Strong opinions, weakly held

Piracy is about user experience rather than cost

Fred Wilson exposes the truth about piracy — all too often it’s about convenience rather than money. Many people download illegally or watch pirated streams because it’s the easiest (or frequently, only) way to get the content they’re after rather than because it’s saving them a buck or two. Sports is a great example — I am a huge University of Houston fan, and often the only way to see their football games where I live is to find illegal streams online. I’d gladly pay, but there is no legitimate way to see them. That’s a pretty huge market failure.

On a related note, I agree with Matthew Yglesias that piracy isn’t even the appropriate term for this sort of thing.

Update: Every company that makes money selling access to content that can be digitized, whether it’s software, movies, television shows, music, or live performances, should organize a contest for employees to go out and find the most convenient method to get a copy of whatever it is they sell, through legal or illegal means. The only rules should be that the means should be available to the public, and they could stipulate that cost is not an object. I think most would be shocked to find that perhaps outside the world of software and music, the contestants who use illegitimate means would win the race almost every time.

Update: Here’s a post from music site Bandcamp that gets at what I was saying.


  1. I agree completely. It’s really unfortunate that mass content creators tend to be technical knuckle-draggers.

  2. My daughter recently has started watching Dr. Who. For some reason the BBC doesn’t allow us to watch the shows online. (Likely because we are in the US.) But there are multiple online sites which are a simple Google search away with quick and easy links to the shows that can be streamed. With Google being the gateway to anything on the web, and with there being so much (free and legitimate) streaming content available on the web, it’s really not clear to anyone (especially kids who are adept at using the Internet) which sites are legitimate and which aren’t.

  3. You hit the nail on the head, and the convenience factor is one of the reasons why I love Netflix – they offer a ton of content that is accessible from a number of devices I own. Since this has occurred, the time i’ve spent downloading content has reduced signficantly; it is less convenient to perform that action vs waiting for the movie to appear on Netflix. The thing is, I WANT to give the content owners money, but sometimes I just can’t afford to do so or their prices and control or not offered on fair terms.

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