Netflix can teach other services how to handle piracy

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It’s the question of the technology age: How do we combat piracy? And then the real question: Do we even want to? Well, Netflix has an idea.

Everyone wants to make money, but these days a lot of people don’t have it. You want to watch something, but you can’t afford a top of the range Sky box (or Virgin Media, or BT – no discrimination, expensive packages for all), and did you know going to the cinema these days costs a tenner? Each time? For the ticket alone? And so, internet piracy is booming. It’s a big problem for the big companies, who are putting a lot of effort into stopping it, sometimes even with the help of governments. Remember SOPA? The US wants to send you to jail even for streaming, and where the US goes, the UK often follows. It has previous form.

Close one website down, another two spring up in its place. Netflix has made the first sensible move by working with piracy

The world hasn’t had much luck with combating internet piracy so far. It’s a bit of a Hydra situation: close one website down, another two will spring up in its place. Ban ISPs from accessing it, people turn to proxies. Arrest the owners, the sites stay running anyway. The current laws don’t have much of an effect, and it’s unlikely that introducing anything new will do much more than increasingly infringe on our privacy. (SOPA is opposed by the Human Rights Watch, to give you some idea of how up close and personal governments would like to get with your internet history.)

So it seems no matter what the powers that be do, piracy is staying afloat. Enter Netflix, which has made the first real, sensible move in the whole game by working with piracy.

netflix logo

Netflix’s Vice President of Content Acquisition, Kelly Merryman, recently revealed that Netflix selects what shows it wants to buy the rights to by monitoring what’s popular on piracy sites. Netflix offers unlimited streaming and a decent range of content, including its own original TV series, and at a going rate of £6 a month it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than any other TV subscriptions. It’s not perfect – it doesn’t have Game of Thrones, for example, which was one of the most pirated TV shows of the year, but it does have Breaking Bad, which is also right up there.

Harsh laws haven’t put much of a dent in piracy, but BitTorrent traffic in Canada dropped by 50% after the launch of Netflix

Netflix is affordable, its selection is constantly growing, you can watch what you want, when you want, with no need to mess around with recording or catch-up services and, most importantly, it’s not illegal. Guilt-free watching once again. Is this the way forward? It seems that way. Increasingly harsh laws haven’t put much of a dent in piracy, but BitTorrent traffic in Canada dropped by 50% after the launch of Netflix. It seems simple logic.

People want to watch film and TV. People generally don’t want to break the law to do it, and are even happy to support the creative process, but they don’t want to pay extortionate amounts of money for it. We just can’t afford it. Netflix is the first streaming site to talk openly about piracy and how it’s helping deal with it, but let’s hope other services start doing the same. Internet pirates: you can’t beat them, so work with them instead.


Featured image: Disney

Inset image: Netflix

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