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Popcorn Time Is So Good at Movie Piracy, It’s Scary (time.com)
624 points by caiobegotti on Mar 11, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 410 comments



Reminds me of the old Gabe Newell (Valve founder) quote:

"Piracy is almost always a service problem and not a pricing problem... If a pirate offers a product anywhere in the world, 24 x 7, purchasable from the convenience of your personal computer, and the legal provider says the product is region-locked, will come to your country 3 months after the US release, and can only be purchased at a brick and mortar store, then the pirate's service is more valuable."


Being from New Zealand, it hits us kiwis hard. No Netflix. No Hulu. Even when Cartoon Network uploads to YouTube their videos are often unavailable in my country.

So the next best thing is piracy. You can piss around with DNS settings or wait for the DVDs to be available, but piracy is just so much more convenient.


I'm watching netflix from NZ, bandwidth caps here are killer, netflix scales down to 300kbit and no seeding, so it beats torrenting in a lot of cases for me, but then, I know how to configure a VPN, so I can understand why torrents are super appealing for most.

Also, where is the redbox clone? Quickflix is a joke as a netflix competitor, and there's no redbox clone that I know of. 40GB bandwidth caps? 80 for $100nzd/month? Even piracy is hard at that level.


Bandwidth caps? I pay $130/mo for unlimited data on a fibre connection through Orcon. Even if fibre isn't available yet in your area you can still get a standard broadband connection for $100/mo with unlimited data.


And they think it is expensive here in the UK! That works out to £66.39 here. That's insane.


As a Kiwi expat, prices for internet, and mobile services are amazingly cheaper here in the UK than back in NZ.

There's much more competition here, I'm amazed that I can get unlimited internet on my phone for £12 per month (giffgaff).

Back in NZ my monthly home internet cost the equivalent of £25 with no phoneline (cable - which is rare in NZ), and was capped at 10GB per month. Compared to other services, this was really cheap!


Situation here in India is comparatively good. I use a 100 Gb broadband plan(a decent 50 MBps) for as low as $25. Also above 100 Gb it's unlimited for a lower speed(6 MBps, Unlimited!). Piracy is a lot easier here since services like Netflix are not available and internet is super cheap and fast.


Same in Romania the 1Gbps[1] internet for about £12 and very few legit services like Netflix, Spotify and such.

So guess what's going to happen when you have such an amazing connection.

[1] http://www.rcs-rds.ro/internet-digi-net/fiberlink?t=internet...


Also mention that it is an unlimited data plan, with no caps or additional costs. Yes, that is a 1Gbps connection.


Have been trying to avoid piracy for the past few years. Started by buying and then renting dvds from a local dvd rental library. Currently renting movies from youtube seems like an option. Tried Bigflix, a netflix like service but a subscription service doesn't work with a very outdated collection. Youtube seems to get movies after they are approved by cbfc (the hollywood ones,I can see free nigerian movies without a cbfc rating. cbfc is India's movie certification body). This limits the content that is available. No TV content is available. So even with all the Internet bandwidth and some money, I still cannot watch shows which someone in the US can. Things are improving. Many US/UK based series get same week broadcast on TV. But more can be done for the subscription or rental market.


What provider are you using?


Wonder what causes it? Are they pushing technical costs onto the consumers? Or do they just see a captivate market and most providers are owned outside the country?


If you take a look at this map: http://imgur.com/xLxUs it looks like to buy a connection into/out of NZ there aren't many options - and the cables all look very long, i.e. very expensive.


And a government who supports the main telecom and lines company. There has even been talk of putting some cash their way to compensate for the money they would lose (the dividend they have been paying to date has been good too - but that couldn't be cut of course). This crap from our PM. After screwing us for decades, the commerce commission makes a decision that required a backbone and the PM sides with the corporation rather than the taxpayer. http://i.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/9169753/Chorus-must...


Here's a better link http://www.submarinecablemap.com/


Limited bandwidth coming in, limited bandwidth for the end user.


That's crazy. My entire telecoms bill here in the UK for an unlimited ADSL line, land line and three mobile phones is only £47!


My Verizon bill alone for two phones is $230US


I'm paying $170/mo for 500gb on Telecom fibre. I never seem to go over 300gb even when I try so it suits me. I always see people complaining about international speeds on Orcon unlimited. I can max out 11mb/s with torrents on a Sunday night no problem.

I have Netflix setup as well, super convenient but you never seem to get HD.


With those speeds you might want to try forcing bandwidth, if you haven't already.

ctrl-alt-shift-S brings up a bandwidth selection in the Netflix player.


100 megabits = 12.5 megabytes. Close enough.

I don't solely have fibre just for netflix. I was assuming using a 3rd party dns server to unblock Netflix they are actually proxy'ing some of the content, so it's really their server that limits the download speed (I mostly watch on my Apple TV so not many options there).

I might try that on the desktop version even though I don't use it much.


I have the same Telescum account - except it's ADSL not fibre. I get the same D/L speeds :o)


11mb/s is roughly 100mbits, you don't need $170 fibre for that.


In central ish Auckland, and the fastest I can get is 5Mb. No fibre available. Tried their "unlimited" and it's throttled to hell. Worthless. For about $100 I now have throttled but capped. But on the bright side, fibre may be available in 2019 according to our joke of a minister, Amy, when she emailed me.


Guessing you live in a apartment? Not really much you can do, it's up to the landlord to sort out wiring which probably won't happen unless your building was built with fibre initially.

I live in Ponsonby and we have had fibre available here for over a year now. I thought the plan was to have most of it done by the end of 2015?


House in Onehunga. I've had the data side of things rewired and the cable from the pole on the street is new too. Something is rotten in the street though.


I get twice the speed in Dunedin over ADSL :-{

I feel your pain, bro!


bandwidth caps here are killer

I remain amazed that no ad-hoc network solutions are available. Every wireless device & router should provide at least some off-official-network connectivity. It's not even a hardware problem. Over time, enough overlap should provide a pretty good alternate network service with no caps on bandwidth or content, giving incentive for providing bridges and "unapproved" services. Certainly would have its issues, but would provide more options with almost zero cost.


Yes, I'm sure ad-hoc mesh wifi is an excellent solution to limited across-the-ocean bandwidth.


You don't necessarily need across-the-ocean bandwidth to facilitate NZ file sharing. Just adapt the "college dorm has a massive fileserver with pirated movies, so that movies only need to be downloaded from the internet at large once" model.

I blow part of my monthly 'real across-the-ocean internet' limit downloading Night of the Living Dead from archive.org, then provide access to it for other New Zealanders using the hypothetical local mesh network.


So now you have a single home computer and a crappy 802.11 router serving the first week of House of Cards to everyone in New Zealand? Or, even worse, you have a BT net on the mesh which completely overloads whatever poor sap(s) happen(s) to be in the bridge in the graph?

And we haven't even gotten to any of the other problems, like address assignment, routing, etc.


With this purely hypothetical mesh network, ideally files would be spread out across the network, bittorrent style. If the mesh has a single node bridging two otherwise large and connected graphs, then the mesh network would be in a poor state to begin with. This is assuming a healthy network.

More realistically, ISPs could place far higher bandwidth limits on local (to NZ) traffic. That is, if it is just the undersea cables that are lacking, not the rest of the infrastructure as well...

I'm not saying either of these are realistic or easy. I'm just saying that the sarcastic quip "I'm sure ad-hoc mesh wifi is an excellent solution to limited across-the-ocean bandwidth." is not a real criticism of the proposal.


A lot of these are solved problems. In one neighborhood in NYC the local mesh wifi was able to provide better internet service than Verizon. http://rhicenter.org/redhookwifi/

Bittorrent could be scoped to the country too, it doesn't have to seed or download across the ocean.


It is a solution to monthly data caps, enabling solutions like Popcorn Time. As has been noted, if infrastructure exists to facilitate questionable solutions, then use-case pressures arise to persuade better solutions to larger problems. If people have enough bandwidth to serve their video-streaming interests, some solution will appear, persuading both local data infrastructure improvements and, say, Netflix warehousing data in NZ for more efficient use of across-the-ocean bandwidth.

And speaking of across-the-ocean bandwidth: don't underestimate the bps of a freighter stuffed to the gills with MicroSD cards. https://xkcd.com/691/


The bandwidth is impressive. The latency... not so...


Everyone sharing everything they have downloaded in a giant cache via mesh networking? Yip, its a great solution. One person endures a slow download, all those who follow have a grand speedy old time.


I have no idea what kind of network you are suggesting.


Every wireless-network device is capable of connecting directly to other wireless devices rather than (or in addition to) just connecting to a router/hub. Imagine every wireless device recursively within range of your device (connected to yours, or connected to another device connected to yours, or ...), all capable of forming an ad-hoc network operating independently of the routers/cell-towers/etc normally used, a wireless network bridging all censorship/control boundaries, operating for free, no way to shut it all down. Insofar as there are limits to its extent, some people would provide gateway points to Internet backbones.


I think you're missing about 4 layers of the OSI stack.


Pardon my lack of encyclopedic thoroughness in a casual discussion.


And I think you're significantly underplaying the technical and financial challenges associated with scaling up a mesh network.


I've watched networking scale from spending 9 hours downloading a book over 110bps (yes, that's one hundred ten bits per second) dialup as an amazing ability, to streaming multiple live HD video from anywhere to wireless devices at 17Mbps (contrast seventeen million bits per second) as a cultural norm.

I do not doubt the ability to solve technical and financial challenges associated with scaling up an ad-hoc network. Been there, done that, can do it again.




oh well.. you can watch .. uh... rugby or something.



To this day, Marco's analogy is one of the simplest, most creative, and best I've ever read on this topic.

It's even more apt when you look at the numbers and see that piracy isn't hurting the top or bottom line for the movie business to any appreciable degree. To some extent, that's because the movie business has been very good at stomping out piracy (at least among mainstream, non-tech-savvy consumers). But even at its peak, piracy wasn't hurting movies the way it was hurting music.

The problem for Hollywood is that "moving the trash can" is extremely hard. Primarily, because nobody has any idea where it needs to be moved to. Secondarily, because "Hollywood" isn't a single entity. It's an industry full of competing companies with conflicting agendas. When we say "Hollywood should just do X," we're talking about herding cats. (Extremely fat, lavishly well fed cats, who have no individual incentives to be herded.) The MPAA seems large and monolithic, but it's basically a lobbying organization. It doesn't set any grand, strategic agendas within the industry itself. The head of a movie studio doesn't answer to the MPAA; he rarely even interfaces with the MPAA (if at all). He answers to the C-level execs of the media conglomerate who owns the studio, and those guys answer to Wall Street.


This quote conveniently leaves out that the pirate's product doesn't cost the end user any money. When would the pirate's service not be more valuable?


I no longer pirate anything - haven't in 10 years. It was fun while I had no assets, prefer not to risk getting sued these days. That said, there are many times that I can't see a movie I want to see or watch a TV show that I want to see even if I have my wallet out. Sometimes it is locked into HBO GO, sometimes it is not available on Netflix/iTunes/Redbox. In all of those cases I am sure it is available via bittorrent, but literally no one wants to just take my money and let me watch the damn thing.

In those cases I simply don't watch it. It's not that important to me. But I'm sure others at that point just say screw it I'm going to pirate it. Either way - the industry makes no money off the viewer when they easily could have.


Even though I have a US credit card and address, I live in Italy and thus my IP address gets flagged for a lot of things like Netflix or Amazon prime, so I have to pay to use a proxy service, to pretend I'm in the US, in order to actually pay to see stuff streamed. It's fairly absurd.


Here's someone:

I am not from USA but I also tried to use those services using a VPN, but when I use a VPN I do not get an effective speed that is stream-worthy so I say, "screw it, I am not paying twice - once to VPN and once for the service which I can't really stream anyway".


Use MediaHint, a chrome extension that's free.

I'm not affiliated with 'em, I just use it.


Unfortunately, that doesn't help if you want to watch on (for instance) an Apple TV or iPad. In that situation, a DNS-based proxy or VPN-connected router are your only options.


or iPad. In that situation, a DNS-based proxy or VPN-connected router are your only options.

There's a third option if you're using an iPad: the built-in PPTP/L2TP/IPSec client or the official OpenVPN client. Your point still stands for the Apple TV.


ZenMate is another free Chrome extension that works well if you want to show your country IP as e.g. US or UK (no affiliation either).


You are aware that watching netflix outside of it's service area is piracy, right ?

Paying the wrong amount, or one way or the other not following the terms of a licence (such as watching netflix outside of the US), is just as much piracy as bittorrent is.


That's absurd (not saying you're wrong, it's just an absurd state of affairs). All the more reason to just pirate the movies for real, instead of jumping through all the hoops, paying them money, and then being accused of "piracy" anyway.


Why don't you like paying people to sue you?

That's basically what it boils down to you jump through a lot of hoops in an attempt to get it legally they take your money accuse you of piracy and sue you.


> You are aware that watching netflix outside of it's service area is piracy, right ?

I'm not so sure.

"Piracy" isn't a well defined legal term, so I'm guessing we're talking about copyright infringement here.

But US copyright primarily extends from US laws, which are hard to break if you're in a foreign jurisdiction.

Treaties like the TRIPS agreement extend copyright (and other IP) rules and enforcement to foreign jurisdictions, but it's not altogether clear that TRIPS would require every jurisdiction to prosecute someone who receives a stream from Netflix through an additional hop. (In fact, it obviously doesn't apply everywhere, as some jurisdictions give complete waivers to copyright infringement for personal use.)

More to the point, with streaming, it's not really clear the user has made any copy that would be required for the violation in most jurisdictions.

I don't know the situation in Italy, but it's at least not a foregone conclusion that using a VPN to watch Hulu or Netflix violates anything aside from a terms of service agreement. An unenforced TOS provision hardly has the same legal heft as copyright infringement (unless the CFAA is thrown at you, but that's a whole different animal...)


"But US copyright primarily extends from US laws, which are hard to break if you're in a foreign jurisdiction."

well. sometimes the US has strange notions of 'foreign jurisdiction'. for example if a US citizen were to order a drink at a bar overseas and that drink happens to contain rum from cuba. you've just violated US law. that will be $250,000 and 10 years in prison. [1]

see this bit from treasury.gov:

"Transactions Involving Cuban-Origin Goods in Third Countries

The question is often asked whether United States citizens or permanent resident aliens of the United States may legally purchase Cuban origin goods, including tobacco and alcohol products, in a third country for personal use outside the United States. The answer is no. The Regulations prohibit persons subject to the jurisdiction of the United States from purchasing, transporting, importing, or otherwise dealing in or engaging in any transactions with respect to any merchandise outside the United States if such merchandise (1) is of Cuban origin; or (2) is or has been located in or transported from or through Cuba; or (3) is made or derived in whole or in part of any article which is the growth, produce or manufacture of Cuba. Thus, in the case of cigars, the prohibition extends to cigars manufactured in Cuba and sold in a third country and to cigars manufactured in a third country from tobacco grown in Cuba."

[1] http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Documents/...


UPDATE:

London Film Productions Ltd. v. Intercontinental Communications, Inc. found jurisdiction for a US district court in a case with a British plaintiff, a US defendant, where the infringement took place in several Latin American jurisdictions.

However, the court only took the case because it was found there would be an enormous hardship to force the plaintiff to pursue relief in several foreign jurisdictions. And note, the US federal court still applied the laws of those countries, because the legal jurisdiction remains the place where the alleged infringement takes place.

Also note, "The Second Circuit has seemingly disavowed London Films Productions’ approach, rejecting plaintiff’s reliance on that opinion in Murray v. BBC, 82 F.3d 287, 293 (2d Cir. 1986). with the dismissive remark: “We are, quite frankly, at a loss to see how this lawsuit has any but the most attenuated American connection,” a comment that applies even more strongly to London Films."

Further critical analysis of London Films here: http://williampatry.blogspot.com/2006/05/copyright-is-not-tr...


Even if this argument holds water (and as a US citizen you're bound by US law whether or not you're in the US), you still agreed to a contract that you wouldn't do this.

Now given that contract you agreed to with netflix, I think is pretty safe to say that you're violating the law in every last jurisdiction on earth.

Sure they won't sue you for it, generally speaking. But you're definitely violating the law.


'Bound by US law in any jurisdiction' is too hasty a generalization.

Some laws, tax laws, apply regardless of jurisdiction, because jurisdiction is found by some connection of yourself to the state. But if you commit murder in Canada, that's a violation of Canadian, not US law (unless you're a member of the US armed forces, in which case it's a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice).

But more importantly, it's not illegal to break a contract.

You can't even get punitive damages for a breach. One example illustrating this is US Naval Institute v. Charter Communications, 936 F. 2d 692 - Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit 1991.

Judge Posner explains why the law favors this in "Economic Analysis and the Law" as follows:

"Suppose I sign a contract to deliver 100,000 custom-ground widgets at $.10 apiece to A, for use in his boiler factory. After I have delivered 10,000, B comes to me, explains that he desperately needs 25,000 custom-ground widgets at once since otherwise he will be forced to close his pianola factory at great cost, and offers me $.15 apiece for 25,000 widgets. I sell him the widgets and as a result do not complete timely delivery to A, who sustains $1000 in damages from my breach. Having obtained an additional profit of $1250 on the sale to B, I am better off even after reimbursing A for his loss. Society is also better off. Since B was willing to pay me $.15 per widget, it must mean that each widget was worth at least $.15 to him. But it was worth only $.14 to A – $.10, what he paid, plus $.04 ($1000 divided by 25,000), his expected profit. Thus the breach resulted in a transfer of the 25,000 widgets from a lower valued to a higher valued use."


In order for any action to justify damages (under public law), one must indicate to the satisfaction of the judge :

1) that action was illegal (violated law, contract provisions, ...)

2) that damages were incurred

3) that there was a causal connection between the action and the damages

It is pretty obvious what happens in most situations. For example if you damage someone without violating the law, you cannot be punished for that (well, not legally).

It is also pretty obvious that if you violate a contract, but it has no consequences for anyone, you can't be punished for this (this is a major difference between our -mostly- canon law and judaic or sharia law, where the state/everyone is responsible to punish you even if no one was bothered by your actions (the state in judaic law, everyone in sharia law, although muslim states are in the process of changing this, because despite allah's "wisdom" the part of sharia where everybody should attack everyone they believe to have broken the law turns out to be massively counterproductive and destructive. There are many such changes, the one I like to remind muslim nutcases of is that sharia specifies the death penalty to any muslim not living under an islamic state (something they thoroughly implemented during the crusades for example), and there's plenty of fatwas of this)

What the judge illustrated is that he judged that condition 2 was not satisfied in this case. There are lots of qualifications though. First, anyone who was damaged was reimbursed (A), not just for the price he would have paid, but on top of that for the resulting damages. I doubt you'd want to use this very often, as it does mean paying damages. Also : this is a very "American" judgement, and on the extreme side even for America. I would expect this not to work on most judges.

Well sure, except that won't apply here since there is ample precedent of courts finding copyright breaches do damage the copyright holder.


It's not actually a contract you have with Netflix - just a terms of service and those aren't legally binding. The worst Netflix themselves could do is terminate your account.


Attempting to pay for a service is not just as much piracy as using bittorent is.

Pirating content != Ignoring region restrictions, otherwise buying a film on holiday and then watching it on a region unlocked dvd player would be piracy and it clearly isn't.

It is breach of contract, but that does not by itself constitute piracy just because it is to do with media.


The service area of Netflix is "computers connected to the Internet". Despite efforts that seem to indicate otherwise, IP addresses do not necessarily correlate with specific places or people. The sooner everyone understands this, the better off we will all be.


That's an important point, and one that I suspect is lost on many IP law advocates even around here.


A report commissioned by the Australian Government actually recommended that laws be amended here and this practice encouraged, because of the way companies don't provide content in Australia or often charge more than double than what you get in the US for no extra service (obviously there are tariffs, taxes, distribution, etc. but that should be 15-20% extra, not over 100%).

For example, when Adobe CS used to come in boxes, it was literally cheaper to fly return to the US and buy it there. They weren't providing local support or anything - just phone and online support from the same offshore call centres they use for other markets.


I'm guessing they're not really going to complain too much.


Well the party that's "getting hurt" is not so much netflix, but the copyright owner.


What if I'm an American living abroad for a medium-term period? Am I still not allowed to access my Netflix account through VPN?


You'd be violating the Terms of service. One salient portion would be "You may view a movie or TV show through the Netflix service only in geographic locations where we offer our service and have licensed such movie or TV show."

That doesn't talk about the address where you established your account, it's clearly about where you are doing the viewing.


> only in geographic locations where we offer our service

It sounds like they offer their service anywhere if you use the right VPN.


I don't understand your point.


I'm mostly in the same boat. The last time this happened to me was when I wanted to (re)watch Star Wars but didn't have the DVDs at hand. It's impossible to pay for and watch the damn thing online/on-demand/pay-per-view/you-name-it.


This hit my fiancee recently, she wanted to grab grim fandango, and your options were a secondhand very used copy from ebay/amazon, or pirating. (the latter even had more baked in support for running on modern platforms, too...)

GoG is doing good work in making a lot of these things available, it solved the big System Shock 2 hole in game retail.


How did she get on running it on modern systems? It runs horribly for me on XP as I recall, so I attempted it under Wine on Linux with mixed results.

What do you recommend? Grim Fandango is a brilliant game. I bought mine on ebay :-)


http://residualvm.org/ is a re-implementation of the engine used in Grim Fandango (and Monkey Island 4) that enables you to play the game on modern systems. It requires the original game files, and is similar in idea to ScummVM.


That's phenomenal, thanks a million!


I think that's also an example of a movie that has changed over time.

Probably the worst example being Cinema Paradiso. The original cut had nostalgia with a mixture of regret and acceptance of what is past. Then, the new cut concludes with the disappointment of trying to confront past missed opportunities. Whether it's meant to be hyperrealistic, I also liked the original movie, which was a different movie, but can't be found anymore.

I think the same goes for the earlier releases of Star Wars. I know that the special effects of the era weren't "better", but the modern CGI makes them different movies, and I'd like to have the original version available, too.


You can buy a DVD set which has the original versions (no CGI, Han shoots first etc) on the bonus disks.

http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Original_unaltered_trilogy_%2...

IIUC, only the 2008 release set has them. But you can still buy those. Just check the reviews etc carefully to be sure it's the correct release.


.. Soit's easier to find what you want in the sea of fake/wrong uploads that is the piratebay than to get the cut you want paying for it?

Seems to agree with everything in this thread, unfortunately.


I have that set; since the original cut is from the laserdisc transfer, you can actually see the matte backgrounds when the TIE fighters attack the Falcon as they escape the Death Star. I'm hoping Disney will restore the original cut and fix those little issues.


Same here. I don't see the value in physical media that get scratched up or lost. And I had a 500gb MyBook back in the day that failed and lost all of my data with it. It was a huge PITA. Lots of people will talk about how cloud provided media can disappear at the whim of rights holders. And that's true. But physical media can disappear at the whim of a thief or of nature or of my poor memory and carelessness. So all of our television and film watching happens through iTunes and Netflix (refuse to pay for HBO Go as an add on but would love to be able to, and refuse to pay for Hulu+ with commercials). As a result, we do miss out on a lot of stuff on release day, and we only just saw Frozen on Saturday (it's great if you like musicals or amazing animation) but it's a price worth paying for the convenience and the ability to time-shift our viewing.


That may be true in the USA, in many other countries there are no such things.

The PC industry is in a way better shape. Steam, GOG, ps3 and xbox store. There are way less restrictions based on countries and delays, and almost all games have multilanguage pre-installed so you can play in any language you like.

Downloading/Streaming movies in other countries other than the USA have huge delays, very limited choice, high prices, and most of the time you can't even choose in what language you can see them.


When I was younger I pirated almost all games (it helped that in my country there was no concept of legal games when I was a kid, and in fact I didn't even know there was another way of purchasing games).

Later, when I knew what piracy vs legal was, it was definitely a convenience thing. Until very recently, legal games were painful and very inconvenient in comparison to pirated games. Pirated games offer many advantages: no DRM is the most frequently mentioned "feature", but also pirated games often were the only way to get the games in their original language (especially for those of us in countries whose primary language is not English). Keep in mind translations are usually awful, and were even worse back then. A bad translation could completely destroy a point & click adventure game!

Then came the joys of indie games, Humble Bundle, Steam, GOG, and easily purchasable and downloadable legal games. But you may still wonder: what can they offer against the price of zero from downloaded warez? Well, they offer the huge satisfaction of letting me help the developers. For me, that's very valuable. I won't cheat the devs of their hard-earned money, and I get to play games without DRM in their original language. The best of both worlds, and pirates can't compete with that!


> This quote conveniently leaves out that the pirate's product doesn't cost the end user any money.

This is not necessarily true. There are people who spend more on a seedbox or VPN each month than a Netflix + Rdio/Spotify subscription cost.

Furthermore, private trackers have restrictions on them (ratio limits, etc.). Depending on what kind of content you're looking for, it's not exactly "free" either in money or time to be an active Bittorrent user.

It just so happens that that cost is still less than the "legal" alternative - if a legal alternative even exists (look at pippy's comment about accessing content in New Zealand).


> Furthermore, private trackers have restrictions on them (ratio limits, etc.)

You know, I've never understood the point of private "community" trackers. Anything mainstream will be on TPB. Anything extremely fresh will be on the release group's own (almost-always-public) tracker. And for the really long-tail stuff--unpopular nonfiction books from the 80s, for example--they've just never been digitized at all. What's an example of the sort of thing people find private trackers uniquely valuable for?


You'd be amazed at the effort that goes into curation and comprehensiveness on a good private tracker. Because ratios are so important there is a strong incentive to upload obscure stuff that is missing. Additionally, the ratio economy can be tweaked for things like providing subtitles (including translations where there have been none before). There's a private film tracker that I'm aware of where I believe half of the members must be film studies professors. They will post monthly themes on obscure genres such as "queer cinema prior to 1950" or "Italien cinema under Mussolini" and these will literally include hundreds of films.

It's so impressive that I think some of these private trackers could reasonably argue in court that they are engaging in fair use for academic study. It's archival work at a scale that would be unimaginable if restricted to recognized institutions.


private trackers usually offer much faster release time than public trackers (shows are available less than a minute after pre on the good trackers, which often is about a few minutes after airing), have tons of good seeders so you can get pretty much all files very fast (even if its a bit old), and content that is otherwise not available elsewhere at all (for content-specific trackers mostly, such as music ones)

also, release groups usually dont have their own trackers, their releases are generally ftp'd to a few topsites and distributed from there (some private trackers get directly from the source thus having a slightly faster pre time and are more desirable/exclusive, others get it further down the chain of distribution)


The unpopular old stuff will still be seeded when you want it a couple of years later, since (almost) everyone that has downloaded it and hasn't thrown it away want's their ratio's up. They won't stop seeding it until they remove the files.

So the main reason to do it is high download speeds on old unpopular torrents.


Quality control, and speed. This may not be as big of a problem as it used to be a few years ago, but private trackers give you quite a bit more assurance that what you're downloading is what is advertised. Also, since to be part of a private tracker you have to maintain the ratio, many users set up seedboxes and just leave their torrents on, while this doesn't seem to happen quite as much on public trackers.


Private trackers have much more carefully curated content than public trackers. It makes for a much smoother download experience. Not to mention that the downloads happen as fast as your connection can support.

I haven't used public torrent sites in years - the private option is so much more attractive.


They are often faster (higher ratio of seeders to leechers), and are much less likely to have swarms of bots connecting to their torrents recording all the connected IPs so they can send threatening letters to ISPs/users.


Private trackers have per-user torrent keys and are often even locked to your IP address, so anyone who is not authorized (MPAA) will not be able to see any peers (a list of who to send scary letters to).


Curation and organization is one. For example, search a good movie tracker for Pulp Fiction and you'll get a dedicated page for that film--including stuff like poster image, YouTube trailers, and IMDB link--with torrents organized by quality, resolution, special features, and so forth.

The other is, well, you're wrong about the long-tail stuff. TPB, for example, has lots of audiobooks but is very short on printed material. A dedicated book tracker may have a much better selection of fiction, textbooks, and other sorts of specialty books (tabletop RPGs, for example).


Private trackers get scene releases hours (maybe 1 or 2) before they show up on TPB. On good trackers the number of seedboxes can max out any leecher's connection. The best trackers race to supply the content the quickest. This is called tracing or torrent racing. The groups with public trackers are p2p groups. The scene does not use torrents. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warez_scene Watch tracing live: https://trace.corrupt-net.org/live.php


Curation and organization. Continued seeding of really old stuff.


This is like saying why do you need niche news websites like HN, when anything mainstreem will be on the 3-letter channel and everything else will be obscure, unpopular stuff.

It's true, private trackers generally are "obscure" if you consider every person in the world (just like the majority of the world doesn't read HN). But if you niche down to your basic interests, then there are good private torrent trackers that will generally have almost everything worth having in that area.


I believe nlawalker's point was that if a paid service is identical in functionality to a free "pirate" alternative, there's still an incentive to use the free one. Even if the paid service is better than the free one, many people would opt to stream illegally over, say, purchasing region-free non-drm DVDs.


A stream is not identical in functionality to a DVD.

Aside from that, this is a difficult to prove assertion. I'm not sure there's actually been a paid legitimate service that's actually better than the free pirate one overall, when you take out the morality equation.

Netflix, rdio, etc. do seem to be doing quite well at proving that people are still willing to pay for a good service with legitimate content, though. Imagine if they were actually as good as the alternative.


Google play almost solves this problem for me with music. I have a hopeless addiction to fairly off-the-beaten-track hip-hop, and used to have to use private trackers and forums to find good stuff. I got Google play music recently, uploaded stuff I already had, and now I get really good suggestions for new, rare stuff every day. It's still not as comprehensive as what's available on the rest of the internet, but it's better than any other paid music thing I've tried.


I think the closest I know of is vodo.net -- but it has the usual problem of free/indy media -- a lot of it is simply crap. But it has some low-budget gems, like Pioneer One:

http://vodo.net/pioneerone

(Note that one person's gem is often another person's crap...)

Yet, vodo.net, even being free -- still has higher friction than The Pirate Bay, less choice in [encoding] quality -- but at least supports offline usage (unlike Netflix).


PioneerOne plot sounds a lot like Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land.


Piracy will always have an inherent risk of getting caught. As a result piracy isn't free at all. It is potentially very very expensive. To do piracy properly you have to pay for a proxy so it isn't really free at all.

I don't pirate stuff very often now. Spotify and Netflix usually ensure I have something to watch and listen to. There are a few exceptions. Once every 6 months or so I subscribe to a proxy to catch up on a bunch of TV shows which aren't on Netflix, LoveFilm etc. Realistically I would pay for the things I download if there was a reasonably priced option. I rarely want to own a film or TV show, I just want to watch it once. $30 for a season of something is too expensive..


Try Googling "Better than Free" and you'll find the answer to your question.

The three most important reasons, for me, are:

- immediacy/ease of use: It just works and I can find what I want easily. I value my time at roughly $200/hr, so it's easy to justify ~$10/mo if it saves me even 3 minutes of my time.

- availability: I don't need to have terabytes of local storage because I can just stream whatever I want, whenever I want.

- patronage: This is the most important thing for me...I want to pay for content. I think the industry has, by and large, behaved like spoiled toddlers for the better part of 2 decades now, but that doesn't make it right to not pay them for their work. And I think I'll get better content if I pay for the things I like.


$200 an hour? Holy shit, where do you work that it's even worth going in?

In all seriousness unless you're stupendously rich surely that's an overestimate by roughly an order of magnitude? You'd pay me a hundred bucks to drive you home in half an hour instead of taking the hour-long bus?


Perhaps that's how much he values his free time.


Butbutbut, it would be free time if he didn't go in to work.


$50 at his rate. And wouldn't he have to pay less, say $45, to come out ahead on the transaction?

I, too, am curious where GP works.


I work at what used to be a startup until it was acquired by a large company. I arrived at that number by dividing my annual comp by 2000 (40 hours per week, 50 weeks per year) and then rounding down to the nearest hundred. It's probably still a bit high because my comp will drop a bit in two years when I stop vesting my retention bonus.

In retrospect, I wish I'd chosen a number that others would relate to a little better. At $50/hr, an $8.99 Netflix subscription is still paid for in just over 10 minutes of free time, which is just as illustrative of the point I was trying to make.


Re: Patronage.

You're aware artists get ~$0 from streaming services right? Huge names like Radiohead make maybe $100/month from Spotify and the like. Unless you're huge, you're probably getting pennies, if that.

Buy the album, go to a show, get a t-shirt. That's patronage. Don't hand your money over to a record company exec, filtered through a middle man, and pretend you're helping the artist.


Perhaps, but that's true for streaming audio...I don't really do that much. When I do, it's mostly SomaFM, who I've supported over the years. For streaming video, artists are getting compensated, though Hollywood accounting is likely screwing them to some extent. But they've opted into to that system and there's no real way for me to otherwise compensate that they'd make much more.


You're considerably understating the money artists make from Spotify and the like.

But even if those numbers were true, the fact remains that's how the artists have chosen to make their music available to you. You have no right whatsoever to work around that.


Are you conscious of the fact that you've just lost $10 or $20 while writing this comment?


I think "spent" rather than "lost" would be more appropriate - time spent sharing and discussing ideas isn't a total waste.


Cost is not value.

The pirate's service will be more valuable to me when he offers more that I value than the legal provider does. How much either charges for the service has no bearing on that. Now, the legal provider may actually offer something more valuable, but some people will still choose to pirate because the cost is free. But that is clearly not always the case, since people still often pay for content. Otherwise, Steam wouldn't be a business. That's what Gabe is getting at.

I could pirate games for free, but it's a pain compared to Steam, and I value my time. Since the service provided by Steam is superior to pirating the software, and because paying on Steam is less hassle than attempting to pirate a thing, I use Steam. (There are other reasons, but from pure rational self-interest or whatever, that's how it works for me.)

So legal providers that offer more than pirates do will still face issues of piracy, however legal providers that offer an inferior service to even pirates might expect that their product will have near-100% piracy rates, and they will be forced out of business.


> How much either charges for the service has no bearing on that.

This is just dodging the subject; I'm talking about net value. How valuable would Steam be to you if it cost $100 a month to be a member?

Anyways, my point was meant to be in the context of movies, which is what's offered by the linked service. Steam works because they sell games, not movies. Games aren't hard to pirate (a game's bits aren't any harder to get than a movie's), but pirated copies are hard to use compared to legal copies because it's easy to build games that require Internet connectivity to verify authenticity. No one minds this because they probably need the Internet to play the game in the first place (Google "World of Goo piracy" for an example of what can happen when just this one point doesn't hold true, and tell me again that piracy is just a service problem). People like to say Steam is "DRM done right" but it's not, it's just that it happens to be the case that the DRM doesn't require anything you don't already need to enjoy the content.

Movies are obviously different. How would one offer a service that can beat piracy on convenience, when piracy offers un-DRMed files that you can use anywhere? It's conceivable, but how much would they be willing to charge for this service? Therein lies the rub.

The root of the problem is that the movie industry does not agree with people's valuation of their content. They don't want to sell you a just-released movie, unDRMed, for a buck, or anything approaching the $0 that piracy charges. They'd rather keep their existing business model and try to raise the perceived risk of piracy.

It's disingenuous to say that it's a service problem and not a pricing problem merely because the service doesn't exist, when the primary reason that the service doesn't exist is pricing. The movie industry isn't going to invest in building a service if they can't sell their content at the price point they want.

The most important thing to note about Steam isn't the DRM, it's the prices. The content producers have conceded to the fact that they have to adjust their prices to match the public's perception of the value of their content. The movie industry hasn't made that concession. Yet.


Piracy offers DRM free movies that you can use anywhere, sure.

But very rarely does it have properly synced well-written subtitles, multiple audio tracks, and a quality encoding. Find a combination of those that works together without 30 minutes of fiddling with the subtitles and you've probably just wasted your weekend even if you frequent high quality private trackers.

It's also generally harder (not impossible, mind--same as the above) to find extras like cast/crew commentary, blooper reels, etc. These wouldn't be hard for studios to provide in some theoretical Movie-Steam.

Even in the case of games that don't use an internet connection to verify themselves, though, Steam is still more convenient--automatic patching without needing to try and find a new crack every time, no need to hunt down files or patches every time you want to reinstall, less concerns about malware, etc. If Steam had a monthly fee, I'd probably still see it as worth it up to a certain point--definitely not the 100$ you mention, but considering how much use I get out of it it isn't completely off the table.


Legal DVDs have limited selection of subtitles and you can not rewind them 10 seconds back to review scene if I misunderstood. I downloaded even movies I own for that reason (downloading is legal here, uploading is not). I like to watch movies with english subtitles an dvd rarely have those.

I do not care about extras. I do care about ability to jump where I want in the movie and about seeing movie I brought without warnings and ads.


+1 "seeing movie I brought without warnings and ads"


>But very rarely does it have properly synced well-written subtitles, multiple audio tracks, and a quality encoding.

My experience is diametraly different. Legal sources like netflix, TV or some DVD's are usualy low quality, cenzored and cropped versions, terribly dubbed with no original audio or subtitles. On the other hand, i have usually no problem finding pirated copy which has none of these issues.


This program's site claims that it offers subtitles. I don't know about the quality though.

I do know that subtitles haven't been an issue for me when downloading from private trackers. 30 minutes is a gross exaggeration.


Fair enough. Perhaps I missed your point, which seemed to be that since piracy is (nominally) free, then paid services can never beat it.

But I don't agree he's being disingenuous. He's just speaking about the service problem in that particular quote. Gabe has also addressed the pricing issue in the past, talking mainly about how the sweet spot for maximizing profit on Steam is much lower than most people would have thought (the blog post is old, and it's been a while since I read it, but that's the gist).

It's mostly a service problem IMO and also to a lesser extent a pricing problem, and if you asked Gabe he might say the same. Unfortunately that quote makes it seem like he thinks it can be one or the other, but that's not likely really true.


If you had identical (very close) interfaces to the same content. It then becomes a moral choice.

Currently I'm more satisfied with the illegal offerings, I've tried a subscription service: Lovefilm (which isn't amphibious), and look at many of my DVD boxsets, that have no value added content whatsoever.

I have three seasons of very poor quality Star Trek episodes on DVD. Now I think the studios owe me a better quality version. Which I don't think I should pay for. In my mind you should just pay for the license to watch, listen, read... and it doesn't really matter about the medium of delivery.


"I value my time" - and yet you waste it on games and hn


It's mine to waste. When other people waste my time, that irritates me a great deal. When I 'waste' my own - not so much.


Sorry, but this is bull.

I used torrents and music blogs a lot to discover new music (and napster/kazaa back then), but nowadays I have a Rdio subscription which is much more convenient.

The point is, Rdio is one of the few streaming providers working in my country. If Spotify / iTunes worked, I would subscribe too, since their catalogues are complementary. If the labels don't want to stream into the 7th world economy for whatever stupid reason, too bad... they are the ones losing money.


I used to have hard drives full of downloaded music... the Grooveshark pretty much killed that... Spotify offered mobile streaming and offline playback.

I haven't pirated a song in about 5 or 6 years with the exception of a leaked album (Random Access Memories). NetFlix meets a lot of my movie needs, and ironically reignited my movie pirating when they removed "2001: A Space Odyssey".

If you give the consume an easy and convenient means to access your content, most users will consume it via that method. Most people don't "get" torrents, or care to learn how to use them. My Mom still pays $.99/mp3 on iTunes... I can't get her to switch to spotify.


Why is Spotify better than owning your data? What happens to your music once Spotify dies?


You lose access to it, but since you've only been paying $10 a month, it isn't that big a loss.

Here's a comparison. You could buy a new album off of Amazon or iTunes every month for $10. These would be DRM free copies that you would own.

So for $10 a month you could have 1 album that you own, or you could pay $10 a month and have access to I don't know, 4 million that you are renting?

We could also imagine that after a year Spotify goes out of business. You've spent $120 on Spotify and don't have anything in return. In the same amount of time you would have spent $120 on iTunes or another service and own 12 albums.

There's a convenience factor here and I think it is obvious that especially in the short term (which is what most people are weighing), it just makes sense to use Spotify or another service, even if you don't actually own your music.


Spotify is music rental, not music purchase. If you spend $120 on Spotify, you get to listen to thousands or tens of thousands of songs over that year. If you buy 10 albums, you get those albums but you didn't get to listen to anything else. One isn't better than the other -- but rental and ownership aren't direct substitutes for each other.


Music from Amazon and iTunes is DRM-free these days.


It is an interesting point. I am happy to pay for Amazon / Lovefilm (including discs because their online choice appears to be bad B-movies or horror films) but I had never considered paying a rental for music. I still buy CDs and rip them; inconvenient I know but I like the sleeve notes

Has anyone tried the Google musicy thing? I seem to be stuck on the "owning" the physical disc and music bit still.


I am really enjoying the Google Music service. For me, the strongest feature is the recommendation engine. I've found a lot of new music in a variety of genres that way. I treat it as a music exposure platform. I pay my 8 bucks a month to have access to millions of songs across thousands of artists. The ones I like I buy some albums so I can rip it and have lossless local copies (the one beef I have with Google music is the files are limited to 320bit mp3. It's perfectly acceptable, but I would even pay more for a lossless .flac option) and add the physical disk to my collection. I would definitely recommend the service if you're interested in finding new music and enjoy listening to tunes on your mobile device (where quality isn't really an issue anyway and space is more precious).


Thanks for the Google Music review. I may look into it. As you say, using it on a mobile device means you have space limits, and all the stuff I listen to I have converted to high bitrate MP3 anyway to play on my iPod, so I don't think I'll be too put off the MP3s they stream.

I wonder how much data it'll burn through. At work there is an NT-based proxy and I haven't found a good Android one to work with it, so I will probably burn through my monthly limits on my cheapskate data plan.

Thanks again.


> These would be DRM copies that you would own.

Did you mean "DRM free"?


Yes, mistyped.


I think we need to update the old saying to "If it floats, flies, fucks or has DRM... rent it."


The main difference for me is that I don't need to buy music that only sounds good on first try or for the first 30s anymore. After intense spotify usage I know what music I really need, so I buy it. On the other hand I discover way more than before, my consumption is way up now.


You don't have the storage/backup and organization costs. I don't ever want to "own" a song or movie again. They're all online. I use rdio now, but if it went away I'd use spotify. If that went away I'd use <whatever>. If that went away...I'll listen to the radio.

Movies would be a little harder, but I'm pretty sure iTunes and Netflix aren't going away any time soon.


The other day I was in the car with my friend, he had his phone linked to the BT system in the car. I was like "yeah I love this guy, you should check out [a similar artist]." and he replies "yeah, I know of that guy." me "awesome, put on [a song]" to which he replies "Oh, I don't have any of his music on my phone right now...".

"What the hell man, are we in 1999 mode?!"

If Spotify goes away, then I find another provider or start building my library again... in the mean time I literally have ALL of the music... which I'm okay with.


Switch to Rdio or whatever other competitor fills the void


No, that was the whole point of the quote. Many people pirate for convenience reasons rather than financial reasons. Check out this blog post by Fred Wilson on this subject: http://avc.com/2012/01/scarcity-is-a-shitty-business-model/


This is also upper-middle class geek view. A person who flips burgers at McDonnalds or moves crates at Walmark is much more likely to lean towards saving $8/mo than CEO of Valve or $100/hr tech crowd here. Also in developing countries like India or China people would strongly prefer something free even though it's lower quality and involves more hassles. No one there gives damn to any copyright violation. The general population view there is why to give more money to all those actors and movie makers who are already multi-millionaires.


I am from India and I gladly pay for Amazon ebooks, Audible audiobooks, iTunes music, movies and apps. I am not even rich - there are many of us from less affluent countries that understand that content creators should get their compensation. More than anything else, I want to reward these companies for making content accessible to me (no physical bookstore will come to a small city and open a branch).

I lead a fairly contented life in my small corner of the world and there are probably two things that angers me equally. One is the way affluent countries treat me when I want a visa to visit or transit through them and second is the message on Amazon that a particular ebook is not available to me because of my geographical region. I only resort to searching online for a pirated ebook or converting youtube music to mp3 after I have exhausted all options of finding the content on a legit online store.


How much do you think you can make from someone who has no money to spend on such content? Fuck them, right?


When the risk of of obtaining content by illegal means is not outweighed by the cost of doing so by legal means. If I can pay USD 1 or Ɖ1500 or some other small amount to watch a movie not listed on Netflix instantly I would gladly do so. The risk of getting a "friendly reminder" from the RIAA or some other entity that $UNIVERSITY is required to disclose who I am and that I've been a bad boy completely outweighs such a low cost. However if it costs me $5 or $10 or I run Linux (which I do) and can't even use any of the legal services then it becomes worth my time, effort and risk to find three proxy services which I halfway trust and run a Torrent client over some combination of them.


Some people buy the legitimate product and then pirate it too because the product has weird restrictions.

Some movies were not released in all regions. The user can import the DVD from a differet region. Some OSs impose restrictions on how many times the SVD drive can change its region. Piratig the content solves that.


This is true! I bought XMen Origins: Wolverine and it showed a happy family laughing and in ecstasy watching their legitimate DVD in their well-illuminated room compared to the glum-looking spotty dirty nerd in a poorly-illuminated room (more like a toilet). After this vision of deep joy, I felt satisfaction that I had bought the DVD and would soon be enjoying the DVD in my well illuminated room, laughing and frolicking around with my family at sheer delight at the film. I could barely see the DVD player with the tears of joy smearing my vision, running down my chubby cheeks to plop onto the legitimate plastic box that housed the DVD with a satisfying thud.

It didn't play on my DVD player. The copy protection upset it and the DVD player refused to play my legitimate DVD that I had purchased. I could watch the introduction video showing me the deep joy from purchasing the DVD (why do that on the DVD that I had bought???) but not the actual film.

It made me angry. But not angry enough to pirate films. I have never pirated a film. If I can't afford the cinema, I'll just wait until it appears on Lovefilm or ordinary TV. I don't need to rush to see a film. It's not like they're going to go out of circulation or will not be in the bargain DVD bin in 3 years time.


finding a virus-free torrent with up-to-date patches and enough seeds to download at >1megabyte/sec may take more time than people are willing to invest to save $2 on a steam sale for something that guaranteed works and is up to date.


There have been paid piracy services like AllOfMP3 that were very popular. Also people are willing to pay for access when pirating in regards to seed boxes, VPN's etc.

So I wouldn't say there is no user cost for piracy. For me, occasions I have been tempted to pirate something it is more about convenience or lack of access.


There's always the convenience in having something that is freely advertised. So just "official, legal and safe" is a value. And if the existence (and success) of iTunes, Spotify, Steam, and others are any proof, those values are very well understood by people. People don't only want to have the cheapest thing, most people also don't want to hurt others (and they understand that not paying the content producer hurts them).


I stopped pirating music the day I got spotify premium, if that's worth anything to this discussion.


Piracy doesn't offer automatic updates, cloud saves, (usually) multiplayer, support when the game breaks, and a guarantee of not containing malware. I'm obviously using Steam as an example here, given the context.


I don't think the price is a factor in "convenience". The annoying steps to pay a subscription and to cancel a membership might be though. I subscribed to Netflix and none of those were too much trouble, it's just too easy to go on Netflix to check my favorite TV show episodes so I just stopped illegally acquiring them. Although some seasons are not on netflix so I just go back to piracy when its the case.

As for tv shows I don't own, I find it too troublesome to pay two services so I'm not gonna buy a Hulu membership.


Well, not exactly: I’m still paying for Netflix. I travel a lot and use VPN for professional reasons, between countries that have a good Netflix offering, those without and those with partial offers. I still pirate most of it because a film I started watching is not available anymore in the country I'm in. It's annoying up to the point that I’ve stopped trying. If I paid by film watched, what you said would make sense; I don't think anyone does anymore.


That is piracy. You're not following the conditions of the licence of the copyrighted material, nor your contract with netflix. That's just as much piracy as torrenting everything.

Worse: if the purpose of the VPN is explicitly to lie about fulfilling your end of the contract (and you state here that you do use it for that), it could in the worst case be considered fraud. If you enable the VPN outside of the country because you can't watch netflix otherwise, that's definitely fraud (whether or not you actually read the contract with netflix).

Also note that neither of these facts need to be proven beyond reasonable doubt, as this is not criminal law, the judge merely needs to believe it to be true.


I’m sorry: are you arguing that travelling is piracy?

The upside is that we are getting closer to what piracy actually is (taking a boat by means violence) as opposed to the over-dramatised and legally void attempt by the MPAA to call unlicensed use of media something else; the downside is that you fail to notice that the idea of jurisdiction isn’t really nearly as plain as what most “hurr-Heer-Merica!” lawyers and military hawks like to thing.


I am arguing that you signed(/agreed) a contract with netflix. Second, in order to actually watch the content you have to licence it. This next bit is only 90% accurate, but will do for this discussion : that licence is another contract that at some point (probably as part of the netflix contract signing) you saw and agreed to follow. The difference between both contracts is the other party. In the first it's netflix, in the second it's the copyright owner.

Both contracts stipulate that you won't look at the content outside of a given service area. You then proceed to

a) violate the actual provision (contract violation / copyright violation)

b) use technical means to fool the other contracting party into thinking you haven't violated the contract (fraud)

Not following the terms of a licence, that's exactly what piracy is (gets more complex if there are multiple licences for the same content, but ...). Just like fraud is nothing more or less than deceiving parties you've contracted with into believing you're respecting the contract, with intent to violate said contract.


An official service can improve on a pirate service in terms of reliability, speed, quality, security and ethical considerations. There is some real value in instant access to guaranteed high definition good quality videos that are free from viruses. I suppose an unscrupulous operator could even spend some effort flooding the pirate service with poor quality, corrupted data, so as to make their own service more valuable.


Like if you have steam or gog - then installing a game is one click away. No need to find and search torrents for games 10 years old. And everything is patched and working.

I have bought kindle dollar books just because I was lazy to find "drm free" version and convert it with calible.

But my price for IP crashed way down - 5-10 Euro is the top I am paying for something.


Anecdotal evidence, but I know for a fact that a lot of the people I know want to pay for the media. They don't enjoy pirating, and would rather be above board with purchases, but after checking Netflix, Hulu, Apple and Amazon and not being able to find what they were looking for, they torrent as a last resort.


Minus Apple, this is me.

The problem is further exacerbated by the fact that if you go straight to TPB you could have it already downloaded and ready to watch in less time than it takes to try and find a way to pay them. They've set the barrier to entry too high.


Price doesn't usually give a product value, except for luxury goods. Value is depending on every potential buyer and his usecase. Usually an illegal counterfeit has a vastly lower price and a somewhat lower value to most. If the value is equal or higher, you know you're in trouble.


The pirate's service comes with risk and sometimes difficulty. Not everyone knows how to torrent, and you risk malware infection and/or "strikes" from your ISP.

It doesn't cost any money, but that doesn't mean it has no costs.


I like to buy mp3s from Amazon because the metadata is correct. That's not as common as I'd like with peer-to-peer mp3s.

In a similar vein, sometimes the pirate provides you with malware. Free malware isn't exactly a bargain over cheap content.


When Steam is just easier.

Even Origin is easier.

Netflix is easier.


> Steam is just easier.

Well, I thought so. But for older games Steam is harder and worse than torrenting. Say, old Gothic, Thief, TES, Fallout or, say, VtM: Bloodlines all either explicitly require or just really need some manual patching to properly work on modern OSes and hardware.

GOG's nice in this aspect (pre-bundled unofficial patches, emulators and whatever), but it has US/EU-level pricing, which feels quite large in poorer countries like Russia.

So, if the game's older than 2-3 years and it's not multiplayer one, it's probably better to set a sail for The Pirate Bay. If it's recent, then Steam's probably easier.


Sure, all other things being equal free is better than expensive. But it's not a big factor. I don't pirate books any more because the kindle experience is better by enough to be worth paying for.


Because people's time is valuable. Most people will happily pay something for a painless user-experience that gives them what they want with no hassle.


Offer free copies yourself. Degrade the quality, embed advertising and maintain a solid back catalog.


> maintain a solid back catalog

It drives me crazy when the licensing drops out for a show while you're in the middle of watching through the series!


I have netflix, but I will pirate if it is not on there.


Yet Steam is introducing region locks recently as well as region-pricing. I hope they realize they are creating a service problem on their own.


Price discrimination is a hell of a thing.

The majority of revenue comes from rich regions such as USA and Western Europe. Many regions, such as Russia and Eastern Europe, will buy software but only at a significantly reduced price. Look at average income by country and it makes total sense.

If you sell your game for $50 in the US and $5 in Russia then everyone will just change their region to Russia and buy your game for $5. Or Russian keys will be resold to Americans for $10.

You could sell your game for $50 in Russia but then no one would buy it so it's a waste of time. You could also sell your game for $5 in the US but then you won't make your dev costs back.

Yup.


And then there's the good old 'Australia Tax', where Australians pay considerably more for software because 'fuck you'. No localisation work done at all. In the old days of bricks and mortar, you could almost believe the excuse that price was nearly double because of shipping costs. But in the modern era of pushing bits?


Only last year it was cheaper to fly to the US buy a full featured copy of photoshop fly back than to buy it in Australia (including digitally distributed versions).


There are still increased costs of doing business. A risk-averse seller will want to vet the local consumer laws to ensure they're not in violation of privacy laws, refund entitlements, quality guarantees, etc etc.

If you're doing those things at arms length, it's really difficult to keep those costs down. Your only option is basically an internationally known Tier 1 law firm. They are _not cheap_. Not only will they bill you plenty per hour, they will take a heck of a lot of time making absolutely certain before they provide an opinion as they don't want to expose themselves to liability.

Whether or not it justifies every price hike out there is in the wind. There are still non-trivial costs associated with doing business in another market even in the digital age, though.

Source: have done digital business in many, many countries from Australia as a base. Have had legal docs localised into AU, US and UK law. Paid staggering amounts of money to lawyers for same.


You have a good point, but Australia still has peculiarly high software prices when compared to other developed countries that are foreign to the software source.


The Steam "Australian" store sells to us in US Dollars. They don't do anything to ensure compliance with Australian law. It's a pure money grab


Australia has extensive VAT taxes, tariffs on top of that, and byzantine regulations that dissuade foreign firms from entering the market (they apply to digital products too). When firms finally do they have to pass the legal costs and taxes on to the customer. Consumers in the rest of the world aren't going to pay for that difference. The real player saying 'fuck you' here is the Australian government.


By 'extensive VAT taxes', do you mean "VAT half that of the UK"? As for tariffs, why is it that some games on steam are the same price as elsewhere and others, usually AAA games, are price-gouging?

In any case, there are zero tariffs on digital goods between the US (where most games are made) and Australia, due to the free trade agreement. [1]

So, you have an environment where there is less tax on the goods than in the UK, yet the prices are higher. The answer is not "government has its finger in the pie". In fact, the GST at 10% isn't that far off sales tax across the US, which is generally 7-9%, so seriously, the answer really, really isn't "taxes".

[1]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australia%E2%80%93United_States...


GST does not apply to products sold overseas and shipped to Australians for any product under $1000. For products supplied digitally, as far as I know there is no GST on any digital products, no matter what the value.


I'm Australian but I don't see what's wrong with an Australia tax. If Australians are prepared to pay more for a digital product then it makes sense for the seller to charge more.

Imagine a law that says, "The price of Photoshop in Australia cannot be more than the price in the US". Wouldn't that law be economically similar to one which says, "The price of Photoshop in Australia cannot be more than $400"?


I don't agree with a law limiting pricing on luxuries, which most software is. I also don't agree with stopping people from bitching about pain points, getting their message out there. Companies are free to price-gouge for non-essential items, and we're free to roast them for it.


Except, we aren't. The only reason we do buy at exorbitant rates is because of geo-blocking, and we are fast learning how to bypass geoblocking.


The rate of piracy in Australia suggests they're not willing to pay more in a world of free bits.


I'm not really referring to that, rather the disgusting practice where publishers decide to sell the game 49 dollars in the US and 49 euros in Europe, while there's no reason at all for this difference of price (49 euros is way more than 49 dollars, plus salaries in Europe are usually lower than in the US, so it's like a double stab). And that's all happening in "first world" countries. Valve should not allow this kind of things.


And don't forget, £49 in the UK!


You are right, I forgot this infamy as well !


>while there's no reason at all for this difference of price

You sure about that? I have a strong suspicion that taxes/tariffs make up a significant portion of that.


If that were the case of taxes/tariffs then the real price should be depending on your actual country and not the continent as a whole. Even in the US there would be no single price either, since there are some states where there is no VAT compared to others where it's quite high. So, yeah, i'm pretty sure it's a way to make easy money for the publishers. Sad to see Valve supporting this, really.


They don't have VAT in the US, and their sales tax is a bit different. I'm not sure if it applies to digital purchases.

However, the price difference is often larger than what taxes alone would suggest, but surely localization plays a part here. Still, many European countries would need a reduced price just like the developing countries (to a lesser extent) to have an equal purchasing power compared to the US.


There is nothing wrong with price discrimination. Companies are trying to maximize their revenue.


Except that it's illegal for me to do the reverse. It should be legal for me to buy x from the us if it's cheaper there then here

How is that fair?


I believe that is the will of the publishers that are using Steam, not Valve.


And yet Valve has the final word on what they allow on their network.


I agree with you but I have this nagging feeling that it's more complicated than that. I wouldn't be surprised if Valve was nearing dangerous antitrust territory with the dominance of the steam platform.


It's much less dominant than the Apple store (which really is a monopoly on the iOS platform). If there is an anti-monopoly case it will be there first.


Where is antitrust? There's Origin and anyone (i.e. any publisher or indie gamer) is free to make their own store online anytime. There's monopoly where the cost of entry is high, but in that case, the cost of making an online store to sell your own games is close to nothing. There's also Desura, Humble Bundle (they don't only sell Steam keys), and lets' not forget the plethora of online and retail distributors which sell physical games still.


Anyone is free to make their own operating system, browser, and bundle them too, yet Microsoft got pummeled by both the DoJ and EU. AFAIK (IANAL), the market dominance of a product has a strong effect on whether something can be brought under the jurisdiction of antitrust law. You're right though, as the cases I've seen mostly revolved around anti-competitive tactics, like Microsoft above and Intel for their OEM deals (both of which I think relied on their market dominance).


Unfortunately that's not how antitrust laws work. How a company establishes a large market share is not a necessary concern in historical court cases. Merely that a company has a large market share seems to be the primary consideration.


Do you think that's why Amazon gave in to publishers' moronic demands to disable text-to-speech on Kindle?


Valve could show them the finger if they don't want to play with their rules. In the end, the publisher would have much more money to lose than Valve.


Popcorn Time fills a void the film industry has neglected. Unless major change is done developers will continue to challenge the legality of piracy.


The void where people are willing to spend zero dollars to consume media? Damn, can't believe that got missed.

I bet some people would even spend five, perhaps as much as ten, dollars per month for infinite access to all movies ever created ever. With generosity like that they're practically god damned saints.


It's not about the price, it's about the timing. I don't like going to a cinema that much but I like discussing recent movies with friends (that live half a world away from me). I would pay the full cinema price (or at least a considerable percentage) for access on my computer. It's not about the price, it's about the product/market that just isn't legally available.

P.S.: Btw - I don't usually download movies and wait until they are released on GooglePlay/iTunes/Amazon. But you know what? From all of those back in Germany only iTunes was available and even then you had to be lucky to get good quality and original language instead of the German dub. There are countries outside of the US.


> I bet some people would even spend five, perhaps as much as ten, dollars per month for infinite access to all movies ever created ever.

Bring back sane copyright laws (Life + 70 years?) and we'll talk about what is and isn't reasonable. Copyright and laws are in a race against storage, bandwidth, and technology. I'm pretty confident technology is always going to win.


That's pretty soft moral justification for whatever infringing acts you're defending. You'll get no argument from me that copyright durations have gotten out of control, but that doesn't exactly give you fair cause to download Game of Thrones or whatever it is you want.


There are in fact acceptable levels of relativity in the morality of acts (otherwise we couldn't have laws), so yeah, it can certainly be fair cause.

Now, you may believe that this moral justification is nothing more than an argument and the real justification for pirating a show is "because I am greedy, screw the authors"; however, this applies almost exactly to media conglomerates and their pro-copyright lobbying and protectionist activities. So, all in all, this is a small but perfectly valid piece of the debate.


Yeah, well, in the case of Game of Thrones, it's quite an important work of art and it's priced out of reach for the vast majority of the public. Owning an important work of art could be argued to be a bit like having a monopoly on a utility. That might not sound compelling, but there the case for copyright protections isn't that compelling either. Copyright is supposed to be a beneficial exchange, where the public accept restrictions on their freedoms in order to encourage the creation of art. If the art created isn't being disseminated to the public, then what's the point? There's nothing moral about artificially propping up one particular business model.


hahaha


I can't imagine why people chuckle when someone cries, "You're infringing on my copyright!"

Copyright is an artificial construct, as antiquated as the buggy whip. Those who make their living around it should investigate other plans.


The set of people whose living is built around copyright includes all software developers. If it weren't for the GPL we wouldn't even have Linux as it exists today because the GPL is only possible because of copyright protection. Hell, the only reason the site upon which we are commenting exists is because of the financial incentives enabling the industry for which YC seeks to invest!

I'm quite happy with my career, but thanks for the suggestion.


This is the same crowd that gets out the torches and pitchforks when one website uses CSS that looks kinda like another website.


No, the void where the selection for movies you can rent is abysmal. The vast majority of films I want to watch never seem to end up on Amazon or iTunes. Or if they do, you can only buy them but not rent them. I just want to pay $4 and watch a film. Piracy let's me do that. The film industry doesn't.


As an anecdote I have resorted to pirating Rick and Morty. I love the show, it's amazing really. If you haven't go watch it now. You might think that I am selfish a-hole who wants to rob the creators of one of my favourite shows of their income, but that's not the case. I am simply not located in the right part of the world. Not being an American is a huge hassel when it comes to digital content consumption.

I am willing to pay, nay I would love to pay, for Rick and Morty, but from my research I have found no way, short of VPN + US credit card, to buy a season pass. So you have potential customers who have to resort to piracy because the industry has no interest in distributing to their region. Am I going to buy Rick and Morty when it eventually comes out in Sweden? Not very likely as I will already have watched all episodes.

The same holds true for The Walking Dead, thankfully HBO has started releasing episodes of Game of Thrones the same day in Sweden as in the US and I can and am paying for that.


I'm a swede, and I watched Rick and Morty on their official youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SutlAKqlmNo


It's only up on the youtube channel for a limited amount of time.


Also cinemas are really becoming hostile. I have to subject my bag to inspection. I also risk arrest every time I take phone out. They also ask me to leave my laptop at reception...


To be fair, I'd be calling for your arrest (under my breath) if you pulled your phone or laptop out during a movie...


Sometimes I need to check time on my phone. And I carry laptop from work, I never actually used in cinema.

Anyway 'movies from internet' just provide better services. And in most countries in Europe it is actually legal.


> Sometimes I need to check time on my phone.

No you don't. You know the time when you go in and you know how long the movie is so you have a good idea of when it ends. Why does the time matter while you're watching it? Put the phone away and enjoy the movie.


So you prove my point :-)


That seems like an odd statement considering that one of the biggest draws of Steam is the cheap prices and sales. I find it unlikely that there would be so many $5 games were they not facing competition from the pirates.


I think it's more that online distribution reduces distribution costs and breaks the publishers' ability to charge monopoly pricing.

15 years ago, when games were sold mostly in stores, you had to go through a publisher to get your product in front of customers. And there was a limited amount of physical space in stores -- so games had to compete with all the other physical goods that store might offer.

With digital distribution, both development and publishing are closer to perfectly competitive. It'd be pretty easy to build all the technical functionality of a basic online game store -- although building relationships with gamers and developers is harder.

What bothers me is that Steam is starting to get lock-in -- many developers feel pressured to be on Steam, that a significant fraction of their market will be inaccessible if they don't. And as Steam builds more features into their client libraries, it's getting more tempting for developers to use those features, making non-Steam versions of things harder to keep feature parity (or even maintain two different builds of the code).

Once Steam has lock-in, I think they'll try to take control of pricing from developers, and we'll see prices for Steam games rise.

I try to vote with my wallet and avoid buying games on Steam, but it's getting harder and harder to do that.


Ironically enough it's Steam that sometimes region locks games. Take the recent Thief 4 release that was region locked in Europe much to the dismay of fans who we're artificially prevented from even playing pre-order copies while the US Steam had no such restriction.


I think you're misunderstanding the roles of developer, publisher, and distributor.

If you look (like I just did) you'll find that Steam isn't region locking games, the publisher is. And yes, Valve is acquiescing, but we don't know what kind of agreements exist between Valve and the publisher.


It's ultimately the publisher's decision, although it's still an issue that affects such platforms.

In that particular case Steam itself was not disclosing this to users in those countries. So on release day in the US, when the countdown timer reached 0, those in region locked countries had the surprise of not being able to play their pre-ordered game.

It's simply another frustration that made customers wonder what they had paid for, with some trying to use a workaround like a proxy (not always successful), or even considering pirating the game in the meantime.


A similar quote came out of Google recently: http://torrentfreak.com/google-piracy-availability-pricing-p...


I hate that quote. I don't think it's a service problem or pricing problem at all. The problem is that humans are incredibly selfish. However Valve has very cleverly come up with a service and pricing solution to that problem.


The problem is that humans are incredibly selfish.

Given the choice between spending time or spending money, people usually spend money. It's one reason Steam is so profitable. So it can't be true that most people inherently want to steal.

It seems like people want convenience. When faced with a choice, people usually choose whichever option is least bothersome. That implies a goal for content creators: be the least bothersome option, and users will pay you.

Unfortunately for the movie industry, Popcorn Time is currently the least bothersome service. It's free, decentralized, and tastefully designed. The industry should clone Popcorn Time, because that would put them in a better position than they're currently in.


really?

Have you considered how difficult it is to obtain media legally nowadays? Even Netflix is a pain in the butt, what with ISPs purposely throttling it in addition to an incomplete library due to licensing and incompatibility due to silverlight.


Bull. Fucking. Shit.

It has in fact never been easier in the history of time to legally acquire media. It takes approximately 4 mouse clicks in iTunes to purchase and start downloading any movie, TV show, or music. You can start streaming it in after about 30 seconds, or you could let the whole thing download. The quality is also higher than pirated content because they have a fantastic encoding off of source material.

If I gave you an iTunes account with free access to to everything on iTunes it would be far faster and easier to use than even Pirate Bay. Toss in a cheap $99 AppleTV and you can get it in your living room hassle free. The only downside, of course, is that it costs money. Of course renting a movie on iTunes is faster, easier, and cheaper than renting a VHS from the store 15 years ago but when you can pirate it for free who gives a shit?

<insert snarky comment about not all media being available on iTunes or in all countries>


> The only downside, of course, is that it costs money.

No, the only downside is that iTunes Movies are DRMed BS. I have to buy an Apple TV to watch it on my TV. I have to use an iPhone and copy the movie to the phone, wasting my precious flash space.

With the .mkv files I get from a .torrent, I can stream them to my TiVO with pyTivo [1], or I can host them on a server [2] and use StreamToMe [3] to stream them to my phone, ipad, computer across the cell network or local wifi with no restrictions. I can stream to non Apple devices with Subsonic [4].

It means when I'm visiting friends or family house we have access to all my movies without me having to plan ahead. It means when I accidentally arrive 40 minutes early to a meeting I can kill time in my car by streaming an episode of a TV show.

To me that is the reason to pirate. I'm happy to buy stuff. I just want to actually be able to use the stuff that I buy. There is no service out there that does everything I can currently do.

[1] https://github.com/armooo/pytivo

[2] https://github.com/caldwell/stm.js

[3] http://zqueue.com/streamtome/index.html

[4] http://www.subsonic.org/pages/index.jsp


You could buy the DVD and rip it yourself


Sure, but by the time I've walked to the store the torrent would already be done. And I'd still have to break the law to rip the DVD.


The most significant bit of that being that you have to break the law in order to use the content you've payed for.


>>> <insert snarky comment about not all media being available on iTunes or in all countries>

Oooh, I like this new feature where poorly-thought-out comments include their own rebuttal. Can't wait 'til it rolls out to the rest of HN.


This feature won't be available in your region


Except iTunes only has a tiny fraction of films available to rent. Bittorrent has basically all of them.


Come live in Australia, where we have a lot of money and content from overseas is a pain to get legally.

Personally, I just stick to local content instead. Much easier.


> 'The quality is also higher than pirated content because they have a fantastic encoding off of source material.'

This couldn't be further from the truth. x264 .mkv encodes look significantly better than the iTunes versions.

For example, from Pacific Rim;

x264 - http://imgbox.com/abwySllC iTunes - http://imgbox.com/adgle3KK

x264 - http://imgbox.com/abm2Jr9l iTunes - http://imgbox.com/acpmeiCt

The difference is night and day, in my opinion. The homebrew encodes usually come with higher quality audio, too.

Funnily enough, I have a Netflix account, an Amazon Prime account, and a Lovefilm account (UK based DVD/Blu-Ray rental service). Despite having all these services, I still prefer to pirate movies because it's simply more convenient and the quality is better.


oh yeah? what happens if you want to watch that video on your nexus 7 tablet in bed?


Keep the tablet aside and use your hand :)


oh cmon :)


I agree with you on this - I actually believe that the main issue is timing. Let's take The Great Gatsby as a quick example:

Google shows the US release date as May 1 2013 in cinemas, with the DVD release on August 27 2013 - nearly 4 months after it's first out. By this time people will have been downloading a version of the film for at least a couple of months.

Very few cinemas will still be screening the film after 3 months, so where does one go to see it in that period? The easy answer is to the internet.

I believe that people will pay, and Spotify has huge success in releasing albums either early, at the same time or very shortly after physical release. Whilst this wouldn't be possible with films due to the fact that there isn't much of a secondary market (bands now taking the attitude that albums are a support to merch/shows), there is a need to rethink how quickly people can get access to films. If an HD rip is available after 2 months then perhaps iTunes should be ready to release the film at a higher price point (as they already do for some early digital releases) for those who are willing to pay the extra.


i mostly agree except...the quality is better? not even slightly true. itunes will just mass encode batches of files they receive from studios with carefully chosen but probably speed-optimised encoder settings using GPUs probably. many people who encode pirated movies spend hours or days, or for tv series even weeks or more, on a single movie or show, tailoring the encoder settings to squeeze every last bit of quality they can manage out of the filesize they are aiming for, and some will even encode different scenes using different setting and then stitch them together. its not even close. not to mention you can easily pirate full Bluray discs without any reencoding.


Straight blu-ray rip is currently the best quality. But very few torrents are for the full 50gb disc. It's usually an 8-12gb 1080p or ~4.5gb 720p re-encode of the blu-ray encoding. Painstakingly done to the best that can be done, but it's still a double compression. iTunes on the other hand is encoding off raw source material so it can get higher quality at smaller size than what you see on torrents.


It just doesn't make a difference though, blu ray is easily high enough quality that the recompression matters much less than the specifics of the encoding when the iTunes files are about the same size


iTunes isn't available for my many platforms, now what?


Have you ever lived outside the US?

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