By DoctorWelch 44 Comments
With the rise and fall of SOPA and PIPA earlier this year, piracy has become an even bigger issue than it was over a decade ago with the creation of Napster. Over the past 13 years companies have tried any number of ways to fight the free sharing of content over the internet, and whether it be some form of DRM, or trying to get legislation passed, it’s been a struggle for them to find an adequate solution to the problem. As many people that play video games know, DRM can do more harm to legitimate customers than it does to piracy, and finding a reliable, friendly way to make sure a game, music, movie, or program doesn’t get pirated is an almost impossible task. The internet will find a way. It always does, and it seems as if there may be nothing to stop people from stealing content because there will always be people who try to circumvent copyright protection. With this in mind we need to ask ourselves if there’s really any way to stop piracy, and maybe, if it even should be stopped.
As it stands today, there are 6 major media companies that own, control, and distribute a large majority of the content you and I consume on a daily basis. Those companies are Viacom, Bertelsmann, Time Warner, Disney, News Corp., and Comcast/NBC/Universal. Along with the major telecommunications companies like AT&T and Verizon, as well as the big internet and tech companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft, there isn’t a lot of variety out there when it comes to media. The monopolization of mass media and its effect on a democratic society like we have here in the United States is a whole other issue by itself, but this lack of variety due to constant buyouts and takeovers is linked with the issue of piracy in a strange way.
What would happen if suddenly, with everything the same as it is today, all piracy stopped? Then naturally the only way to consume any content would be through legitimate means, everyone would make the money they deserve, and there would be no more stealing. If piracy suddenly ceased to exist, these large companies would no longer have the threat of piracy to deal with, and they would have 100% full control over the content they own. At face value this doesn’t seem all that bad, it seems like how things should be, but maybe everything wouldn’t be as great as we might think.
Will Smith from Tested.com often says that the best way to fight piracy is to give people friendly and convienient access to content in a way that makes them feel the time and hassle spent pirating is not worth it. This has proven to be true with the way Apple sells music, Netflix sells movies and TV, and even how a company like Adobe is selling their new CS6 products with creative cloud. We have yet to see how well Adobe will support their subscription model, but the point is companies are forced into creating easy to use exciting new ways to provide us with content because they are trying to fight against piracy. They are trying to find ways to make more money, and when the only way to do that is to give the users more content with a much better experience at a fair price, everyone wins. We can already see how sloth-like the progression of major cable networks are when it comes to licensing content out to companies like Netflix, what’s to say that these companies won’t slow to a halt if there is no longer a threat to the way they do business. If piracy suddenly disappears and these companies know they will always be making money with their current ways of creation and distribution, why would they change. If a company like Disney knows that the only way to see their movies is in a theatre, on a TV station, or from DVD/Blu-Ray sales, they would never even consider licensing content to “all you can eat” content providers like Netflix. There already seems to be a reluctance to migrate to more current business models like Netflix, and the disappearance of piracy would give them no incentive to innovate to models like Netflix.
The fact is piracy has threatened the business models and sales of these large media companies, and the only way to truly and effectively combat it is with innovation that helps the end user get more for his or her money and time. And with the shrinking number of different companies giving us content, forcing these companies to grow, change, and advance in ways they may not want to may actually be the best thing for all of us. Despite all of this, piracy is still stealing, and I am in no way saying I think everyone should go out and pirate anything they want to because it is somehow justified. There are people who work extremely hard to give us the amazing music, movies, and games we love, and I think they deserve to be compensated for their hard and often times stunning work. Piracy still isn’t a good thing, but it may indeed be a necessary evil that helps balance the power of these large media companies.