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. Scott

    Zed, I can agree that copyright laws need an overhaul. However, paychecks aren’t shortened in the circumstance I alluded to. Labor laws keep them from being so in civilized nations. You’re talking about demands for skilled labor in a broad market, I’m talking about arbitrary adjustment on a group of instances decided unlawfully by an individual. That’s a major difference.

    Now, I can agree that some damages awarded have been rather overzealous in their nature but the idea behind them is to deter future instances of others doing that practice. Were they sensible punishments, they would not deter anyone. That’s an entirely different debate though (and I’m of the mind their methods are incorrect)

    Another debate is the timeliness of distribution of a released product. Obviously the distribution companies want us to see movies in theaters and watch broadcast TV with commercials. That’s their strongest profit margin and that’s why there’s a delay in home video release for movies decided by the distributor who owns the rights. But again, that’s another debate.

    As to the original point, downloading without paying is simple theft, just as not paying for dinner from a restaurant is theft. It’s very simple really. The “entightled” group who thinks everything should be their possession for free as long as it’s digital or whatever are simple thieves. It doesn’t matter whether you believe corporate greed is behind product distribution (Let me give you a hint, all Capitalistic economies are based on manipulating greed) but as our grandmothers used to say ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’. Personal greed is worse than corporate greed because without the former the latter wouldn’t exist.

  2. Andrew Kay

    How is “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY” even remotely close to a sense of entitlement? The comic describes someone who went to as much effort as can reasonably be expected in his attempt to GIVE MONEY in exchange for being able to watch a show. That is not the description of a whiner who feels entitled, that is the definition of a perfect customer. If your business model can’t accommodate the kind of customer who keeps trying to open his wallet even after you repeatedly tell him to go away, you need to fire your executives and replace them with above-average fifth-graders. “Ha! You aren’t *entitled* to give us money in exchange for watching our show!” is, frankly, a confusing and ludicrous response from someone who is supposedly in the business of taking people’s money in exchange for letting them watch shows.

    And to top it off, you call him a thief? Where is the “lost sale”? You refused to sell it to him!

  3. Razor

    While consumers of entertainment certainly have a sense of entitlement (gamers are the worst), a lot of it comes from the fact that they’re tech-savvy and the wealthy old white men that run the six studios responsible for 99% of the entertainment you see are not.

    Consumers are ahead of the curve, we all agree on that. While I see where you’re coming from on the “Game of Thrones comes out March 6th, what are you complaining about?” line, the show has been done for almost a year at this point. That’s a pretty long wait, especially when consumers have grown accustomed to shows being on Hulu, iTunes, or the show’s website within 24 hours.

    HBO is clinging to an outdated business model. There’s nothing that should stop them from allowing consumers to pay the subscription fee for HBO, but get it on their Xbox, PS3 or PC. But since they’re owned by Time Warner, one of the largest providers of cable content in the country, they’re not going to do that.

    Cable is obsolete at this point, but much like the oil industry, they will fight tooth and nail against smarter, more efficient ways for consumers to absorb their product. This is why I always roll my eyes at “the free market will sort it out!” because it won’t and the market isn’t free. Change upsets shareholders and forces people to adapt their business model to a new climate. It’s much easier to force an acceptance of the status quo.

  4. Scott

    @ Andrew Kay It’s somewhat analagous to someone wanting a restaurant to sell him a meal at 4:00 am when their hours are 11:00 am to 10:00 pm. The distributor has the right as owners to offer their product/service when they want to and in order to maximize profit. They feel their decision is the best business decision. If demand can be shown that being open at 4:00 am or offering media immediately upon conclusion of broadcast is a wise business move, it would be wise for them to do so. However, remember that broadcast TV does show re-runs, shows go in to syndication (though usually available on video before that) and cable channels show programs/movies numerous times, not just the original broadcast slots. Drawing viewers to their programming draws viewers to their advertisers and their promotional previews for other shows.

    As Razor said, cable/sattelite systems are somewhat obsolete but they do offer a service: they enable/provide a means to a wider variety of programming than would be available otherwise. Mass Market entertainment helps foot the bill for new and experimental entertainment. Profitable properties are used as financial backing for those projects. It’s not a perfect system, and cable/sattelite is rather expensive for what we get but it’s not all bad for the folks who want it.

  5. MB

    I wonder if maybe the drop in sales that media companies attribute to piracy, could actually be people taking the option of just “not having it” as you say, in preference to paying what they feel to be too much money to have it delivered by archaic technology (spinning plastic disks?!), or stealing it.

    Personally, I used to feel entitled to torrent TV shows that I couldn’t obtain legally, until more & more content became available on Apple TV. Now I’ll either buy it, or if it’s not available on iTunes, simply “not have it”.

    Which sucks, because it means I have to try and filter out the Twitter buzz around shows I like as they come out around the world, and wait until they become officially available here in Aus. By which time, I probably won’t be bothered. If I could pay to torrent them as they were released, and have the money go to the people who created it, I would love to.

  6. The Nin

    “He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. ”

    Taken from above, and Thomas is right. You and those morons who produce these shows and content suggest people are “Stealing” or “Thieving” it.

    I have done no such thing. I have a strong moral sense of right and wrong. This is not wrong. I have copied nothing I would have payed for to begin with, things that tickle my fleeting interests.

    I hit two buttons on my PC and a movie, game, or show is literally replicated perfectly in its entirety. The creator has lost nothing. Your Xbox example is flawed to an absolutely disgusting degree, you make me physically ill. The very idea of stealing an Xbox is abhorrent to me. It deprives someone of something physical, something real.

    Yet the idea of copying a TV show so I can watch it immediately without blockades of commercials wasting a portion of my short life is not. Though to you they are the exact same thing. Why? Because digital media is literally strings consisting of 1’s and 0’s. They have no inherent value, and when copied the creator loses nothing.

    This is the same reason I do not put my voice or image on the internet, it becomes public domain.

    If you as a create media in any of it’s forms, you have a responsibility to put into place a net or system to control it in this new environment of shared information if you wish to try and control it. If you cannot adapt, you will perish.

    What is most sickening is the inflated numbers of lost sales due to “Studies” on piracy counting every single copy created or stream ran as a lost sale. Any burgeoning scientist would oust to you the inherent flaws of any such study.

    Ps: Fun fact, commercials existed for the sole reason of paying for shows back in the days of the antennae TV. Now that we have swapped to digital, why do we still have commercials at all? hmmm? Rhetorical btw.

  7. Jonathan W.

    Here’s a rationale (not necessarily an optimal one, but at least a reasonable one) for creators to try to prevent people from downloading their content:

    Suppose that I am HBO/Time Warner. I produce a show. My business model is that by creating quality shows, people will subscribe to my service, and I will get money.

    You are a person who is not subscribed to my service, but want my show. I suggest you subscribe, but the show is not worth that much to you. You refuse to subscribe, but now decide that it is my fault you’re not getting what you want, and attempt to download illegally. I object (and perhaps take legal action). Why would I do that, when your illegal downloading isn’t costing me a sale (because you’d never subscribe, regardless)?

    The reason is because there are other people out there who would have bitten the bullet and subscribe, because the show is worth that much to them. However, you’ve shown that it’s instead possible to download the show for free. Why should they have to pay when you do not? Therefore, I sue both you and them, because I don’t know who would actually have paid, and anyway, it’s hardly fair to only punish the people who like my show a lot.

    The fact that you don’t get to have something which you aren’t willing to pay for is as old as money itself, and doesn’t justify you taking it without paying. After all, there are plenty of truly free forms of entertainment out there already.

    All that said, it doesn’t justify lobbying the government to put ridiculous and intrusive laws in place. I’m not trying to defend the actions of Hollywood, only to point out the lack of moral justification for pirates.

  8. kevin

    what pisses me off is that it takes a longer time to get the shit you wanted. if you want it now and you want to pay for it, why don’t these companies make it available already? if you want to make money for it, why don’t you fucking release it as soon as possible so you can actually avoid these people pirate your fucking shows and lose money for it. this is why they’re giving these people a reason to pirate and host their show.

    i am willing to pay for stuff as long as i know i would have my hands on it asap and i would never have to support pirate in any other kind of way.

    you bloody americans get everything. i’m jelly.

    this is why i love crunchyroll.

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  13. Graven

    “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.”

    Uhhh… The thing is that Season 1 of “Game Of Thrones” is available in the form I want it at the moment I want it AND at an even better price than I want it. The issue is that HBO is missing out because they’ve chosen to not make it available.

  14. Lynchpin451

    I must point out the problem with your arguement. Most people cannot afford the hundreds of pounds/euro’s to buy a region 1 player maing buying many shows on DVD impossible unless they illegally break the region locking program…and itunes does region locking as well…a problem I have experienced first hand as a UK citizen. What am I supposed to do? Move to the US?

    For me, I can wait till the next Ice age and I’ll NEVER have a legal option for many shows. Maybe if Itunes and the entertainment industry realised that far from stopping piracy, that region locks ENCOURAGE it in many cases, piracy wouldn;t be as big a problem and they would be richer…not that understanding will happen while Chris ‘luddite’ dodd is in charge.

  15. David Muir

    @Razor “I always roll my eyes at “the free market will sort it out!” because it won’t and the market isn’t free.”

    Well, a free market probably would sort it out, but you’re right it is not free. Copyright, being a government granted monopoly, already stifles the free market. However, even with strict laws, outrageous penalties, and very strong rhetoric, the content industries are still losing the battle and need their business model to be propped up by additional, even stricter laws. The legislative and regulatory capture that has gone on over the past fifty years is not specific to the Internet or digital copying. It is perpetrated by an industry that fights tooth and nail against ANY innovation.

  16. Moon

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

    Me too. If you offer something at conditions people wont buy it for, it’s YOUR loss when they don’t.

  17. Valashtar

    “This does not mean that we demand that all products of culture be available to us without charge, although when we create something, we usually just give it back for circulation. We understand that, despite the increasing accessibility of technologies which make the quality of movie or sound files so far reserved for professionals available to everyone, creativity requires effort and investment. We are prepared to pay, but the giant commission that distributors ask for seems to us to be obviously overestimated. Why should we pay for the distribution of information that can be easily and perfectly copied without any loss of the original quality? If we are only getting the information alone, we want the price to be proportional to it. We are willing to pay more, but then we expect to receive some added value: an interesting packaging, a gadget, a higher quality, the option of watching here and now, without waiting for the file to download. We are capable of showing appreciation and we do want to reward the artist (since money stopped being paper notes and became a string of numbers on the screen, paying has become a somewhat symbolic act of exchange that is supposed to benefit both parties), but the sales goals of corporations are of no interest to us whatsoever. It is not our fault that their business has ceased to make sense in its traditional form, and that instead of accepting the challenge and trying to reach us with something more than we can get for free they have decided to defend their obsolete ways.

    One more thing: we do not want to pay for our memories. The films that remind us of our childhood, the music that accompanied us ten years ago: in the external memory network these are simply memories. Remembering them, exchanging them, and developing them is to us something as natural as the memory of ‘Casablanca’ is to you. We find online the films that we watched as children and we show them to our children, just as you told us the story about the Little Red Riding Hood or Goldilocks. Can you imagine that someone could accuse you of breaking the law in this way? We cannot, either.”

    from http://pastebin.com/0xXV8k7k

  18. bob

    Once the content is out, it’s out, make it cheep to buy and make money, or put up artificial blocks and you won’t make money.
    Look at music today more people are making money and more music is made, but the Labels and RIAA are contracting.
    It’s a new world and the old gatekeepers are dieing off as they should.

  19. Diego

    I fail to see how “choosing not to watch” in any way helps HBO. If I don’t watch, I lose interest and I watch one of the many, many other shows available and then I’m caught up in the competitor’s storyline and buying their products. If HBO were smart they would have this stuff on ITunes and then anybody who had a passing interest could buy the first episode and then the next, etc. Since that option is (foolishly) closed then the pirates actually help HBO by maintaining my interest. Maybe I even end up liking the show and buy the Blu-Ray. Yeah right, someone says. But it’s actually true, people will support and give money to the shows they really like.

  20. Endem

    Well, I’m from Montenegro. Don’t feel ashamed that you heard about it for the first time, and yes, it is a country. Google it.

    No Huly, no Netflix, no iTunes rentals (you can’t even buy music or movies), no access to many major networks, Amazon ships only books, no electronics or BR disks. My country is just too small for big companies to care if I can see Game of Thrones. For them is just a market too small to get in.

    Note that I have a f. iPhone, an iPad and a Mac, and I legally acquire apps.

    Now tell me a legal way to see a TV series!?! There isn’t one, by protesting against ACTA and SOPA I’m actually not letting jerks cut me of from what is happening in the world.

  21. John Doe

    I can’t believe that no one has brought up the inverse entitlement argument after all Mar 6 is only a few weeks away why doesn’t the studio release it now. why wait those that have a subscription with HBO have already seen it so the target audience is the folks who don’t subscribe.

    Sorry this is a distribution problem that doesn’t have to exist. It should also be noted that my disposable income is a scarce item, you should be trying to entice me to spend it on your products coupled with the fact that my memory tends to trash things that are required so if your little show / album isn’t available when I am thinking of it chances are I will spend it on something else that is available at that moment.

    Last point the “World does not OWE you that I watch and purchase Season 1 of “Game Of Thrones” in the form you want me to have it at the moment you want me to have it at the price you want to me to pay for it”. I guarantee that in another years time it will be in the discount section of amazon so guess I can just wait till then if ever to buy it.

  22. john harrison

    This article fails to address the real issue. The issue isn’t that pirates/downloaders have an obnoxious sense of entitlement. That isn’t a problem you can solve. The problem is that there is content that people are willing to pay for that is simply not available in a reasonable way. It is convenient today to use Game of Thrones as an example because it comes out on March 6th. HBO is leaving money on the table by not making it available in a reasonable way.

    I’m sure that HBO is annoyed that it is available for free download, but HBO can’t stop that. HBO can only mitigate that by making content available at a reasonable price and at a reasonable time. Have they maximized their return with this pricing and timing?

    I don’t know the answer to that. I’ve pre-ordered through Amazon and am waiting for the discs to arrive, but I can sympathize with those that want it now.

  23. Zed

    “As to the original point, downloading without paying is simple theft, just as not paying for dinner from a restaurant is theft. It’s very simple really. The “entitled” group who thinks everything should be their possession for free as long as it’s digital or whatever are simple thieves.”

    No. My original point was that it is not this simple. Legally, “simple theft” and “copyright infringement” are different – and the weight of evidence suggests that most disinterested parties would find there is a genuine moral difference. I’m not saying piracy isn’t wrong, but primate morality is pretty consequentialist. The primate brain thinks: every single Montenegrin could torrent Game of Thrones and HBO wouldn’t lose a dollar, therefore, who has been wronged? Legally, that’s pure rationalisation. I’m not sure it’s always clear-cut from a moral point of view (and TV shows in particular are a greyer area than movie piracy) – it seems to me that morality is mostly rationalisations anyway.

    I do find it interesting how these arguments tend to exemplify fundamental attribution errors. The anti-piracy people blame nasty thievy thieves, the pirates are all, well my actions made sense given the circumstantial contraints.

  24. Jeremy

    It is interesting how the media conglomerate industry continuously manages to convince themselves, unlike all other industries, that the customer is never right and the company can serve itself. This is in stark contrast with every other industry and indeed any other customer/client or customer/proprietor relationship wherein the person spending the money is never wrong, and the customers needs are the reason the business exists in the first place.

  25. Pender

    “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.”

    This has been the mournful cry of the content people from day one. Guess what? It’s not working. The comic has it exactly right.

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  28. Peter Austin

    True story: I really wanted to watch Game of Thrones, but it wasn’t available easily in the UK, and I don’t use torrents. This left a sour taste in my mouth, so I decided to never watch any of the series.

    This seems to be what you would want, but I can’t for the life of me see how anyone benefits. Certainly the author George RR Martin loses, because if I’d liked the series I would almost certainly have bought the books.

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  30. Xucrutao

    You don’t need to buy an ocean when u need a bathtub. Im listing ur post as one of the worst I did read in my whole life, congratz!

  31. S

    Or what about this?

    The world doesn’t “owe” the content creators to wait for things they want, unnecessarily.

    If something exists, the free market WILL ensure that it gets into the hands who wish to hold it. Content creators, once they have created content and released it into ANY segment of ANY market, should fully expect that it WILL percolate to ALL SEGMENTS of the market in a predictable fashion.

    This is not a “moral” issue; this is a law of nature. Arguing with it is arguably immoral, and unarguably stupid.

    The wise content creator respects the laws which govern the market he operates within, and moves the content to all segments as quickly as possible, to stay ahead of the percolation which will naturally occur anyway — the stupid content creator tries to build little walls around the content, but ultimately builds walls only around himself.

  32. Charles

    These comments are fascinating. So many people have these detailed, well-thought out arguments for why it’s okay to illegally download media, ignoring the beautifully laid-out arguments of this article.

    The fact is, you don’t need to see the Game of Thrones. Ever. It’s not like a medicine you need to live. It’s not like a wheelchair without which you can’t leave your apartment. It’s some TV show. There are, in existence right now, more TV shows and movies on video or available from Netflix or Hulu Plus than you can ever watch in your entire life. No one is starved for stuff to watch. If HBO chooses to not offer easier, quicker, more convenient ways to watch a show, you can argue that this is foolish in the modern age, but you can’t argue that they don’t have the right to make business decisions the way they want, and you can’t argue that just because there is an easy, illicit way to get something, that HBO is bringing on themselves if people pirate their stuff.

    The pro piracy argument is like saying, there’s this caviar I love, but the only place I can get it is in this one restaurant, and I don’t want to get it in a restaurant, I want it at home, and it’s not sold online, and the truck passes right by my house and they stop for coffee and leave the back open so I can just grab a jar, so if that’s the only convenient way to get the caviar I want, it’s okay to take it. Then they combine this with the, “it’s not really stealing because there’s no physical object to steal” argument. The latter argument is more interesting, but the former argument is ridiculous, because YOU DON’T NEED CAVIAR.

    I’m not saying I’ve never pirated anything. But, as someone else noted here, I’m not going to claim that it’s the fault of the people making the media. I accept that what I’m doing is shady, and I’m just not a highly moral person. But at least I’m honest about it.

  33. Asaf

    “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.”

    Here’s the thing, Cupcake. Why is the release date two or three weeks away? Certainly not because it’s impossible to get it out in that time. It is possible to get it out the same day the episode airs, with a small delay. This we know because it is being done.

    So, Muffin, why? Now, I’m sure there’s some sort of business decision behind it, but ultimately it’s the will of an executive. They’re saying “We could easily give it to you exactly how you want and exactly when you want it, but we don’t want to”. Which really sounds like “f**k you, customer” from this end. It is understandable that the customer will reply in kind. As you say, they retain the technical right to not release it in that fashion. To say otherwise would be “entitlement”. But to scream that they should be paid for what they are releasing when customers are clearly showing that that’s all they want to buy seems to me to be equal “entitlement” (or is it a “bailout” when suits do it?).

    Now, I’m not even going to get into the fact that they don’t seem to want the money of filthy non-Americans for this show or any other – most of the panels in the comic could be replaced with “wait, I live outside the U.S, so that’s not available”.

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  35. adrian


    HBO most certainly is bringing it on themselves. If a car dealer had no security and left every car on the lot gassed up with the keys and title papers inside, when cars inevitably got stolen, I imagine people would say he brought it on himself. I know his insurance carrier would. Ultimately, it’s HBO’s content and it’s their right to control how and when people consume it but if they don’t consider real world behavior when they do so, they will have to deal with the consequences.

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  37. Osbo

    HBO needs to live off of its subscriptions and DVD sales, and it has deals with cable companies that prohbit them from streaming without cable subscriptions.

    The outdated model here is cable. It was a private network that has since found itself irrelevant and hasn’t made it easy for content consumers and providers to connect since.

    Even when they’re also ISPs.

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  40. John Holderried

    I know I’m weighing in on the issue very late here – but I kind of see both sides of this, which makes it a very interesting time to be alive.

    I work for a filmmaker, so I’m in favor of protecting an independent artist’s work. I work toward having his films removed from file-sharing sites when I find them posted.

    However, as a consumer I also find that the release of films via cable and DVD is a baffling system. If there’s any rhyme or reason to it, it’s beyond me. I have been known to download a film (maybe 2 times out of 1,000) when it is not commercially available to me via premium cable or DVD at the time I want it.

    I’m going to date myself by making this analogy, but does anyone remember cassette tapes? And how you felt when you got a boombox in the 1980’s that allowed you to tape songs directly off the radio?

    Here was this song, which was a product, and it was just floating out there on the radio airwaves, and you could put it on cassette, and listen to it again and again – cut it into a mix tape, and share it with friends or that special someone.

    The funny thing is, nobody at the time called it “stealing” – you were just making a copy from free radio, to listen to again and again. Was it the best copy? No, probably not, since the DJ might have annoyingly talked over the song’s intro, and if you copied your copy, it got worse and worse.

    So, really you were better off buying the real single, or the whole album even – that way you got a good quality recording, maybe even caught on to some new songs by the same artist. The radio station won, the record store won, the artist won and the audience was entertained.

    But the record company never prosecuted anyone for taping songs off the radio. Once they went out over the airwaves, they were kind of fair game. That, and the fact that Capitol Records wouldn’t file legislation to recover the cost of a $2.99 cassingle.

    So here we are, and the songs are now movies, the boombox is the interweb, but the principle is the same. The entertainment industry, built on a framework of promotion, will cry all the way to the bank, but fails to realize that each person who is a consumer is also a promoter.

    No one lives in a bubble, so if you can’t or won’t pay for something, at least tell your friends how awesome it was. A recording artist’s goal is to sell records – but even that kid who recorded that Prince song off the radio could become a Prince fan. Which means that down the road he’s more likely to buy Prince posters, Prince t-shirts, and Prince concert tickets. And that’s where the real money is anyway, building your brand across the platforms.

    There’s petty theft in any distribution model. If it becomes too rampant, however, it raises prices and hurts only those willing to stick to the letter of the law. Instant gratification, therefore, is penny wise and pound foolish.

    And if a company’s release timetable is unsatisfactory, TELL THEM. HBO/Time Warner is probably waiting for the holiday season or the soft 2nd quarter to release a DVD for some arcane accounting reason, but when the industry is flooded with requests, they’ve been known to capitulate.

  41. John Holderried


    When I was a kid, my father never went to the cinema. Partially this was because he was always working, but it confused me that he never took the opportunity to go to the movies on nights and weekends.

    “Why?” he asked. “Eventually everything will be on TV, and it will be free.”

    Dad was right, of course, but he was also wrong.

    He’s a patient man, and was willing to wait for a cut-up version, with commercials, to be sent right to his living room, even if that took 5 or 10 years.

    (Back in those days, we had movies, and we had 3 networks that occasionally showed movies – no HBO, no VHS, no DVD, and no internet)

    But Dad was also wrong – I had to drag him to the theater to see “Star Wars” and “Ghostbusters”, which he enjoyed. I became a cinemaphile despite Dad’s disdain for the big screen. And I NEEDED to see those films right away, because I needed to talk about them with my friends, and I needed to love Star Wars.

    Dad also held out when cable TV came along – “Why pay for TV when I can get it for free?” So I grew up in a house without cable – and as an adult, I pay for premium cable so I can, theoretically, get movies faster.

    I also bought cable for Mom + Dad, who didn’t realize what they were missing. They love watching network shows on demand now –

    My point is, the world changed. The big companies created their distribution channels, and the internet was invented, and you can’t unring either bell. Laws, particularly copyright laws and the enforcement thereof, tend to lag behind by a decade or so.

    But no one should take their disdain out on Andy for expressing his opinion – because in so doing, you express your own opinion, only in a nastier way. And you can’t fault him for doing the same thing as you.

    Don’t shoot the messenger if you don’t like the message.

  42. Random thoughts on the Big

    The relatively complete anonymity of surfing the web coupled with the ability to “take” (download) almost anything without penalty fosters an “obnoxious” sense of entitlement. How do we change that?

  43. John

    No comments about how several statistical studies have concluded that torrent users are much more likely to ultimately purchase physical/digital copies than non-torrent users?

  44. Yamyam

    Wait, most of the comments calling people out on being “pro-pirates” are just using that as an ad hominem excuse to not look at what’s being said…? That’s silly, and it reinforces the thought that you’re just speaking from your high horse with your blinders on. A psychiatrist speaking about why arsonists burn down houses is no more an arsonist than people pointing out the dynamics that drive piracy are pirates. All that’s being said is literally this: “Due to the way the free market has evolved, if you make something which people want either impossible or overly convoluted to obtain via legal means and there is a nearly risk-free, fast, easy alternative, they’ll probably take that alternative.” This is not “supporting piracy,” “rationalizing,” or whatever other mud you want to sling, it’s pointing out the very obvious dynamic that both the condescending jackasses commenting on the webcomic all over the web and the media conglomerates are somehow too willfully ignorant to recognize.

  45. Pingback: The anecdote where I have to download Doctor Who from a grey market source | theplan

  46. Pingback: » Thoughts on Piracy II « Rampant Speculation

  47. Nigel C

    You are right. So are the content providers. Right in every way. Sometimes I go sailing and on a sailboat I have right of way over 300,000 ton supertankers. However I choose always to give way. If there was a collision I would be similarly right in every way. Also dead.

  48. Marc

    There’s no iTunes TV-Series, HBO or Netflix in the country I live (or in many countries other than the US).

    There is simply no availability other than the physical shipment many months later. Try to avoid spoilers until then.

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