Piracy has been the content creator’s boogeyman since Napster. We’ve been told time and again that piracy will destroy musicians, authors, and movie makers even though all three groups are raking in more money now than ever. This is because consumers are willing to pay for content. The fatal flaw in previous efforts to fight piracy has been a reliance on legal strategies. But you can’t sue people into behaving a desired way. You can, however, make them a better offer:
Online entertainment services such as YouTube and Netflix have already taken away a large chunk of BitTorrent’s “market share” in North America and the trend is carrying over to Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s less torrent traffic, as overall bandwidth use may have doubled in the same period as well. However, other online entertainment services are gaining ground during peak hours.
With 21% YouTube currently accounts for most traffic and Netflix is also on the rise, even though it’s only available in a few countries. In the UK and Ireland Netflix is already good for 10% of peak downstream traffic.
Services such as Netflix and Spotify can succeed in fighting piracy where lawsuits cannot. This is because they rely on providing consumers a convenient service for a price they seem to find fair (judging by the fact both services have a ton of users). For me, as an Apple Music user, paying $10 per month to have easy access to almost all of the music I want to listen to without having to manually manage anything is worthwhile. With BitTorrent I have to search for the music I want, hope there’s a copy in a format I can use, hope there’s enough people seeding it to make the download take minutes instead of days, and finally manually add it to my music libraries (which span across several computers and mobile devices). My time is valuable enough to me that $10 per month is worth not having to do all that dicking around. Apple Music has effectively stopped me from pirating music (not that I ever have because it would be foolish to admit to such a thing on a public page).
Motivations for piracy are often looked at in only dollars. People assume pirates are simply too cheap to pay for content. The calculation isn’t so simple. Pirates steal content for a multitude of reasons including official sources not providing a format they want, the time needed to pirate the content is less than the time needed to acquire it through official sources, or the strings attached to official sources (such as DRM) being too draconian. If content producers want to fight piracy they need to learn why piracy is occurring and offer a solution that addresses those reasons.