Why People Pirate

pirate-flagThis past weekend I was doing some maintenance on my site and in doing that (read: procrastinating) I was reading some old posts of mine. I came across this one: “CDs, DVDs, Digital Downloads and Price Gouging“. While re-reading it, the subject and argument of piracy (from the media companies) kept creeping into my head. I didn’t touch on it there, and felt a follow up post was needed.

The media companies who produce, market, and distribute movies and music would have you believe that people who pirate are only doing so because they want it all for free and don’t think they should pay for their content.

That thought has some truth to it, but it’s not the whole truth.

For whatever reason, they don’t understand what people want. Or they do and don’t want to provide it to them.
People want to be able to purchase and access their media (movies, music and television shows, whatever) anywhere. The success of the iTunes store shows this. Make a product easy to find, purchase, use and price it at a reasonable rate and people (and their money) will flock to it.

HBO, Cinemax, and Showtime all have apps for phones, tablets, gaming systems and Apple TV (HBO Go only) where you can watch their original programing, movies and extras, BUT, you need to be a subscriber of those channels through your cable company to use the apps.


You can only watch Game of Thrones on HBO. There are no digital versions to purchase a few days later. Nothing on Hulu Plus, Amazon or iTunes like most other broadcast and basic cable networks offer. You’ll need to wait until the DVDs and digital episodes come out after the season ends (and usually after the next season starts) to purchase the show watch it (which makes no sense, but that’s yet another post for another day).

The Oatmeal did a great comic about piracy and Game of Thrones which shows the frustrations that many would-be customers feel (there’s cursing in the comic, Mom).

There is a website called  Take my money, HBO, where people are petitioning HBO to offer a subscription service through their HBO GO app so people can watch HBO programming without having cable. So far HBO has declined. Why would any company say “NO” to people wanting to give them money?

People can’t give you money to watch your programming. You know the demand is there, but you ignore it for whatever reason. You, the media company drove that person to piracy.

An article from Digital Trends says that Game of Thrones is the most pirated show of 2013 (it was also the highest of 2012). The article states that 5.2 million people downloaded Game of Thrones illegally, which is extremely close to the number of paying subscribers who watch Game of Thrones at 5.5 million.

Granted, not all of those 5.2 millions people who torrented the show would pay to watch it if they had the opportunity, but a large number would. And that is a huge loss of revenue for HBO. I guess they don’t need or want the money.
From the same article (emphasis mine):

Other shows that continues to rank at the top of the top ten list of most pirated shows during the first half of the year include CBS’s The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother. This is likely due to CBS’s continued lack of a digital distribution strategy when it comes to being a part of a subscription service like Hulu.

That shows that the media companies are shooting themselves in the foot right there.
Another reason people pirate? They have no access to your product. People in Canada, England, Australia don’t have access to the same iTunes and Netflix content as Americans do. The same goes for other digital stores as well.

Doctor Who has blown up in the U.S. over the past few years. Could you imagine if there was no BBC America to watch new episodes each week? Or if the BBC didn’t sell the episodes on iTunes or have entire seasons on Netflix Instant? Any American Doctor Who fan would be forced to pirate the show if they wanted to watch it.


This is the problem that many people in other countries face when using iTunes, Netflix, and even YouTube.
Nothing is going to change until the media companies have a radical change of heart, or until the old-timers running them retire. We’re not where media needs to be. We’re close, but we have a long way to go.

Hi, I'm Mike. I'm From the Internet.