Why piracy exists

22 Jan 2021

Tags: Tech

For the first part of the story it is important to know, that I have a Raspberry Pi with Kodi connected to my TV as a substitute for a smart TV. On this Kodi box I also have the Netflix Addon installed, so that I can watch Netflix on my TV without actually owning a smart TV. Imagine me paying 14€ a month for a 4K Netflix package and wanting to watch the movie Red Sparrow. And as I am about to select this movie on my Kodi box I see that it is only available in 540p SD quality… I checked on my main desktop (a Linux box with Firefox) and it runs at least in 1080p, so it was not that the quality of the movie is that bad.

I pay for 4K and I am not even allowed to watch my content in 1080p, just because I use another client? I can of course understand the point of Netflix. An unsupported client may pose a security risk, but it still bugs me.

This is not that severe of a case, because I just rent this movie from Netflix, I know that and I also know, that they are allowed to choose the ways in which they want to distribute their content, but another case is Blu-Ray's on Linux. It is not officially possible to play Blu-Ray's on Linux, because there is no official software for it. It is locked down by DRM, even though you legally bought this movie or series or whatever is on there.

This is one of the core reasons, why people pirate stuff. Because their legally purchased media dictates them how they are allowed to use it. If I buy for example a book, I expect to be allowed to read it in the park or upside down in my car, without the book changing the order of it's words, if I do not sit with a perfect posture in a licensed chair. It is totally understandable, that people get upset by this and search for an alternative.

Another reason is, that one has to subscribe to dozens of streaming services to watch all the shows they want. In the beginning, there was only Netflix and maybe Amazon Prime. I would not have a problem with spending 20€ a month to watch everything I want, but now there is Netflix, Prime, Hulu, Disney +, HBO and so on. And you could pay a fortune and still not have access to everything. Let's take animes for example. Some stuff you just do not get, either because the streaming service in your region does not have it, or because they do not have it in general. So if you want to watch that anime you have to fly to Japan or something to buy the disks? Not really an option.

After following the r/piracy subreddit for a while I got the picture, that there is almost something like the universal agreement, that piracy would be dead, if there were reasonable ways to consume the desired media, without bullshit restrictions imposed by companies or other reasons why a legal way is just not possible. A lot of people on there even buy something like merch from the artists they pirate from to support them. This shows, that the reason they pirate this stuff is not because they refuse to give them money for their work. They get, that they also need to meet months end. This understatement is a bit lower if it goes against big corps tho. There we have something like a little resistance against them, a little insurgency trying to fight the mighty opponent, because he imposes shitty rules, which are very anti-consumer.

Furthermore I myself pirated some games in the past, but a very big percentage of those pirated games resulted in me buying this game. Why? I just wanted to try them. I played on a laptop, which definitely was not suited for gaming, so I wanted to see if it would even run on my hardware, before I spend up to 60€ on this game. A lot of people also just want to try stuff, if we talk about games, this does not really apply to movies I guess. They want to see if their hardware can run the game, just like you can try on clothes when buying them. There is also the reason to see if you even like the game. If there is a demo, which there rarely is, then it only shows a very small percentage of the game. Maybe I like the demo, buy the game and realize that it only showed the one fun percent of the game and the rest is just shit, then I, of course, would not be very happy. I often found myself playing a game, really liking it and saying: "OK, I'll only continue playing this game after I bought it", because I wanted to support the devs, because by pirating I discovered the game for myself. If would not have pirated it, I would have never tried it and never bought it. So in some cases it is even free advertisment for their game.

Of course I am not saying, that this applys to all people. This is probably a very narrow view, that I developed from my interaction with this scene and my own views on this topic. Some people just do not want to spend the money, but still want to experience the thing. But a lot of people also buy the thing legally and pirate it in parallel, so that they have a sort of backup if companies mess with their legally acquired media or they support the artist in a different way. Some just want to try something before buying and others just have no other possibility because of availability.

If you disagree with me or have points and thoughts to add, write me a mail or hit me up on Mastodon.