What drives people to pirate digital content? When the legal route to procuring products is especially obtuse or unfriendly to customers, they will often find an easier route. What consumers choose to pirate says a lot about the products themselves.
It’s not that pirates don’t want to pay for content. In fact, as you’ll see from our list, consumers-gone-pirate often pay other pirates for services that are simpler, more user-friendly, and of course, cheaper. As we said, this is more about the value the consumer attributes to the product versus the value the producer attributes to the product.
You may be the type to draw a line in the sand and say, “all stealing is bad.” Yet, how many people have to agree that a product is egregiously difficult to procure or prohibitively expensive before producers will take notice and compromise?
Some companies refuse to budge. Obstinance being a quality that brought successful businesses their returns in the first place, these companies have put their resources into cracking down on pirates. Indirectly, and as a result, The Pirate Bay, the most notorious BitTorrent registry, hasn’t been staying active. It’s unlikely that that torrenting will ever totally die off, but it is having a hard time.
The hard truth here is that as our industry and society continue to evolve, content and product providers will have to make concessions for ease of access and reasonable cost.
This is also true in the transition from traditional retail storefronts to e-Commerce websites. In short, retail stores that refuse to cater to online shoppers will fail.
With that said:
Here are 5 top Pirated Items and What They say About Industry:
1. Movies: The Green Lantern vs. Porn
In 2011 (forgive us), the film The Green Lantern was searched for more than porn. You may not believe this, but it’s true.
At the time, shows that most people would call better than The Green Lantern, like Breaking Bad, were searched for far less. Why does this happen?
The Occam’s Razor explanation: The Green Lantern sucked. Because consumers didn’t see it as worth the ticket cost to see, they procured it illegally.
Which leads us to the compromise filmmakers should consider: if your movie sucks, consider making it available for free. This is so that, even if your movie fails to convey its thematic intention, it will at least become a cautionary tale.
2. E-books: Sex, Photoshop, and Math
The most commonly pirated e-books on The Pirate Bay, again, in 2011, were about being better at Photoshop, useful shortcuts for mathematics, and being better at sex, in that order.
Why these books?
Regarding Photoshop, the program already is ridiculously expensive for an amateur user. The company has already made useful concessions, like allowing a Creative Cloud subscription which gives you access to Adobe’s Creative Suite (all of the useful applications). Yet, for college students and other young people without a significant income, tethering themselves to a monthly fee may not seem feasible. This in itself may contribute to Photoshop being the most torrented software on The Pirate Bay for years.
You would think that Adobe would provide useful tutorials for Photoshop given the cost of the software (and they do), but you can see how pirates would scoff at the additional cost of a book to tell them how to use the program.
Regarding mathematics, the consumer perception is that the book’s value is insignificant. If they really wanted to, they could go ask a math professor for the same advice. We don’t condone outright theft, but we can understand how a pirate would just as soon not have the book than pay a single dollar for it.
Regarding sex tips, this one seems obvious. Sexual prowess is a touchy subject for those without it, and how comfortable would you be to have a sex tips book on your bookshelf? This may be pirated purely for privacy concerns. Of course, the NSA still knows what you’re interested in.
3. College Textbooks: A Cost Issue
A quick Internet query shows you that many sources agree: college textbooks are too expensive. The fact that barely updated issues are reprinted each year to force students to buy them again doesn’t help, either.
As the above video asserts, most students without trust funds and rich parents see the risk of pirating a single textbook for one class is preferable to eating nutrient-barren Ramen noodles for every meal.
Aside from outright torrenting textbooks, many students will pool their resources and buy a single copy. Afterward, they will photocopy each page and disperse it among the contributors.The Green Lantern was pirated because it wasn't worth the purchase.Click To Tweet
Going further, it has been found that even ethics students have used pirated textbooks to write essays on the ethics of digital piracy.
Obviously, these textbooks are pirated because of their expense. Given the short time that the books are actually useful, it would seem to some as though the students’ actions are warranted.
Who will lose this battle? Will students eventually suck it up and pay for their textbooks? Or how could textbook printers find a way to make accessing new editions of previously purchased books affordable for the press and the student?
4. Pirated Cable Boxes Offer Better Services Than Legit Providers
Owning a legal cable service means you pay around $80 USD or more a month to access a plethora of programming channels. Despite the fact that you might not watch 90% of the channels that you pay for, cable companies insist that paying a reduced rate for just a few channels is impossible.
Yet, pirated cable boxes seem to be able to do just that.
Perhaps if cable service providers imagined more intuitive ways to deliver appropriate services they wouldn’t have to compete with pirated services.
5. Keurig: The Apple of the Coffee World
Despite the fact that you can buy a $10 pour-over, a $1 pack of 50 coffee filters, and spend $12 on a bag of fresher, better quality coffee, people are obsessed with the convenience of single-cup coffee makers like Keurig.
Keurig is obsessed, too. The company maintains that their machines will only work with official Keurig coffee pods. After competitors that offered better coffees in a wider variety of roasts and flavors, Keurig spent significant resources to develop a machine that wouldn’t accept off-brand coffee pods.
In fact, their newer machines won’t even accept older Keurig coffee pods. Leading me to ask: why are you guys brewing coffee that was roasted and ground months ago? Do you have taste buds?
Whatever the case, Keurig’s insistence on keep pods in the family has enabled pirate coffee pod companies to make a killing.
Wouldn’t Keurig benefit from allowing third-party coffee pods to be use, perhaps after paying a small fee?
Survival of the Fittest
Pirates don’t exist because they’re wrong or unnatural. They are an evolutionary response to the counter-intuitive practices of businesses trying to protect their profits. As we’ve shown here, there are concessions that businesses can make to reach a compromise between customer satisfaction and company profits.
So what’s your thinking? Are pirates thieves that should be thrown in jail or forgivable customers with legitimate concerns?