Is Netflix The Solution to Video Piracy? [Opinion]

James Bruce 27-01-2012

Is Netflix The Solution to Video Piracy? [Opinion] featured piratebay vs netflixNetflix recently launched in the UK Netflix Finally Launches Streaming Service In The UK & Ireland [News] It took long enough, but Netflix has finally decided to roll out their popular streaming service in the United Kingdom and Ireland. They will be going head to head with popular services such as Amazon-owned... Read More – and I wrote up a full and shining review Netflix Versus LoveFilm - The Battle Of The UK Movie Streaming Services With Netflix having recently launched in the UK, it looks like consumers are going to have to make a choice between the established Amazon-backed LoveFilm, and the newcomer Netflix. Read More of the service last time. It offers an affordable way to get high quality on-demand movies and TV straight into your living room (or any portable device). My question today is – is Netflix the ultimate solution to piracy?


Our generation has grown up believing everything should be instant access. Yet for the most part the industry hasn’t provided for us. They just don’t get it – they’re slow to adopt new technologies and just want to keep things the way they are ticking along right now. So naturally people have turned to torrents and piracy. Not because they particularly like the idea of scamming actors and producers out of money for their products, but because DVDs are overpriced and outdated, cinemas are overpriced and sticky, cable TV is overpriced and inconvenient, and it’s all so damned slow.

Do you want to watch a movie? The local PirateBay has a great selection, it’s open all hours, and you can have that downloaded in half an hour, sir!

Is Netflix The Solution to Video Piracy? [Opinion] piratebay store

So why am I convinced Netflix is the ultimate answer to all this video piracy?

Reasonable Pricing

This point really shouldn’t be underrated. Physical media and existing streaming solutions are too expensive. A single one-night rental from the Zune marketplace or the UK cable on-demand streaming channels (which you have to purchase an additional TV package to get access to anyway) cost anywhere from £3-5 ($4.60-$7.70). A trip to the cinema is £8 ($12.40), not including the £7 ($10.80) popcorn. You’re not even guaranteed a good experience – the movie might suck, after all. The idea that you might go out and buy a DVD or Blu-Ray for £10-30, of something you’ve never seen before is simply ludicrous! I used to do that!


It just doesn’t represent value for money, and consumers are sick of it. You want to support the movie industry that you enjoy so much, but not at prices that will cripple your household budget. Netflix is the answer. It’s not pay-per-view, it’s just a huge catalogue of content from which you can watch anything, all included in one reasonable monthly subscription. This is how entertainment should be done.

Broadcast TV Sucks, Digital or Not

I don’t know how the situation is in the US, but in the UK most TV’s have gone digital – and analogue signals will start to be shut down from April this year. You’d think that with the 50 channels provided by the technological advances of digital broadcasting that some new and interesting content might appear. You’d be wrong though. 10 of those are adult video chat; 10 are shopping channels; 10 are re-runs; and another 10 are just +1 versions of the same basic channels we had before (for those of you who don’t know, that means they show everything again an hour later).

Sure, the BBC and Channel 4 has some good stuff on occasion, but to get the big name shows from the US, you need to subscribe to pricey Sky or cable TV.

Is Netflix The Solution to Video Piracy? [Opinion] reality tv


I’ll admit, I was seriously considering getting Sky TV last month – that’s £20 a month ($31) though just for something half decent to watch, and you’re still paying for 500 channels of crap with only 2 channels you actually want (and don’t even mention the Discovery channel – you need the Entertainment Extra for that, another £5 HD quality? Another £10).

It’s just yet another shining example of an industry not adapting to our generation – we don’t want every channel, we want those 2. We don’t want the whole album, we just want those two tracks. Apple understood that with the iTunes store, and look what a difference that made in rescuing the entire struggling music industry.

Even then, with extra broadcast TV services you’re stuck with either watching it when they want you to, or buying a pricey DVR add-on to record with. ARGGHH.

Enough! It just doesn’t add up. You see why Netflix is going to win here. The core business model may not be the same as Sky, with a lot of customers signing up purely for the live football – but as an alternative to piracy, Netflix wins out over broadcast TV easily.



Subscribing to Netflix took me about two clicks, and I paid with Paypal. It’s available on a lot of devices, as well as any standard Internet browser. It’s instant – even more convenient than torrents. It’s not locked down to any one device like recorded broadcast TV or single pay-per-view rentals; if you want to instantly pick up that movie where you left off – in bed with your iPad – you absolutely can.

Is Netflix The Solution to Video Piracy? [Opinion] music drm

A Personalised Experience

If pricing and convenience weren’t enough to pull you away from piracy, Netflix adds value that can’t be found elsewhere. If you go the cinema, they can’t personally recommend a movie for you. If you watch TV, the TV doesn’t automatically suggest you watch the science documentary on BBC based on previous viewing habits.

Netflix on the other hand not only creates a list of top movies it thinks you’ll like, it also takes your preferences from previously rated movies, and creates another set of lists based on that – “Wacky Underdog Comedies”. It’s a fantastic way to present a back catalogue and make it seem like new content – and it works!


Is Netflix The Solution to Video Piracy? [Opinion] personalized2

The fact is that until today, pirates had it so much better than the rest of us paying schmucks. We got screwed with DRM-ed low quality streams and ludicrous costs, while pirates had it all for free and the best quality out there (and subtitles too). I truly believe Netflix has changed that. It’s not going to get any better than this boys and girls – now is your chance to make it right. Get a Netflix account, and stop pirating right now.

How about you? Has Netflix made you stop pirating movies? Give us your feedback in the comments.

Image Credit : xkcd

Related topics: Netflix, Online Video, Opinion & Polls, Software Piracy, Television, User Review.

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  1. Stemy
    May 13, 2017 at 1:07 pm

    The answer is clearly no.

    1) The Netflix catalog is very poor, particularly in Belgium and it's very difficult to find any movie released less than 10 years ago (even for most recent movies, though).
    2) Some series will never be on Netflix, because they are exclusivities of other TV channels.
    3) For privacy-aware users, Netflix is the absolute evil, as it is a big spyware.
    4) You don't own the movies, so it can be suddenly unavailable without any warning.

  2. Rin
    November 15, 2015 at 9:53 am

    There's one point that prevents me from registering on services like netflix: region-limited content.
    I'm pretty much only interested in japanese movies, i don't even need subs, but most of the things i want to watch is "japan-only" and cannot be watched on such streaming services.

    I would gladly switch to using netflix, or something like that, but if my content is *only* available through piracy unless you live in japan, then my choices are to either download or don't watch.
    And i often decide just not to watch, which in turn prevents me from buying the movie - because yes, if i like the movie i buy it. But to know i like it i need to watch it first.

  3. Gav Shaw
    March 8, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    To me, Netflix does not appear to be to bad of a service in the UK. The only downside on the UK version is the lack of content currently available.
    As a horror genre fan, I found it quite disappointing to search for such classic films such as those from the Past and Present Halloween movie franchise, not to mention other classics from the same year and genre that have also had recent remakes such as Friday 13th, and A Nightmare On Elm Street, were no where to be found.
    At the moment, although I would not pay a quid extra a month for Netflix based on the currently availability of content, especially when you consider Lovefilm offer almost 3x the amount of content over Netflix with and it's equivalent package is still a quid less per month to fork out. So, until Netflix increases it's video library, I doubt many people will be scurrying to sign up once their 30 day free trial has expired.

    • James Bruce
      March 9, 2012 at 8:35 am

      Are you comparing to LoveFilm *DVD rental* content too? If you look online at streaming, LoveFilm has nothing compared to Netflix. 

  4. Peter Pottinger
    February 3, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    Why all the sugar coating? Taking what you can not afford at the asking price is stealing. Period.

    p.s. I have nothing against piracy, only hypocrites.

    • James Bruce
      February 4, 2012 at 9:26 am

      Then there was really no point in using the word piracy was there? Why dont we just use the term movie theft instead? Oh yeh, because there's an important difference. 

  5. Ricky
    February 3, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    You have to look at this at an indivifual movie level. Every studio exec wants his bonus based on cinema and dvd sales. Scrapping all that in favor of a 3rd party distribution system, which could rate your movie as a 1 star and make it disapear from peoples recommendations is a bad thing and will not happen.

    • James Bruce
      February 4, 2012 at 9:28 am

      Interesting point, but I dont see why putting it on 3rd party distribution is any different to getting bad reviews in the cinema. If they insist on bonuses, give bonuses based on total download. Same thing, different medium...

  6. Bill in Racine
    January 29, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    The only way we are ever going to stop or slow down piracy is by teaching people that stealing is wrong.  Trying to justify it by thin rationalizations (it's too expensive, it's not convenient, etc) is pathetic.

    I had an discussion the other day with someone and he tried to say that digital media wasn't actually property so therefore could not be considered stealing.

    He was completely serious, completely wrong, but serious all the same.

    It's this mindset and that of moral relativism that has thrown the world into chaos.  people have been told that what is good for them is good period and that no one should tell you different.

    I think the movie studios and RIAA have every right to go after people who have stolen their property.  Yeah, maybe they've been a little ham-handed in how they have dealt with some, but by the same token, if you have children and your kids are doing something illegal, then they should be held accountable.

    Just because you don't like the fact that DVD's are $20+ or that you can't download the latest version of JackA** 3 doesn't mean that you have a RIGHT to obtain that movie without paying for it.  It isn't yours to take unless you've paid for it.  There are no two ways to look at this.

    • James Bruce
      January 30, 2012 at 9:03 am

      Sorry, but I disagree completely. 

      I expect the argument your friend to you went as follows: stealing property means you, the victim, no longer have use of the item - I steal your car, you no longer have a car; piracy/copying is not the same as stealing, because the original copy remains - I copy your mp3, you still have the mp3. I might be off base here though, so do let me know if his argument was different. There is a clear difference between "stealing" and "making a copy of", so your usage of language "obtain" and "take" is misdirecting and emotionally charged. 

      I think you're missing the point, actually. Piracy wouldnt exist if prices were fair and purchase methods were convenient. Piracy develops to combat a system that isn't working. It's easier to jump on piratebay and download than it is to go out, purchase a copy-protected DVD, and then break the law anyway to put it on your iPod. Piracy is an equalizer, letting you know that something is wrong. 

      Sure, if you look at everything as black and white then yes, I see how you might view piracy as plainly wrong. I could come up with a list of 50 more things that are plainly wrong though, and I expect you would argue against most of them equally 'seriously'. Some things just aren't so black and white though, are they? 

      • Peter Pottinger
        February 3, 2012 at 7:10 pm

        Piracy IS wrong, you are stealing IP instead of forgoing it. 

        I do not have a problem with piracy, only hypocrites.

  7. RichieB07
    January 29, 2012 at 12:18 am

    Because of the increase in price, I dropped the DVD subscription.  Redbox now gets my money for those, because the DVDs are new(ish) releases, and $1.20 isn't bad for one night.  Netflix will only stop piracy when it gets contracts with all the media companies to stream their stuff like Hulu, around a week after the episode airs.  I'd pay more for a service like that.  Even an "a la carte" TV channel subscription option would make Netflix that much more irresistible, but the entertainment industry would rather lock us all down.

    • James Bruce
      January 30, 2012 at 6:21 pm

      $1.20 for one night is quite reasonable, indeed. Shame there's nothing like that here. Is Redbox an online service? It sounds like an actual box somewhere...

  8. Dave Parrack
    January 28, 2012 at 8:07 pm

    On its own Netflix won't stop piracy, but it does show the media companies the route they should be heading down.

    People ARE willing to pay for content if they're being charged fairly and being given the content they want to watch, and how and when they want to watch it.

    Unfortunately most of the big companies still want to pretend the Internet didn't ever happen, and until they embrace it piracy will persist.

    • Peter Pottinger
      February 3, 2012 at 7:12 pm

      You ARE being charged fairly. Just admit to being a pirate, don't try and sugar coat it.

      Easy solution to piracy? Don't give yourself access to stuff you can't afford. It's a simply supply/demand curve. 

      You do not have enough money, thus you should not be enjoying free music/movies.

      • James Bruce
        February 4, 2012 at 9:29 am

        You're right, poor people should be deprived of culture. Let's keep the finer things in life for those who exploit anything they can get their hands on.

      • Dave Parrack
        February 4, 2012 at 9:51 am

        When did I say I ever downloaded anything illegally? Answer: I didn't.

        But in terms of the bigger picture, media companies are overcharging for content. Ever wonder why the price of DVDs and Blu-rays has come down, or why the release window from theater to store has been reduced in recent years? To combat piracy. And yet the obvious solution of a universal online store charging a fair price for rentals or downloads has eluded the minds of the execs. Because they can't admit defeat.

  9. HowlingPig
    January 28, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    My non-pirate viewing habits (US-centric)-

    Netflix is good for the browsing experience and at an all you can eat price it's worthwhile to re-watch things on a whim that you would never consider purchasing. The selection is decidedly lacking, and almost never fulfills a search for a specific show/movie that I want, but there's always something to watch.
    For the latest movies that you don't want to own, Redbox or similar rental schemes are fine for $1 and if the flick ends up tweaking your "want to buy" gland, $1 isn't outrageous for a preview.

    Over the air tv- this for sitcoms, dramas, cooking shows, etc. I have a cheap tv tuner card in my computer, so I can schedule recordings and software streams it to a number of devices elsewhere in the house.

    Hulu- delayed gratification tv shows that aren't broadcast locally or that conflict in my recording setup. Hulu Plus has not yet sold me since I rarely feel the need to catch up on a tv show so urgently that I can't wait until the season is out on dvd.

    With all of that, I'm satisfied and only paying a monthly fee for Netflix and internet service. I do frequently miss out on the latest zeitgeist and have to catch up in other ways (Game of Thrones!)

  10. Chris Hoffman
    January 28, 2012 at 8:37 am

    I'm not sure if Netflix itself is the solution -- the Canadian Netflix has something like 1/10 the selection of the American Netflix, last I checked. I'm not sure what the UK version of Netflix is like.

    Easy, cheap digital streaming is the solution, though. The industry is doing everything it can to fight that instead of embracing it.

    • James Bruce
      January 28, 2012 at 8:40 am

      Difficult to compare isn't it? Could do with some real numbers.  All I can say is - Netflix UK always has something for me to watch, every night. That's all I want really - I don't need the latest movies, or the latest shows. 

      Would you be willing to pay a little more for a wider selection? I think that would be a good solution. Latest movies as well for say £9.99 a month, or a 1 year lead time for basic level subscription. I'd be tempted to go up a grade at that price, maybe. 

      • Chris Hoffman
        January 28, 2012 at 9:05 am

        I think lots of people would be willing to pay more. I certainly would.

        But it has to be a reasonable deal -- for example, Apple's iTunes store sells 40 minute long TV show episodes for something like $4.50 a pop. There's no rental option.

        That's the kind of price that won't kill piracy.

  11. Austin Beatty
    January 28, 2012 at 12:13 am

    I did...then they raised the price. The streaming doesn't really have any recent movies, so for those you need the DVD service too, but when they separated them it just didn't seem worth it for both anymore, since we didn't use it enough to justify the higher price. We have cable TV though for most of our entartainments needs, complete with HD and DVR, and for recent movies Redbox $1 rentals are just fine. Because of cable (that we need, we watch a lot of sports and ESPN and the local sports channels like Comcast Sportsnet and whatever, as well as channels like DIscovery and History, all are important and not over the air), we rarely used Netflix after we had it for a while (we used it a lot at first).

    • James Bruce
      January 28, 2012 at 8:30 am

      That's an awful lot of media. You're right - I dont think Netflix is appropraite for that level of consumption. You'd be likley to run out of things to watch pretty soon. 

  12. Clanless
    January 27, 2012 at 11:52 pm

    I love Netflix and I personally only pirate TV shows (I don't like the Hulu commercials). 

    The area that Netflix still loses out to pirating is time. New episodes of shows and movies are almost instantly available in high quality after they air/are released. 

    iTunes changed things because they made it just as fast and as easy to get the music you want. For movie piracy to end and for Netflix to make it happen, it will have to have the movies available for people to stream within a day or so of it becoming available to pirate. I don't want to wait a year for a new movie to possibly* be added to Netflix.

    * Some really awesome movies still have never made it into streaming

    • James Bruce
      January 28, 2012 at 8:31 am

      Good points, but personally there's only one show I absolutely must see as soon as it is released. (And that would game of thrones). Anything else - I would normally wait for a torrent of the whole season (hate waiting for episodes), but netflix will suffice for that. 

  13. mvario
    January 27, 2012 at 11:19 pm

    Not even considered until they support Linux.  :p

    • James Bruce
      January 28, 2012 at 8:31 am


  14. Scs68
    January 27, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    Yes, definitely the end of piracy. Anyone looking for B-grade, straight-to-video movies, or hoping to watch just the first two seasons of a six season show can turn to Netflix. But hurry, because by next month Netflix will have removed them from streaming and they'll only be available on DVD, which Netflix doesn't want you to rent anymore, because, haven't you heard, streaming is the future.

    • James Bruce
      January 28, 2012 at 8:35 am

      That's a rather cynical view I think. DVDs are dead in my opinion, I sold off my collection ages ago before the resale value plummeted. 

      I havent seen the deletion of episodes etc yet, but that's either because I havent been using it long enough, or thats a US-specific thing. There's a good selection here in the UK, and a lot more than I would class as straight-to-video. I'll keep an eye out for things for being deleted though, that would really suck. What if you're in the middle of a season? Does it tell you?

      (Actually, since the UK lacks the instant queue feature, I'm not sure where it would say where things are being deleted - so I'm pretty sure thats a US specific 'feature')

      • HowlingPig
        January 28, 2012 at 6:42 pm

        A number of helpful sites keep track of the selection available on Netflix- instantwatcher is one that I browse. I don't know whether it's customizable in a way to show UK selection (or if the selection is actually different) but there's a list of items that are due to be released as well as ones that are set to expire

  15. Kostea2007
    January 27, 2012 at 9:06 pm

    @makeuseof-4c0a7bdd46ceb88d497eec5de360328e:disqus "they should probably get more involved on the technology side of things
    and create more software and hardware with software and web based

    They already are, it's called Spyware, Rootkits and Ad-ware. That's the future of anti-piracy. Look at all the devices we use with all three of these PS3, Xbox360, cellphones( remember that "carrier IQ" crap a few months ago?) , that Sony CD rootkit debacle, Bluray player's Cinivia aniti-piracy system and a whole bunch of other devices that we didn't even discover.  That carrier IQ is the scariest one of them all because over 150 million cellphones were monitored 24/7 for years without anyone noticing.

    Piracy will never die unless everyone is monitored like they were homicidal maniacs in a maximum security wing of Guantanamo bay detention center. And that's exactly how we will be treated, pirates and non-pirates.

    • James Bruce
      January 28, 2012 at 8:36 am

      Right on. 

  16. Joel Lee
    January 27, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    I think you hit the nail on the head, James.

    When you strip away all of the rhetoric and discussion, piracy exists for one reason: convenience. Piracy will not go away unless the entertainment industry wises up and provides a more convenient alternative--and that alternative doesn't even have to be free.

    Netflix is a step in the right direction. Immensely convenient at a reasonable price. I personally know pirates who subscribe to Netflix--nowadays, they only pirate material that they can't find on Netflix.

    Ain't that something?

  17. Hashish
    January 27, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    I've been a pirate for years. Not because I couldn't afford to but it - but because it was convenient. Before Netflix - there was no easy way to view content on demand from many devices in my house (computers, cellphones, tv's, etc). I do not pay for Cable TV, instead, I have a full subscription to NetFlix. I am no longer pirating content as Netflix does what I want - a decent selection of movies and tv shows, accessible from multiple devices in my house, AND at a price I can afford to pay!

  18. Garey Boone
    January 27, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    I don't think there will ever be an end to piracy until the video and music industry speed up adaptation to new technology, instead of talking with law makers to create new and improved laws they should probably get more involved on the technology side of things and create more software and hardware with software and web based options that offer free and paid services similar to Spotify, Hulu and other services that have a free version with commercials to create revenue and a paid version that might be advertisement free or at the very least fewer ads.If those options are done well enough I think there is a possibility that you could cut down on a lot of piracy but not all of it.

  19. Anonymous
    January 27, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    You hit the nail on the head in all your points.  I ditched cable TV for satellite a year ago because of the "wider selection of channels."  I didn't realize this "wider selection" included some really freaky $hit, plus I'm nickel and dimed to death.  After my years contract, I'm cutting the cord.  I refuse to pay $100/mo for the amount of channels I can count on one hand I want to watch.  If it takes months for me to see the episodes, so be it. 

    Netflix streaming is great, but their selection sucks.  All I know is, I'm tired of playing by other people's rules and getting burned.  It's time to make my own rules.

    • James Bruce
      January 28, 2012 at 8:38 am

      I like the sound of really freaky $hit.... ;) lol

      I dont know the alternatives in the US, so couldnt comment on whether the selection sucks over there - but here in the UK it's rather good, compared to the only other alternative that is LoveFilm. 

  20. Zyzzyva57
    January 27, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    I do enjoy Netflix, particularly as a way to watch British TV series 
    However, Netflix is horribly weak in the area of streaming movies
    Any movie made within a year that is not a loser will be only available as a DVD
    Even movies years and years old will only be available in DVD form
    But thankfully, British TV series imports makes my subscription worth the price