Heavy Hangs The Bandwidth That Torrents The Crown

The latest Oatmeal cartoon has been making the rounds of Twitter (largely thanks to John Gruber’s link). It makes two points about the problems of piracy exceptionally well.

The intentional point is that the content distributors often make it crazy-stupid hard for us to give them our money. Most of these industries have been frustratingly slow to adopt to the patterns of the modern consumer. News flash: we’re not heading to Blockbuster Video any more. Well, actually, yes, we are. But only because the Blockbuster went out of business and a Panera Bread is now leasing that space. We’ll probably get a Bacon Turkey Bravo for lunch and then watch some Netflix via the restaurant’s free WiFi while we eat.

Consumers couldn’t make their desires any more clear. We’ve got money to spend on TV and movies, but now we’re looking for it on iTunes and Netflix and through all other kinds of network-connected devices. If a distributor shows up in any of those places with a product we want, we’ll buy it.

[Added to clarify: and if they don’t show up in those places, they’re making torrenting that much more attractive. They’re just feeding the monster they’re trying to fight. That’s crystal-clear.

Remember the mistakes that the comic book industry made. Digital distribution made no sense to Marvel and DC, so they never really committed to it. Fine, but reading a comic book on a phone or a laptop made perfect sense to their audience, and they’re the people with the money. In the absence of a legal means of digital comics distribution, an illegal infrastructure of file standards, consumption tools, and distribution systems developed and flourished.]

The Oatmeal made an unintentional point that was just as important as the first, however:

The single least-attractive attribute of many of the people who download content illegally is their smug sense of entitlement.

Here’s my conversation with a hypothetical person who wants to check out “Game Of Thrones.” Not with Matthew Inman, author of The Oatmeal, I hasten to say. Just a conglomeration of the species of torrenters as a whole.

You want to see what the hubbub around “Game Of Thrones” is about? Cool. The show is produced by HBO and it’s available exclusively on that channel. It’s a premium channel and any cable provider can sell you a monthly subscription.

HBO’s awesome. They have a streaming app that will allow you to watch pretty much any original series or movie that they still have the rights to (including “Thrones”) and it works with almost everything that can play streaming video. HBO doesn’t even charge for the app or for the extra access.

You say you don’t want to subscribe to HBO, or even cable?

Ah. Well, no worries. The show will be released on DVD and Blu-ray later in the year.

You’re not into physical media? I’m with you. It’ll be on iTunes soon. See? The store page lists the release date. March 6. You can circle it on the calendar and everything.

You’re still frowning. What’s wrong, Scrumpkin?

Oh. You want it right now.

But — umm — the release date is only, like, two or three weeks away. Just hang on a bit. You’ll be fine.

Yes, I heard you (please, sir, there’s really no need to shout). I understand that you want it (and I hope I’m not misquoting you) right the ****ity-**** NOWWWWWWWW. But you can’t have it now. You can have it on March 6. It isn’t even as far away as you think. Remember? February is the super-short month?


You’re already torrenting it, aren’t you?

Annnnd now you’re also calling me a d*** because I expected you to wait two weeks, and you’re claiming that you’re “forced” to torrent it because the video industry is bunch of turds. How charming.

Here’s the terms of use for commercial content: you have to pay for this stuff. This means either you need to wait for it to become commercially available, or if you torrent it today you need to buy it when it gets released. So long as you buy it as soon as it’s possible to do so, I can confidently reach for my “No Harm Done” rubber stamp. Some content is commercially unavailable because the publisher or distributor has no desire to ever release it. I’ll even go so far as to say that downloading it illegally is a positive thing; you’re helping to keep this creative work alive.

If you avoid purchasing the media in some form, however…you’re just Johnny No Wanna Pay. Simple as that. Get off your high horse and don’t even try that “I’m making a stand and sending a message to content producers” stuff. It’s bunkum.

I’m reminded of a Louis CK joke. I’m going to clean up a little because I’m not Louis CK and this isn’t a live comedy stage. It really wouldn’t come across the same way otherwise.

“I’m totally opposed to stealing an Xbox. Unless Microsoft sets a price for them that I don’t want to pay, or there’s a new model in a warehouse somewhere and it won’t ship to stores for another few weeks. Because what else am I going to do? Not have that Xbox? That’s no solution!”

The world does not OWE you Season 1 of “Game Of Thrones” in the form you want it at the moment you want it at the price you want to pay for it. If it’s not available under 100% your terms, you have the free-and-clear option of not having it.

I sometimes wonder if this simple, grown-up fact gets ignored during all of these discussions about digital distribution.

It was still a funny strip, though.

315 thoughts on “Heavy Hangs The Bandwidth That Torrents The Crown

  1. El Aura

    “people want the immediate rather than being programmed to by a bunch of suits.”

    And I am sure everybody wants a driving license immediately. So, why not just print one yourself.

  2. Ballookey

    I don’t mind too much waiting for delayed content if it’s only delayed by a week or two or three. I don’t LOVE waiting, but I won’t go to the bother of torrenting it…usually.

    But, in the case of the BBC show Sherlock, the delay for the US to see Series 2 is/was more than five months. I don’t feel bad at all about going to the torrents for it because I absolutely will buy the DVD set the moment it’s available – in fact, I don’t torrent anything that I don’t buy as soon as it’s possible. These sort of ludicrous broadcast delays aren’t ever going to change if everyone just waits patiently.

    Another exception is that in years past I would torrent Doctor Who episodes, even when the delay was only a week or two. Doctor Who being so near and dear and fundamental to a large number of the websites I frequent, it was nearly impossible to avoid spoilers while enjoying my usual internet browsing. And joining an online conversation a week or two after the excitement has passed for a large number of the participants pretty much negates any fun in being a part of that conversation. This applies to shows like Sherlock as well, but since spoilers aren’t such a big issue in that series, if the delay was only a week or two I’d be patient.

    So maybe I have an outrageous sense of entitlement, but I’m willing to pay for that insufferable character flaw.

  3. Brad

    I’m amazed at how much has changed in the past ten years. When Napster was king, nobody — not Inhkato, not Gruber — was bitching about whether it was right or wrong to pirate music. Now that they’ve grown up, gotten jobs, and (in large part) cuddled up with interests that align with delivering digital content, now they decide that enough’s enough and we shouldn’t be babies. Yeah, ok. Whatever.

    For the record, I don’t pirate music/video. I may have in the past. But at least I’m not a hypocrite about it.

  4. El Aura

    I maybe was not bitching about Napster but I definitely did make a choice to not use it back then (and I earned much less then).

  5. Mike Stone

    In trying to decide whether I agree or disagree with your argument, I stumbled across an idea that’s at least interesting to kick around:

    The case law of intellectual property makes it quite clear that time-shifting for noncommercial personal use is a legitimate, valuable, and protected form of fair use. That ruling comes from the Supreme Court, backed up by the testimony of no less a celebrity than Fred Rogers. It’s also case law that format shifting is a legitimate, valuable, and protected form of fair use.

    So.. it’s at least possible to frame the situation shown in the comic — an individual who honestly wants to purchase the product but downloads a torrent because no reasonably equivalent product exists at the present time — as an example of time- and format-shifting.

    You could also argue that by delaying the release dates, HBO is imposing artificial time and format restrictions to boost sales of another, only peripherally related, product. That’s perfectly legal, but it’s a decision you can’t support on moral or philosophical grounds. It’s a decision based on HBO’s calculation of gain and loss either way.

    Those calculations include an assumption of lost sales either way. It’s naive in the extreme to think that every Utterly Virtuous Consumer who decides to wait until the product becomes available in iTunes/Netflix/etc will actually complete the purchase. Some will forget, some will talk themselves out of it, some will see the program on a friend’s HBO subscription (a scenario the rights-holding agencies would love to outlaw, but haven’t been able to) and decide they don’t want it that much after all.

    In that context, preemptive time shifting is something you have to analyze in terms of aggregate gains and losses. And so far, there’s a fair body of evidence to show that the gains outweigh the losses.

    What you’re railing against may, in fact, weigh out as an example of the market choosing to shower more financial support on a product than the bad decisions of the rights holders deserve.

  6. mark

    @George “HBO wants you to buy a subscription purely because it forces you to pay for things you do not want.”

    No, I don’t think so. the Cable providers are the ones who won’t let HBO sell al la carte. They know HBO is one of the reasons people get sat/cable in the first place. HBO would LOVE to tap into the non cable/sat demographic. if I could do that.. I’d drop directv in a sec.. as it is, I only pay for HBO when GoT and Boardwalk Empire are airing. I will re-up in April for S2.

    and re: comments on Sherlock and other BBC titles, get them from Amazon.uk, yeah shipping is 2 weeks, and you need a region free player, but it’s totally LEGAL. I hear Sherlock S2 isn’t as good as S1 anyway. (bummer). I purchased Ashes to Ashes, Mi5 S10, and Strike back because I couldn’t purchase them in the US…. but I didn’t torrent because there was a legal way for me to get it.

    I get Andy’s point about self entitlement, but what about the greed behind the staggering of physical media, online sales, and rental/streaming? What’s the argument for not releasing in all formats on all channels at the same time?

    You want to gouge me?

  7. Richard

    I don’t think it’s entitlement that consumers want content as soon as possible. Obviously, we must temper this desire with the realization HBO has to extract their profit out of this series with a few re-runs of the season before releasing it to other media.

    The problem is that they put the increasingly more desired delivery method – digital download and streaming – absolutely last in the pecking order. They have to re-run it on air to help drive subscriptions then they pass it off to DVD but they won’t release it to the download/streaming providers until a time after the DVD release. Pressing physical media takes time and they have to prepare all the package and any other extras.

    It makes no sense to those who pirate that digital copies can be up on the scene less than 30 minutes after the original broadcast and it takes a year for it to be legitimately released. That is what is pushing people towards piracy. They need to get out of the old media mindset of physical media being the first post-release option and get this content available immediately after they take it off their runs on air.

  8. sorry, no can do

    Like to leave an alternate view. I do torrent, alot. I do it because I am on the road most of the time, it makes no sense for me to pay for cable for something that would get used very little if at all. I do however, buy the shows, when released on w/e media, that i enjoy. But the one thing i like the most about torrents, are the finding shows I would never have known existed if not for it. I have found great shows from Australia and the UK that I wish I could get on dvd or BR. I think a great deal of people hit it on the head that we live in a digital age and the industry needs to grow up. Steve Jobs got it, thats why he created itunes. People dictate policy, not the other way around.

  9. John

    The world isn’t black and white; stealing a slice of bread isn’t the same as stealing a man’s life savings. And despite how it is characterized by the media, piracy does not cause net revenue loss, it causes the loss of opportunities for greater profit.

    Also, the problem isn’t needing to wait a couple weeks, the problem is that largely outside some markets the content is never available at all. Give me the option to download a movie, (most aren’t worth the expense of a theatre ticket) wherever I am, at a reasonable price and watch your profits rise.

  10. Kevin

    I definitely agree with the sense of entitlement people who download illegal content seem to have. I think there is a comparison to be made between those who pirate content and Google’s efforts to bypass browser security to place third-party cookies on browsers where the security settings disallow them. Google wants something they are not suppose to have and implemented technology to bypass those restrictions. The only difference in this instance is that we are the content providers and they are the downloaders. One could argue that no one is being harmed and that it’s a victimless crime…

    Now where have I heard that before?

  11. Scott Earle

    I live in Thailand. My options for viewing Game of Thrones are:

    1. BitTorrent – download it myself
    2. Go to a mall and give money to a criminal organisation that downloaded the content and burned it to DVD

    Movies are generally sold through the legal DVD outlets, but rarely do non-Thai TV shows make it there. Prices are steep when they do.

  12. Jeff

    Yeah, I tried for YEARS to find Paradise Theater as a digital download. Anywhere. No joy. I think pirating something that’s brand new is counterproductive (you want them to make more, right?), but if it’s 10 years old an you still can’t get it without pirating it or flying to Uganda and purchasing it on a format that only plays in region impossible, well. It seems like the problem with copyright is mainly that the term is too long. If that were fixed, piracy would likely be a non-issue

  13. Kelly

    Nice pride-play Andy. Way to stoke thyself. You sound like an entitled, conformist automaton. Manufactured supply-shortages are cheap and nasty. Nevertheless, we are all so impressed, amazed, excited, and enamored that your white, male station enables you to be the most outstanding, citizen representative of our time. How blessed the rest of us would feel if you could find five extra minutes to momentarily part with your upstanding citizenship pride, if you could dig deep and sacrifice a mere moment away from the stroke-fest that is your egocentric perception of “platinum productivity” in order to deconstruct the plight of the manufacturer of artificial shortages and those less talented as your amazing self. Lastly I want to thank you for such a precious forum where we can all come to kneel and pray to the altruist, “as long as I’m ok” pantheon. Thank you so much Andy!

  14. taiki

    I don’t think that the numbers of people who have or are going to ditch Cable/Satellite for Netflix/Hulu/etc. are large enough to justify catering to that audience.

    Everyone was whooping about how great Scott Pilgrim, Firefly, et al. were going to be only to have them be box office flubs. Yet, when the online geek community isn’t catered to directly, they point to Star Trek and whatever comic book movie flavor of the month is as to why they should cater to their tastes never realizing that there are pretty big misses as well as the hits in their taste.

    Catering to the very whims of those who can torrent is going to be more dangerous than not doing so. Rushing to get DVDs and BluRays out ASAP doesn’t alleviate the question of, “is this good for us?”

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  17. James

    I don’t think content creators have any right to complain about a consumer culture, they created, they pushed and they continue to maintain. We’re hammered day and night to purchase and consume as fast as humanly possible. The problem is that they’ve trained us too well, you deserve that new shirt, you need that new car, you have to have that house. What you don’t have the money? You can’t afford to wait, use credit, have it now, need it now, take it now.

    Then suddenly the ever evolving and changing human consciousness, which has been primed for consumption and hard wired to want it now, does exactly what they’ve been taught to do they find a new, cheap, easy and most important faster way to consume. Only problem is it’s outside the big business box, now their scrambling to beat people back into their cages, while at the same time looking for better and more efficient ways to drive that need to consume, to me it reeks of hypocrisy.

    I’m not saying we should debate wether or not piracy is theft, a lot of people worked very hard and they deserve something for their work. It just seems unfair that they created this monster and it’s only when things have gotten out of their control that their’s a problem.

    I think fixing what’s wrong is going to take more than some crazy oppressive law, I think a fundamental shift in what we encourage, teach and reward is needed. When we stopped being people and started being consumers we lost something. Anyway I’m not some crazy conspiracy nutjob, I just honestly think that being stuck worrying about piracy is basically being unable to see the forest through the trees.

    Though I will say this if you think things are bad now, the children of today are the fanatical consumers of tomorrow and their world moves at the speed of a fiber optic cable.

  18. Skip

    While I partially agree with your argument, as someone said above, it’s not 2-3 weeks people are forced to wait. It’s an entire year and sometimes longer. I also think you’re ignoring the sense of entitlement and contempt for users on the content creators’ side. Their desire to control the way we customers use their media is almost sadistic. These people have a socially protected monopoly on their product, which is fine, but then they attempt to wring every last cent from the opportunity in blatantly greedy ways.

    They double, triple, quadruple dip on DVD packages, try to push their crappy streaming solutions on us, and actively prevent us from getting their content in easier/cheaper, but still legal ways. All this in the face of their most loyal customers, who are shouting at them negatively on every public review forum possible. These customers are the top fans of the content and they are fully aware and p!ssed that they are being forced to wait artificially while the studios hope that some people buy their content multiple times. It’s the same attitude as in the effectively monopolized cell industry. They see the customers as a captive audience to be cynically drained of as much cash as possible.

    Why not try making better content/products and delivering it in a way that makes a lot more people happy? In the end, people aren’t stupid and want to be treated fairly and with respect. Us giving them money for their content is a contract with two sides, not one.

  19. George K.

    Just want to say Thanks for writing that, Andy. There was a time not long ago when, if you missed a movie, you had to wait to see it on ABC Sunday Night Movie. And then it was edited all to hell. Thankfully, those days are gone. Nowadays, there’s always an argument someone can use to justify being selfish. What about fans of Downton Abbey who don’t want to wait for the next season to be written, acted and filmed? What are they going to do–kidnap the cast and force them to perform in their basements, a la Rupert Pupkin? Me me me, now now now. Or as I believe Daffy Duck put it, mine mine mine.

  20. Tom

    I see the argument. And yet, I must say any business who has a problem that can be fixed so easily and is refusing to fix the issue for whatever reason is plain stupid.

    If you leave a bunch of cash unattended on a park bench and wonder why it gets stolen, I call you stupid. Don’t get me wrong, it is still a crime to steal the money. But to solve the issue simply don’t leave the cash unattended and stop crying for more police.

    Now if HBO can sell a bunch of copies but decides to not do it and thus asks for more enforcement (not saying they are) I would call the plain stupid – even if its their good right to do that.

  21. pinaceae

    let’s add some international perspective: a lot of good content never reaches the world outside.

    “this content is not available in your country” is one of the most painful messages today. i have no way to legally obtain some content.

    let’s take the late late show with craig ferguson. it is not broadcast in my country at all. there are no DVDs, BRs. there is no way I can watch a stream of it.

    is it entitlement that i want to see content? is it piracy if i am accessing content i have no other way(!) of obtaining? you decided not to sell that content to me, ever.

  22. Mudkip

    Yes, digital things already available to millions of people (restricted by region or distributed by TV or cinema) should be available to the whole world if possible. I agree that the copyright holders deserve unlimited money upon their content, but everyone in this world also deserve the content if only they are willing to pay for it.

    The content author can restrict the content only a few people. But if you already made it available to millions, and your purpose is to make money and let more people enjoy your content, there’s totally no sense that other people should be discriminated.

    That’s why knowledge and culture be different from material object. They are made to spread and distribute. Copyright laws are made to encourage creation and dissemination, not restriction.

    BTW, I live in a country where Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, iTunes for Music/Video and 95% DVD/Bluray are all not available. If I import DVD/Bluray I have to suffer the region lock. If I import both DVD Player and DVD, the “For use in USA only” on the cover still makes me a outlaw. Is it fair for me?

  23. Gerret H.

    “If you avoid purchasing the media in some form, however…you’re just one of those people who prefer to steal things if they think they can get away with it. Simple as that. Get off your high horse.”

    Copy! Not Steal. Do you really think that copying is so okay that you need to call it stealing to make people follow you?

  24. JJ

    You ignore the very fact that virtually everyone in music ten years ago and most in TV still think today: consumers are aware we no longer have to wait.

    We’ve got the Internet. It’s here. No going back. End of story. Most content is not live TV. A recording in 2012 can be online in seconds. Consumers know that content is a click and a few seconds away at any time. The underlying problem is that there’s no room for advertising the way we know it today. Two 15-second ads on Hulu feel painful. People will not tolerate eight minutes of commercials for 22 minutes of programming. That’s the root of the problem.

    I pay close to $250 a month to Comcast to have legal access to the programming my household consumes along with a fat data connection. Virtually none of what we watch comes through the sanctified means: the shameful circa-1990 Motorola cable box. Why on earth would I use that when I have frontends like XBMC and simple scripts I happen to know how to write?

    I pay for the content. Everything I watch I can legally access. I even have a TiVo recording this stuff. Literally the only difference is where we ultimately watch it. I choose to exercise my technical abilities so that my family can enjoy easy access to content on our own schedule without the time lost to advertising.

    Your point is valid, but only barely.

  25. A. Nony Mouse

    But I dont live in the USA, so it could be another couple of years before we see it here, they haven’t even sold it to our TV networks yet. If they have, then our networks are making no effort to tell people its omming up zoo. So if I torrent it, it’s not loosing them any money, because they are refusing to sell it here anyway.

  26. nenslo

    What about people not in the US? I’m in the UK, how am I meant to get Thrones? Sure, it was shown on BSkyB but like people’s unwillingness to buy HBO, I don’t want to buy a year’s subscription for just a few TV shows. Nor do I want to give Rupert Murdoch even more money to enable his newpaper reporters to hack dead children’s voicemails.

    For many top US shows torrenting is the only way to watch them because they’ll either never get picked up by UK channels or (even worse) it gets bumped around the channels, times and dates, sometimes even missing out entire seasons.

    The *real* issue with torrenting is the out-dated distribution model that producers use; TV shows have become an international product and people want to see it as soon as possible (look to the film industry). For the majority of torrenters, once you remove the barriers to get what they want legally, they won’t bother going the illegal route.

  27. Lucid

    One thing your post fails to point out is that you still can’t get HBO without cable. I don’t think it’s that entitled to say you want to skip a cable subscription and prefer other ways to buy things.

    Some of us don’t watch much TV, and cable packages are generally about quantity over quality.

    If HBO actually offered HBO Go as a standalone service, I’m pretty sure that comic wouldn’t’ve been drawn.

  28. Reformed... sort of

    I was a huge buyer of movies in VHS tape and DVD form. Then I stopped. Because I ran out of room to store them all. Then I moved overseas. There, I craved my home entertainment to keep abreast of the stuff my family and friends in the US were talking about. But due to copyright rules, services like Hulu and Netflix were intentionally denied me overseas. And DVDs were geo-coded and unplayable, even if I chose to purchase them. The release times for most US shows is at minimum 1 year behind the US schedule. Often times more, and sometimes, the item in question /never/ was available in the local market.

    Now that I’m back in the US, I am making an effort to avoid torrenting. The one thing that is causing me problem is that the solutions are so fragmented and poor. I can’t find contiguous & complete episodic shows.

    I can understand why CBS doesn’t want to have their shows viewable within Hulu. But WTF wouldn’t they at least link their shows in Hulu to (1) have the inventory neatly archived for lookup, (2) and drive up hits to their own website. Right now there is no way / no source to see an orderly presentation of where to find legal stuff.

    And the XBOX comparison is not valid. Apples and oranges for now. XBOX is a physical object and the physicality precludes ease of duplication infringement without a supply chain and manufacturing line. Movies and music are now just copiable chunks of data that can be ‘manufactured’ at whim in household information manufacturing centers (aka the computer).

    Soon, however, we very well may be able to ‘print’ an XBOX. We are doing it with Pirate Bay 3D ship models. There is a torrent available too. A lady’s jaw was recreated via printer a bit ago. Might be a torrent available for that too.

    At some point in the future, physical object manufacturers for XBOX very well may have to deal with the challenges of “duplication” just like the music/video entertainment industries. Let’s hope they do better….

  29. Adrian B

    This is a very US centric argument. What about the rest of the world? Where there’s no streaming from HBO, no iTunes content etc?

    And btw, the entitlement of instant access is part of the times we live in now. Digital content that’s artificially delayed just doesn’t work.

    Look what Valve boss said about piracy i Russia and how to sell successfully there: http://games.ign.com/articles/121/1213357p1.html

  30. J Osborne

    Please note not everyone lives somewhere they can buy cable (I can’t). I also have trees that prevent dish/dtv (well I don’t own the trees, someone else does). If I want to watch game of thrones while people at work are talking about it so I can either talk with them, or just avoid spoilers I would have to torrent it. I’ve decided not to torrent it. However I’m also not going to buy it when it comes out (half the fun is lunchtime chat). If it had been on iTunes, or NetFlix when it was “current” I would have. If I had chosen to torrent it I would have bought it when it came out.

    So HBO didn’t gain me as a subscriber, and won’t get my money via another path. Loss for them.

    My guess is this happens more then they think (or “don’t buy, do torrent” at least does), so they have a busted business model. Then again I don’t have real numbers. If I ran HBO I would have to run an experiment with some shows that go onto iTunes (or whatever) right away, and others that don’t and see if there is a lower subscription bump on new seasons, and if the “secondary” sales are higher, and which way makes more money for me.

    Since I don’t run HBO, I just figure they should skip all that crap and sell me the shows I want :-)

  31. Dillo Fenderson

    There is another side to this argument: Most big corporations (especially those distrtributing content) act as if they had no moral obligations towards the rest of the world: their one and only goal is to make money; hey, they have to, their shareholders demand it.
    Now, the hypothetical torrenter might say: “If they trample my rights, why should I respect theirs?” And while it might not be right (legally or morally), it’s at least understandable. It would really help if the corporations acted more responsibly and didn’t give their customers the impression that they are viewed as the enemy.

  32. Marc

    I find it mildly hilarious, in that sad, “people really have no self-awareness at all” way, how many people are decrying the big, greedy, evil media companies and wishing bankruptcy upon them for not sticking with the times, without (apparently) the slightest awareness of the fact that these same companies are the ones spending literally millions of dollars–up front, before they’ve been given a penny–to produce the shows. And if they went bankrupt, Game of Thrones would not happen. Period.

    Sure, you can guerrilla youtube a lot of good artistic concepts these days with some volunteers, but Game of Thrones is not one of them–you’re not going to get those actors to work for free, you’re not going to get those sets for volunteer labor, and you’re not going to get those production values for nothing.

    To make that stuff, somebody has to pay. And if the guy fronting the money is a jerk and wants you to subscribe to his cable network, that’s cool. Everybody can not subscribe and let him go out of business until somebody else who’s willing to front a couple million bucks and intends to sell it on day one on the internet steps in. That’s called the consumer voting with their dollars, and it’s basic business.

    But pretending that Game of Thrones just magically happened, and damn those greedy bastards for wanting me to wait a day, or a week, or a month, or a year, to watch what you paid umpteen million dollars to make, that’s lacking self-awareness. Those bastards got the thing made, and they’re not technically obligated to show it to ANYBODY, ever, including you.

    None of which is to say that I’m not hugely in favor of everywhere, right now, at a reasonable price–it’s honestly the only viable business model for the future. Just that people really should get off their high horse and start talking about things in terms of simple business, just like with, say, a car–if it’s too expensive, or you can’t get to where they sell it, don’t buy it, and the company suffers, even if you really would like to drive one.

    I’ll note here that I’m saying this as an anime fan, who’s been familiar with bootleg imports since the days you got them by trading VHS tapes. Seriously–fourth-generation copied VHS tapes.

    It’s interesting, though, that the anime industry seems to be the one that, shockingly, GOT IT. As subtitling got easier and easier, and distribution got ever broader, stuff started showing up fan subbed in the US within days of its broadcast in Japan, rather than on DVD a year or more later.

    So what did the industry do? Exactly what they needed to to undercut piracy: They started releasing quick-and-dirty subtitled versions in the US within a day or two of broadcast in Japan, streamed free with ads on Hulu and Crunchyroll

    Suddenly, there’s really no point in fansubbing the show other than to be a self-important jerk.

    They’ve started upping it to “Pay the “Plus” subscription to get the episodes as they broadcast, or wait a week or two to watch them free”, which is, again, a perfectly reasonable compromise for the particularly impatient (or those who don’t like ads).

    Who knows if this will be a viable business model or not, but given how cheap it is to subtitle something, and that they’re at least making SOME money off people who previously were paying them nothing at all, it seems like a can’t-lose situation (albeit one propped up by advertising and cable/satellite subscription income from the Japanese broadcast).

    And just for reference, while I’m not above fansubs, if it gets released in the US after I watch one, I buy it. Because I want to be part of what keeps getting good stuff I want to watch made, not a self-righteous jerk.

  33. G

    Season 1 of V has just been released here in my country, 2 *years* after it aired in the US. This is not uncommon.

    The Oatmeal cartoon was spot in, and i agree with Andy about the sense of entitlement some people feel, but in this case there is no legal means of viewing this show other than waiting. I’ll wait 2-3 weeks, or even a couple of months, but 2 years is taking the piss.

    Another point to consider is that in Europe there is a wide mix or cultures and languages within individual countries. Want to see V in English if you live in Germany? Not possible. Even when it does air here it’s dubbed. *This* is a major factor in people torrenting TV and Movie stuff here.

    Give me a site where i can select my movie/TV show, my language/subtitle, and pay my €1-2 and i’ll be all over it.

    Until then…..

  34. PolarBear

    Wait only two more weeks? Game of Thrones was out last Summer, so it’s not two weeks, it’s more than half year of waiting…

  35. TD

    Its funny how people are complaining about half a year of waiting, when we have to wait a long time for stuff to come out on DVD as well from theaters.

    People make all sorts of excuses to pirate. It doesn’t change the fact that that is what they are doing, and that what they are doing is wrong.

    Is a faster turnaround time desirable? I don’t really know. They don’t want to cannibalize what’s left of television any faster than they are.

    But in this case, it is pretty obvious he just doesn’t want to pay, as it was indeed possible for him to get it… he just didn’t care to.

  36. steveO

    The real solution is À la carte pricing & subscription for cable tv. I can think of quickly 15-20 channels I would pay for only and the rest leave. But the cable / satellite / content creators / studios / executives are having none of it. Why eat in to those healthy profit margins selling us awful reality tv, more cooking programs, and loads of commercials.
    Otherwise it would been done by now and we would have one less thing to complain about.
    I would pirate less or zero if their was a la carte solution from my Cable/ISP provider. But their margins would decrease from less people watching less programming. That solution is unacceptable to them and I understand from a business perspective.
    So its A la carte on the internet essentially, incidentially something I already pay for.

    ( about how many times should I pay for the same content anyways ?!? )

    The netflix,itunes et al solutions have done really well actually in the face of all of this supposed bad PR for those evil, evil pirates. I, for one , have used plenty of those solutions and am happy for their existence. Everybody wins. The oatmeal is spot-on. Don’t get too high and mighty Andy.

  37. Gimpy

    I only suffered through the first couple pages of comments…but, wow! These guys definitely prove your point, Andy!

  38. Andre Friedmann

    Nobody steals media anymore, though steal is a useful, helpful word. Pirates steal licenses, licenses they’ve never paid for.
    Nobody “buys” “Game of Thrones”. It’d cost millions of dollars to buy and own the Game. People buy licenses from the IP owner. Or they steal the license.

  39. fahirsch

    There’s something else you should consider: If you live outside the US, usually you won’t be able to do anything legal for years, if ever.

  40. MonsieurPaul

    The problem is not that they don’t WANT to wait, but that they don’t HAVE to.

    Imagine a developer who complains about the “smug sense of entitlement” of his would-be customers, because they don’t want to wait for his paid app that will come in a month or so, but instead get a free one that does the same thing (maybe even better) and is available now. Who is the more entitled in this case ?

  41. h4x354x0r

    Why does this remind me so forcefully of the abortion debate? Digital piracy is not going to be stopped with laws, punishment, or moral outrage. But it can be mitigated with new approaches and attitudes.

  42. Pingback: DYSPEPSIA GENERATION » Blog Archive » Heavy Hangs the Bandwidth That Torrents the Crown

  43. Belle Ferret

    There’s a reason for not wanting to wait 2 months, 6 months, a year or forever. SPOILERS! If I haven’t seen the show, I dare not hang out at the local Tumblr/Twitter/Facebook/Livejournal/etc water cooler where my friends are discussing it in great detail. Sometimes it’s because others have a cable service I don’t, or they live in countries where the show has already been released.

    I don’t mind paying for something, but if I can’t, I’ll try to find it elsewhere. What I don’t want is to be left out of the conversation with my friends. Technology gave me those friends; content providers should use technology to allow us to share the discussions.

  44. El Pope

    Man, all you “But I have to wait a whole year!” people need to grow up. This is not life or death, it’s a TV show to watch in your spare time.

  45. rfk

    Disney played this game better than anybody, back in the heyday of DVDs — they’d release “The Little Mermaid”, but ONLY FOR 90 DAYS, OMG, HURRY UP AND BUY BEFORE WE TAKE IT OFF THE MARKET AGAIN.

    I don’t judge anyone who refused to take that bait.

  46. Seth

    Interesting that you bring up Louis CK; he’s actually very relevant to this topic with the runaway success of the Live at the Beacon Theater video he self-released recently for $5 per download. The big studios should be very worried about more artists taking that path and taking their revenues with them.

    It’s really quite simple: just make it convenient, timely, and affordable to buy digital content and consumers will overwhelmingly pay to watch it. It shouldn’t be that hard for the industry to figure out (though negotiating rights and agreements with all the lawyers is no doubt a painful and ugly process the general public doesn’t see).

    It’s not about “entitlement”, it’s about satisfying market demand.

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