In the bootleg stakes, ‘Orange Is the New Black,’ Netflix’s new hot hit series about a women’s prison, is the second-most-pirated TV show in the world after HBO’s ‘Game Of Thrones’ according to CEG TEK a data service which tracks online piracy.
Nothing, it seems, can stops piracy. If it had seemed for a while that Internet-based services such as Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime might make legal watching so cheap at $9 to $10 per month that piracy would simply fade away. Unfortunately, ‘Torrenting’ – which is the more popular word used for bootlegging or stealing by the nice middle-class people who tend to be the majority of users and because it often utilizes the file sharing site BitTorrent – is a headache the mighty media conglomerates in North America and Europe really don’t want to deal with. Yet, having ceded all of Asia to DVD bootleggers who copy their wares for less than $1 apiece, corporations like Netflix and AT&T realize they’re going to have to get lawyered up big-time and go to war.
Simply put, entertainment ordered a la carte is very, very expensive. If you want to watch, say, ‘House of Cards’ on Netflix, ‘True Blood’ on HBO and European Champions League soccer and WWE wrestling legally, you’re going to have to order four different satellite or capable packages, which will run you approximately $200 per month. Yet, if you or a friend has the computer dexterity along with the right up to date hardware and software, Torrenting is a cinch. And then there are the wantonly professional criminal pirating sites, according to the Washington Post, like Pirate Bay.
Pirate Bay, as I write, are stealing away hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of unauthorized downloads of video, music and book files. Sure, big corporations are being ripped-off, but also artists and retailers. And then, making bad worse has been Netflix’s strategy of releasing entire seasons of brand-new shows all at once, which has more or less a hungry public going for instant gratification and simply doing more torrenting or purchasing Asian boxed sets, which are instantaneously available on eBay.
That doesn’t explain, though, the high rates of piracy in the United States. ‘Orange Is the New Black’ was third in pirated titles last week, with nearly 5,000 illegal downloads a day, based on data from CEG TEK.
Even with the sharp rise in Netflix’s subscriber numbers in recent years, piracy rates are up. One-quarter of Internet users around the world own illegally downloaded content, according to the Washington Post. “Most of then repeat users downloading the files tend to be below 30. 70 percent of U.S. online users between the ages of 18 and 29 said they have copied a CD or DVD or downloaded music or a movie free,” according to ‘Copy Culture,’ a 2013 report by Columbia University’s American Assembly Public Policy Think Tank.
Harking back to 1990, when I was a grad student, I recall various students and some schools being sued by record labels for using school facilities to burn recordings, or burning recordings which were university property. A handful of universities were fined, and, they, in turn, sued parents of students. All this added up to in the long run were a lot of legal bills for companies like Warner Brothers and a sort of minor hero worship for ‘rebel burners.’ Indeed, much ridicule was heaped over the ex-hippie conglomerates being run with an iron fist.
This time, however, Comcast are doing things a tad differently. They’ve offered free cable subscriptions to students at a handful of colleges, including MIT and Emerson College. The idea, analysts say, is to get young users accustomed to the exclusive programs that appear only on cable channels such as HBO and ESPN.
This sounds excessively naïve, but I think it is clear for sure only that people have a voracious appetite for media and deserve to receive it at a reasonable price. ‘Reasonable profit’ is a shaky concept in a free market society, but considering the billions of dollars in profits still being made despite pirates, perhaps the cable vendors, video game manufacturers and film studios out there ought to consider slightly lowering their profits for the sake of increasing overall volume. There. Another problem solved!