demand companies give up this crazy business model of limited selection. I’d LOVE to pay for the NFL Sunday Ticket, but I’m not switching to DirecTV.

      • gjgustav

        Bull. People act based on their upbringing and behaviour of their peers. Like any subject, if you speak out against it, some will listen to you, and some won’t.

        Just saying “the kids steal anyway” is a cop out. As long as piracy runs rampant, studios will have excuses to lobby for arcane laws, pointless DRM, and other crazy business models.

    • JohnDoey

      But downloading from BitTorrent is not the easier option if it results in losing your Internet connection or in jail time. It’s not the easier option for most users who don’t even know what BitTorrent is or how to get at it. BitTorrent is not the easier option if a virus infects your computer after while you download something. It’s not the easier option when you can buy a song from iTunes for 99 cents and download it again and again for the rest of your life, to whatever device, and the quality keeps improving automatically as technology moves forward.

      When somebody publishes a music album or movie that they themselves do not own (whether to BitTorrent or anywhere else) they are essentially impersonating the producer of that content, they’re counterfeiting the content. It’s not the same as you come over to my house and I play you a music album off my iPhone. It’s much more like if you went to see Lady Gaga play a concert and it was some fat dude in a blond wig and electrical tape murdering her song catalog.

      What is really funny about all this is the people who are the most information-wants-to-be-free will run a website, and if somebody so much as cribs a little CSS from them, they fucking lose their minds! DESIGN CRIME! There will be a 10,000 angry blog words written in no time at all. Well, publishing someone else’s music album to BitTorrent is much worse than that. It’s equivalent to copying the whole of a website and putting the whole thing up verbatim at another Web address, stripped of ads or fees or subscription options. Again, if that happens to a hardcore information-wants-to-be-free guy, he loses his shit. But he’s doing it to music artists and movie makers without a second thought.

  • Things are a little different. You can steal a movie but you can’t buy it.

    If you go to the dark side you can have the movies you want at the time you want with an easier user experience than what you get when you buy it.

    I agree you still should not steal, right, but usually stealing should be associated with more difficulties not better service. That’s were the industry is failing, not serving their users they make stealing a better experience and human are easy on temptation.

    You desire an X5 but can not afford it, do not steal it, but what if you could easily afford it, without even have to think at the price, but nobody will sell it to you legally and in the same time there is plenty of offers to sell it to you illegally by not legal dealers that will give the car to you without paying taxes on the transaction? Will you wait for a legal dealer? Should humanity be made of saints to stop piracy or paying should make you better served?

    Think iTunes. If you steal a song you have to download it to all your iDevices, if you buy it from Apple with iTunes match all your devices will have the song immediately, you pay you have a better service and you feel better being honest. If paying gives you a worst service, feeling better could be not enough, it shouldn’t be that way but in reality it is. Major can be sorry for the corrupted reality but should also start to improve user experience, no other way is viable if you want to be realistic.

  • rj

    Its copyright infringement, not “stealing” or “theft”.

    When you steal a BMW X5, you deprive someone else of its use; when you make a copy of something digital, you do not.

    • Cute.

      Do you have something that you didn’t pay the asking price for?

      If the answer is “yes” you’re a thief.

      • rj

        If you took somebody’s BMW X5 without paying for it, you’re guilty of theft. If you downloaded a movie/song/tv show without paying, you might be guilty of copyright infringement, but you’re not guilty of theft.

        • Do you have the thing? Did you pay for the thing? Did the creator get paid for the thing?

          All the flowery language in the world can’t get around these questions.

          • rj

            The important question is whether the original owner still has the thing. In the case of the BMW, he doesn’t, and therefore its theft. In the case of the downloaded movie/song/tv show, he does, and therefore it isn’t. That doesn’t necessarily make it legal or right, but it isn’t theft.

    • matthewmaurice

      So “theft” is wrong, but copyright infringement is OK? Bottom line, either way you have something that belongs to someone else, which is pretty much the definition of theft. Which is why copyright infringement is illegal.

      • rj

        Re-read, and try to avoid jumping to conclusions.

      • kibbles

        youre getting hung up on trying to prove he said it was “OK”. when really the conversation is on the differences between theft and copyright infringement, and why theyre different. the reasons why are very much tied to the non-loss-of-physical-goods nature of copyright infringement.

        a boy who sneaks into a circus, peels back the tent and watches the lion tamer is not stealing a sack of grain from a shopkeeper. they are weighted differently for good reason.

    • gjgustav

      This is a tired and invalid rationalization.

      Your assertion that you don’t deprive someone of something when you copy is wrong. You are depriving them of compensation for their work. You can’t even know yourself if you wouldn’t pay money for the thing you copied. If you couldn’t steal it so easy, you might decide to forgo an expensive lunch one day (for example) and then pay for the thing you want.

      Imagine if you worked your butt off for two weeks, and your boss decided not to pay you. He didn’t take anything from you – you have all the same stuff that you did two weeks ago. So is it ok for him not to pay you right since you aren’t deprived of anything physical?

      • rj

        Its neither tired, nor a rationalization. Its simply the truth: copyright infringement is different from theft. They are distinct legal (and moral) concepts, and its incorrect to equate the two. Note that I made no statement as to the rightness or wrongness of copyright infringement.

        As to whether someone is being deprived of compensation for their work… that is complicated, and depends on the circumstances. It likely is true in some cases, it certainly isn’t in all of them. If someone downloads something that is not legally available in that country, how is the rights-holder being deprived of compensation?

        In TV especially, there are a multitude of legal and moral issues that have yet to be resolved. If I pay for HBO, should I be able to bittorrent the latest episode of Game of Thrones (because its easier to do that than use my shitty PVR)? Morally, I think most people would say yes. Legally, I’m not sure what the answer is (and it likely varies from country to country).

        If I bittorrent a network tv show, the actors, etc aren’t getting “compensated” by my viewing it, but is that my problem? They chose the ad subsidy model and broadcast it into the air; I didn’t agree to watch the ads. Is it any different than recording on a VCR and using fast-forward or Tivo-ing it and skipping through the commercials (or, analogously, using an ad-blocker or Safari reader when using the web)?

        • gjgustav

          Yes, technically theft is different from copyright infringement, but it’s similar enough that when one uses theft to mean infringement you know damned well what they mean. Nitpicking on definitions is a cop out.

          What I have a problem with is that because it’s not a physical object taken away then you use “it’s not theft” to make it sound ok.

          Circumstances are not that complicated. Just follow the money.

          If you download something not in your country, it’s still possible to deprive the owner. They may have been planning to release a localized version of the work in the future. Then you are depriving them. Bottom line, it’s up to them, not you.

          If you pay for HBO, then BitTorrent is ok, because the content creator was compensated by you through your HBO fees, since you could have recorded it from HBO anyway.

          If you BitTorrent a TV show with the ads removed, not ok. With the ads, as long as the show is shown in your area, the advertisers have paid the content producer for the agreement of making the ads available to the viewer, whether or not you view them or not.

          See, it’s easy.

          • rj

            “What I have a problem with is that because it’s not a physical object taken away then you use “it’s not theft” to make it sound ok.”

            I’m not using “it’s not theft” to make it sound ok – that is something you’re inferring out of thin air.

            I’m using “it’s not theft” because it actually isn’t theft. It is copyright infringement. Still (often) illegal, still immoral (at least sometimes), but as the rightful owner of the property has not be deprived of its use, its not theft – and the (generally unprovable) “potential lost income” argument doesn’t make it theft either.

            I’m unclear about your explanation of the two hypothetical scenarios I presented. Is this your moral opinion, or the law (and if the latter, in which countries)?

    • KvH

      So when I rob a bank it’s not stealing. After all I haven’t deprived anyone of the use of their money in the bank, if they go to make a withdrawal they still can. You’re depriving the owner money. That is stealing.

      • kibbles

        no, robbing a bank IS stealing — because the money is finite and unique, and youve removed it. not at all the same as duplication.

        if scientists invented food replication tomorrow (ala Star Trek), it would at once feed the world’s people and deprive farmers & food manufacturers of their income. but is it stealing? by replicating food are you stealing from farmers? if you said “Yes”, then what do you expect people to do — not replicate food at the push of a button?

  • kibbles

    so much righteous fluff in this bit.

    by this logic, if it were left to the rightous, we’d still be leasing $18 plastic CDs from the record studios…instead they were forced to adapt and now we have itunes. consumers win….via initial copyright infringement (early adopters, if you will).

    get over it.

    • Steven Fisher

      Illegal downloading did not trigger the download music market.

      The labels came kicking and screaming to the future against their better (but awful) judgement. What got labels on board legal music downloading via the iTunes Store was force of personality. What spread that desire for purchasable downloads to other markets was sheer spite

      You can still see this awful judgement in motion, as they try to complicate the model, withhold certain tracks, or sue people for sharing unique tracks that they won’t sell.

      You are seeing an adaptability that the labels simply don’t have.

      To be clear: Downloading illegally is not only illegal, but morally wrong. And it didn’t change a fucking thing.

      • kibbles

        what fantasy. the ONLY thing that brought the studios to steve jobs’ table was their declining sales, which they attributed to napster & friends.

        jobs said it himself, it’s how he got them to negotiate — “make it easier than piracy”.

    • gjgustav

      What a foolish argument. The so-called righteous are just saying treat it like a physical good. When sales go down, the vendors lower the prices. Supply, demand, and price elasticity are the first things you learn in any introductory economics class.

      • kibbles

        which has nothing to do w/ what i said.

        were the world not downloading a billion sounds via napter & friends during the late ’90s and ’00s, the studios would never have come to the negotiating table w/ the online music stores. jobs leveraged this dispution of their business model to get them onboard w/ itunes. (and they were still terrified of it…so jobs reminded them it was only on the mac at the time — at this time ipods were mac-only, so the store was mac-only. read the Issacson’s biography for more.)

        • gjgustav

          It has everything to do with what you said. You claimed a scenario where sales are left to the “righteous” – i.e. no piracy, just CD sales. I am claiming falling sales would force them to re-evaluate. You are claiming they’d do nothing.

          • kibbles

            what i said was, if there were no mass piracy in the ’90s & ’00s, the studios would still be leasing us music on plastic over & over. want proof? the advent of music sales until the ’90s — buy, release new medium, re-buy. that was their model. but the digital medium combined w/ connectivity disrupted that model.

            had they not started to lose sales due to commonplace piracy, they would have had zero incentive to do anything different, just as they hadnt for the past 80 years.

          • gjgustav

            You can’t prove that the business models would not have changed due to mass piracy because there was mass piracy. You are simply making it up based on a correlation. Music was still sold on CDs before mass piracy because customers didn’t have the bandwidth to purchase their music – many were still using dial-up modems in the 90s and early 00s. Mass piracy came at approximately the same time as better customer bandwidth, iTunes, and smaller labels selling MP3 files directly. Anyone of those could have been the catalyst.

  • dustinwilson

    The problem with the “you can’t steal [insert expensive unreachable item here]” analogy is that it’s not really an analogy at all. It’s comparing things that aren’t remotely the same. At a click of a button you can’t make a duplicate of a Ferrari or a Viking range. You can, however, make identical duplicates of any music or video file on your computer. Once something ends up on the internet it’s pretty much impossible to keep it from being shared everywhere.

    The entire “just live without it” argument is so stupid when it’s so easy to get the content that we’re supposed to live without. We can live without junk food, our mobile phones, or even indoor plumbing but they’re so easy to get we don’t. We can live without electricity or even the Web, but we don’t. When you can click a few buttons and download an entire movie for free it doesn’t matter whether you can live with it or not. The ethics of pirates’ doing such a thing don’t matter either. You might as well just ask a serial murderer why he likes to murder people. You might want to ask a civil rights leader who marched in the 1960’s why they couldn’t live without their civil rights. We’re humans, and we’re not entirely logical creatures. If there’s something there and easily gotten we grab it.

    Your concept that as children we learn stealing is wrong and as adults we try to excuse it is also wrong. Often times it’s the children who are pirating the content you’re railing against. DVD copy protection was broken by a 16 year old. My 11 year old nephew downloads mp3s off the internet. When I was a kid I traded mixtapes of music with my friends. We didn’t think about how ethically wrong it was. It was just easy to do, and we did it. We as human beings never have been entirely logical creatures. We today happily have arguments over digital rights here while people are being slaughtered in the streets in Syria and don’t have a second’s thought about their plight. That’s not ethically right either, but we accept that.

    As much as we think the general public is stupid they understand technology to a certain point. They understand that this digital revolution of sorts has created technology that enables us to purchase something and play it anywhere regardless of device. That’s what people want. That’s often not what they get, and that’s what creates widespread piracy from people who otherwise wouldn’t do it. There will always be digital pirates just like there will always be thieves. What businesses and people can and should do is try to understand why otherwise law-abiding citizens would resort to piracy.

    DRM-free audio is available for purchase just about anywhere online, and even lossless audio is available for purchase for most things. People who really care about audio quality can even buy a CD and legally rip it to their computers losslessly. Video is a different story. Apple provides video through iTunes, but it’s loaded with DRM and is prevented from being played in anything but Apple devices or Apple applications. Amazon offers the same with the same limitations. If you buy a DVD or blu-ray even though the discs have copy protection on them they can play in any DVD or blu-ray player for as long as you own a functioning one. If Apple and Amazon were to suddenly vanish you couldn’t play videos from either because there’s no entity around to verify your account anymore unless someone was successful in cracking the DRM.

    The only way to get worthwhile digital video without downloading it illegally through the internet is to buy the blu-ray or DVD and rip it to your computer either lossy or losslessly. It’s questionable on if it’s legal or not, but you do pay for it. Video is a problem that needs to be solved, and it doesn’t look like it really ever will because there’s not a lot of people complaining about it like they did with audio. It’s a shame because people will gladly be shafted when they have shiny products that can play the crap they fork over their money for.

    • gjgustav

      You’ve just said it’s stupid without explaining why. Are you implying that you can’t live without something that’s easy to obtain? Are you actually comparing living without free movies and music is as difficult as living without plumbing or electricity. Laughable.

      • dustinwilson

        I wrote exactly why it was stupid. All you have to do is read, but I’ll state it again.

        Yes, I am comparing them because it IS laughable. And if you read what I typed that’s the entire point I’m trying to make in that part of what I wrote. It is stupid. We can live without the movies themselves just as well as we can live without downloading them for free. The entire “just live without it” argument is completely stupid simply because there’s multitudes of things we have either for free or for purchase that we can live without. It simply doesn’t matter whether we can live without it or not because it’s not going to change the fact people are downloading things illegally for free. It’s never mattered before. Why would it matter now?

        This goes back to Peter’s first argument where he compares the six strikes rules to the war on drugs. If the war on drugs and any prohibition-like set of laws teaches us otherwise law-abiding humans when told they can’t have something will get what they want when they want it how they want it, and laws be damned.

        There’s no excusing that downloading things illegally is wrong. It definitely is, but it’s not hard to understand why it’s happening. It’s actually not really that hard to solve it either. Just give people what they want, and most will be willing to pay for it. When it comes to video just like with anything else they buy they want to buy the video and be able to do whatever the heck they want with it. We fought to get that with legally downloaded music, so why not with video?

        • gjgustav

          I’m not sure your point then. If it’s because it’s so easy to do, that makes it ok, then that’s ridiculous. Grow a spine and live without it. Lots of people do without things that are easy to do, including junk food and mobile phones. I have no problem going without torrents. It’s not hard.

          If your point is that you can’t expect everyone to show integrity and will do it because it’s easy, then I agree. People are selfish. But so what?

          The argument to go without is aimed at those who want to send a valid message to the media companies that their business models suck. You can’t do that with any validity if you are stealing (excuse me, copyright infringing) from them. They just label you as a theif and remove you from their profit equation. Why would they listen to someone who they believe will never pay for their products? If you go without, you are sending a message with integrity – that you are an honest customer that would pay for things if it was affordable and reasonable to do so.

          • kibbles

            “If it’s because it’s so easy to do, that makes it ok, then that’s ridiculous.”

            did you even read his post? “There’s no excusing that downloading things illegally is wrong. It definitely is, but it’s not hard to understand why it’s happening.”

            …his point is the stating “it’s wrong that you can’t buy this season’s XXX in your country, live without it!” is pointless, because people will do it anyway. just like how prohibition is pointless, because people will do it anyway.

            thus the only real-world solution is — control it. for booze this meant bars and liquore stores, for digital content it means online stores and easy access points.

            thats his point. and it’s painfully obvious.

          • gjgustav

            If you just want to say “people will download it anyway” then why bother posting an opinion. There’s nothing to add. I’m claiming that people who download it have no integrity and will never send a message to the content providers because they don’t consider a pirate as a customer – you know, the whole point of this article.

          • kibbles

            but many pirates are potential customers, by definition. they clearly want the content. who are you to say they wouldnt pay for it, if “Show XXXX” were available via an access point in their country?

            claiming pirates have no integrity and therefore their opinion is worthless is…silly, really. just as silly as it would be for you to say the opinion of illegal drinkers during the prohibition was worthless because they were law-breaking criminals. totally silly. their opinion did matter, and those drinkers got the laws changed so they wouldnt be criminals any longer. but they were criminals during prohibition.

            which just goes to show us that morality is often a mutable thing defined by ones own conventions.

          • gjgustav

            Prohibition is different because illegal drinkers weren’t trying to get alcohol for free, and the vendors also wanted to sell the content. This isn’t a case where the vendors are trying old fashioned business models to squeeze more money from their customers.

            Their opinion is worthless because the content isn’t prohibited like alcohol was. Saying “it’s too expensive, or isn’t sold the way I like” is just a rationalization, as evidenced by people who still steal music today, when it’s cheaper than it ever was, and available in DRM free format that can be easily transferred to any medium the customer likes.

            You might make a case that their opinion is relevant for content that is no longer made available (although how many people only pirate stuff that is never going to be made available), but not for having to wait a month for it to become available just smacks of self-entitlement.

    • JohnDoey

      You’re just parroting the information-wants-to-be-free propaganda.

      At a click of a button you can’t make a duplicate

      of a Ferrari or a Viking range

      That is not true.

      In the first place, nothing is free. Even uploading a digital copy of a music album to BitTorrent costs money in time, bandwidth, and storage. Downloading a music album from BitTorrent also cost money in time, bandwidth, and storage. You can’t even upload to BitTorrent if you don’t first buy a computer, rent an Internet connection, put a roof over your head so that you have time to upload to BitTorrent one evening. So an investment has been made before a single bit moves from a bootlegger’s computer and up onto BitTorrent. The copy on BitTorrent cost money to make. Money is changing hands when you get content through BitTorrent, but none of it is going to the people who made the content. That is exploiting the producer of the original content.

      Secondly, yes, you can copy a Ferrari with the push of a button. With a little investment, I could buy a Ferrari, build a factory to duplicate it, then sell the duplicates at cost to other people, and that would be the equivalent of uploading to BitTorrent. Money is spent before the copy is made. I had to get a factory just like the content bootlegger had to get a computer. I would pay to make the copy, and the person who gets the copy would pay to get it, but no money would go to Ferrari, or the designers of that Ferrari. That is exploiting the producer of the original car.

      That is where the stealing is.

      The music album and Ferrari did not make themselves. It took a lot of hard work to make them. When you take a copy, you have to kick a little money into the pot to pay for the actual creation of the original copy. It’s not enough just to pay for your second-hand bootleg copy. The production of the original copy has to be paid for.

      You can, however, make identical duplicates of any music or video file on your computer.

      You can also make identical copies of $100 bills with a computer.

      According to your logic, that would be fine. According to your logic, there is no crime involved in making identical copies of $100 bills with a computer.

      The entire “just live without it” argument is so

      stupid when it’s so easy to get the content

      that we’re supposed to live without.

      Again, more information-wants-to-be-free propaganda. Again, incorrect.

      Have you ever robbed a bank? Why not? It is much easier to get $500,000 by robbing a bank at gunpoint than it is to earn $500,000 in some legitimate way. It might take you 20 years to earn that much. You can get it in 20 minutes by walking into a bank with a gun right now.

      Why live without $500,000 when it is so easy to get the $500,000 that we’re supposed to live without?

      So if you’re not counterfeiting $100 bills, robbing banks, and driving bootleg cars, then stop using bootleg content. You’re a hypocrite. And you’re taking advantage of artists and writers who for the most part, barely get by, especially in the United States where even health care is an individual expense. How can you respect the content and not respect the people who suffered and bled to create it?

      Yes, you can live without everything that you’re not willing to earn. If a music album is not worth $10 to you, then don’t buy it. Listen to ad-supported music instead.

      • normm

        Couldn’t the essential problem you identify—of cutting out the creator—be at least partially solved technologically? Suppose a government copyright registry provided an easy way to identify intellectual property (even when somewhat corrupted, perhaps using multiple content hashes) and provided links to send money to the registered author. Then anyone who gets a copy of your work and likes it can easily send you a tip. We might even require that operating systems make this lookup/payment function very easy for common media types. Then copying provides you with at least the value of free distribution.

  • Stedwick

    Stealing can be and often is the correct thing to do. The assumption that “stealing is always wrong, no matter what” is simply incorrect. Voting with your wallet, as you say, is only ONE way to deliver a message; stealing is another. Not buying shows and not watching them sends the wrong message: that I don’t want to watch the shows. Stealing the shows, on the other hand, sends the perfect message: I want the convenience of being able to watch the shows on my own terms.

    • Peter Cohen

      “Stealing can be and often is the correct thing to do.”

      A starving person and a loaf of bread, sure. “Because I want to watch Game of Thrones and don’t want to pay for HBO,” not so much.

      • Hardik Panjwani

        But the thing is that ‘I want to watch Game of Thrones and pay HBO directly but the damn fools insist that I deal with Time Warner instead who then insists that I buy a ton of shitty channels in addition to what I want to buy’

        • Without Time Warner, currently HBO wouldn’t have the means to create the content you so clearly love.

  • Thank you for a sensitive view. I’m a composer who write music for film. Whenever someone acquires and watches illegally a film / tv show that I worked on, they deprecate its value. If everybody was doing this, I wouldn’t have a job.

    If you want to watch it but can’t, then you wait. Release windows exist so the production companies / distributor can maximize their revenue streams, and that in turn allows ME (and hundred of thousand of people in this industry) to make a living. Circumventing this by illegally downloading defeats the whole purpose of selling exclusive rights, foreign rights, etc. And that’s how distributors make money.

    People who download illegally should think about that for a second instead of trying to find justifications for unjustifiable acts. Movies and TV shows don’t belong to you – you didn’t spend 50 millions to create them. They belong to the production companies and are for them to distribute the way they see fit. If you don’t like that, just tell them to go fuck themselves by not watching. They’ll have to adapt anyway eventually.

    And the semantic discussion between “theft” and “copyright infringement” is meaningless. Both acts are illegal, and you’re breaking the law in both cases. So there’s no need to act all self-righteous like you’re doing something ok when you’re just not.

    • Hardik Panjwani

      A couple of questions that I think will be useful in this discussion.

      1a) As an artist, do you think that there are too many middlemen between your content and the people who want to watch your content?

      1b) Do you think these middle men are serving you, the artist and we, the consumers in the best possible way?

      2) What are your thoughts on Hollywood accounting? ( )

      • 1a) As an artist in a collaborative industry, I can’t work on a movie if I don’t have a producer hiring me. None of us are being hired by the consumers, we are hired by a production company. As long as I can make a decent living off my passion, and as long as I feel that am fairly retributed by said producer for said contribution, I don’t see a problem in that.

        1b) These “middle men” are serving all of us by helping said production companies come up with millions of dollars to bankroll a project. Since I can’t complain about my job situation right now, I do think they serve me well. If I weren’t to think so, I would be free to go work, say, only on indie movies that never make a cent. Likewise, if consumers don’t think these middle men are serving them in the best possible way, they are free to use their money for other sources of entertainment. It’s a free market and a free society.

        2) Hollywood accounting might be screwy (I’ll be the first to admit it), that doesn’t give you the right to illegally download their content. If I don’t like the industry, I don’t have to work for it. If you don’t like the industry, you can watch free programs on public TV.

        Let’s not shift the discussion to “Are corporations really acting in people’s interest?” This is a capitalism society and companies will make as much money as they can. We know that and that’s besides the point. The point is that by making a lot of money, and as long as their do so within the law, these companies directly allow hundred of thousand of people to make a living off their craft and passion, and indirectly contribute to a large and vibrant economy. Isn’t that the basis of our society? So let them be rich if we all benefit from it. The day consumers don’t benefit anymore, and stop buying the content, the companies will have to evolve or die. Such is life in the capitalist world. That doesn’t give you the right to download content illegally.

      • Let me add to my reply below that there are other and better ways when you disagree with a company’s actions than to illegally acquire their product. Content producers don’t need piracy for them to know there is demand for a certain type of content over a certain type of delivery. The problem is how it does, can, or could, disrupt the market and the traditional revenue streams.

        Believe it or not, it’s a well know fact that as it currently stands, HBO wouldn’t be able to produce shows like Game of Thrones if they gave away their content through a direct subscription method over the Internet. So people downloading it illegally because they can’t watch it “now” and feel entitled (by God knows what right) to do so – that doesn’t help anybody. It actually hurts HBO more than anything.

        Like it or not, Game of Thrones in its current form (read: AWESOME) exists because of HBO’s multiple revenue streams. If you like Game of Thrones to the point of actually watching it, you should at least agree with HBO’s way of doing business. If you don’t like HBO’s way of doing business, then don’t watch their shows. And if you don’t like HBO’s way of doing business and still watch GoT illegally, then you’re a hypocrite (and breaking the law)…

      • JohnDoey

        There has to be a middleman.

        Artists are not businessmen, not managers. Artists seclude themselves in a studio to make new stuff. They can’t answer emails and the phone in a timely fashion to make sure a server is up or whatever.

        Right now, Apple is the middleman who is doing things in the most modern and useful way.

        Also, you may be thinking that the cost of content drops if you somehow go direct to the artist. Well, in my case, I work alone, but I use tools and libraries and instruments and devices from probably 200 companies, each of which is made up of dozens or hundreds or thousands of employees. A big chunk of what I charge for my content goes to them, because without them, I am out of business. I have to rent studio space also. I have to buy books and training materials from time to time to keep up with technology.

        A lot of the money that you think is going to vapid middlemen is going to legitimate costs that you don’t realize exist.

        I can sit down and write a music album for myself fairly cheap. But in order to release that music for the world, there are thousands of other things that have to happen, and that is very expensive.

        Also, most people underestimate the time involved in a particular piece of content. Most movies have 1 or 2 people at the center of them that worked for 10 years on that one movie, and at their peak employed hundreds of people. Most music albums contain years of songwriting, and every musician on there worked for 10 years just to prepare for that session.

        And even though the cost of tools has gone down in some ways, the cost of studio space and everything else has skyrocketed.

        Not to mention, an individual artist may have student loans.

        So you are probably imagining that there is one person making your content and everybody else is a leech. That’s not necessarily so.

        And it’s worth mentioning that at the height of the CD era, it cost $1 per copy just to manufacture that individual $10 CD. Today, a $10 music album in iTunes also costs $1 per copy just to manufacture that individual copy (including the server bandwidth for later re-downloads for life.) So costs are not necessarily plummeting either.

        And there are fewer retailers to help users discover new content. These days, a huge piece of the price you pay for a music album or movie went towards helping you to discover that content in the first place.

  • nizy

    I completely agree Peter. And might I add an excellent use of the Stones. Thought this was a Jim post seeing that.

    In the UK we often find ourselves waiting with US based content – not just TV, but movies, games, books. Even tech hardware and software can takes months to cross the pond. As you say, I just either do without or wait for it it to arrive, usually the former.

  • JohnDoey

    The easy way to understand why downloading paid content without paying for it is wrong is to recognize that the asking price for that content is just a tip.

    A waiter will bring you dinner if you agree to tip him. A bartender will bring you a drink if you agree to tip him. A musician will bring you a music album if you agree to tip him. A movie maker will bring you a movie if you agree to tip him. And they are all living on those tips. Paying for housing, food, and in the US, for medical care.

    Do you want to enjoy the first 3 albums from one of your favorite music artists for free only to find out there will be no 4th album or 10th album because the songwriter had no medical insurance, hadn’t seen a doctor in 10 years, and died from an undiagnosed heart problem in his sleep at 30 years of age?

    If you enjoy some content, you tip what was asked. It’s basic. Or else go enjoy some free content. Or make your own.