What 202 digital media pirates say about piracy

by Paul William Tenny


NewTeeVee/GigaOM has a story that's sure to get people arguing: digital piracy and the rationalizations that support it, via a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers interviewing a couple of hundred digital media pirates:

Streaming clearly dominates video piracy, with 82 percent of respondents saying that they get their TV fare as streams, and 69 percent streaming pirated movies online, while 62 percent admitted to downloading TV show episodes, and 52 percent do so with movie titles.

So what makes them pirate? For 69 percent, the content being free was a deciding factor; 68 percent said DVDs are too expensive; ...

There's not in the study results that we didn't already know, but it's worth a quick read to give context to a couple of points worth making.

It wouldn't matter if DVDs only cost $15, there'd still be people who think they cost too much. It would be pointless for the big Hollywood studios to drop DVD prices, thinking it will reduce piracy. Hundreds of millions are lost from illegal disc duplication and street sales in countries like China that don't give a damn about the property rights of foreign nations, if not billions.

Domestic digital piracy in all likelihood is just a small fraction of that.

The justification that it feels like "everyone was doing it" is probably as old as time itself. A lot of people speed, run red lights, download MP3s, tape TV shows (or capture/burn now) to give to their friends, etc. Most of us do at least a few of those things, but I doubt any of us think that justifies removing speed limits and whatnot.

Most people will break the law so long as they can get away with it most of the time, and quite a few will do it when the penalties are small.

It has always been that way and there's nothing unique about digital piracy in that respect. It's not merely about disregarding the law, it's about people who don't care about how their actions affect the lives of others. Speeding puts other people's lives in danger, but tons of people do it anyway. Downloading a movie or TV show takes money out of the pocket of the people who created the content that the pirates supposedly love so much, and don't give me that crap about how people wouldn't have spent money on this stuff if they couldn't have gotten it for free.

I've yet to meet a person who said that, that didn't have a collection of DVDs of some size or another.

And on the matter of Hulu:

..but the PwC survey comes as a validation to Hulu's approach, which has been questioned lately.

Hulu has been making moves towards placing most of its content behind a pay wall where content will still have commercials. Hulu's initial approach may have been proven successful, but the studios that own all of that content are quickly running in the opposite direction.

That's only going to make things worse.

in Digital Media, Piracy


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