Comment – Do I Pirate What I Would Buy

Does the amount of pirated music equate directly to lost sales?

If you like music or films and have been at the more technical end of computers for the last fifteen years, the likelihood is you have come across pirated media at some point. Maybe you downloaded it when Napster first hit the scene or perhaps a friend give you it on CD. For my part I progressed from copying albums onto tape and MiniDisc to grabbing torrent files.

My love affair with the service did not last long; partly because I like the sleeve notes of CDs but mainly because it was a lot easier to let Gracenotes name the tracks than it was for me to key them into MP3 files.

If the recording industry is to be believed I am unusual in having given up the habit and as the second decade of this century dawned more people than ever were apparently downloading stuff without paying for it. What has always made me raise an eyebrow though, is when the RIAA, or some other august body, suggests that every music track that is downloaded is lost income.

Common sense alone seems to imply that if someone has to pay for everything they will have a lot less than if they could get it all for free. That is how it works with cars and houses, after all.

I am not one for anecdotal evidence, but I have never had any solid proof of how I would act under the two conditions (on one hand near unlimited access and on the other music or films restricted by some means). That is until I started using film subscription services. What Lovefilm, and Blockbuster before them, give me is as many films as I want for a set monthly fee.

In days gone by, when I used to rent DVDs from a local shop, not only did I have the inconvenience of the journey, but also the restriction of cost – I had to pay for each disc. Now I can send films to and from my supplier in the post or stream them online, and the charge is a flat fee, no matter how many I watch.

Given this never ending, as good as free, supply of movies, how do I react? I watch anything and everything. Not only do I rent all sorts of rubbish, but I add items to my wanted list with gay abandon. I currently have over 230 films pending; a figure it has never dropped below 150. There are even 7 films marked as very low priority. Movies that I will probably never get around to seeing, ever. I watch between two and three films each week, but I add at least three. I am like a child in a sweetshop.

There are two conclusions I draw from this. One is that those anti-piracy campaigners who say their lost sales are equal to the amount of downloads are wrong. The second is a point that many keep making, but which the big corporates seem to keep missing: simplicity always wins. There is no need for me to hunt out the torrent file of a film when within two clicks it can be added to my list or be playing on my laptop.

The caveat, of course, is that not everyone acts like this. There are always going to be a minority who want every film and music album for free, but the rest of us are happy to pay a reasonable price to do it the legal way.