Why I Don't Think Piracy Is Worth It

Having been a child of the home computer boom of the early 1980s and then worked with computers for many years, I can't help but sigh every time a new campaign to reduce piracy comes into effect.

Piracy picture from Shutterstock

It's the same now that the UK government's new rules on piracy are coming into force — human nature will always win.

Internet users in the UK will now be sent warning letters if they have been accessing illegal material, such as copyrighted films or music. But crucially, if they choose to carry on downloading, there is nothing the government can do about it.

But even if you aren't worried about legal repercussions, piracy is a mug's game.

Teen on the take

As a somewhat spotty teen, I was an avid computer enthusiast. I learnt to program many different dialects of BASIC before I was 16. But it must be said, while programming was fun, playing games was equally (if not more) entertaining. I amassed a large collection of software titles during my time owning a ZX Spectrum.

Coming from a family with very modest means, I couldn't have every game I wanted. The solution was, for a time, tape-to-tape: copying software on the only cassette format available.

But as software providers started to understand how to stop this, more elaborate protection methods evolved. These included using programs which could run tape in blocks into the computer's memory before sending the data back to a blank cassette.

I was aware that I was depriving the games developers of royalties but my teenage mind didn't really consider how this might be detrimental. How many of us have not taken a copy of a DVD, Video, MP3 or software application without thinking about what it might actually mean?

Pirating goes maintstream

Unlike the 1980s, we now live in a world in which internet speeds are capable of delivering large movies in minutes.

As the internet became accessible to all in the 1990s, services such as Napster solved the dial-up dilemma and created peer-to-peer file sharing applications that would harness the distributed power of everyone's computers together. Napster is now a legitimate service, after its founders lost a legal action in 2000.

But by this point, the proverbial internet cat was out of the bag. Other services such as Grokster, BitTorrent and Kazaa had worked out how it was done and stepped in to fill the void left by Napster.

With these services on offer and legal versions emerging all the time, our consumption of media has completely changed. Many of us won't be able to remember the last time we bought a DVD or CD. The reality is that many of us are now consuming media online.

With just a little casual research, it's easy to find a site that will give you the film or TV show you are looking for but each comes with risks. When I had my ZX Spectrum, all we worried about was making a copy that did not work. Now, when you dabble in piracy, you face all kinds of malware threats and risk coming across some rather unsavoury pornographic pop ups.

Will you be caught?

To issue warning notices, ISPs need to catch you downloading pirated media. This isn't difficult. They know the sites and they can see the network traffic and know the address used by your home router. Even if you use the Tor network; deep packet inspection can reveal what you've downloaded at or at least provide clues about what it is.

Often it doesn't even take detective work like this. ISPs would prefer not to rifle through your data packets but often, all they need to do is take note of when someone has been greedy and has downloaded a large quantity of media. From there, it's easy to tell the difference between Netflix and a torrent site.

And with so many free or low-cost services available, I would argue that piracy just isn't worth the risk of the malware and scams you could come across.

Unlike my teenage self, I now appreciate the effort behind the artistic endeavours of many of these movies and MP3s that are then pirated. As their respective industries feel the loss of revenue endured by piracy, they will apply legal pressure, forcing ISPs and website providers to take control of the content they make available.

That said, unless there is total control of the internet — something I strongly oppose — people will always pirate.

Even if the letters being sent out to infringers in the UK did lead to actual legal action, the piracy problem would not be solved. Many have the basic technical skills needed to continue to access content. But they should consider that there are other dangers involved.The Conversation

Andrew Smith is Lecturer in Networking at The Open University. He does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Comments

    "And with so many free or low-cost services available"

    Available [i]outside of Australia[/i], and therein lies the rub. Especially when, according to some, using DNS spoofing and the like to access geoblocked services (*ahem* netflix) is also considered "piracy".

    Music? Spotify. Games? Steam. TV shows and movies? Uh... well, they're getting there!

      This is a good point.

      Music : I've stopped thanks to spotify more or less. I ripped all my old CD's I love to my galaxy s4 for when Im driving. When Im home, it's spotify. (Or now Google All Access thanks to @Grayda 's protip!)
      Games : I've DEFINITELY stopped and I now pay for all of my games, thank you Steam.
      Movies and TV? Nope. It continues. C'mon Netflix or someone else... when this is available in Australia I'll go 100% legit.

      Last edited 23/07/14 10:22 am

        On my end;

        Music: While Spotify is good, I have pretty much lost interest in caring what is the latest in music. I've kinda fallen into a pre-2010 bubble. I don't even bother pirating music anymore either, my old collection is serving me perfectly well
        Games: Steam and Humble have done it for me. My purchasing peaks during the Steam sales, other than that, I have a guilty WoW subscription which fills in the gaps. 100% drop
        Movies and TV: Since using a VPN to get Netflix, it has dropped significantly, however with some TV shows its hard not to, especially when it can take a LONG time before its available here in acceptable form. Its easily dropped by 90+% though

        Same boat for me.

        Music: Spotify, was premium but now Free
        Games: Steam, Origin.
        Movies and TV, Netflix/ Getflix. There's only a few things that I actually have to wait for these days.

        And movie tickets? Either 8 dollar discounted tickets for members or 10 dollar tickets through Telstra, Health Insurance or RACQ etc.

          Music: Spotify
          Games: I have an xbox and a mac so I can't pirate for the XBox (No Jtag or Xk3y) and mac gaming isnt very good
          Tv and Movies: Netflix. We have foxtel but it doesnt compare and everything else just seems bad

      Yep, since Google introduced All Access, where I pay $10 AUD a month and can stream unlimited items AND make them available on as many Android devices as I wish for offline listening, the only songs I pirate are really obscure ones that you can no longer buy, even in stores or at Sunday markets in those 'blast-from-the-past-90s' tubs of old CDs. Got Weird Al's new album today. Good songs on there, had it within days of release. That's how you get me to stop pirating!

      Same goes for Steam. Last game I pirated was CoD: MW3 (got an email from my ISP for that!) because I wanted to know if the game was worth the $80 they wanted. Hint: It wasn't, so I got rid of it after the first two levels.

      Haven't rented / bought any movies or TV shows via Google Play yet, but I'd like an "All Access" style subscription, as I don't want to spend $20 on a show I don't know if I'll watch when I can just go over to a friend's house and watch his DVD copy for free.

      So yeah, pricing, availability, range. That's how you stop piracy.

        I had no idea about All Access!? Thanks for the pro-tip!!!!

          Yeah, I think my subscription was the money well spent. I never listen to the radio unless my phone battery is flat, so for the 40 minutes of driving to and from work a day, plus many of the hours at my desk, it's good being able to pick a genre, hit "Start radio station" and just sit back.

          My wife on the other hand, likes to build playlists on YouTube and play those (as she's working from home) so it's not really for her. YMMV, depending on how much music you listen to.

            How does that affect your data cap?

              On my PC? I have 100gb a month so it doesn't affect it that badly. On the phone? Not at all, as you "pin" music to your device and it's there for offline use. You can stream your music or download it (which I've done when there's a song I really want to hear but haven't pinned yet) in which case, it's a bit of a drain (almost chewed through my 1gb of data a few times) but frankly, that was my bad for forgetting to check the "Stream on Wi-Fi only" box.

    Yeah it's not worth it compared to a Netflix service cost of $9 a month , but when compared to an inferior Foxtel subscription of $70 + a month it is definitely worth it !

    Aus media moguls will figure this out eventually but unfortunately I think it will be too late for them and people would have already jumped ship to better providers

    How many of us have not taken a copy of a DVD, Video, MP3 or software application without thinking about what it might actually mean?
    I have. It means the rich just get richer. There are limited options for Aussies, and the options we do have dont fall under the word "reasonable" in content, quality or price in any stretch of the imagination.

    Single Consumer Piracy hurts no one and it never will!!! People who profit off other peoples work is the bad kind of piracy, funny thing is the artists and creators themselves have to give up their rights for their work to get the backing needed to advertise/release it, meaning they are getting more hurt by the BIG companies who take a large percentage of all sales or who pay a small one time cost to take ownership of it - THAT is worse than piracy for the future works from our artists.

    Most people who pirate at home for their self or immediate family who don't actually gain anything extra from piracy, if they have the means to reward the artist directly, will or if the release was great they may even go buy it to pay the company (and artists) - If it's a crap movie/game and you just wasted 2 hours of our lives watching/playing it then they should be forced to pay US instead (then see if they are still complaining about piracy), good work gets a good reward, if you want to squeeze every person for every cent then you will lose future sales and end up worse off (it's been proven time and again that this is the outcome).

    I hope to see some major changes in the laws and sales methods in Australia soon, if not then it leaves us to pirate with no way to pay for the things we enjoy, the alternative is we never get to see the shows/movies we want and that also isn't acceptable, as most of us need the distractions from the real world or we'd see more people going postal because the profit driven system sucks and they are the ones with the power still :P

    What a self-serving load of drivel..!
    So you're a computer nerd... Ever heard of VPN..? and besides, what the hell was 'yer point..?

    Ease of access and free, I didn't even know ISP's issued warnings lol.
    Fuck the police, DL everythang. Couldn't care less..

      Just out of interest, assuming you are being serious... What do you do for a living? And how old are you if you don't mind me asking?

    Steam did for gaming what the TV industry needs to do for film and TV. It was the revolution that provided a solution which provided content to users, created and fostered communities and involvement on the platform, and was designed to work worldwide.
    Sure there were hiccups and hurdles that involved a fair investment from Valve and their partners, but in the end it has been one of --if not the most profitable ventures ever, and has led to a barrage of similar products.
    Netflix, Hulu, and their like, are a step in the right direction, but either they're not thinking big enough, or are mostly likely being hamstrung by the leaders of an archaic and greedy industry.
    Hollywood needs to wake up and embrace change and become part of the wider global community instead of staying entrenched in their own borders. Until it does that, it will always have a problem with piracy.

    Piracy isn't the problem. It will always exist in some form or another no matter what, but the main issue --as has been pointed out ad nauseum-- is that the industry is old-fashioned and staunchly refusing to change in the face of the ever-changing world of technology.
    Until they're able to grasp that one fact, piracy will not only continue, but will thrive as more and better technology is employed, and Hollywood will always be a step behind, brokering deals with governments and lawmakers to try to keep their old failing system alive.

    Don't see much point in sending out the letters... up to 4 a year for which no action will be taken. What a great waste of paper that will be.

    Agree with everyone else so far;

    MUSIC: Google All Access
    GAMES: STEAM or just hit up the EB Games pre-owned tub for PS3 games.
    TV/MOVIES: *coughs* Download *coughs* nothing to see here
    CINEMA: Hit up the cheap $10 tickets online through various sources and memeberships

    Like others have said, until things are readily available in Australia, released quickly and at an affordable price, then piracy will live on.

    And sometimes it's not about availability or how much the available media costs. Sometimes it's political ("Why should I pay money to one company that runs half of the world's media?"), sometimes it's pricing ("Why should I pay money for something that I can record off TV and watch whenever I like?") and sometimes, in the case of music, you know that the artist isn't going to get squat due to shady accounting practices (Cher, anyone?), so you'd much rather save the BS, pirate the song and spend your money on T-Shirt from their store.

    Give me what I want, when I want, for a reasonable price or free with ads. Don't look me in the eye and tell me Foxtel is a viable option. You know you're lying as much as I do.
    New season of South Park is case in point. It will only be released on Hulu Plus. So, I won't be able to wait for SBS to show it. Nor will I be able to subscribe to Hulu Plus (I refuse to have to circumvent geoblocking). Sooooo it'll get pirated and I'll think nothing of it.
    If I was able to watch it via Hulu.com.au, with a couple of ads, I'd have absolutely no reason to pirate.

    I currently pay $30 a month for a private site that supplies most TV and movies, no ads. The files are encrypted and downloaded direct from a server. ISP can't tell what I am downloading, copyright lawyers can't track me. I'd gladly pay that for a legal service, but that will never happen with all the different studios involved.

    Plus I share the account with two other people, so actually its only $10/month for me...

    I remember having to look up a password generated from the the game manual! i.e. "page 7, paragraph 4, word 6."

    The only reason its not worth doing is because you clearly don't know what you're doing... A decent VPN will stop the best deep packet inspectors which is why the three strikes rules do not work, those who know a little about networking will be able to pirate without the ISP being able to determine what traffic is running through their VPN...

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