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How piracy improves legal streaming services



FACT / MPAA

We tend to view piracy as the antithesis of Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, or Prime Video. However, as it turns out, you can thank reckless digital pirates for the low price and high quality of your favorite streaming services.

Streaming activities caused by piracy

Without piracy there would be no streaming. Or at least it would only exist in some kind of bastardized form. This is a bold statement, but if you look at the history of the streaming, the context seems obvious.

Let's start with iTunes. Although iTunes is not a streaming service, it is probably the first true predecessor to services like Spotify. And guess what, his founding was a direct response to piracy.

In the 1

990s and early 2000s, record labels charged incredibly high prices for CDs. Their idea was that if people liked a hit single, they would spend $ 20 (about $ 30, inflation adjusted) on a CD just to own the single.

Of course, this business model can not work digitally. In a digital shop, people can buy a hit single and avoid buying an entire album. So record companies avoided digital services like the plague. In response, piracy boomed. P2P services like Napster have made music free for everyone, and the record industry is still shaking off the aftershocks.

  A Napster screenshot from the AOL Napster documentary
Napster / AOL

Apple saw this as a chance to put together iTunes, the first successful digital music store. In the end, iTunes turned people back into piracy because of its stupid DRM (anti-sharing) policy that Steve Jobs hated openly. Services like Spotify have turned up in response, and the rest is history.

One year after the launch of Spotify, Netflix introduced its video streaming services, mainly to close a similar gap in the market. DVDs were expensive ($ 25 to $ 30 each), and even video rental prizes were unwarranted (not to mention the impractical costs) associated with running a business like Blockbuster.

Piracy promotes high-quality streaming

We spent a lot of time complaining about cabling streaming services. As video streaming becomes more popular, subscription costs increase, streaming libraries become smaller, and more businesses build exclusive services. Not to mention that big streaming services sometimes try to cut costs by compromising usability.

In 2018, Amazon quietly halved the file size of Prime Video. Obviously, this has lowered the video quality of Prime Video and angered many people. And strangely, the biggest (and fastest) answer came from the pirate community.

Pirates with video ripping know-how confirmed Amazon's misdeeds by checking the file sizes and bitrates of videos across Amazon. Only people who want to steal videos from streaming services know how to do that. Then they leaked that information to the press, gave up their Prime accounts and stole high-quality versions of exclusive Amazon videos.

In the end, thanks to the pirate community, Amazon returned the video quality changes. The Amazon video streaming quality has all been improved again. And while this is a very specific example of piracy that leads to high-quality streaming, there are a few less specific examples to consider. Take a look at Netflix, Amazon, and Hulus's newly discovered (albeit overdue) interest in 4K streaming. Pirates have been obsessed with 4K for some time (although public torrent sites have some low-quality video files), and streaming services are just beginning to take hold.

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Piracy Lowers Streaming Costs

  The Hulu sign-up page with its low prices.
Hulu

But pirates are not just obsessed with video quality. Of course, they are also obsessed with the prices. In the world of subscription-based streaming, we're expected to pay more for less content.

Basically, streaming sites compete with each other by offering exclusive content. However, this exclusive content is associated with significant costs. When a show like Friends is on the table, companies are willing to pay $ 100 million for a contract. It makes sense Friends is after all the second most popular show on Netflix.

But $ 100 million is a ton of money. After spending hundreds of millions of dollars on exclusive content, streaming sites are forced to cover their costs by raising subscription prices and terminating unprofitable contracts. Every time Netflix gets more expensive, the use of torrent clients like BitTorrent increases. This may not be a fair (or legal) answer from the pirate community, but it does send silent messages to streaming sites and media companies: content should be accessible, and if it does not, we will not pay for it.

This is one of the reasons why Hulu and Disney + are so focused on providing robust and cost-effective services. Even if a streaming service has to work at a loss to attract customers, it has at least more dedicated users than its competitors. Over time, streaming sites and media companies could finally tap into and abandon the exclusive contracts that, quite frankly, turn streaming into a new generation of cable television.

Piracy Gives Us Access to Our Culture

Culturally relevant films, such as Star Wars and Disney animated classics, are notoriously hard to see at home. For example, Disney's Snow White is only available for $ 18 on Amazon and $ 15 on Vudu.

  A frame of the
Disney

Let us be real for a second. Is it worth paying $ 15 for Snow White an 82-year-old movie, on a website that follows a failed business model? Films like Snow White are incredibly important to our culture. They are cornerstones of narration, animation and film history. And while studios like Disney deserve to continue to make money from classic movies, ordinary people also earn their living at a reasonable price. It is unbelievable how media companies do not understand this.

Fortunately, piracy encourages studios to make culturally relevant films more open. Due to product piracy, Disney is leaving the "Disney Safe" to offer all of its films for only $ 7 a month at Disney +. Is not that interesting? Two months with Disney's entire library cost less than a copy of Snow White on Vudu.

As a side note, many of these old, culturally relevant films should be public domain. If Disney did not campaign for ridiculous copyright laws in the 1980s and 1990s, you could access a ton of 20th-century movies for free. Like record companies, movie studios have promoted piracy by transforming cultural cornerstones into exclusive, expensive merchandise. The fact that piracy helps to offset competitive conditions is both ironic and deeply satisfying. We hope there will be no more piracy in the future, but at the moment it will keep things in check.


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