Piracy: Everybody Does It; Everything Should Be Free


Pirates are in it for the free stuff, and there are plenty of them: That’s the gist of a new PricewaterhouseCoopers study of consumer attitudes toward piracy. The study asked some 202 self-described pirates about their behavior and the reasons for it. At the top of the list was the fact that pirated content doesn’t actually cost anything.

Respondents signaled some willingness to pay, but not much — and the vast majority said that they’re going to continue to hunt for free loot. However, people don’t seem to mind ads, so the Hulu model might actually working to curb piracy.

Streaming clearly dominates video piracy, with 82 percent of respondents saying that they get their TV fare as streams, and 69 percent streaming pirated movies online, while 62 percent admitted to downloading TV show episodes, and 52 percent do so with movie titles.

So what makes them pirate? For 69 percent, the content being free was a deciding factor; 68 percent said DVDs are too expensive; and 58 percent believe that digital downloads are also too pricey. And if that wasn’t bad enough news for Hollywood, consider this: 54 percent “felt that everyone was doing it,” and 57 percent actually had a friend or family member recommend unlicensed content.

Of course, this isn’t statistical proof that everyone actually is pirating content, but this kind of perception may well become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If everyone believes that everyone is doing it, then everyone may as well be doing it themselves.

And there’s little that could get people to abandon piracy: 81 percent said that they’re likely going to continue to get their video fix for free. People signaled some willingness to pay for movies if they had access to it right after it came out in the theaters, but even then, 45 percent said they’d pay less than a dollar to stream a movie. That’s not exactly what Hollywood has in mind with its new premium VOD plans.

The only thing that seems to be working to get people back to legitimate offerings is pricing them at zero; 58 percent responded that they’d frequent free, ad-supported websites. Thirty-four percent were open to subscription-based offerings like Netflix (s NFLX), but only nine percent want to pay iTunes (s aapl) or Amazon (s amzn) for each and every movie or TV show episode.

You’d probably be hard-pressed to find many people in Hollywood happy with these kinds of findings, but the PwC survey comes as a validation to Hulu’s approach, which has been questioned lately. Offering ad-supported content seems to be working as a piracy deterrent, and adding a subscription-based offering to the fold may actually have helped Hulu to tap into that one-third willing to open their wallets.

Image courtesy of (CC-BY-SA) Flickr user richardmasoner.

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‘Piracy’ is clever word play used in favour of the RIAA and major labels. Just like one person’s terrorist is another’s freedom-fighter, ‘piracy’ for them is simply ‘sharing’ for us. Piracy implies stealing something. Digital piracy is an oxymoron, because digital media cannot be stolen–only shared.

Andrew Burt

I’ve been conducting a survey on bittorrent (that is, the survey itself is distributed as a torrent). It’s about ebooks in particular, and asks the question whether torrent downloaders would be willing to pay if the content were readily available at a fair price; and what, then, do they think is a fair price. Perhaps out of guilt (though the survey is anonymous) the responses so far have been vastly in the “Yes” they’d pay a fair price category. What’s more amazing is the price they consider fair is _higher_ than the “fair price” that readers have entered on another survey about fair ebook pricing ( http://critters.org/surv ).

At least in ebooks, low friction (e.g. no DRM, quick to find & obtain) and fair prices seem to be the key to getting people to buy (at least, those who are willing to buy at all: ignoring those copies that the downloader would never pay for no matter what; those don’t represent lost sales; just advertising.)


The correct way to combat piracy is to offer a low rate monthly subscription plan for full access to fast downloading from your entire collection of movies and TV series, including streaming video and DRM free video files. Also for paid subscribers, make sure that the pay part of your site is ads free, except for targeted merchandising specific to the movie or TV series that’s currently being watched. Its the only way to counter piracy, as what is otherwise a free alternative.

the giving tree


make them your friends. who spends “hours” searching for content? and i feel sorry for the people streaming stuff 99% of the time it looks like crap and the other 1% that stream dvd quality divx files (www.stagevu.com) are always throttled by the isp. direct downloading is the way to go, you can get the HD versions of the movies.
when the teabaggers take control in 1.5 years we very well may see the end of piracy, they culd very well turn on a great firewall of america in exchange for campaign contributions and to hell with the 1st amendment or freedom. get the warez while you can people, if you thought the free all-you-can-eat buffet was going to last forever you dont know the power of corporate money in american politics. capped bandwidth could also spell a defacto end to warez, they’ll just charge you 20 dollars per extra gigabite that you go over your 50 gig per month allotment.


meh… I can’t stand the ads and DRM… I don’t mind paying but when I pay for stuff and still get inundated with ad after ad it just pisses me off.

Mr obvious

did anyone consider the idea that maybe the movies that hollywood produces are really just shit? of all the times i’ve pirated over the years, there has only been a handful of times where i said to myself “that would have been worth the actual time/energy/money/effort to see in theaters”. the rest of the time i’m actually quite grateful i not only didn’t waste the time/energy, but that i didn’t encourage Hollywood by supporting their “art”. you want me to pay for more movies, then start make movies worth paying for.


I believe in compensating artists for their work but find piracy appealing for other reasons. The biggest factor for me is DRM. You can pay $10-20 for a digital copy of a movie and it’s bogged down with protection such as only being able to use it on iPods and keep it in the format it’s in. If you pirate that movie you get all the freedom you should of something you own. They’re releasing PC games that if you legally purchase require an Internet connection the entire time you’re playing even though it’s completely an offline game. The pirated copies of the same game don’t have that limitation. I don’t mind buying what I want. I just don’t appreciate being treated like a criminal with restrictions while the actual criminals get open access to what they download.


What your mad that the music industry and hollywood is finally getting what they deserve? They’re not gonna charge me up the ass for a goddamn cd.

Michael Long

Most of the younger kids and college types belong to the “more time than money” crowd. They’re willing to spend hours scrounging around the web trying to find a decent copy of the latest movie. They’re also willing to sit through ads if it means the content is “free”.

But as you get older, you begin to realize that your time has value, and you become willing to spend money not to waste it. And you generally have the income such that you can afford to do so.

I, personally, will pay for an iTunes movie rental or a Netflix subscription so that I can find and watch high-quality movies (format not content) quickly and easily.

Above all, I’ll gladly pay NOT to watch ads. I hate them with a passion, and can now barely sit through a “hour long” TV program that has 40 minutes of actual content and 20 minutes of ads.

In this case, “free” isn’t worth it.

Tim Williams

I feel exactly as you, which is why I use netflix and graboid. The latter of which simply “grabs” what’s currently on P2P networks without the user having to partake of that whole system. Thanks to these two subscriptions, the only TV I’ve watched all year was the SuperBowl.
Anyway, as I see it, hollywood just has its head up its ass. They simply don’t see the big picture. Any money is better than no money. If they priced content reasonably, a lot a folks would pay, like us. But we’ll never pay Blockbuster video rental prices again. Not in todays world. $4.00 a flick, no…40 cents, yeah. Multiplied by the number of folks willing to pay, I’m sure it’d be substantial. Right now, they’re just leaving money on the floor.


Thanks to TPB, your torrents are streaming in less time than you can reach your wallet.

some guy

yeah no he’s right , you can find ANYTHING on the pirate bay , and have it downloaded to your computer in under 15 mins or less … that’s really hard to beat …

this is what i’ve heard thou , cause i’ve never downloaded in my life because that’s illegal and i would never break the law myself .

Lucian Armasu

I hope Google brinds free ebooks to the world by letting authors and publishers user Admob ads on their their books published through Google Books on Android phones and tablets. It’s the only way for them to disrupt Amazon, and actually steal some market share from them. As it is, they have no chance to get close to Amazon, even if Android becomes super popular, because most people will continue to get the Kindle app.

From most people’s view Google Books is just a Kindle clone, with less than half the titles. If they convince authors and the publishing industry that free Google Books with ads are profitable, this could be huge for them, and for the world as well.

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