Pirating TV Shows Is Never Excusable; Here's Why
Let's face facts: no one really wants to pay to watch their favorite shows, just like no one wants to pay for getting their car's oil changed or for their favorite jacket's dry cleaning. That doesn't make it right for people to go and floor their freshly lubed car out of the dealership or run out of the dry cleaners with a freshly ironed pea coat without paying.
Yet people pirate TV shows, movies, and music constantly on the internet. Television piracy on the internet has become so common, in fact, that nearly half of all US citizens pirate media, according to DailyTech. The trend is growing, too. Infringing bandwidth use rose 159.3 percent between 2010 and 2012, according to a study sited in Variety. Even with anti-piracy acts, like SOPA and PIPA in effect, the entertainment industry can do little to stem the overflow of free streaming and torrenting sites on the internet. As technology columnist Nick Bilton wrote in his article for The New York Times, banning piracy sites is a lot like playing an unwinnable game of Whac-A-Mole.
But it is the internet, which means that there are tons of people out there that are going to make pro-pirating arguments. Here are the seven most popular arguments I've encountered for piracy, and why they don't excuse it.
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1. It's Just Little Old Me. How Much Can One Download Do?
The Argument: I am just one illegal downloader who wants to watch a show, one tiny fragment of the entertainment industry's profits. It really doesn't matter if I download things once in a while.
The problem with this argument is that media piracy is so rampant nowadays that every little bit counts. It doesn't matter if it's your first time or your 15,000th, piracy is still illegal and still dips into the incomes of those who spent time, money, and their creative juices making the show for your viewing pleasure. Just as a baker deserves the profits of his cake, so the writers, producers, cameramen, and other cast and crew deserve their cut of the money from viewers like you. Take it from the cast of Game of Thrones, the most pirated show on the internet:
2. The Show I Want To Watch Isn't Available In My Country Yet.
The Argument: I live in a country where most of the shows I want to watch aren't available to in a timely manner or at all. We often have to wait months or years for shows. I pirate to keep up to date with the latest trends.
In some countries, shows are impossible to get without having to wait months or years to buy them legally. While this is a problem in the industry, it doesn't excuse pirating. If watching the show means that much to you, you can always write to a paid streaming service or petition to get them to expand the shows available in your area. Or, if you're that desperate for the show, it's very easy to get your hands on browser plugins that let you pretend you're in the US, says UK journalist Eric Daniels at PC Advisor. While this, too, isn't 100% legal, at least then the rightful profiteers will be getting their money.
3. The Show I Want Isn't Available On Netflix/Hulu Plus/Google Play.
The Argument: The show I want to watch came out last night on cable TV, but it won't be out for at least another month on Netflix/Hulu/my favorite streaming service. I want to keep up, so I need to watch it now. Pirating the show is my only option.
In all fairness, there's a reason networks premier their shows on cable TV rather than Netflix or Hulu: more money. While that's not always the fairest, the people involved with the show should still get the money they rightfully deserve. It won't kill your social life to wait an extra few weeks to see a show. Trust us; we waited over two years for the latest season of BBC's Sherlock.
4. I Don't Want To Wait An Extra Three Hours To Watch The New Episode Of My Show.
The Argument: I have cable TV, but waiting an extra three hours for the new episode of Game of Thrones to premiere on my side of the country is just too frustrating, especially when there are spoilers all over the internet. I'm supporting HBO enough by paying for it every month; I shouldn't have to wait.
While Game of Thrones certainly isn't going to stop running anytime soon, ratings are still important to all the shows on TV. When we watch shows illegally on the internet, it isn't counted in the ratings. For a show like Game of Thrones, millions of viewers aren't counted in the show's ratings because of illegal downloading, so the show could be undervalued ratings-wise. Why should this matter to you? Imagine that Game of Thrones was cancelled because too many people illegally downloaded it. It seems farfetched, but the incident almost happened before with the movie series Zombieland.
5. The Industry Is Corrupt; the Creators Behind The Show Don't Get The Money Anyway.
The Argument: The industry is so corrupt that the real people making the shows happen the writers, actors, and other cast and crew wouldn't get the money I would spend to watch the show anyway.
Admittedly, the system isn't ideal. Just like everywhere in life, the people that deserve the most money don't always get it. That doesn't stop you from paying your taxes to protest how little teachers are paid, does it? Pirating content just puts your favorite shows at risk of being cancelled. So, your favorite writers, actors, and crew members could be out of a job if there are not enough legal viewers.
6. A Lot Of The People Who Watch These Pirated Shows Wouldn't Watch Them If It Wasn't Free.
The Argument: I wouldn't watch this show if it wasn't free. The network is benefiting from my piracy because it's getting the word out about their show.
While there is some value to piracy in that it gets the word out about the show, ultimately, the most profits of a show come from the paid viewers. That's why networks often base their decisions on the ratings of shows. Sure, you might buy some merchandise to support the show or tell your friends, but the value comes mostly from paid viewers (and, really, if you're not going to pay to watch a show, will your friends want to pay either?).
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7. I Simply Don't Have The Money For Cable TV.
The Argument: I just don't have the money for a cable subscription.
Sure, you might not have the money required for a full out cable subscription, but there are alternatives, like Netflix, Hulu, Google Play, Amazon, and much more that will provide you with most of the same content, but for a cheaper price. Some money still goes to the networks, too, which means the show can go on.
No matter how you spin it, torrenting or otherwise pirating shows is illegal. The people that have worked for the money to produce this content aren't getting the money they deserve. The future of television depends on people legally watching shows.