For years, computer pirating was a fast and lucrative business. A business which was seemingly untouchable by both anti-piracy software and by law. However, it seems if Hollywood distribution companies have their say on it, the fast paced business of pirating could change into a long and drawn out legal battle.
Just recently, an injunction was granted to several Hollywood movie studios prohibiting the popular Pirate Bay website from connecting to the internet. Curiously, this came only a month after Warner Bros. Studios placed an ad looking for a student intern who could infiltrate torrent sites and create bots that sniff out media in which Warner Bros. and NBC Universal holds the copyrights. Even more interesting is the fact that they were willing to pay the intern $26,000, showing just how much these companies feel they are losing to torrent sites such as The Pirate Bay.
When this event happened, many websites felt that Warner Bros. had become a Big Brother to the freedom of the internet and especially torrent websites. The argument is that sharing websites are actually legal as long as they are not sharing materials that have copyrights. As a result, by having the ability to shut down these sites, Warner Bros. is going against the freedom and openness that has defined the internet. Of course, the problem is that many of these sharing sites are not exactly legal. Instead, they are offering hundreds of thousands of torrents of copyright materials such as movies, music, and software that have cracks and serial numbers included. This is the very source of the rub for the companies that produce these materials, as they feel they are losing money from potential buyers of their products. Even more frustrating for these companies is that it is also incredibly hard to prove any wrongdoing as almost all of the files in question are hosted over a multitude of personal computers.
Throughout this whole battle, the most interesting question is why torrenting is still so popular. One popular reason in the field of movies and music downloads is the annoyance of DRM. While DRM is a hassle that everyone could do without, it still doesn’t seem to fully explain the incredible popularity of websites such as The Pirate Bay. Instead, when glancing at many forums around the ‘net, it seems mostly a result of prices being set too high for demand. Many people have problems with paying $1,000 or more for untested software, or $100 for a game they’ve never even tried, especially when they can’t be returned. To counter this, software and gaming companies have released free trial downloads on their websites or on gaming consoles.
Even with these types of solutions, many companies are still having a tough time stemming the flow of illegal downloading. The problem for some companies is that they often have trial periods that are too short or software that is too limited in order to get a full assessment of the product. This is usually the case for most of us video editors. However the biggest problem is how slowly these industries adopted business models that worked in a digital download world. Let’s face it, most people prefer not to go to a store in order to get intangible products like movies, music, and software. As a result, without a good alternative in the early days of internet file sharing, many people turned to sharing sites in order to get digital versions of the products they wanted. When it took several years for businesses to catch up with this model, it was already too late for them to completely stem off the traffic to these sites, leading to the sticky situation that they are in now.
Though there are many problems with the online business models of media and software companies, none of them are valid excuses for pirating movies and music. Instead, buyers need to be vocal about the problems or prices of the products in question. Torrenting these files allows companies to believe that every download is a sale that they would be getting if torrenting websites were a thing of the past. If people just chose not to buy them instead, the natural order of supply and demand would finally have a chance. It seems logical that if companies aren’t getting sales, they would lower the prices of their products in order to get buyers to purchase them. If this is not the case, then either the supply and demand model has been broken, or these companies will go out of business and other more efficient ones will take their place. Either way, both companies and users need to listen to the frustrations that the other has in order to find a solution to getting people to buy products legally. Companies need to start releasing full trial versions of their software that can be used for the length of an entire project, and people need to voice their frustrations directly to companies that have set prices too high and have limited trials too much. Hopefully in this way, this issue won’t turn into a battle that could be devastating for both companies and consumers alike.