Purchasing vs. Pirating - which one is bad again?

Stealing is bad, mkay.

For me, it really is that simple - or at least it used to be.

Faced with widespread availability of illegal copies of movies, music, software and more online, the content industry has reacted with a knee jerk and a heavy hand (we all know the story). Instead of trying to win us over by providing good, legal ways to access entertainment in the digital age, they've dug their heels.

They've successfully created an atmosphere that is hostile to the consumer - an "us against them" mentality. The result, I might argue?

Purchasing content now feels as morally ambiguous as pirating it

They've tried to win us over by suing our fellow citizens who might have shared an album or movie with strangers online, to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. By sponsoring nefarious legislation that would destroy our free and open internet, a wondrous place for making so much more possible than merely pirating, and by buying into the political process to try to make it happen. They run belittling advertisements and treat us like children who must be sheltered, and frightened into making right choices.

You arr a pirate!

It's to the point that when I pay for content, it makes me feel guilty. Pirating, by contrast, enables you be a part of a community of sharing and discovery, and lets you "do what you want 'cause a pirate is free!"

Any time you buy a song, pay a cable bill, or watch a movie, we are directly funding efforts to lobby politics, pass dangerous legislation like SOPA, pay legal fees to ruin the lives of people who shared a few songs, and put money in the pockets of douchebags like Ari Emanuel.

YouTube video

And much like pirating, that creates a moral dilemma for me.

The Internet is the solution

But of course, paying for content also enables these companies and individuals to create more great stuff. I want to support the artists I listen to, fund the game studios I believe in, the movies I enjoy, and so on. Yet right now artists only get a tiny fraction of the 99 cents from each song, game designers are rarely able to fully express their creativity, and pop culture peddles the most inane and unoriginal of it all to keep turning the money machine.

Word of mouth is a powerful tool and I hope that the internet will bring a lot more indie content sold directly by creators on all their own terms. It's a trend that's really starting to take off - addressing many of these very problems - and I love it.

Change can be painful

But the big labels and movie studios can win too - if they stop approaching online content as the problem, and are willing to accept that they might have to scale back a bit. If they make their content available at a fair price, consumable where and when I want, I will pay for quality content (and I do).

These actually aren't onerous demands, it's just that the status quo is so ridiculously out of proportion. And we should't accept it any longer.

(throw away your) Television

I don't like watching crappy quality uploads of TV shows. But I refuse point blank to ever pay such an obscene amount of money for hundreds and hundreds of channels I will never watch, with shows provided on someone else's schedule, featuring, most insultingly of all, advertising interspersed.

But guess what? I don't need television, and I have no such great attachment to any show that I couldn't simply stop watching. This only gets easier with the explosion of diverse sources of novel content online (On the Verge, anyone?).

I'm not going to subscribe to cable, then subscribe to HBO so I can watch one show, while subsidizing the rest I that don't watch, or even dislike. Nor am I going to wait a year like a second rate citizen for the privilege to pay for it. Finally, if their answer to this problem is simply to take down the illegal rips, I'll just stick with the books, thanks.

Adapt.. or die, Hollywood.

Who's the bad guy again?

Whatever course of action they take, there's something I hope these content industries keep in mind: if they want the people on their side, it's time to start treating us right. As a business, they should already know this, but it seems like their arrogance and past success has collectively blinded them from a simple Truth: the customer (even the potential one) is never your enemy.

Until they figure that out at least, well, I'll keep only ever begrudging them my money.