The Many Motivations Of Movie Piracy (Notably Absent: 'I Want Everything For Free')

from the copy-culture dept

In the recently released Copy Culture In The US & Germany survey report from the American Assembly (for which we provided the design & layout work), one small but especially interesting component is the list of reasons given for downloading TV shows and movies. The American responses were pretty evenly distributed among the various key reasons, and serve as a laundry list of things that piracy does just slightly better, or slightly more permissively, than most legitimate sources:

Why I Download TV/Movies For Free (US, Based On Americans Who Do)
While price was one of the top three reasons, this hardly paints a picture of penny-pinching freeloaders—rather, it shows emerging trends in media consumption that distributors and rightsholders simply can’t keep ignoring. Absolutely none of these responses are surprising, because they are exactly the way people have been interacting with the majority of content online for years now. They share, they use multiple devices, they expect comprehensive access and a choice of sources, they want access as soon as possible, and they are put off by obtrusive advertising.

Of course, that last item is a bit of an oddity. The knee-jerk reaction among most people is that all advertising is bad, but that seems to underestimate the amount of stuff that advertising pays for or subsidizes, and that most of us happily enjoy on a daily basis. Advertising is one of those things that only ever gets badmouthed, because you only focus on it when it’s bad — when it’s good it doesn’t register as advertising because it doesn’t register as intrusive. The perennial buzz around Superbowl commercials and the 44-million views on Old Spice’s famous viral ad support this notion pretty strongly.

In the world of online television, I think there’s room for both subscription models and advertising-funded models — and even some combinations of both if balanced correctly. But until content providers start tackling the overall problem by catching up to pirate sources in the many areas where their services fall short, no model is going to succeed in defeating piracy.

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Comments on “The Many Motivations Of Movie Piracy (Notably Absent: 'I Want Everything For Free')”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Expect the MAFIAA to ignore yet more proof their ways are wrong and keep moving in their self-destruction path.

Not only is their path self destructive, it is also damaging society by creating felons. It is one of the pillars, the other being terrorism, that is enabling governments to move further and further towards totalitarian control of populations.

Frankie says:

Re: Re:

Simple reading of the reasons pretty much comes up to wanting it free. Legal versions are too expensive, I have to wait too long for TV / movies legally and of course I don’t want to see ads. Those three are perfect examples of excuses for, I don’t want to pay, I want it now no matter what is in the market, and I don’t want to pay for it with my time watching ads either. Three out of the top six answers are payment avoidance answers.

FairGlow (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

You are assuming there is no middle ground. I find it very unlikely that many respondents wouldn’t pay if better offers were available to them.

As many (all?) studies have shown, people are perfectly willing to pay if they can get what they want in a way that the like it. So, all I read from the reasons stated is that the respondents are dissatisfied with the legally available options. And they provide a good summary of what needs to be addressed in order to get them to pay.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Not "bad"

The knee-jerk reaction among most people is that all advertising is bad, but that seems to underestimate the amount of stuff that advertising pays for or subsidizes, and that most of us happily enjoy on a daily basis.

While I’m in the camp of those who finds nearly all (but not all) advertising manipulative and objectionable, most people I have heard object to it don’t think of it as bad in some kind of absolute sense. Merely obnoxious.

That advertising funds stuff doesn’t make it advertising more tolerable. As you point out, there are ways to make it more tolerable, but they’re unrelated to what it’s funding. And what makes it unacceptable varies from person to person. In my case, it’s the tracking more than anything else. More entertaining ads don’t address this problem at all.

Also, I personally resent the “but you get free stuff for it” argument. It implies that I have any other choice. Every chance I get, I pay cash to avoid seeing advertising. Unfortunately, those chances are few are far between.

Thank god for adblockers for online stuff, and I avoid TV advertising by not watching broadcast or cable TV.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Not "bad"

Also, I personally resent the “but you get free stuff for it” argument

I am not sure I hear many people making that argument. It is, at least, a misunderstanding. With advertising, your attention is a form of currency. The attention of groups of people that may purchase something is valuable, but it is most often not currency used by the individual, but the intermediary offering something to the individuals.

Google, for example, trades the attention of it’s users for money from an advertiser. You, as a Google search user are not involved in the trading of your attention transaction. You just happen to benefit from that transaction by the thing Google built and let’s you use that gathers the attention of the masses that they then sell.

Cable networks, newspapers, and magazines make the same transaction and their subscribers don’t get anything for free.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Not "bad"

I am not sure I hear many people making that argument

It is the most common argument I hear. It was made in this article as well, thus my response.

When I say “I hate advertising,” more often than not I will hear a response like “but without it you wouldn’t have online content.” Which is this this argument. Also, it’s wrong, but that’s a different point.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Not "bad"

thank you mr fenderson, well stated, i feel much the same…

there is CLOSE TO ZERO advertising that is ‘entertaining’ (i mentioned the other day that ESPN consistently makes funny ads, but you have to be a sports fan to ‘get’ many of the jokes… AND, for all that, i would still prefer no ads over funny ads…), and there is nearly ZERO times an ad is ‘useful’ to me…

if/when i want to get INFORMATION about a product/service, i almost certainly do NOT depend on ANY ads for that… yes, once in a blue moon they inform me of some product/service i was not otherwise aware of, but that is VERY rare…

otherwise, it is visual and noise pollution i have little to no control over…

oh, and let me whip this pet hobbyhorse one more time:
i pay (relatively) EXORBITANT money to go to a movie (mostly against my will and better judgment), AND they suck the life out of me with endless TEEVEE ads and previews for 10 movies i will NEVER see ? ? ?

i should charge the bastards for the soul-deadening time they torture me with that crap… at full volume…

reason #27236 why i hate going to the movies…

art guerrilla
aka ann archy

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Not "bad"

  1. i believe it is self-evident why any self-respecting nekkid ape would hate the intrusion of TEEVEE freaking ads at the MOVIES…
    um, what the hell was wrong with some damn cartoons ? ? ?
    that was half the damn fun…
    now, get off my screen ! ! !

    (again, WHY do i WANT to go to the movies, MAFIAA overlords ? ? ?
    is it the crappy movies you make for a zillion dollars ?
    is it the crappy prices we pay ?
    is it the crappy snacks we pay through the nose for ?
    is it the wonderful audience experience of talking ‘tards and cell phone monsters ?
    is it the sticky floors ?
    is it the speakers blaring at 200 decibels…
    …NEXT DOOR ?
    why is it i go to the movies again ?

    well, realistically, it is ONLY because we get gift cards to go, and irresistible pressure from spousal unit, kids, grandkids… otherwise, i wouldn’t go near the place…)

  2. less ‘normal’, is my aversion to trailers, here are my reasons:
    A. hate most of them, i am about full up with secret-agent-assassin-zombie-vampire-hitmen-revenge-against-the-world movies, which appears to be 90% of them…

    B. those few movies i DO want to (eventually) see, are -i won’t say ‘ruined’- but spoilt by the previews…
    believe it or not, i don’t want to know/see what is going to happen in a movie BEFORE i see it…
    i’m weird like that…

    C. back in the day, saw a trailer for ET, and it ABSOLUTELY DID RUIN the ‘finger-lighting’ scene for me in the actual movie… i have not forgiven trailers since then…

    art guerrilla
    aka ann archy

Anonymous Coward says:

Problem with commercials

Is that they are on repeat. I don’t enjoy watching the same piece of content twice, almost ever. TV shows I think are fantastic will be given months or years before I rewatch them.

That is the problem advertisers need to address, and could be largely fixed in TV on demand services, where the provider would know what ads I had seen.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

I have no problems with advertising in general, but when there are so many commercials that it became a common joke that you can’t remember what you were watching during the commercials is where it gets bad.

This is one reason I’ve been watching Youtube a lot recently. There are vary few advertisements and the long ones can be skipped.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I want to concur with Chronno that part of the issue is not advertising, but the frequency. I don’t watch much TV, but recently did and found that advertising breaks had 10 or more ads, seemed to keep coming and also seemed to go on forever.

Want me to watch an ad to consume content? Fine.

Want me to watch 50 ads to consume the same content? Not fine.

jedipunk (profile) says:

Spending more to get it "free"...

It actually costs to get it “free” and be careful.

If you want to be safe from being sued a VPN will run you $40/yr or more.

If you use usenet expect to pay $50-100/yr.

Of course, some folks will use bit torrent wihtout a vpn.

It isn’t that “pirates” won’t to steal it is that distributors are not willing to distribute the way we want to consume it.

I would gladly pay $30/month for a service that gives me access to TV shows soon after they air and movies soon after the DVD is released and allows me to watch it on demand on whatever device I like.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Spending more to get it "free"...

Here is the thing.

– Rentals, in 1999 you got 4 episodes in a DVD, today you get 2, why? Because it increases the numbers of disks you need to rent.

– Sales: in 2000 studios crammed the thing with all the content it could hold, today you get the same content but you have to buy it in pieces, if it is a TV series you don’t get a box for the entire season for $50 you get half the season and you need to buy the other one, if it is a movie the release is a crappy cheap piece that has nothing but the movie, after 6 months they come out with the Deluxe that has bonus material, six months after that the collectors edition.

And it is because of all those launching windows that you will never ever get “soon after” anything anywhere, because they want to milk!, milk!, milk!, milk! you.

Anonymous Coward says:

What I don’t get when it comes to advertising, is that my (lack of) understanding of tv is that networks get advertising money based on how many people watch the shows.

That’s tracked by Neilsen and the people who have the boxes in their homes.

So if you don’t participate in the Neilsen programs, how are you depriving the station of advertising money?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

They use the Nielsen information only to determine what percent of people are watching. Then, they extrapolate the total number of people based on an estimate of the number of people watching TV at that time. Those numbers are determined by other studies (done less frequently) which determine who watches TV, at what times, and for how long.

Nielsen data is a very rough estimate, not an exact number.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Typical MAFIAA response. If you don’t like the way we do things you’re a pirate, want things for free, and support pirates.

Mike is bringing the problems with the current system to light and the MAFIAA should be thanking him. This is an article about WHY people pirate content. If you know the why, you can work to solve the piracy problem. Solve the piracy problem brings in more money. More money means fatter bonuses (cause we don’t pay artists).

So remind me again where the pro-piracy comments are in the article? There aren’t any. Go away, you’re done failing to troll this post.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: LA la la la la la la (puts fingers in ears) la la la la

You just keep saying that because you cannot hear or possibly even comprehend the real message. It’s easier to just say “pirate mike”, supporting “theft”, etc.

Poor dinosaurs.

?It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.? — Darwin

DannyB (profile) says:

Less of an oddity than you think

It’s not that people think all advertising is bad. That is just the knee jerk reaction because advertising has become so obtrusive and obnoxious.

There are unskippable ads on DVDs.

TV used to have a reasonable amount of ads. It got worse. And worse. Along came pay TV on cable. But then ads came back. And got worse.

Now ads take up 1/3 and sometimes up to 1/2 of the viewing time of some programs in some time slots. Heck there are programs that nothing but bare naked ads.

Now, not only does cable have long breaks for ads, but then they intrude upon the program with little pop up annoyances at the bottom. Sometimes these cover up some important program content.

And they wonder why people turn to piracy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Less of an oddity than you think

Before the 1970s, network tv shows ran 52 minutes with 8 minutes of commercials per hour.
(watch an old show on DVD/Blu-ray and time it!)
From the 1970s onward, the network standard was 48 minutes and 12 minutes of commercials.
Now it’s 44 minutes with 16 minutes of commercials. (not counting those annoying interstatials [the “banners” that run across the bottom of the screen])

Nic Stevens says:


I recently viewed Despicable Me. I had to wait 15 minutes through commercials including one, on the blu-ray disc I was watching, telling me how great blu-ray is before I could see the movie. I couldn’t skip through the previews other than to fast forward which would still have taken some time. To me this is a great incentive for piracy. To be forced into commercials each time I view something I paid for is ridiculous. Do I really need to be sold on the virtues of a format I am already using?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Commercials

Here is some general directions.

– Dump the MPEG-2 TS stream.
– Recreate the MPEG-2 PTS(Presentation Time Stamp) so the video have the right time and shows external subtitles correctly.

After fixing the PTS you can demultiplex(separate the streams, subs, video and audio) and multiplex it again with only what you want, or edit it in any video editor that now will be able to read the stream.

Each additional audio is more or less 500MB in size.

This is also how you “fix” digital HD TV recordings that don’t show the true time when you run them, is because of the PTS/DTS that are all messed up, just rebuild them and all will be good.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Commercials

The worst thing about DVD/Blu-ray commercials – they don’t update.

When you put in a movie that you bought 10 YEARS ago and some advertisement comes on for an “upcoming feature” that was a huge flop.

If you see nothing else this year, make sure you watch the hottest release. A movie so moving, so touching, so full of heart that …. it will be rated one of the worst movies of all time on IMDB – “Glitter!”

Mr. Applegate says:

Most all advertising sucks. I refuse to watch live TV for that very reason. I watch an hours worth of TV in 35 min flat, not that there is much worth watching on TV anymore.

I don’t need to see ads every 6 minutes for new cars, I only buy a new car once or twice a decade!

I don’t need to be told what the best toilet paper is (by a dozen different companies) I have been using it for 50+ years, I think I have found the brand I prefer.

No I don’t need testosterone cream, everything still works just fine, thanks.

No, I don’t want a Trojan vibrator (see above).

My Dr. and I (with influence from my lovely insurance carrier) will choose my care without you telling me I need to have product x that only has 2 dozen side effects 6 of which are worse than whatever you are supposed to be treating.

I have chosen a company to service my HVAC twice a year, and I am not going to change because you promise to be more honest. (Actually, I know more about HVAC than most HVAC techs).

I know what dish soap I like, and no I won’t try yours.

I know where I like to eat, I don’t need to see ads for a steakhouse… every 6 minutes either.

Oh and if Mr. Lawyer is ambulance chasing on TV, I am sure he is not the one I want representing me in a lawsuit.

No, I won’t spend more money on Comcast, you are already raping me every month. You give me 500 channels of which, none of which are worth watching, but I am stuck with cable because that is the only decent internet available where I live.

Other than as a deterrent, I can’t remember when an ad last influenced me. I simply am not swayed by advertising.

If I am in the market for a thing or a service I use the internet to do my searching, research, and help me reach decisions. Amazingly, I often buy from the internet too.


ECA (profile) says:

Can we add to the list??

ADD to the list..
The common person has no way to change/augment the format..

DOES my player, PLAY what is given by the corps.

DRM movies DONT run on many things, and security has changed over the years.

Does it RUN on my TV? do I need something to RUN it on my TV.. HOW the @#$@#$ do I hook this up?


DEFINE PIRACY. Im not making money from this. Im adding to my collection. This is demonstrated by the ‘Dr. Who”, collection and missing 200(?) episodes.. The BBC had to wonder the world to find COPIES that had been saved ON TAPE.

Robert (profile) says:

Ads - like cable was not supposed to contain?

Didn’t cable promise to be ad free?

That sure as hell changed pretty damn fast.

Not to mention TLC/DISC/HIST/A&E used to be great for docs, now you get reality shows.

So even when you pay to avoid ads, let’s remember cable and what happened!

Once you pay for a service, you have to accept that ads will come, or you have to pay more to keep maximizing those profits!

Anonymous Coward says:

Here’s news…

Since I removed commercials and ads that I hate with a passion, I have found my life is much more peaceful.

For those that don’t mind the ads, enjoy them. Have my share too with permission.

Since I hate commercials, when I go to the store, I work in reverse. If by some chance, an ad or a commercial has slipped by my blockers I promise you that will be the very last product on the shelf I will consider buying. Why should I reward those I detest with my money?

squall_seawave (profile) says:

ok lets check the reasons in this survey

i enjoy sharing videos i like with other people the weakest one on the list still this could be potentially good in getting awareness of an obscure show/movie

i want to watch movies/tv on more of one device a medium one this is the real reason many people is against drm so we have a good reason to pirate althought i rather have the original and use the copy

i can’t find what i want with legal channels this reason is one of the two that more resonates with me i like videogames but here i don’t have any store where they sell pc videogames in fact the ones that used to sell them have retired their catalog so i can understand the appeal of this reason

legal version are too expensive this is the other one that resonates with me a console videogame cost 1/5 of the console that is pretty expensive and when the game is bad you have wasted your money (this i mean all hyped games like re6 ff13, and diablo 3) in fact it looks like the more expensive are the worst games

i have to wait too long this is not a big problem for me

i dont want to watch commercials this is one i wouldn’t mind if the commercial lowers the cost of the media but in fact is the inverse instead of ads paying my content i am paying for ads in example the most hated ads i all story you are a pirate in the theathers

Rekrul says:

People hate advertising because there’s so damn much of it.

Back in the 70s, there were maybe four commercial breaks per hour and each one only had 2-3 commercials. Now it seems like there’s a commercial break every 5-10 minutes and each one has 8-10 commercials. TV shows used to have end credits with music. Now they get squished down and go by so fast you need to use the pause button to read them, while ads for other shows play in the majority of the screen.

Not to mention the garbage cable channels like USA and the SciFi Channel, which take shows from other networks (like Canadian shows) and chop out an extra 3-4 minutes so that they cam cram in a few more commercials.

Then there’s the logos and popups. At first it was just the logo, which was annoying enough, but then they started having ads for other shows pop up on the bottom of the screen. Now some channels put the name of the next show and sometimes even a countdown timer underneath the logo. Why is the next show so damn important that they have to hype it while I’m watching something else?

Plus, there’s the advertising within the shows in the form of product placement. I don’t mind seeing people drinking Pepsi or using Apple computers, but when two characters have a half-minute discussion about all the great feature of their new car, it makes me want to punch the idiot who agreed to put that crap in the show.

I didn’t used to mind advertising on web sites, then they started using Flash to put animated ads with sound. Then came the $#*%@&! Javascript ads that opened on top of the page you’re trying to read, or even faded the page out to be replaced by an ad with a countdown timer to when you’re allowed to close it and go back to the web site! They can cram that $#!% right up their asses. I now use the MVP Hosts file which redirects all requests for ad servers to the localhost so that they fail.

Some say that repetition is the most effective form of advertising? Well it can also backfire. When the TV show “The Shield” was first announced, I thought it looked interesting and planned to watch it. That announcement was followed by 2-3 months of endless commercials for “The Shield”. Literally every single commercial break on FX had at least one commercial for “The Shield”. Then when the other shows came back from the commercial break, an ad would pop up on the bottom of the screen (sometimes with sound) for “The Shield”. I got so sick of hearing the constant hype for “The Shield” and how “The Shield” was going to be the best thing on TV and how everyone needed to watch “The Shield” that I vowed to never watch a single episode of that show for as long as I live.

Anonymous Coward says:

Advertising these days, at least on TV, is simply unbearable for me. Not only are the actual advertising breaks longer and more annoying than ever, but you now have constant pop up banner ads over everything during shows. Some networks are particularly bad, with banners that take up a third or more of the screen during a program.

Screw that.

PaulT (profile) says:

It is of course amusing to note that apart from the “sharing with other people” reasoning, all of these are the direct fault of the industry itself (although even the sharing could and should be allowed to a degree). Format windowing, removal of content from channels like Netflix, oversaturation of commercials and DRM are directly the fault of the industry – and these just happen to be the things that people like myself have been pointing out as problems for years (while being accused of being pirates, of course, even if we do no such thing).

Only the pricing can be called an unreasonable complaint in ways – but that’s subjective and it depends on what’s being talked about. Are they talking about a Netflix subscription? Pay up you cheap bastards. Talking about the cost of a trip to the cinema for a family of four with snacks and drinks included? They have a real point, why isn’t there a cheaper option made available…? Other than that, the industry have only themselves to blame for their supposed problems (if they even exist, which given record box office revenue is questionable).

ECA (profile) says:



get rid of..
STORAGE at retail..
DISPLAY rack..

MAKE a machine that will burn it on location, in 5-10 minutes, in the format you want..
Insted of taking up 200+ sqft of room, you have 1-2 4×4 square boxes that BURN it..IN the format you wish..

The BOX can show trailers and short demo of each program..

This can be done for GAMES/VIDEO/MUSIC..
Shipping is EASY, 1 disc that can be send to EACH machine..send a copy to the STORE and 1 machine just POPS it into the system. IN ALL THE STORES..

NO cases, unless the customer WANTS one..
no packaging, no space, nothing.. CUT out 90% of the over head, and DROP THE PRICE..$5 and the odds of hacking the video are GONE..

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

In the voice of Isaiah Mustafa

(Sorry for another rehash)

Look at your ad, now back to mine. Now back at your ad, now back to mine. Sadly it isn?t mine, but if you stopped focusing on yourself and started advertising wisely it could look like mine. Look down, back up, where are you? You?re watching my ad, thinking of the ad your ad could look like. What did you think of? Back at mine, it?s an ad that people actually like. Look again the ad is now viewed over 44 million times. Anything is possible when you think before you create an ad.

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