Why young people pirate (Pssst: It's not just about money)

Why young people pirate (Pssst: It's not just about money)

Summary: Why do the younger generation and students pirate music, software and television and movies? Failing main street shops? Or plain old exploitation of weak systems? It's not all about the money.

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Piracy is rife among the Generation Y. With lawsuits threatening students to a disproportionate level and with media and record industries lobbying governments for a change in the law, there is no let up in sight for the piracy problem.

Could it be simply down to the lack of available regional content between the US and Europe? Could it even be down to retailers failing to grasp the online market where others succeed? Do we get a kick out of it and take advantage of insecure systems? Or really, is it just about the money?

After studying this subject for some time, and ethnographically examining the practices of students and young people alike, there are three areas to take into consideration:

  • Money is tight. Unless you get driven to college from your dorm room in a cedar chair, you will be like the rest of us and struggle with money. With our innate mentality for the value of culture, we see 'entertainment as free'.
  • The Internet is the be all and end all of every bit of content there is. If you want it, it will be out there. If you want to watch, listen to or play with something for your computer, you can bet your bottom dollar that someone else out there does too.
  • More often than not, it's simple, or there's a thrill in the chase. It boils down to simplicity of the search and the ease of access to downloadable content. If a system has been exploited, the temptation to take advantage, carte blanche is perceived.

It would be a lie to say that money was not a significant factor for younger people and students alike. But to collate and understand why young people pirate boils down to one easy summarising statement.

The legal options are not as readily available, simple enough nor consistent enough to access. It really is as simple as that.

But there is method to this perceived madness »

Television is perhaps one of the most pirated and easily available content to download illegally within the Generation Y age range. On this side of the pond, European citizens do not get to see the television on offer in the United States because of the lack of availability.

Cable television in England is almost non-existent compared to our US counterparts. Though cable is widely inaccessible, satellite broadcaster Sky takes the vast majority of subscription television viewers. While the digital switchover from analogue television is still underway, Sky still offers premium television often broadcast at the same time as, or within a few days of US broadcasters.

In essence, you can watch popular US television programming if you have a subscription to a premium broadcaster and have satellite hardware on your roof.

Student households will rarely be permitted to install a satellite dish on the roof, let alone be able to afford the investment. Students often move houses each academic year making this rarely a viable option.

US students have the option to watch television on-demand online, even without a cable subscription. This is wholly dependent, however. On-demand television is widely available from individual broadcasters, but in short, the best crime fighting, ninja busting, heart-racing television comes straight from the States.

Either young people and students have to resort to a premium satellite subscription costing hundreds of pounds throughout the year, or download illegally file hosting websites or torrents.

What would you rather watch: a British period drama with jaunty little bonnets, or an American high octane drama with Kiefer Sutherland ripping the face off a terrorist?

Music retailers struggling with 'iTunes generation' »

In the music sphere, Spotify has revolutionised music for the Generation Y. By allowing users to stream music with subsidised advertising, music becomes on-demand through a recognisable iTunes-like interface. It gives the option for allowing younger people to reduce illegally downloading music by streaming instead of downloading each track.

But the main street is suffering with the wide availability of on-demand and downloadable music.

HMV, the flagship store for many main streets, announced the closure of dozens of stores in the UK because of poor sales and a massive plunge in shares. For many consumers, the simplicity of downloading via iTunes and the diversity of technological advancements caused the move away from the in-shop experience.

The fact of the matter is that students and young people aren't shopping in stores anymore. The option of piracy or legally downloading music, films and television through iTunes is more popular than ever.

The music industry has failed to engage with their market audience by not taking advantage of these particular technologies. Music downloads cannot compensate for the shortcomings in the shop-bought record market.

HMV and other online retailers are struggling to compete with iTunes as one of, if not the primary source for obtaining legally bought music for the Generation Y. But whether iTunes should act as a conduit for online retailers or as a directory for artists directly is arguable.

Online music retailers can't compete with iTunes. Whether iTunes helped kill HMV again remains to be proven. But even if music is available directly from the web without passing through iTunes, the consistency for one-click purchasing is tacit at best.

Do young'uns simply take advantage of flawed design? »

Copyright laws are still out of date. The hair is falling out and the children are trying to change the will. The existing laws do not prevent piracy, they only punish on the rare occasion someone can be convicted.

The recent Mac App Store disaster kicked off a wave of embarrassment for Apple, where the new software center was cracked within 24 hours of it being available. This allows users to easily download applications from torrent sites to then 'convert' them to premium and paid-for applications by exploiting a receipting exploit.

Who wouldn't want to take advantage of that? It really is a simple as being asked to not take the $10,000 cash that is sitting comfortably on top of a safe while the CCTV is down for scheduled maintenance. If you could guarantee you wouldn't be caught, you might even take that Ferarri parked outside.

There are no right or wrong answers to solve the problem. Discussing them is frankly a moot point. I'm not even trying nor going to suggest how to solve the problem, as this post is to explain why, but not to justify or condone the actions of those who do pirate.

But one thing is clear: take the abolitionists' approach. Like drugs or prostitution, the answer to solving the problem of piracy falls to a Boolean value. Either criminalise and do it well, or decriminalise and lose a legitimate industry.

Topics: Browser, Enterprise Software, Piracy, Security

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  • RE: Why young people pirate (Pssst: It's not just about money)

    Sometimes things just aren't available through retail channels (at least not with a sane price). Take "That's What You Get Babe", one of Kevin Ayers' subpar 80s albums. On Amazon.com, the cheapest copy is 75USD...used! And that's not really an isolated example. Lot's of obscure music is really only available at such outrageous prices...or for illegal download.
    christopherborne9
    • RE: Why young people pirate (Pssst: It's not just about money)

      @christopherborne@...
      When young I could never have afforded all the games I had (only few I bought), nor the tools. Because of that it was not really a loss for anyone that I copied DooM 2 (RAR package splitted on fourteen (14) 1.44MB disks) - quite the opposite as later (in the late 90's) I bought a box with the whole series (obviously not counting DooM 3, which I don't count as real sequel anyway).
      And as far as the tools go, have my father not got copies of Turbo Pascal 4, then 5 and 6 and Turbo C/C++ (16-bit for DOS) I don't think I had never become a programmer - though I later got DJGPP 32-bit C/C++ compiler for DOS, but at that point I don't think I would have felt enthuasiastic (or even understood what it was) to download it - pirated development tools are what I learned little more than beginnings of the art of programming in early teenage and might even have made me later buy stuff like Visual C/C++, etc. (but I moved to Linux, use C/C++ sometimes but Perl for cross-platform development).

      Anyway, I now pay for commercial games - a friend who did not pirate games when he was a kid too poor to buy ones does now not understand computer gaming. And I pay for tools - except if a free (as in beer) is available, though more important than free as in beer is free as in speech - even if I have to pay for it (which I have done, ie. with Cedega in the past).

      Finally, this is not to say that piracy as kid is a way to grow into paying adult - IMHO anyone can pirate the stuff they want (for personal use anyway), I don't view it as such bad thing and most certainly do not consider it same as theft (feels dumb to even write it).
      robsku
      • Your sense of entitlement is sickening.

        @robsku

        <i>Because of that it was not really a loss for anyone that I copied DooM 2.</i>

        It was a loss for id Software, because they developed the game, and you enjoyed the fruits of their labor without paying them.

        What makes you think you have the right to play a game or listen to a song simply because it exists and you want to? Who the f--k do you think you are?
        RationalGuy
        • Your sense of self-righteousness is sickening

          @rationalGuy
          Id software only lost a few dollars that they weren't getting anyways. You're implying that they shouldn't get any money because anybody who can't afford something is unworthy.
          GeneriAccoun
      • RE: Why young people pirate (Pssst: It's not just about money)

        @RationalGuy
        How many Ferraris did these ID guys buy with all this pirating going on? I remember the Yellow Testorossa parked at CDWarehouse for the Fragfest Quake Beta showcase and the daily blog with frequent F40 runnings at the track. Would you make someone bring their copy of Madden over to your house to play since you don't want them to use yours? Put in earplugs as you drive them to their AA meeting because they didn't pay for the CD you are listening to? What about try before you buy? You ever bought anything that you wished you'd have not wasted your money on? ...
        It's called subsidizing. The reason games were so expensive back then and today for that matter was that they wanted to make up for the loss to piracy. If people didn't pirate, then the people that buy it would be paying too much. And you would still be B---chin and complaining about something else.
        dbisse
      • And when you learn to code like John Carmack ...

        @dbisse

        ... you might earn having a Ferrari, too. Until then, quit whining and do something constructive.
        RationalGuy
    • So what?

      @christopherborne@...

      If the price is too high for you, don't listen to it. You have no right to listen to it.

      If it's such a subpar album, why do you care how much it costs? Why do you want to listen to it at all?
      RationalGuy
      • RE: Why young people pirate (Pssst: It's not just about money)

        @RationalGuy , you wrote:"@robsku

        Because of that it was not really a loss for anyone that I copied DooM 2.

        It was a loss for id Software, because they developed the game, and you enjoyed the fruits of their labor without paying them."

        His point is that Id lost no money due to his piracy 'cause he didn't have the money to buy the game. You, of course, didn't bother to think about that--too busy being Mister Self-Righteous.

        Tell us: do you ever go through yellow lights, or drive over the speed limit? Hmmmmm? Don't throw stones.
        dennyw
      • RE: Why young people pirate (Pssst: It's not just about money)

        @dennyw

        <i>His point is that Id lost no money due to his piracy 'cause he didn't have the money to buy the game. You, of course, didn't bother to think about that--too busy being Mister Self-Righteous.</i>

        No, they lost the money that they were entitled to get in return for him playing the game. You didn't think about that, because you believe everyone has an inherent right to consume everything that exists simply because they want to. Realizing how f--ked up that is is not being self-righteous. It's respecting people who are actually creative.

        <i>Tell us: do you ever go through yellow lights, or drive over the speed limit? Hmmmmm? Don't throw stones.</i>

        I go through yellow lights when it's not safe to stop. That's the law. I also stop at yellow lights, which most people don't. Most people treat yellow lights as, "hit the gas and blow through it." I don't do that.

        Lots of people drive up the shoulder of the road or try to squeeze in at the head of a traffic jam, rather than wait in line like everyone else. These people are obsessed with finding little ways to game the system or steal little advantages from people. They just serve to make the world a crappy place to live. That's not my style.

        I also don't drive over the speed limit, unless I'm passing someone or another situation where going a little faster is actually safer than going slower. I usually don't drive under the speed limit either. That's what cruise control is for -- to stay at a constant speed.
        RationalGuy
      • RE: Why young people pirate (Pssst: It's not just about money)

        @RationalGuy - Oh brother! Are you a self-righteous pomp ass. You must be a Republican Baptist or a Catholic!
        The Danger is Microsoft
    • RE: Why young people pirate (Pssst: It's not just about money)

      @christopherborne@... "What would you rather watch:"
      "a British period drama with jaunty little bonnets,
      or an American high octane drama with Kiefer Sutherland ripping the face off a terrorist?"
      Actually, I am all for British period drama rather than almost anything on US cable channels. What I don't understand is why, with 100+ channels, there isn't one channel for 'the rest of us.' A&E went the way of Dog, the Bounty Hunter and PBS parses out shows like Oliver Twist's poorhouse. Even BBCA dropped almost all dramas in favor of Gordon Ramsey's hissy fits.
      The difference now is that Internet informs me about what's on offer in the UK, on offer in a On-Demand-type scheme--but limited to UK IP addresses. I'd gladly hand over a license fee to access BBC & ITV programming--Comcast gets way more $$$ out of me.
      I am not advocating illegal access, I am noting that the Internet shines a light on the feast and thus shines a light on a "target."
      I predict pirating will continue until its easier/cheaper to access content legally.
      PS I like Amazon better than iTunes.
      d.j.elliott@...
    • Yeah, I agree...

      @christopherborne@... Having never seen Tron I wanted to see the original but the stupid Asses that make up Disney didn't think about capitalizing on sales or rentals... Nope, they put it in moratorium when the new movie was about to release... So, I could either pay $100 for a movie I would probably watch once (the original is not worth $100 in my opinion) or I could find the movie through a torrent, watch it and delete it...<br><br>Can you guess which option I went with?
      slickjim
      • Or you could have not watched it ...

        @Peter Perry

        ... but you wanted to see it, and what you want is the most important thing in the world.
        RationalGuy
      • RE: Why young people pirate (Pssst: It's not just about money)

        @RationalGuy - And what you want means nothing to anyone but you. Get over it loser!
        The Danger is Microsoft
      • RE: Why young people pirate (Pssst: It's not just about money)

        @Irrational Guy yes I wanted to see it before seeing the sequel, you cannot possibly argue for Disney in this case because it simply does not make sense to pull this movie when you announce a sequel! Nobody does that asshat and yet Disney thought it was a good idea! <br><br>Think about this, what makes more sense... True grit was 2 weeks from release but the studios worked with rental houses to rent the original to people...<br><br>Disney announces the sequel to Tron and immediately puts a moratorium on the original... <br><br>Which one do you think worked out better. Seriously, you release a sequel and refuse to let people who havent seen the origional watch it.
        slickjim
  • Why young people kill

    Probally for all the same reasons you mentioned.
    AllKnowingAllSeeing
    • RE: Why young people pirate (Pssst: It's not just about money)

      @AllKnowingAllSeeing It is not necessarily mutually exclusive to young people - old people alike, too. However, this column obviously focuses on the views of the Generation Y.
      zwhittaker
      • RE: Why young people pirate (Pssst: It's not just about money)

        @zwhittaker -

        Isn't it more like "generation i"? That *is*, after all is said and done, the general attitude of my nieces...
        PollyProteus
    • RE: Why young people pirate (Pssst: It's not just about money)

      @AllKnowingAllSeeing, WTF? Yeah because there is obviously no difference in the minds of young people between killing someone and stealing something they probably wouldn't buy if they couldn't steal it.
      pitdroidtech
  • RE: Why young people pirate (Pssst: It's not just about money)

    95% of the music that i listen to is not available in Romania. The only way for me to get some music is by using bittorrent. And if a new album finds its way in a retail store, it's usually after a few months from its release. So i basically download music for free but i buy tickets for concerts if bands play somewhere near.
    d.marcu