Is piracy harmful to anyone

Aaron Rosenberg

Disclaimer: We are not advising that you go to pirate media. Piracy is copyright infringement and is illegal. 

We’ve all seen a lot of anti-piracy campaigns, including the famous “you wouldn’t download a car” campaign (if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend looking at it before reading this for perspective But, according to Go-Gulf, 70% of internet users believe that there is nothing wrong with piracy, 22% of bandwidth is used for piracy worldwide, $12.5 billion of revenue were lost in the music industry due to piracy, and that 71,060 jobs were lost. These statistics were back in 2011, and may have changed a lot ever since streaming services like Netflix have increased in popularity. Movie studios, record companies, and software developers have paid for anti-piracy campaigns to air as commercials. For example,  the “You Wouldn’t Download a Car” campaign mentioned earlier, which used copyrighted music which the creators did not have the license to, which makes the credibility of the commercial questionable. All this effort is to spread awareness about the effects of it, but that is coming from the companies producing the content to make money off of it so of course they would be against it.

A lot of people stopped pirating movies and tv shows once Netflix came out with on demand streaming, where any movie you wanted was just a few clicks away. No need to drive to BlockBuster or a RedBox anymore. It’s a similar story with music, once Services like Spotify came out, music piracy went way down. The reason is it’s more convenient to pay $10 a month for any movie or song you want than to look for a site that has a movie or song, and dealing with all the pop up ads, and possibly getting a virus. But, a lot more movie and TV streaming services are popping up with their own exclusive content, and it is annoying when you want to watch something that’s exclusive to a streaming service you don’t have. If you subscribe to it, that’s about $10 more to your monthly streaming services cost (give or take, some cost different amounts). Then you want to watch another exclusive show and then have to spend more to watch it. It all piles up very quickly. As a result of all this, movie and TV piracy has spiked again, but music piracy has not. The reason for this is that most music services don’t have exclusive content, so no matter what you have, whether it’s Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Amazon Music, Napster (fun fact: Napster used to be a music piracy service before it switched to legal business practices after a lawsuit), Deezer, or Google Play Music, most of the songs you’re looking for are on there. 

Movie piracy spiked in popularity again because some people don’t want to support this practice for streaming services to have exclusive content, and others simply can’t afford it. That’s completely understandable, this business practice is annoying and as consumers, we would be much happier without it. A popular anime streaming service, Crunchyroll, launched a new service to help combat this. It’s goal is to be like Netflix for nerds, and the idea is if you can wear a shirt with a reference to something at a Comic, Anime, or Sci-Fi convention it belongs on VRV. This helps because VRV is actually a partnership between a bunch of streaming services, which currently include Crunchyroll (since they own the service), Boomerang, Cartoon Hangover, HiDive, Mondo, Nicksplat, Rooster Teeth, and a few extra things that aren’t on any of the previously mentioned, but the company believes it should be on their service. This changes from time to time if services don’t renew their contract. For example, Funimation and CuriosityStream used to be on it but the contract expired and wasn’t renewed. Even if you only use two of the services available on it, it’s a much better value to pay $10 a month for all of these, than two pay $5-$10 a month for even just two individually. If more streaming services did something like this, it would solve the problem and effectively cause less piracy.

Movies and music aren’t the only things getting pirated, games are commonly pirated as well. Unlike movies and music, games aren’t can’t be used with a subscription service as easily. Since they need to be saved offline, there’s not much to stop someone from simply backing up the game and canceling their service besides protections called Digital Rights Management, or DRM. That hasn’t stopped companies from trying. A common approach is cloud gaming, where the game is actually run on a server somewhere, and the display is shared to your screen and your input is sent to the remote server. Some examples of this are Sony’s Playstation Now, Nvidia’s GeForce Now, Google’s Stadia, and Microsoft’s upcoming project xCloud. However, with most of these, you need to already own the game and it is not provided with the service, so you’re pretty much just paying to play games on their servers. This still does allow people who can’t afford a good computer to play demanding games, but that doesn’t help with piracy. It’s possible they may be an alternative to buying games in the near future, but for now, it’s not really helpful. On top of that, this introduces latency, or a delay between input, and the response on the screen, which gives people a disadvantage in games such as Counter Strike: Global Offense. 

The game developer, Placeholder Gameworks, also realized that game piracy might be done to try the game before buying it, and had a really clever solution. They put up their game for free on popular torrent sites in the hopes of people who do this would get exposure to their game, and want to pay for it to support them, and buy their games in the future.

Other developers have realized this too. Someone on Quora asked, “I pirate games because I can’t afford them. I only play single player. Am I immoral?” A game developer replied with this: 

“As a developer, I get it. I used to do it too, because I love video games and I didn’t use to have a lot of money. I pay now, because it’s much easier thanks to services like Steam, and I can afford it. Yeah, it’s “wrong”, but I would rather you get to play something I made than not, regardless of how much you paid.

If you really want a game, keep the following in mind:

  • Don’t use grey-market key resellers like (Removed to avoid promoting them), just pirate it instead. I won’t go into the details, but the criminal activity that supports their sales hurts us; we often lose time and money on those sales.
  • Exposure has value. If you pirate a game and love it, please talk about it, upvote videos, tweet about it, leave a review, etc. All this helps, big time.
  • Pay attention to your country’s laws. The ethics of game piracy is debatable, the law is not.”

To recap, the developers would rather you get the exposure to your content, then buy it cheaper off a grey market reseller, or a website that sells keys to games that someone got and didn’t end up wanting, which might not seem that bad at first. However, it is not uncommon to find games that were bought with stolen credit cards on there, or games where someone found a way to generate valid keys, and are selling those keys. This can be more harmful than piracy, because that’s a sale the developer will never get. As of writing this, the only site that you can get keys for cheaper, and support the developer is Humble Bundle, which has sales all the time.

There’s plenty of reasons for piracy, but is it really worth it? Definitely not. A lot of people may say that it has some educational benefits. However, as one person who used to pirate in the past said, “The scene has taught me a few things related to file formats, tracker usage, and other piracy-specific knowledge. There is some educational benefit in the act of piracy, but I think the most knowledge you could gain is from the materials being pirated themselves.” In other words, the things he learned don’t really carry over to many other things.

The computer science teacher at New Berlin West, Mrs. Homay, says “I strongly recommend against piracy as not only can it hurt the entertainment and software industry, you are risking getting malware when you do it.” This is true, you don’t know what you are getting when you download from strange sites.

Nothing in life is free; usually, if you’re not paying for it, someone else is. The success of a product is determined based on how much money it makes. If it’s not profitable, they won’t make a sequel, or a second season, or push updates for the product. When something is pirated, it reduces the chances of it being considered a success. If enough people pirated the Frozen movie to the point where Disney did not make much of a profit, or even lost money, we would not have gotten a sequel.

Not only this, the team who made the content might not get a promotion, or even lose their job if they continuously release content that does not make a profit. They rely on that job to pay bills and feed their families.

The easiest way to help ensure a movie gets a sequel, a TV show gets a second season, or software to get regular updates is to simply buy it, or pay for a streaming service that has it. It’s not expensive to buy one movie or one season of a TV show. For software, there are some things that are extremely expensive and might not be worth paying for to some people. There are always alternatives, some of which can sometimes be better. If you need Photoshop, there are pretty good alternatives such as Krita (which is free). If you need Microsoft Office, there’s a ton of alternatives such as Google Docs, or LibreOffice.

As Mrs. Homay said, “if you are at the grocery store, and there are two options for something, one is more expensive, you don’t steal the more expensive one; you buy the cheaper one or go without it.” If you don’t think something is worth paying for, you can probably live without it. 

Piracy can be tempting, but it’s likely not worth the risk of malware, and the impact it has on the creator. If you don’t want to promote the business practices of some streaming service, ways you can help are by renting stuff from stuff like RedBox, and sometimes, you can check out movies and music from the Library. As for games, even if the developer would rather you pirate than buy off grey market sites, it still carries the risk of malware and can still hurt the developer.