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steal-cdsIf you’ve been following the news lately at all, you’ve probably heard of both the SOPA/PIPA acts against copyrights infringement, and the arrest of Megaupload Why MegaUpload, And Who's Next? Why MegaUpload, And Who's Next? In the middle of some very aggressive anti-SOPA/PIPA protests, the feds managed to prove that they don't need to pass such a bill to pull the plug on a certain internet website. The casualty this... Read More ’s founder, Kim Dotcom. You don’t have to be a file sharing enthusiast for these things to affect you (especially SOPA and PIPA), and while I am hardly an enthusiast myself, it’s hard to ignore the obvious connection between these events, and the obvious conclusion we should all be reaching (especially the large media companies).

Before Kim Dotcom’s much-talked-about arrest, I had no idea how much money was involved in file sharing. According to some reports, Dotcom has earned over $42 million in 2010 alone, all from his network of Mega sites, including sharks like Megavideo. That’s $42 million that this guy supposedly stole from the true owners of these materials. The total lost revenue for these companies is even more jaw-dropping, estimated at around $500 million. It’s not that Dotcom didn’t steal this money, he did. But was there an alternative?

Where Is This Money Coming From?


Megaupload is by far not the only file sharing service out there, although it was definitely one of the more successful ones. The Mega sites offered users the ability to upload and download files freely, and even stream unlimited content, all for clicking a few ads, and maybe a small subscription fee.

And people did it. Lots of people did it, and continue to do it using other websites. On Usenet, you can download all the files your heart desires for approximately $10 a month. And people do this too. There are millions, if not billions of dollars exchanging hands, all because people want to be able to share content and have access to content without limitations. People will pay $200 for a lifetime membership, or a nice monthly fee, just for that. They don’t even mind clicking a few ads along the way. It’s the content that matters.

In short, a lot of this money is coming from users, like you and me, who want something very simple. And that is by no way free content, since it’s obvious they don’t mind paying for it.

Where Is This Money NOT Going?


That’s an easy one. A lot of this money is NOT going to the actual copyrights holders. And why is that? Is it because people don’t want to pay for content? Is it because most people would rather pirate their content than pay for it fair and square? Well, that’s definitely what the guys pushing SOPA want us to believe, but I don’t think it’s true.

If you live in the US, or some countries in Europe, you may have some legal ways to access music, movies and TV shows. Services like Spotify or Netflix are highly popular (despite Netflix’s troubles as of late), and guess what, they’re not free. Many people gladly pay these monthly fees to have access to all that content, the money goes to whoever it’s supposed to go to, and everyone is happy. Well, almost.

The way copyrights work, and this has been the case for a very long time, is that each country has its own copyrights holders. Because of that, where I live, there is no Spotify, no Netflix, no Pandora, there’s barely even stuff to be bought from iTunes and Amazon (media-wise). So what am I to do? Pay for a VPN and fake my IP, or pay the same amount or less for a service that lets me download all the content I want? Either way, I’m doing something illegal.

Why SOPA Will Fail


There’s a lot of protest against SOPA. It’s been said that they’re going to censure the Internet, to put a muzzle on free sharing, and lots of other things. The truth is, SOPA is the result of people who are too scared to open their eyes and see that a new reality has been formed. They’ve been scared for quite a while, and the longer they ignore it, the harder it is to admit they’re wrong.

SOPA will not fail because people don’t want to pay for content. It will not fail because people prefer stealing over buying legally. It will not fail because we’re all a bunch of rebels who will do everything to fight the big companies. It will fail because we’re not. And they don’t want to see that. It’s much easier to think we’re all evil and need to be limited and restricted in order for us not to steal.

They’d much rather spend millions fighting and restricting, than acknowledge the simple fact that most of us want to pay. Give us a simple, fair way to download legal content around the world, and most of us will do it. Make it easy, let us share things (legally), and we’ll do it. Do they really expect us to keep buying DVDs and CDs, just because that’s the old way they like? Does the fact I don’t want to buy those mean I would prefer stealing?

As we’ve seen from recent events, the money is there to be had. The users are willing to pay. Now all that’s missing, is for the media companies to want our money enough to take it.

Will you buy content legally if it were possible and easy? Do you think most people would actually prefer stealing anyway? Let the opinions flow!

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  1. Terry
    April 18, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    I really have enjoyed the books by a particular author (Richard Paul Evans) but haven't read any lately because I have switched to ebooks and I refuse to buy any ebook broken by DRM. I also refuse to infringe on someone's copyright so I go without which is a total lose-lose situation for both me and Mr Evan's, his publisher and other authors and publishers who aren't moving with the times. I found MakeUseOf because I still continue to read, I have just been finding new sources. I love all the MakeUseOf guides!

    I am yet another under-served customer willing to pay for products (ebooks, music, movies, games and software) and services (content delivery and subscriptions) often going without or finding alternatives (often free ones) because some companies are paradoxically too greedy to take my money.

    Oh and I too have a Netflix account and have been on the fence about dumping it for a while because I also use Linux and feel discriminated against by their company's refusal to let me watch on my own computer.

    • Yaara Lancet
      April 18, 2012 at 6:11 pm

      Thanks for sharing that. It's really a frustrating situation, especially if you don't live in a country where there are services such as Netflix and Spotify, but even if you do get these services.

      I my case, I truly have no legal way to get content unless I actually buy CDs and get a television and cable subscription, which I really don't want.

  2. Anonymous
    February 4, 2012 at 2:00 am

    I would definitely would pay for media if they made it easy for us. I have a Netflix account and I'm partially happy with it. If they respected my os choice I would be happier but it seems like Netflix loves locking up their users to crappy silverlight plugin and Chrome OS. As a Linux user I feel like if they were discriminating against me.

    If there was something similar to Netflix for music (not the shitty mainstream music in most music services) I would use it.

    • Yaara
      February 4, 2012 at 10:28 am

      I would even use Netflix if I didn't have to go pay for a VPN to get it here. It doesn't make sense to do that. Same goes for most of the music services.

      It's not logical to have access to these services only if you're using a certain OS or live in a certain country. As long as that's going on, there will be piracy.

  3. bobconstans
    February 3, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    Just a couple thoughts:

    - It's not piracy without profit.

    - Forcing people into old models of Proprietary Lock-ins actually encourages cracking and/or loss of a loyal user-base.

    • Yaara
      February 4, 2012 at 10:25 am

      Yep. Generally, when people feel someone's trying to force them to do something in a certain way, especially if it's an old way of doing things that doesn't make sense anymore, they rebel.

  4. Cher Yang
    February 3, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    Correct me if I'm wrong. Copyright owner sell their product over pricing when people can get it for almost 75% off elsewhere. Copyright owner sell their product over pricing when some of their product doesn't even have that much of features. Or if in music; 1 out of 10 songs is the best. All others are full of non-sense songs.

    If people are going to make it fair; host a file sharing such as megaupload; have user pay to view or to download. Any other file hosting site cannot post their (referring to Owner) contents to other sites.

    I notice that someone out there will always try to find a way to do the cheap way, but if the owner make it cheap enough where the users don't have to go dig elsewhere then they should have their profit back and yet maybe even over.

    • Yaara
      February 4, 2012 at 10:25 am

      I agree. Like I said in other comments, I think the owners of the copyrights could really profit by not trying to screw us over. By simply letting us purchase media for a reasonable price, in a way that's quick and easy.

  5. Dericdomino
    February 3, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    how about paying for software,downloading it and you cant use the software
    because the licencing process doesnt work,and you go to support and they
    ignore you,easier to steal it then go through a big hassle to get the software
    to run

    • Yaara
      February 4, 2012 at 10:22 am

      Well, if a software company can't manage their customer support and can't make it possible for people to pay for it, they have a problem.

      I'm not saying it's right to steal, but I do believe that in order for people to happily pay for something, it needs to be easy. If it's too hard, they'll go for the easier option of downloading illegally. And there's no real reason for it to be hard.

  6. Theodore Fischer
    February 3, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    Before recording equipment was invented the only entertainment was live performances. The media companies have lost control of media technoligies and are try to take back that controll.  If they had thier way tape recorders and VCRs would be illegal. 

    • Yaara
      February 4, 2012 at 10:21 am

      Exactly, it's like they're closing their eyes and trying to imagine it's still 1980. I find it so frustrating that they're blaming us for stealing when they're the ones who don't even give us a fair chance to buy.

  7. Trevor Lenten
    February 3, 2012 at 11:21 am

    I purchased Louis CKs stand up Live at the beacon because it was not protected by law. He put himself out there and I gave him the very reasonable asking price of five dollars for a HD version of his video ( which is great by the way), I could have easily procured it through "other" means but I didn't. Why? Because if it does well maybe just maybe other people would take notice and start offering their videos online at reasonable prices as well. Sound logic right? Probably not but it's worth a shot. 

    • Yaara
      February 4, 2012 at 10:20 am

      I love that system. Radiohead, for example, have been offering their newest albums for download, for any price you want to pay. I think that's awesome, and I've purchased them for money, even though I didn't have to. It felt great because I knew I was giving money to the artists (as much as possible), and I paid what I felt like paying.

      Even if they had a fixed price, it would have still worked, I think. Many people are just looking for ways to buy their favorite music/movies/etc.

  8. Dave Parrack
    February 3, 2012 at 11:00 am

    I couldn't agree more, Yaara. If media companies embraced the Internet as a means of distribution, with no territorial restrictions and a fair price for content then they would instantly turn piracy and file-sharing into an insignificant issue.

    I hate to think how much they have spent trying to stop copyright infringement, and it's all wasted money when any site taken down will be replaced in a matter of days or weeks.

  9. Bogdan
    February 3, 2012 at 7:32 am

    Beatport, an online music store, BANNED credit cards from a WHOLE COUNTRY. I can't view some youtube videos because "This content is not available in my country". Google Music, Rdio, Spotify and many others aren't available in my country. Torrents are, files sharing have no area limitations. Is there any better reason why I shouldn't get stuff for free?

    • Yaara
      February 3, 2012 at 8:03 am

      Exactly! Same here. How can they expect me to pay for content they're not offering me? Do I seriously have to go and buy a CD when I want to buy music? Aside from the fact that it's a chore, optical media dies really quickly, and I barely have a working optical drive in my house. They're really not leaving us much choice.

      • Bogdan
        February 3, 2012 at 9:10 am

         And most good electronic music nowadays is sold as download-only. Stuff sold on CD is mostly crap.

  10. Abstracting
    February 3, 2012 at 7:25 am

    I think you have a good point, but like Doug Henry pointed out, while it
    is true that sites like mega upload profit off of offering goods that
    technically are no theirs, it is not the same as stealing. anti-piracy
    supporters have always tried to tie number of downloads to loss of
    sales, but in no way does one download equate to a loss sale. Of course
    this does not mean that they have not lost some revenue, as I am sure
    some would indeed pay if they were not able to download the content for
    free, but the key point is method of presentation.

    File sharing
    is based not on the principle of downloading content for free, but
    rather the sharing of content using new technology which just so happens
    to not be used by content owners. a large chunk of the blame therefore
    rests in the laps of the content owners. just as your article says, were
    there viable solutions to allow unrestricted access to content provided
    by media companies, a large chunk of those currently using sites like
    mega upload would switch. SOPA and other initiatives like it will fail
    because they simply treat the symptoms of their lack of adaptation, not
    the root problem, I just ask that you consider the fact that sites like
    mega upload profit not from stealing but from providing services that
    are not offered by the content owners themselves.

    Does this
    justify their actions? Simply put, no; but it also does not make their
    actions wrong. the Market is controlled not by those who provide supply,
    but by those who provide demand.

    • Yaara
      February 3, 2012 at 8:01 am

      I do see your point, and I actually think it's not even that important whether sites like Megaupload are (or were) stealing or not. The point, in my opinion, is that the media companies felt the folks at Megaupload were stealing from them, but instead of providing an alternative way for us to get that content, and maybe even share it, they're trying to make things all the more hard on us and everyone else.

  11. guest
    February 3, 2012 at 4:15 am

    I too believe lots of people are willing to pay for legal downloading, myself being one. I too live in a country where the legal options are not available. If I like a series, I am happy to pay a small fee to download a legal copy of each episode as they come available. Currently that is not possible in my country so I have to wait a year or so before I can view the stuff legally via satellite tv, supposing the show even airs in my country or import the DVD at huge cost and sometimes even this is not possible because the DVD is not sold in my country. The same goes with music and and movies. Most software is available, but the cost is astronomical. A legal version of windows could buy 100 loaves of white bread while photoshop could buy 600.  I had to fork out 50 loaves for my favourite html editor. A DVD series costs about 60 loaves. I am more than happy to pay a loaf for each episode of a series that I like, but the reality the option is just not available. So instead I can visit a file sharing service or wait a year and maybe see the series I like.  At the end of the day, rather than pushing new bills and running around spending millions on prosecuting opportunists, the copyright holders should get together, create a new international copyright law which is practical and then provide us with the service we want at a reasonable price!

  12. Doug Henry
    February 3, 2012 at 3:26 am

    But he didn't steal that. "Lost revenue" isn't a legitimate measurement. If I download something I had no intention of buying in the first place (because it's free elsewhere, on radio etc.) there was no loss. Most people who download are thrifty and would buy something used instead of new anyway.

    • Reuben Walker
      February 3, 2012 at 6:18 am

      Actually, in economics and accounting, they count money they could have made as a legit cost.

      And as the author of the post said, the majority of people (including me) would pay for it if it was available, so they really are losing money they could have made.

      • James Bruce
        February 3, 2012 at 7:43 am

        Opportunity cost is not a 'legit cost' as far as I'm aware - it doesn't go on the balance sheet. It's used to weigh possible courses of outcome. You don't balance the books by saying "we could have opened a factory there and made 1 billion pounds, but we didnt, so lets note down an opportunity cost of a billion in our financial records". 

        Doug's point still stands either way. Lost revenue, or opportunity cost, is not a firmly determinable number. Any estimates given are extremely optimistic, and usually assume that every download would have related to a sale. In most cases, that simply doesnt equate.

        Here's a test - offer a friend either a DVD they have to pay for, or the equivalent movie for free from a torrent site. How many choose to pay you for the DVD? None, right? Now remove the free option. How many pay? None. Ok, stupid test, I'll admit, but even they did have a choice of all the DVD in the world, you can bet they'll download far more than they would be willing to pay for. 

        • Yaara
          February 3, 2012 at 7:57 am

          But what about if you offer them the same movie to download, not as a torrent but from an official site, and it's actually a bit cheaper than buying a DVD but is really easy to download anywhere in the world and you can do it with a click. How many will buy? I believe many will.

        • James Bruce
          February 3, 2012 at 10:02 am

          .. that option doesn't exist currently, so the point still stands. If they offer a reasonable priced, DRM free , with subtitles in any language I want, on an instant easy-to-use store. Then yes. 

          Hence, why I love netflix. 

        • Yaara
          February 4, 2012 at 10:05 am

          Netflix is great, I think it's a good solution. If only it were actually available in more than a handful of countries worldwide.

    • Howard Pearce
      February 3, 2012 at 1:53 pm

      Such an opinion relies on what you yourself consider a loss... which by the way is irrelevant to whether theft was involved.
      If that were the case, I could merely declare those diamonds i stole as not valuable therefor no loss therefor no theft.