Over in the Ottawa Citizen, Kate Heartfield writes in “Please, let me pay for that movie”, a poignant op-ed piece, that quite a lot of people who might be inclined to pirate content would really rather pay for it. I concur.
As they say, “the plural of anecdote is not data”, so take this for what you will, but here’s a small illustration from my perspective:
The other night my girlfriend and I were browsing on iTunes for a movie to watch. Rather flippantly she mentioned she’d never seen 300 before. This, to me, is unthinkable. 300 is an awesome film, faithful to the graphic novel, beautifully shot, and thoroughly enjoyable.
I actually own 300. The very DVD was sitting on a shelf in the other room, not five meters away, probably unwatched since the day I bought it.
“Get the DVD”, I thought as I started to rise from the couch. But then it occurred to me: watching that plastic platter would mean turning on the Xbox, switching the TV context, sitting through all the anti-piracy crap and ads at the beginning of it and, perhaps least-appealing of all, actually getting off the couch to go fetch the thing itself. The DVD was in another room, nowhere near the kitchen or bathroom. It would be a journey of singular utility, marginal utility.
I sat back, I clicked “Purchase” in iTunes, we started watching it immediately. And it was good.
Some might infer from this tale that I’m so lazy I’ll pay for something I already own instead of exerting additional effort. They would be correct, but that’s beside the point so let’s just… nothing to see there, move along. My real point is this: when payment is the easiest, most friction-free approach to acquisition, payment is often the preferred approach. During the day I trade my time and knowledge for money, and at night I’ll happily trade my money for convenience and entertainment.
Finding pirated content is a pain in the ass. Downloading torrents is a pain in the ass. Re-encoding the resulting MKV or AVI files for iTunes is a pain in the ass. Compared to iTunes and Netflix, piracy in general is a pain the ass. But piracy is often less a pain in the ass than almost every other form of legitimate entertainment purchase. To wit: I don’t think I know anyone who still buys DVDs, simply because they’re so encumbered with bullshit, restrictions, ads and threats that it’s just not worth the bother.
Apple, Netflix, and Y Combinator have figured it out, this is very obvious. The MPAA and entertainment industry, they have not. Here’s hoping one subsumes the other, and quickly.
When a man’s paycheck depends on his not understanding something, you can depend upon his not understanding it. - Upton Sinclair