Unless someone makes a very bold move, there is no reason to think that various forms of digital piracy will continue to grow in 2009.
This will be in the face of increased government scrutiny and bolder attempts by groups like RIAA to shut it all down.
Why? Because the powers behind all big media continues to think that they can somehow beat back the digital tide and continue to make money with business models that have become obsolete.
Take this comment from a recent post on BusinessWeek:
The basic problem is that Hollywood is attempting to preserve an analog business model in a digital age. The result is a crazy quilt of availability in different media, in different geographies, and at different times. Our Man in Havana turns up now and then on cable channels, and the DVD has been available from Sony in Britain since 2005. But that disk is coded so it only works in European “Zone 2” players, not in North America. All of this makes little sense in a world where digital copies, legal or otherwise, are freely available.
If you doubt that, just try Googling (GOOG) “unlocked DVD players” and see how easy it is to get around the geographic zone restrictions. Or simply download a copy of the movie using BitTorrent, as I did. I don’t want to condone piracy. Yet it’s hard to condemn—or resist—when there’s a commodity item out there on the market and the vendor, for no particular reason, neglects to make it available to buyers.
The major sports leagues are facing a similar challenge. As a first-person example, last night I was at my girlfriend’s TV & cable-free apartment and wanted to see a bit of the NFL playoff game. I went to Google and tried looking up “streaming NFL playoff.” A got a whole slew of options, none of which were official options provided by the NFL.
What I found was a site with links to “pirate” streams of the game provided by fellow fans who had taken the TV signal, routed it through their computer via a TV-tuner card and then posted that signal to any number of streaming hosts (UStream was last night’s helpful friend).
Within about 60 seconds I was watching a sort of low-res but completely watchable live transmission of the game. I was also forced to watch all the ads, so I’m not even sure how this hurts anyone… but the NFL considers this a huge problem.
Of course, the problem isn’t pirates, it’s that the NFL (and MLB, the NHL and the rest of them) have failed to provide a viable option of their own that fits the needs of many potential customers.
How about simply charging $.99 to watch a game online. With the commercials, even. I would pay that just to have a simple, high-res, on-demand stream of the game I want to see.
It isn’t that people are dying to use pirate-methods to get the content they desire. They are just not willing to jump through endless hoops and be over-charged for that content.
As soon as big media wises up to this and decides to go back to treating customers as people they serve instead of people they sue they will put the pirates right out of business.