Earlier today, I got into a little debate on Twitter regarding Piracy, sparked by a Tweet from one of my friends:

TV Channels in the UK are just promoting piracy. Agents of SHIELD isn’t back until end of Feb and American Idol in Feb/March

There’s a lot of arguments thrown around about why people pirate content. In this case. Most of these boil down to three trains of thought: I can’t get the content when I want; I can’t get the content in the way I want; I can’t get the content at the price I want.

Regarding the first one, I can completely relate.

Let me share a little anecdote with you. I’m not subscribed to any kind of Satellite or Cable TV service, but I do have Netflix. I had heard great things about Dexter, so started watching it on Netflix. Which is great. Now, I got to Season 6, and the last episode of the season ends with one hell of a cliff hanger. Luckily, since it’s Netflix, I can see the next episode right awa— nope. At this point in time, Netflix in the UK only had up to season 6 of Dexter. Bummer.

I would have loved to dive right into season 7. I knew it was out, but I couldn’t access it through the means I had.

Netflix was forcing me to pirate season 7.

Except it wasn’t. It didn’t have a licensing deal for season 7 in the UK. My life didn’t depend on me seeing season 7 of Dexter.

Megan McArdle posted a great article a few years back which has the best analogy for this:

[Y]ou cannot say you had no alternative but to break into an the local ice cream parlor at 2 am because you are really craving some Rocky Road and the insensitive bastards refused to stay open 24/7 so that you could have your favorite sweet treat whenever you want.

It’s easy to say that that’s not a fair comparison. But it’s a fair enough one. You don’t want to wait. You want it, and you want it now. You’re like a toddler who just can’t wait to get to the checkout — your life absolutely depends on getting those sweets right now. Poppycock. I’m no doctor, but I don’t think it’s physically possible to die from lack of Dexter, Season 7.

Now, the second point: not getting content the way you want it.

Ok, so when purchasing digital content, unlike with traditional, physical media, you don’t have a thing that you own. What you’re really purchasing is a licence, which gives you the right to view the content, and use it in some specific ways. For example, iTunes’ licence lets you transfer and play that media on a limited number of computers, and an unlimited number of iPods and iOS devices, provided they’re logged into the same iTunes account.

If you don’t like that licence, or if that licence doesn’t suit you, fine. Take your business elsewhere.

The issues, I imagine, arise when people are trying to move away from that ecosystem. For example, if you don’t have an iOS device, but have Android devices: you can’t play your legally purchased content on your Android devices.

I totally get that this would be unbelievably frustrating. And I agree that the system here is horribly broken. It shouldn’t matter where you buy the content, and licences should be transferrable. But they’re not. And just because you and I want it to be different, doesn’t make piracy alright.

And there are cross platform stores — Amazon is one of them, and then there’s the UltraViolet thing that studios are trying to push. And then there’s stuff like Netflix, and LoveFilm and others that give access to huge libraries of content, on the vast majority of devices, for unbelievably low monthly fees.

Speaking of low monthly fees, let’s talk about the pricing thing.

Apparently, it’s movies and TV shows are expensive. I mean, £9.99 for that latest movie on iTunes. Geesh. It’s daylight robbery, isn’t it? I mean, I was going to use that £9.99 to buy food for my kids (I don’t have kids), but now I need to buy this movie. Damn.

From that aforementioned article:

You are not entitled to shoplift Birkin bags on the grounds that they are ludicrously overpriced

I’ve been talking solely about movies and TV shows thus far, but the price thing is becoming an issue in the area of software, too. Earlier, one of the TapBot guys retweeted someone basically saying “Urgh! The anti-piracy stuff in Tweetbot 3 means I need to pay for it” (the tweet has since been deleted, so I can’t see which TapBot guy retweeted it).

When Tapbot released TweetBot 3 last year, there was a similar reaction. “Why should I pay for this?” “I’ve already paid for TweetBot! Why do I need to pay again!” “They’re money grabbing” “They’re being greedy!”.

The app is what, £2.99? $5. You’re downloading an app for the $700 phone you’re using, and paying about $50/month on. And you’re begrudging giving $5 to a small team of indie developers who’ve made something you want.

I’m sorry, but what is wrong with you people?

As a person working in a creative profession I’m wholly against piracy — I live and eat, by making things, and having people paying for them. And whilst my situation isn’t exactly the same as a multi-million dollar making television studios, in my mind the principles carry over: I wouldn’t want people taking a website I’ve built without paying for it, so — ignoring the legalities of it — I would be a hypocrite to take the things that these studios make without paying for it.

I’ll close off with these words from Marco Arment:

Realistically, nobody’s going to stop you from pirating it, but you can’t argue that you’re justified in pirating it. Admit it: you’re ripping it off, it’s morally questionable at best (and illegal), but you don’t care. You’re pirating a TV show because you don’t want to pay for it or wait for it to become available in the ways you want. You’re not making any kind of statement or participating in a movement — you’re just being cheap and/or impatient.