How I became an internet pirate

How I became an internet pirate

Summary: If the entertainment industry actually provided legal avenues for timely movie distribution in countries other than the US, would piracy be a problem?

TOPICS: Piracy, New Zealand

I interviewed the boss of the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ) last week.

He told me that piracy is a far greater problem now than it ever was in the home taping days of my youth, because today's copies can be of excellent quality.

But how much of this problem is due to the entertainment industry itself?

Paul Brislen of the Telecom Users Association of New Zealand would often lament that the country is often kept waiting for the latest US movies and TV programs, and that the only way to watch some programs, at least within a sufficiently short period, is to download them unlawfully.

This was a factor in one of our networks launching FastFour, a collection of US programs that are aired over here within hours or days of their first appearance in the US.

Now, a mate and I wanted to watch a certain niche movie that was released last year, but which has seemingly never arrived on our shores, neither to television, the cinema, nor the DVD store.

I looked around online for it, and it appeared as though the DVD itself is only available in the US and Canada.

I looked on eBay, and the only copies of the movie I came across would only work in the US and Canada. iTunes wouldn't let me download it because of my New Zealand location. Netflix doesn't operate in New Zealand, either. Quickflix, which does actually operate in New Zealand, does not stock the film.

The only websites that might have been fully legitimate were outfits that I had never heard of, and I wasn't going to trust my credit card details with them. Furthermore, they tend to offer monthly subscriptions, which is costly when we just wanted to watch the one film.

I eventually found a website that allowed me to download the movie for free. As far as I know, I have picked up no viruses (thanks to Norton), but an irritating "" now seems to be my main search engine in place of Google.

We saw the movie last night, and, connected to the television, the picture quality was fine and so was the sound, thanks to using extra speakers.

Anyway, the delicious irony is that the movie we watched was a modern-day retelling of Atlas Shrugged from the libertarian Ayn Rand. You just might expect the producers of such a defence of free-market capitalism would be business-savvy enough to make it easier for their work to be purchased lawfully outside the US.

Now, part two of the movie has just hit the US theatres, and my mate and I are keen to watch that, too. We would like to watch it legally, somehow. But if they are to stamp out copyright abuses, big Hollywood and the entertainment industry must work together to ensure that they move with the times, and that their markets are satisfied or catered for, otherwise they have a problem that their own neglect has created for themselves.

Topics: Piracy, New Zealand

Darren Greenwood

About Darren Greenwood

Darren Greenwood has been in journalism, not all of it IT, since the days of typewriters and long before the web spun its way around the world.

Coming from Yorkshire, he can be blunt, and though having resided in New Zealand, as well as Australia, for quite some time, he insists he is not one of the 'sheeple!'

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  • let us access the content

    I would love to have things legitimately but us studios etc do not seem to want anyone outside the us to get most tv series or at least in a timely fashion. As someone in the uk that thoroughly enjoys things like true blood, how I met your mother etc, I do not want to be forced to wait 6 months to see what my family In the us gets immediately. I want to access new (and old) episodes ASAP ideally on demand for a reasonable fee. Netflix shows superb promise and value but even that is not a patch on the USA version. I know I can fool it with proxys but I shouldn't have to. If they want to stop piracy, allow access.
  • Amazon has it, in DVD and BluRay

    Certainly, you'll need a multizone player, but that isn't a big deal. If you ordered it Monday, it'd be here by Friday.
  • not really piracy

    If it is in fact unavailable in Australia, whether temporary or permanent, it is legal to acquire a copy online. EZTV is great for getting TV shows that have aired in the US but not in Australia or elsewhere. The catch is that you'Re not supposed to keep the file after it is available.
    Thomas Simmons
  • The cloud presents a problem here.

    As in the old vinyl days when one used to make a tape and store the vinyl as the "master" and wear out the tape, then make a new one etc., I do the same with my DVDs. If I were to store a season of "Love Stinks" on a Google-drive, would I get in trouble every time I downloaded an episode to watch?
  • It is even worse in some countries

    People who buy legal movies, find themselves to be forced to watch ads that cant even be turned off! Pay money to watch ads? When you can get the movie free and adless? Guess their further choice.
  • Not there yet..

    Hollywood/Studios are waving their hands around telling people that it is illegal to download the content, yet they have not yet created a viable legal solution to doing so imo. The old model is no longer working and is costing them money, perhaps they should be spending money on creating a viable legal method /and promoting it than prosecuting people for downloading illegally.

    Some offers are getting close (Like iTunes & Netflix) but there is still some ways to go.
  • A couple of things

    First, it was bugging me from the second I read it: Norton couldn't pick up a virus if you slapped it in the face with one. Obviously something is on your computer if its changing your search engine preferences.

    Back to the main point of the article, I fully agree with you. I'm a US resident and even I find myself pirating occasionally because I cannot find the media I want in a medium that I can use. It takes months for mainstream movies to hit DVD, and longer to go digital. When they finally do, they try and charge the same amount per movie as they did when you bought a DVD at the store, despite how there is significantly less difficulty and fees associated with providing content in a digital format. Piracy is, for the most part, created by the big associations (MPAA & RIAA) who want to squeeze every cent out of the consumer that they can. It's not wrong to want a big profit, but in a world where information and content flow more freely than any other resource, those big price tags come at a cost.
  • The only way to combat piracy...

    The only way to combat piracy is to offer a better service than the pirates.

    Option 1 (legal): wait six months for the DVD to be available in your country, then visit a store, purchase the movie/tv show (plus box and a bunch of extras and adverts you didn't want) for $30, then go home and put the DVD into your DVD player (again, an added expense when you could just play it on your computer).

    Option 2(illegal): Download the movie/tv show for free the instant it becomes available and have it ready to watch in an hour or less. Take risk of possible viruses, poor quality etc.

    If I could have access to a high-quality movie with a powerful server backing it up so that download times are minimal, of course I'd pay money. But don't expect me to do something the way we did 20 years ago when technology can make it faster and more accessible.
  • Problem.. Define "Problem"

    Some people will still download the pirated version, but those tend to be people who would never have spent actual money on content; never have and never will. They would never be a paying customer. If not watching the pirated movie they'd do something else.

    Does that make it okay, no that does not make it okay. However it is also quite silly to add this downloaded copy to some imaginary sum of money running in the gazillions of dollars of revenue 'missed'. Especially for TV shows and movies that sooner or later make it to free over the air TV, which is pretty much all of them.

    Overall, yes it needs to be easy enough and (more importantly) cheap enough. I bought a phone for my daughter recently, one of those Nokia things aimed at third world (err "emerging") markets. Games are super easy to download, there is a 60 day 'download whatever you want for free' to get people comfortable with their app store, and prices are reasonable; about a dollar (US) for most things. (This might still fail due to people needing some form of non-physical payment like a credit card or pay pal.) but other than that, that is the way to go. (It's a brilliant phone by the way, Nokia Asha 309. Surprised how smooth it is (capacitive touch screen) and how super easy it is to use. Perfect kids phone)
    Han CNX
    • Except

      recent reports suggest pirates spend as much if not more on legal copies. It's not unknown for someone to trial music or a film early by download then follow up with a legal copy when officially released.

      Either way, make legal copies cheaper and you'll cut down on piracy. How do I pay the same for digital downloads when there's no logistics, materials, retailer profit/shelf space to pay for? Oh right, of course, the studio makes the savings and not the consumer. Hmmm, yeah, I'm on the side of the big studios when they treat people like that.
      Little Old Man
  • You are not a pirate...

    You are a downloader. Pirates are uploaders.