Who Does Torrenting Hurt? Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 14 2015 @ 12:40pm

Everything is Free from Rain Perry on Vimeo.

Gillian Welch’s lovely 2001 lament is as relevant now as ever. Released at the height of Napster, Welch saw the plug pulled on musicians’ ability to make a living, and correctly predicted what’s happening now – the music business is circling the drain. The single is available for purchase at CDBaby (cdbaby.com/cd/rainperrymarkhallman). (iTunes is coming.)

A former freeloader writes:

Here I was, having just done my little trick to get around The Dish’s pay-meter, only to read the piiiissed artist’s argument … and now I’m a subscriber.

You can join him and 30,462 others here! Another subscriber:

I used to torrent a ton. I used to download 17 TV shows a week, plus movies, plus an artist’s entire discography at once. I don’t anymore. I have Hulu, which has freed me from my physical TV and even my cable package. I have Pandora and Spotify for my music needs. I have Netflix for on-demand movies and DVD rentals. So I don’t need to pirate anymore. I pay less for all of that than I did for cable (which I had to offset my pirate guilt). And the Industries are still getting screwed! It’s a win/win for me!

Another former pirate:

Forgive me if I don’t shed a tear for the music and film industries; they brought this on themselves. Like the rest of the Napster generation, growing up I pirated everything – music, movies, sofware, you name it.  The thing is, now that I’m older, with a job, I’d rather just pay and get something legit. I can afford it, and in theory it should be less hassle. The ease of buying music on iTunes was the main reason I started paying money for things.

Having said that, trying to be a good citizen with TV and movies is the worst. Three brief anecdotes:

  1. At Christmas I discovered my girlfriend has never seen It’s a Wonderful Life, and decided to remedy that.  So I loaded up iTunes on my laptop, paid for a rental copy, then went to beam it onto our TV.  Only “You cannot play this movie as your TV does not support Copy Protection”.  Great work fellas.  You know what movie can be played on my TV? The pirated version I downloaded 10 minutes later.
  2. The very same girlfriend, it also turned out, hadn’t seen Wall-E.  Well that won’t do; a day or so later I went to rent a copy.  Unfortunately, Wall-E is only available for purchase – at three times the cost of a rental – which is hardly worth it when we only want to watch it once.
  3. A year or so ago a friend recommended I check out Battlestar Galactica; so I went to buy it online.  The cheapest digital version I could find was £50.  The same thing on DVD was £19 from Amazon. In what universe is the digital copy of a TV series significantly more expensive than a physical copy requiring warehouse space and shipping costs?

Three times there, I was at the brink of spending some money and was thwarted by the stupidity and greed of the TV industry.  Legit copies of things cost more than they should, are burdened with horseshit copy protection and other restrictions, or aren’t available at all.  The only way to beat piracy is to offer a superior product, and right now, that isn’t happening.

Another reader on how people are willing to pay for content as long as the industries can get with the times:

When I think about buying data, I want it to be mine. If I want to store backups, that shouldn’t be technically illegal. If I want to compress a movie so it fits on my portable drive, I should be able to. Ditto if I want to, for example, add a subtitle track, delete an audio track I don’t need, or even just trim a movie down to a selection of favorite clips. I have been stopped from doing all these things, with data that I paid to own, by Digital Rights Management. And then there are horror stories about purchased content simply disappearing from your devices one day, or becoming inaccessible because that old DRM format is no longer supported.

I recently paid a high price for an indie film because it was available online in a DRM-free format (independent distributor). Felt great. And kudos to the music industry for already caving on this one.

Another looks back to the early days:

I think it is worth looking back at how torrenting started.  Namely Napster.  At that point in time you did not have an option to buy a song.  It just didn’t exist.  I could go out and buy a shitty CD with one good single for $18.99 (while the much more expensive to make cassette only cost $9.99) or I could do without.  So I had pricing that didn’t make sense and the inability to buy the product I wanted.  You bet I stole a lot of music.

Eventually Apple started the iTunes store.  I could buy at a reasonable price what I wanted and I did.  Furthermore, there seemed to be an explosion of smaller labels (probably always existed but I just wasn’t aware) that put out albums that played solid from beginning to end.  I bought lots of those.  Most the people I know who stole music went legit once there was a decent way to do so.  Today I subscribe to Spotify, buy music on iTunes if it isn’t on Spotify, and occasional buy a physical album if I love it or want to support the artist.  Also, I go to shows, which I think is still the best form of revenue for an artist.

I do, however, torrent (okay, steal) TV shows, live sports, and occasionally movies.  I always look to buy first but sometimes it just isn’t an option. Want to watch ESPN? Subscribe to cable.  Want to watch Game Of Thrones? Subscribe to cable and HBO.  Want to watch Battle Star Galactica?  Go buy physical copies of the seasons.

Napster put pressure on the record industry to change their model, and now torrenting is putting pressure on the television and the movie industry to do the same.  I subscribe to Netflix and I’m an Amazon Prime member.  You can bet if HBO is offered at a reasonable price I would buy that as well.  With the football playoff I would probably pay to watch ESPN as a standalone (cheaper than a bar tab I’m sure). I would buy lots of things if I did not have to maintain a cable subscription or go to movie theater to get them.

Follow the whole thread here. More of your emails soon.