This Is Why People Pirate

Do you know why people hate movie studios? Why, increasingly, they're driven to download content illegally, even though they're perfectly willing to pay for it? Because of crap like this.

Check out the start of this press release:

LOS ANGELES, CA. (August 14, 2012) -– The world of Pandora has never looked better as over 33 million AVATAR Facebook fans were the first to learn of the upcoming release of the AVATAR Blu-ray 3D Collector's Edition, debuting globally beginning October 15, releasing in North America October 16, from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. A home entertainment experience like no other, for the first time ever, fans will be able to welcome James Cameron's global box office sensation into their homes in stunning 3D high-definition.

December 10, 2009. Avatar is released in theatres and goes on to become the highest grossing movie ever. Adjusted for inflation, it's number two all time. On April 22, 2010, it is released on DVD. It's now August 14, 2012. In what world does it make sense for the movie that basically defibrillated the entire notion of 3D movies to take three damn years to made a wide release on 3D Blu-ray? Ours, apparently.

Here's how we got here: Panasonic got in bed with Avatar early on, promoting the film with 103 trucks with giant 3D TVs on them. That was kind of cool, actually. But then, it turned out you could only buy the 3D Blu-ray with a Panasonic 3D TV. Which turned out to cost, all things considered, turned out to cost about 300 damn dollars for a $US30 Blu-ray, no matter how you spun it. Totally dumb, totally anti-consumer.

So what did we do? What did we basically have to do? We pirated.

As of October of last year, Avatar was the most pirated movie ever. 21 million downloads and counting. Sure, a lot of those were shaky cams, but how many were 1080p downloads and oh-hell-good-enough DVD rips were included in that? Probably a lot.

And the most infuriating part? It's not like Panasonic got anything out of it anyway. In just January to March of this year, it lost more than $US5 billion -- much of that in TVs. Is any significant portion of that due directly to its screwing with people who just wanted to buy and watch Avatar on their damn-expensive 3D TV? No, of course not. But it's also clear that no one is ever going to buy a Panasonic 3D TV just because it has an exclusive on Avatar.

This is less an indictment of Panasonic or FOX's business acumen -- which, you know, speaks for itself -- than an illustration of exactly how little consideration is given to us, the paying customers.

All of this matters. Especially right now. Demonoid just went down for the count. The RIAA and MPAA want the US to stomp on the Pirate Bay the same way. And we're just a few months removed from the Supreme Court declining to hear an appeal for a $US675,000 fine levied against Joel Tenenbaum for, as a teen, downloading a few dozen songs. The subtext is clear. It's not even subtext -- it's super-text. We are the arseholes. It's our fault that movies are bad and the music industry can't figure out how to monetise itself. And the copyright gestapo is coming for us. That's the message, the threat, looming over every idiotic decision that pushes us closer to BitTorrent.

It's not a new song. Big content has been struggling for years to figure out how to stop shooting itself in the feet and legs and genitals and torso on digital content. It's Apple taking years to drop its draconian DRM from iTunes sales. Or it's Amazon -- the biggest bookseller in the world -- locking down its own ebooks, even though they often cost exponentially more than simply buying a paperback. Or even Adele, lovely Adele, not having 21 being on Spotify because her people didn't want free customers to be able to listen to her. And it's certainly HBO refusing to release anything online outside of the US. Buying things, or getting them legally, is still a giant pain in the arse. Insanely, counterintuitively, infuriatingly, it's even worse for especially popular content, like Avatar or 21.

So what's the other side of this? People want to pay for things. Spotify's paying subscription base has grown 50 per cent over the past six months. Apple is making billions from content sales. Even Netflix is on the comeback trail, after pantsing itself with last year's Qwikster debacle. We'll skip over the fact that it's not actually in Australia yet.

Make it easy, make it good, and people will pay.

Until then? Enjoy your three-year-old Blu-ray.

WATCH MORE: Entertainment News


    That would be one expensive drink coaster.

    I've just purchase a Sony 3D TV at the time Avatar was released on Blu-ray. Then I found out about this, and apparently Avatar is not the only one.

    With no other way of getting 3D content for my shiny TV, have a guess what I did!

      Hmm, did you "Swede" it?

      (FTR I actually saw "Be Kind Rewind" in a cinema)

        Freaking loved that movie.

    Glad I've got Beatport and Bandcamp, my music needs are covered and I can hand over cash to the artist with some semblance of reliability that they'll actually see some of that money. Lots of 'em are less-known too so it's far more important than handing money to some dodgy as big name record label.

    When it comes to Movies, TV shows, and Anime though I'm not sure where to turn. I has money and I prefer HD DRM free digital content. Gimme that and I'll put some effort into only watching shiz that's paid for. Still can't see any services offering anything like this in Aus though, so I guess I'll keep on waiting for the entertainment industry to realize just how badly they've set themselves up.

      Well as far as anime goes, there's Crunchyroll. About 60-80% of their stuff (varies depending on the season) is streamed to Australians no problem. It's not DRM-free but it's fairly reasonably priced and it's better than nothing. Though I have to admit I've downloaded rips of their content before, simply because my connection's often not fast enough to stream it.

      Love band camp. beatport not so much given that its not always the best of quality files. wish they would make WAV 24Bit 96kHz or compressed to Flac the standard.
      All music that i can get in this I'll find a copy of the studio master either online or rip it at work when clients send them through.

    I buy whenever I can get acceptable features and quality for an acceptable price. This goes for food, gadgets, furniture and media. I'd be happy to buy TV shows and movies from iTunes if they met this requirement. But everyone from Amazon to BigPond Movies wants to charge more than the DVD, for a product that's of noticeably lower quality and has fewer features, which also has a negligible distribution cost.

    This doesn't make sense though. So because a 3D version wasn't available, people pirated the easily purchased 2D version? What kind of logic is that? People pirated the 2D version because it was a damn popular movie, it has nothing to do with them feeling like they're sticking it to the man over a 3D release delay.

      Agreed, I find the logic flawed. A 2D version was released. Yet Piracy still occurred.

      This isn't about Piracy. This is about the Studio's pulling yet again another dick move.

      I think you missed the point, Yes some people pirated the 2D version. But this post is about the 3d version and if you wanted it and you didn't buy a Panasonic TV you have very limited options for acquiring it. I used other options available to me after trying to buy it. I did see it on eBay for $120, and was never going to pay that. I will buy the 3D extended version when its out.

      I pirated the 3D version, I am assuming a lot of other people did as well .

      Also I would never have bought the 2D version if I knew I was going to have buy the 3D version again when it came out properly.

      I bought the blu ray version assuming it was the 3d version. (stupid me for assuming they would include it) was pretty annoyed when i realised. funny thing is i had a Panasonic TV and Blu-ray player yet because I purchased it before the bundle i couldnt get my hands on it lol.

    So what you're effectively saying is that we, the consumers, have the right to purchase a particular item at a particular cost otherwise we get to steal it?

      Not the point of the article Dan, the point was screwing customers for the sake of 'promotion' or 'deals' ends up with everyone getting stuffed.

        I know it's not the point of the article but in making the point the author makes the assumption that we had a right to access the 3d blu ray for a particular price. It's the assumption that everyone makes when they pirate because of the cost of buying the DVD.

          Dan the point is people WILL pay if you provide them with a reasonable service. If you provide them with crap service, you won't get your precious money which is all that the high flying movie executives care about.

            But that's not the point Dan is trying to make. He's saying, and I don't necessarily agree, that no matter how stupid the studios pricing and promotions are that doesn't give you any sort of right to pirate. He isn't saying that releasing exclusively on VHS 2D and selling at $150 per tape is a sound financial decision, just that a stupid decision like that doesn't automatically grant people the right to pirate.

            I agree that you can't just go 'oh well, I tried but they didn't release it on iTunes at the price I wanted fast enough', but when you throw distribution into the mix piracy becomes much less black and white.

              I disagree...

              What happens in the real world when a store doesn't meet the demand.
              It finds ways of meeting the demand or it loses customers and has a potential threat of closing due to lack of business.
              What happened to their customers?
              They went elsewhere to get their wares.

              Same principle applies here.
              If you cannot provide the goods, the citizenry will go elsewhere.
              Considering you COULDN'T get Avatar 3D anywhere else... There was only one other option.
              A lot of people took that option... I know I did.

              If given the choice, I would have bought it on 3D Bluray as my dedicated bluray player can play 3D movies a whole lot better than my 5 year old server :p

              This is the age of digital distribution... If you can't meet the demand, prepare to reap the loses.

      The point of the article is not that it's OK to pirate but that people WILL pirate unless they do things the way they want them, if they don't cater to the what the customers want then they will lose out, right or wrong they can't change that.

      US courts this year ruled that unauthorised copying of computer code is not stealing, it is unauthorised copying. Nobody has any ground any longer to call piracy stealing, unless a substantial difference between digital audiovisual media and "computer code" is demonstrated.

      When you understand the reasons why people pirate and the myths about media piracy then you will understand that you have asked the wrong question.

      The question is not "is it OK to steal if you think the price is too high?" but rather "How can the industry win back customers and gain new customers after so unashamedly disenfranchising its customer base?"

    3D TV, digital content costing the same as physical, exorbitant celebrity and studio CEO pay-checks, The rinse and repeat methodology for blockbuster movies.

    This is why I pirate! The last 10 movies I have seen in the theatre I have felt ripped off afterwords. and most of the movies I pirated, no way would i have paid a cent to see.

    Yet if i look through my collection of entertainment i have paid (Archer TV series, Louis CK special, the matrix etc.) all of which i bought after i had pirated initially.

    Hollywoods bottom line first mentality will ultimately (hopefully) ruin them.

      Thats a very good myth that the industry propagates. Often those who pirate are actually really good customers. You and many others like you (myself included) went to the theatre to see movies (even if they are bad) and have large collections of legal content despite the fact that we didn't really need to (well, morally we did)

      Another dumb argument is the one where Media Companies claim piracy when the content is not even offered in this country... Yeah, I could wait 6 months for the commercial networks to release your show in the wrong order... Or I can download it form the US now and buy the DVD/BluRay/iTunes later.

    What annoys me the most is that when i do buy a Blu-Ray i am forced to watch Piracy warnings and advertisements on a movie that I have paid for. Dont force that crap in my face when clearly i am not the one you should be targeting the Piracy warning at seems i bought the damn thing!

      Yeah haha, a big help those warnings have been. Everyone knows the risks, no one cares... Hollywood should see the risks they are making upon themselves... It's not going to end good.

      I could understand it on rented movies (does anyone even do that anymore?) but for people buying the movies there should just be an insert in the case and the standard notices at the end of the movie. If they want to bug me with anti-piracy messages or promotional material for other movies make it something I can throw away or have to access through the menu system.
      Although I guess then someone would come up with the genius idea of claiming they thought they were allowed to pirate 60,000 copies of the movie because they stopped watching before the credits finished.

      This indeed. So it goes like this:

      Buy a movie: Put the disk in, wait for it to load (Blu-ray), watch the movie studios animation creep slowly buy, see copyright notice, watch trailers for movies you don't give a crap about (locked down so you can't skip them), see anti-piracy clip "You wouldn't steal a car", another notice, more studio animations, main menu. Press play, watch movie"

      Pirate a movie: Download movie, watch movie.

      After I've bought a film, I don't want to watch all that crap before the film. I just want to watch the damn film. The people who pirate don't even get to suffer all that so why load it on me - the paying customer?

      Anyway, the gist of the article is correct. There are plenty of potential paying customers out there, if only those that control the content would open their bloody eyes and work to the market instead of trying to rape it.

    No denying that downloading a US TV show is pretty much always quicker than waiting for it to be on TV over here. Maybe some day we'll have comparable paid on-demand services.

      Despite the grey legal area. Having a US iTunes account has been the largest motivator I have had to get my content legally('ish)

      Pretty much this, I have no problem whatsoever with paying for content, the problem is that much of that is based in the US, and NOT available here. So, do I wait 6+ months for it to be released or do I just jump on the internet and find a torrent for said content(looking at you Game of Thrones).

      A simple example of this is The Walking Dead - first 2 seasons I pirated like a mother flipper becuase I didn't want to wait forever and a day for them to be aired in Australia. Apparently season 3 will be aired within 48 hours after America in Aus. I'll be watching that on TV.

    I hadn't heard of the Tenenbaum case before but after a little googling and some maths, I've discovered that my iPhone has over $5750000 worth of music alone on it.
    Now to find a buyer.......................

      You should watch this Ted talk on copyright maths
      SO GOOD!

    I bought Avatar on Blu ray when it came out. Beautifully made film, shit story

    When the joke panasosnic deal came out i was furious, why should i, because i have a samsung TV, be prevented from viewing this, esp as i was prepared to pay.

    So I went to E bay. At first there were original copies from people who had bought the panasonic TV, and were trying to profit from the scarcity. These were going for upwards of $200. But within a week, the chinese pirates were selling BDRs for $30, so i got one.

    They could have had my money, but now i don't have to buy the proper version!

    @ Dan.

    Read the article again.

    Film studios & Hardware manufacturers are pushing people towards openly available, but illegally distributed, content because they price non-competitively. It's not simply a case of 'if you can't afford it, you shouldn't have it'.

    Authorities are being overly punitive against small time down-loaders of (I'll say it again) 'illegally transmitted, but FREELY' available (although copyrighted) digital data. It's not 'Stealing' by any stretch of the imagination. Remember, as kids, we used to record music from the radio? (For fun) Would you expect to see you or your children fined hundreds of thousands of $ or worse, imprisoned, for basically the same thing?

    When it comes to downloading from torrents, one analogy would be like a criminal gang driving down the street after committing armed robbery on a bank and thousands of dollars bills billowing out of the back doors of the getaway vehicle. Instead of the cops chasing down & arresting the robbers they actually stop, arrest, and charge the bystanders that pick up and pocket the odd small dollar bill.

    No reply or comment that you, the cops, government, film studio or pop artist make will ever convince me that to jail or heavily fine a teenager for downloading a few music tracks is either the right thing to do, or an example to make to the rest of us. It's bullying by the mega corporations for content that has already paid for itself, and that had 'piracy' already factored into its initial retail price. In other words it is, quite frankly, outrageous and a serious indictment of modern society. It's GREED.

    And lets not even get into why digital content costs more in one region than it does in another......

      You are right it is greed.

      However, it would be illegal to take the money flying out the getaway car, and the bank would push the cops to recover as much money as possible. If you did this, and they had evidence that you picked up the money and didn't return it, they would charge you.

      The court looks at it more like a cash machine that is giving out too much money, if you don't return it to the bank, it is stealing.

    People pirate for a large number of reasons. Had the 3D copy of Avatar been available from day one for the $30 you mention in your article, people would have pirated it because they think that is too expensive. If it was $10 someone will pirate it because they think movies should cost no more than $5. Then there are those that will never pay a cent regardless of how easy you make it to get a legitimate copy or what you set the price at.

    Hell, make something free and people will still download it through channels that have no right to be distributing the product.

    Not to say the exclusive deal above wasn't bad for consumers. In many ways it was but I also don't think you can pigeon hole it as the reason "people" pirate, just "some people". As it is, they kind of milked this film to death what with the 3D promos and the cinema re-release only six months after the initial release. It hasn't resulted in me pirating it, but it has delayed me purchasing a legitimate copy.

    What pisses me off is when you want to buy the blu ray copy, but instead you have to pay close to $50 for the blu ray copy + the DVD copy + a digital copy! How about, I give you $15, you keep the extra disc, and I rip it myself? Why do I want a copy of lower quality, and something that costs nothing to ship and I can make myself?

      I think they're trying to cover the "almost blu-ray" market (i.e. people who don't have one yet but might in future), and the market of parents with portable DVD players.

      Amongst the parents I know, this marketing option is quite popular - and they actually don't buy blu-ray only options. But maybe it's not as essential for non-animated movies. :)

      I doubt the DVD is adding a lotto the cost. Many Blurays on their own cost a similar price, and you will find those 'triple play' sets in bargin bins too with time.

    My advice to fellow Aussies to help get good inexpensive content. Tunlr (it's free) + the fact that Netflix accepts Australian credit card numbers.

    Back onto the subject. Given the cost and restrictions on most movies/shows etc I tend to pirate first and purchase the worthwhile ones later, usually when the items I think are worth it are on sale at Zavvi. Mind you, finding content that I feel is even worth a download is becoming more of an issue.

    Cost of living is only going up. Don't see wages going up at the same rate. All my life I was happy to pay for CD's be it movies and music and never pirated a thing as I could afford it. Now it's pay the bills and eat, or buy a movie or music, not both. If people have money to spend they will spend it, but the reality is that less and less people have the money to spend. The balance that once existed between the rich and the middle class no longer exists. The rich are getting richer and the middle class are becoming the lower class. It's hard time ahead for everyone including the rich as the middle class are the consumers.

    Do you know why people hate department stores? Why they’re driven to steal t-shirts, even though they’re perfectly willing to pay for them?

    See how ridiculous that sounds?

      I know I am going to regret bringing this up, but it sounds ridiculous since you are referring to theft of a physical product versus unauthorised copying of an unauthorised copy of a digital file.

        I just think it's dishonest to say that people are driven to download or copy against their will. Is it possible to see the evidence that people are "perfectly willing to pay for it".

          Well, since I got onto Spotify, Pandora and Netflix my own questionable downloading practices have reduced substantially since I now have a host of inexpensive, fresh content at the touch of a button or two.

          I think if the artificial barriers put up between us and the rest of the world (geo-blocking, credit card restrictions, etc) were removed there would be a reduction in piracy. It would also mean I could get Hulu Plus onto my PS3.

            I'm not saying it won't reduce piracy, but that it's hard to compete with free.

            And if the barriers aren't removed I still don't think you have the right to determine the price or manner in which you consume a product that you have no ownership of.

              In a way I do. If I really want to check something out then, yes, I will probably download it. If I really enjoy it then I will purchase it at a later date when I can obtain it legitimately for a reasonable price. I have a substantial collection of quality Blu-Rays, 75% of which were purchased from overseas stores like Amazon and Zavvi. I have also started looking closely at the US Playstation Video Store since there is a heap of legitimate content that I can access for very reasonable prices.

              Since I am circumventing barriers and not consuming my legitimately purchased content in a manner approved by the third party distributors (the real problem with the whole system) am I still considered a pirate for that?

              this arguement has been said before \/
              but you have to agree that if the price was reasonable i.e the same price as overseas (US, EU) then there would be a decrease in piracy, most people feel that it is unfair that Australia has to pay a significant increase for the same product e.g. dlc,
              also the addition of late releases, in particular the movie industry, a day or two late could be justified but months between movie releases is ridiculous (e.g the new abe lincoln vampire movie 22 us release date to 2 aug AUS release date, terrible movie btw)

        Why is it different? The digital copy you steal may not have a physical value but the cost of creating the original work is many orders of magnitude greater than the cost of a full run of any garment in the history of fashion, including materials.

          It's different because the two actions are governed by different laws. End of.

          I think you are over estimating the product costs that are involved with creating the next nicki minaj song

    I would be happy to pay for a service to download from. People want digital content, however both Movie and TV studio will not provide digital content, like we have with music now. Yes we can rent Movies, but I want to own.

      Digital content is great, but only being able to view it on the particular client/service you puarchased it on is ridiculous!

        I agree with at, hence why I use NZB service to ensure that I can view the content on any machine. Now if I had to pay to access the NZB files, I would provided the prices were not over the top. If they support digital media, then the issue may be curved.

          Yeah, right. Whatever price they set, I can guarantee you would find it outrageous and refuse to be ripped off. The reason services like Netflix have restrictions is to keep their royalties low, which is why they are cheap and DVDs are more expensive. (It costs less than $1 to manufacture a DVD and put it in a case with a printed sleeve.)

    You did not HAVE to do anything. You are not entitled to own a copy in any shape or form. If you are not qualified to own the product, you are not entitled to obtain it in any way. This is the same argument that comes up again and again.

    If you are NOT ENTITLED to own it, you DO NOT HAVE IT. It's that simple. "Oh but I will miss out.." Yes, you will. Live with it. You do not need a blu-ray of Avatar to live. You can not justify it in any way shape or form. If Panasonic/FOX wanted to charge $10,000 for a copy, they are absolutely permitted to. You go without. That is all.

    I've boycotted many products because of their business regime. To this day I haven't played a Call of Duty game, because I refuse to pay $90 for a digital download that is 50-300% cheaper in the US. That is my prerogative and that is my stand against a company. Sure I miss out, so do they even if I am only one person. I don't pirate it because that is illegal, and you know what? My life is none the worse for it.

      My maths isn't great, but wouldn't 300% less mean they pay you $180 to take it?

        Sorry my brain was thinking the other way around, the US pays $30-$60 and we pay $90 = 200% to 50% 'more' or 300% 'of' the cost :)

      I can certainly respect your sentiment even though I deal with inflated game prices by importing games and using US accounts to get the cheaper price. But how does that stack up to material that we do not get to see. Sure TV is slowly getting better, but what about Hulu exclusive content that will never be released in Australia.

      Sure we aren't entitled to watch a show at the same time as a friend over in the US who then posts spoilers all over facebook, sure the content owner is entitled to restrict our viewing of a show to 3 months down the track and only if you have an overpriced foxtel subscription.

      This is not about who is entitled to what, this is about how to reduce unauthorised copying. Give us the access, distribute content fairly and consistently and provide a global service that allows everyone the same access. It won't wipe it out, but it will reduce it and recover some of that lost revenue....

      Hmmm, ranty.

        That's a reasonable goal; to encourage publishers to understand what many people want it might reduce copyright infringement and increase sales for them. I'm all for this. If the publishers are doing it wrong, that's where any entrepreneurial person can jump in and fill the niche market, much like NetFlix and Hulu. Have they got it right? Clearly no, as content isn't available in Australia, so the market opportunity is still there.

        The problem I have with this article is Kyle Wagner's statement: "What did we basically have to do? We pirated.". This implies some right of entitlement, of which there is none.

        As Chris says, you just go without. You are not entitled to just take it, in exactly the same way you can't drive a car off a lot if you haven't paid for it. Seriously, how is it any different for me to take a new car for a test drive and refuse to return it for no reason other than I think I should be allowed to keep it, than it is for someone to download an illegal copy of a film? It is just a matter of degree, the intent/justification is the same.

          Well to echo one of my comments above I access a lot of paid content by bypassing regional restrictions and purchasing from overseas. I am not accessing the content the way the distributors want me to and not paying the Australian price. Some of this content is currently unavailable for Australian consumption. Am I still pirating since the Aussie distributors are missing out on their cut?

    I have to agree with Chris up here. It is indeed their right, and yes, we should stop consuming their crap., specially for music. Let them rot.

    Well it all comes down to quality for me. An official disc is pressed from the Master disc, where as an downloaded copy, is an copy of an copy - not an copy of the Master. No point in having all your high priced digital equipment if your only going to use shoddy media on it, and that's a fact!

      I would say that the CDs are burnt from a digital file, as almost all music is now recorded digitally. Plus you can rip from a cd with no losses.

    That's the oldest rule in the book, an copy of an copy degrades/loses data, even in digital form (based on the encoder/decoder used)

      ...The oldest rule in whose book?

      You can spend the rest of your life copying a DVD or CD from one to the next and they'll all be the same.

        Hyperthx is stuck copying VHS tapes. Whoops!

        Nah. Do your homework. All official discs have Masters. Its still an imprint, and the only way too get an exact copy, is from an Master.

          Here's some info on Gneration Loss

            You should read it.

              Even when a file is transferred digitally, it is still converted to an glass Master for mass production. It's an physical fact in producing real CDs/DVDs/Blu-rays - what, do you actually think disc manufacturing companies actually burn discs?


    i downloaded avatar 3d...
    3 free usenet accounts...

    Don't forget "value add" bundles. My partner went to buy Tangled on bluray. Guess how much it was? $40!!!

    Oh, but it comes with a bluray, a DVD AND a digital download! Wow! How about making that shit an option instead of doubling the price to force it on consumers?

    She didn't pirate it however, but paid $2 to rent it on special at blockbuster.

    This is as pathetic a justification as I can think of - first you point out that the film has been available to buy on DVD since April 2010 and you acknowledge that the highest quality pirate version will likely be a DVD rip. How, therefore, is pirating justified when the pirated copy will not be of any higher quality than the version you can buy in a shop? It perfectly illustrates the convoluted thinking that sheeple use to delude themselves into believing they are not just common thieves, when it is clear to any objective observer that they are.

      You used the non-word "sheeple." Go to the corner.
      Actually, it would be likely for the pirates to put out the 3D version the instant they got a version -- which they would after just one of them went for the Panasonic deal.
      Piracy isn't really my thing, but I'm not delusional enough to think it can even be slowed unless you change the system. For that matter, I don't really mind some of the fringe benefits, such as better digital distribution.

      I agree that it's theft, though. The Boston Tea Party was vandalism too.

Join the discussion!