Why Do People Still Pirate?

Sadly, people still pirate things. Of course they do. Because, despite 14 post-Napster years of piracy in the mainstream, it appears that studios still don't get it. Consider the $US100 Dark Knight Trilogy boxed set that came out just last week:

Now on September 24, Nolan’s three Batman films — Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises — will be released by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment as The Dark Knight Trilogy: Ultimate Collector’s Edition. The six-disc set will feature all three films with their existing extra content, two new featurettes and exclusive new collectible memorabilia. This must-own collection for fans of DC Comics’ Caped Crusader is available in premium packaging and will sell for $US99.97 SRP.

Noticeably missing from that rundown of the $US100 boxed set? Any reference to digital media at all. In 2013. Does anyone actually think this makes sense?

Physical vs Digital Is a False Dichotomy

You could argue that a movie boxed set is a boutique purchase, to be placed on a shelf and admired by enthusiasts. But that belies the real issue here. Mega-fans will always be happy to plunk down a large wad of cash on a nicely packaged set, sure. But there's no reason to thank that fan for her purchase, and then grab her by the ankles and shake her upside down for the rest of her lunch money when she asks about a digital copy.

The choice people often find themselves left with when this happens is to buy a separate digital copy of the same movies we just spent $100 on, or to pirate. Some pirate because it's free and easy, but it comes down to the convenience of it all for many of us. Just like some people stick all their DVDs or books on a shelf, others can keep all their pirated files in a folder titled Movies on a hard drive or media server, or even transcode them and stick them in iTunes. It's simple, tedious and depressing.

You know how you get piracy to stop, or at least slow down dramatically? Match that simplicity and stamp out the tedium. So far, no one has.

There have been some lazy gestures in that direction UltraViolet, the digital standard backed by most studios, is on the right track. Movies or TV shows you get from participating content owners can be downloaded to the UV app, played through Flixter or, or streamed from a central library. In theory, that's pretty convenient. In practice, guhhhh.

Ultraviolet isn't great because new standards never overtake something that's entrenched and works well -- Apple, Amazon and Google all check both boxes -- and it gives you no way to integrate to or from those services. So then it is only convenient for keeping your stuff in "one place" if you consider that one place to be "the internet" or "a tablet". Want to watch an UltraViolet movie on your Apple TV? Your options are to mirror it from your iPad, or to give up.

It's not even that the bean counters would shoot down the inclusion digital codes (maybe?). The real issue is that the digital download is so removed from the idea of a unified experience. It probably never occurred to anyone in the first place. Instead, digital is treated as a separate, competing product when really it's anything but. It's complementary.

While infrastructure limitations mean that Blu-ray discs will outpace streaming quality for the foreseeable future, this is really the first time we've had two entirely different standards -- digital and physical -- concurrent. There's been overlap in the past, but while it made no sense to bundle a CD with a cassette, the same people who watch Blu-ray also, largely, watch digital content. Often on the same machine.

Digital downloads cater to DRM-phobias aplenty, but that can all be sidestepped. With every physical media purchase, include a field for orders asking for a preference on marketplace -- Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, etc -- and include a download code with the set. Maybe slip whichever ecosystem the code goes to some of the vig.

It's not exactly that easy, because nothing ever is. Apple's resisted UltraViolet because it's just one avenue to get at the content, and the door remains open. But by working with studios to get a download code to its own system included with purchases, the door would shut behind you. The only loss of sale that happens there is in not forcing some poor fan to re-buy the content he literally JUST bought. Apple, Google, or whomever gets a customer plunked into their digital ecosystem, and everyone gets a load of goodwill, which is worth something. So let's try that.

You Can (And Should) Offer Both

Every movie, book, comic, and album should come with a digital download code. DRM is fine if it's to one of the main hubs, or anywhere you actually use, unlike UltraViolet. Or a give a choice of them if you're selling from a platform-neutral place. How much better do you think the Nook (and Barnes & Noble) would be doing if every book sold at B&N also showed up on your Nook? That, almost instantly, stops your "Amazon showroom" problem, right? And it's a nice way of not telling your customers to go screw themselves.

The Xbox One understood this, and tried to begin the process of uniting physical and digital. If you bought a game on a disc, or were given one as a gift, because for whatever reason people still like getting actual things instead of cards that say, "Here, enter this code and download this thing I got you later", that game would show up in your digital library. It would be attached to your account. That feature got blown up after fans decided that the accompanying restrictions were too big of a change too quickly.

It's not like the Xbox One is alone there. Just about the only place where this is (mostly) right is, strangely, comic books. Marvel has been including digital codes with its physical books for several months now. This lets you buy a comic once (if you buy it in a comic shop) and have it in all the formats you'd want. The code doesn't just go to Marvel's own app, but to the Comixology app (which powers Marvel, DC, Image, etc), which has comics from every publisher. It's not just a show of goodwill toward the brick and mortars that are staring down the barrel of digital, it's an understanding that collectible things are enjoyed in two separate ways. We love having them, either as decoration or to pick through the pages and get lost in nostalgia from time to time. But we nerds also like -- love, really -- the encyclopedic, sortable, searchable database of everything we've ever bought or read. It's why so many comic bins and DVD and book shelves are meticulously sorted, categorized, and labelled. And we shouldn't have to choose.

In fact, sometimes we don't have to. Amazon has AutoRip for music, which automatically adds MP3s to your library when you buy a CD. It basically says, yeah, chances are you're going to rip this yourself or download it without remorse, so let us just do that for you. It's great. It was even retroactive on Amazon purchases. And it works because it gives you incentive to stay with Amazon. The loyalty factor can work for everyone else, even without the massive Amazon's massive storefront.

But really, this is easy. The central tenet of getting everyone to stop pirating remains untouched: make it easy, affordable, GOOD and convenient, and we'll buy it. We will. But the corollary that apparently needs to be spelled out in torrent packet lists and middle fingers stands just as large: we don't want to buy things twice. Or three times. Or five. We hate that you think we will. Yes, there are times when it makes sense to reissue a movie or book or comic, but not in the very first wave of the releases.

People will still buy digitally, because it's just easier. And they'll buy physical because they like owning things. But you should not be relying on people who've bought one to run out and pay double for the other. Because they won't. They'll just pirate it instead. We hate piracy: it's ugly, it's cheap and poorly justified. We don't want anyone to do it, so let's start fixing the problem.



    Let me buy DRM free HD MP4 copies of Dr Who direct from the BBC on the day of screening and it will eliminate almost all of the casual piracy that I definitely don't do.

      You have me convinced. I would happily pay a subscription fee for a TV series if I simply received in exchange for the payment a message in my inbox to download each episode as it airs. No ads, in HD with no DRM, and immediately available.

        Pretty much, I'd happily give the original creators money for the exact same thing I can hypothetically pirate if only they'd let me

          I happily buy music through iTunes now that it's DRM free, but I still won't buy or rent TV shows & movies simply because I can't play them how I want to play them.

          I don't want or need a dozen different remotes for a dozen different devices. I don't want to get an AppleTV on top of what I already have just to play things on my TV. I already have a PVR that picks up free-to-air and can read most formats and codecs across the network (hence one remote for the lot) - it can't handle apple file formats and codecs, but not apple DRM.

    Look at steam as a great example of a digital medium for a classical physical medium. There was a lot of teeth gnashing and upset people at the start. You bought a game and had to register it online and in some cases have an internet connection to play. THAT WAS OVER 10 YEARS AGO, and for some reason console tards trashed the x-box for having to connect once a day to register and they shot themselves in the foot, Consoles will stay behind now.

    I personally love steam, I couldn't imagine going out, buying a disk for a game now. I just buy it online in 5 seconds, let it download quota free on my constant internet connection, then I have access to that game from all my future computers and other computers easily and quickly. It surely hasn't stamped out piracy, but I'm sure it's made a dent. I'll admit, I download most of my movies because the alternatives are just too much work. If there was a steam like digital medium to purchase movies at a decent price I'd jump at that in a second and there would be one less pirate sailing the high seas of the interwebs. But for now, I can't honestly see myself paying money to support a dinosaur trying to screw its market for every penny and offering no innovation in return.

    Also I would rather chew off my fingers than touch iTunes.

      I'm an avid steam user - yet agree that having a constant internet connection is ridiculous!

      Oh and not many games on steam require a constant internet connection - many are single player games that work fine.

        Because nobody has a constant internet connection these days, right...?

          Away from home or on my laptop in a hotel, this just stops things dead

          What happens when/if servers fail? Ala Sim City 5? You could have a 1gbit connection but say sayonara to all your games til the servers are fixed.

        Steam in offline mode does the job fine for me concerning single-player games.

    Here we go again, another unnecessarily long article about why pirating is lame or some crap like that.

      Actually, turns out the article was about why studios are idiots for not embracing the digital future.

      I know, I was surprised too.

      How can people say that pirating is unjustified and wrong? Do people really think I should spend hundreds possibly thousands of dollars every single year on music and movies? No thanks. If I want to watch a TV series I'm not going to pay $30 for every single season of it. Nor am I going to spend $15-40 on my favourite bands latest album. I listen to a lot of music, and believe me, I'd have spent multiple thousands of dollars on it if I bought it.

        Classic... On so many levels I can't describe. You've got to be trolling right?

          Welcome to the Entitlement Generation.

          No, I'm serious? People that don't pirate are the minority, and it's completely 100% normal and justified. I only know about two people of the hundreds that I know who pay for digital content.

            Most pirates pay for at least some of their content. You cannot get around it in some circumstances.

              I pay for TV shows that I really like. That's about it.

            You are a slimy maggot, and it amuses me to imagine you being constantly ripped off at whatever job you wind up getting (when you become an adult). Maybe then you'll understand why your attitude is so abominable.

              I am an adult, and I have a job, and they're a big corporate company. I know what money is like to some people. It's a precious commodity. I'd rather keep my money and pirate and use it for something more important.

            You just don't get it mate. I literally spend thousands of dollars a year on digital entertainment across TV, music, movies and games.

            Have I pirated anything in the past? Yes.

            Why have I pirated things in the past? Because the copyright owners felt it was appropriate to withhold content to the Australian audience so they could artificially inflate the price when they finally did release it.

            I believe we should reward copyright holders that treat us with respect. Copyright holders that release their content in a timely manner at a reasonable price are entitled to be paid.

            You are a parasite. You believe it is your right to access thousands of dollars of copyrighted material simply because it is easy to steal. You are the reason people like me have to jump through DRM hoops because people like you cannot be trusted.

            Let me be clear. You are a thief. You are as morally reprehensible as criminals who break into houses or steal cars.

              Actually, you're worse. Criminals who break into houses and cars can use the excuse they are stealing because they have a drug addiction. You just do it because you're a parasitic grub adding nothing.

    Why not "Spotify" the movie industry?
    People have access to millions of movies for free (ad supported) OR they pay a monthly fee for ad free movies - any movie any time. THAT is more convenient.
    Spotify is what stopped me from dl'ing music - it became easier, less-HDD-space intensive to use it than to dl it.

    Eitherway - it'll never happen because the movie industry is broken

      Yeah, netflix is getting there but they need to improve the catalogue... get current tv shows at time of screening.... update the horrible website UI...etc
      Oh and obviously have proper international availability.
      It's getting there, slowly, but it's getting there.

      I haven't pirated games for probably over 7 years. Pretty much the same time I've been using Steam.
      Music's the same. I never pirated much of that but now with spotify I don't need to.
      Video is the only thing lagging behind. Even now with Netflix, I only pirate current TV shows that aren't on Netflix and are only on Foxtel. Because $70+ per month can go suck a fat one.

    On the flip side, my partner wanted to buy a Disney Movie recently. Apparently though because they will ONLY bundle it with a digital copy and a useless DVD, it costs twice what it should. Why can't we just buy the bluray without all the extra cost increasing crap?

    Studio's don't give you digital as a value add, they do it to charge you more money, just like converting a 2D movie to 3D so they can charge more at the box office.

    See, I don't understand the need for digital copies. That Nolan Batman set looks brilliant. I have a decent collection of BD and DVD movies, and my fair share of those 'Triple/double play' jobbies that have BD or DVD and/or digital. Apart from the fact the cases are horrendous and look out of place on my shelf, why on earth would I buy a BD movie to watch it on my tablet/phone/portable media device? Apart from the fact most require some sort of digital redemption, and sometimes even a download - it makes my BD film somewhat less..... pure. Instead of having the best hi-def version of a film I enjoy, nothing more, nothing less - I've got a digital component that I have to muck about with to get working, and some of these digital versions have a finite lifespan on the redemption code or download window.

    I realise this is purely personal taste and dictated by my travel arrangements and how I like to enjoy my media - but just stating not everyone wants digital copies. In fact I'd rather them not be in my collection at all. It keeps cost down, cases tidy and my collection all that much neater.

    I watch a lot of movies on my PC, and I refuse to watch anything that isn't in at least 720p. However, since it's almost impossible to watch Blurays on PC without buying software (that barely works in the first place), getting such high quality is difficult in any method other than piracy.

    Poorly Justified? By you maybe. By others not so much.

    Because waiting a year for it a product (Game of Thrones) to come out on Blu ray is a joke. I"ll pirate now, buy later.

    I pirate because I did not know the Dark Knight Trilogy boxed set even existed. Which I will now be investing my money in.

    I pirate for two reasons. 1- why should I wait for something like top gear to arrive on tv when it has already been out for months elsewhere.
    2- most importantly, why should I pay 5.99 for a movie like toy story, when I use to go to block buster and get the same movie and nine more for ten dollars.
    Moral of the story, try screw me and I will just take it for FREE, and you get screwed.

      Don't forget with Top Gear it's produced without our large ad breaks in mind, so they actually cut some of the show to fit enough ads for TV here. Last I checked you couldn't buy Top Gear seasons on DVD/Bluray either, just best of mashups.

    Digital copies won't take off in Aus until download caps are a thing of the past. I'm on an uncapped plan at the moment, and I download everything I can, from tv shows to comics.

    For me its a space issue. I have no room left under the TV for more games and videos, and there's currently 700 comics sitting in my hallway, because I have no idea where to store them. I would gladly trade all those comics for digital copies that I can stash on my iPad.

    Do It because I'm cheap an lazy,pirating Is just so easy

    ffs its no wonder YARR

    I buy a lot of DVD and Blu Rays, I also tend to have to pirate their digital counterparts because even the digital copies in the box are absolutely shit-house. Rips are far superior than what they supply, end of debate, the crappy DRM download bundled with the set loses. The main reason I get a digital copy from wherever I can is simple... I have a network, I have multiple people with multi TVs in the house and I pretty much prefer my hard copies don't go walkabout. Also I can't be arsed changing discs when marathoning. I subscribe to Foxtel, Netflix and Hulu Plus, so I more than do my part, don't try to make me feel guilty for not ripping my own discs.

    Remove DRM, it punishes people who but things legitimately whereas those who pirate enjoy it more. Stop overcharging us for things simply because we live outside america, Stop Foxtel buying the exclusive rights to everything so no one else can sell the TV shows. Once these three things are don't, you might start to see a decline in piracy in Australia, This applies to all forms of media not just Tv shows and movies. Oh, and stop banning video games here, that's another reason why we pirate here so much, The Classification board is full of conservative arseholes who should be in retirement homes.


    Piracy will exist forever. There is no stopping it. No amount of articles, arrests, media hype will ever stop piracy. It's here to stay. Thank god.

      Exactly it happened heaps in the 80's it's just easier and better quality now.

      My neighbour had a stack of taped VHS movies, ones he had borrowed from video rental places.

        Thanks to digital storage, you can now get an exact copy of the thing you are pirating. None of this lossy, degraded copies for us.

        This too. I remember when I was a kid my parents had heaps of taped movies. All from TV. Bringing it on themselves.

      Yep, thank God leeches can take whatever they want without ever contributing to society.

      Then they can whinge loudly about Television as if its some sort of human right, if their leeching ways are ever questioned.

    In my case, i've been buying becker dvd boxset all these time, until it stopped at season 3, i waited for 3--4 years, i simply give up and look for it online

    A song from an unknown artist recently become popular because it was used in a popular tv series trailer. I want to buy that song. However it is only available if you spend $17 for that album on itunes. ( yes restricted deliberately to cash in on their new popularity ) I could pirate this song that I would have been happy to pay for it, or not buy the whole album. ( I chose not to give them any money - but listen to it for free on youtube. )
    There is another artist I like for who I can buy the Video clip of the song, or buy the sheet music from the US digitally but I cannot buy that song even in an album because it was not released officially in our region, yet has been available in the US and the UK for more then 12 months. Both the above examples do not make business, or even common sense, and I the consumer are being made to jump through hoops, pay excessive costs, or just unreasonably deprived. It shouldn't be so hard.

    Quality, convenience, lack of DRM, price.

    You want to get rid of piracy? See Steam, Spotify, etc.

      Pretty much all of the above. I do pirate, things like Game of Thrones and other shows and such that aren't available without DRM or having to pay for foxtel just to watch it, then I buy it when it's released on Blu Ray/DVD. I use both Netflix and Spotify and it has I daresay reduced me pirating content by at least 50-60%, because of the sheer convenience, I can just stream what I want and when I want and I dont have to worry about download times or drm or anything of the sort.

      Last edited 12/07/13 3:54 pm

    For you to accept piracy is wrong, you have to accept the following premises:
    - Taking a copy is the same as taking the original.
    - Intellectual property actually, truly exists
    - Someone has the right to dictate when/how I consume media.

    I accept none of these premises, so that is why i pirate.

      Or you have to accept the simple reality that the content you enjoy costs a ton of money to produce, and if you have an opportunity to contribute but don't, you're being a dick. If enough people are converted to your way of thinking, you can't have those things anymore.

    I download some shows because I can't find the dvd's in store here to buy. For things like Dr Who I download them as the season is being shown on tv so I can rewatch them but then I also buy the dvd boxed sets from the abc store when they come out.

    I think the question is, does it make a difference if you only pirate from companies that pay their artists squat?

    I've been downloading Under the Dome even though it is only 6 hours behind the US because it's better quality than free to air (720p 5.1 audio) and there are no ads. Maybe don't rip out all the HD channels on free to air to put shitty infomercial 24/7 channels and you might get some more people watching.

    I think the author has missed a major bit of this topic - namely that if you get a hardcopy dvd (or cd or book or whatever), then it's yours to keep and to hand down when you either get sick of it or you die.

    What most places like iTunes etc do is that when you 'buy something', you're actually renting it until you die (effectively). There is no ability to pass-it-on once you've passed-on or you've grown tired of it.

      There is actually, just leave your account details in your will.

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