The Benefits of Piracy… for the Author

After our reading in English 340 about how, in a sense, most mediums for sharing media have been founded on piracy, I checked out what the biggest form of piracy is today.

Today, piracy via the internet is commonly used to attain copies of TV shows like HBO’s Game of Thrones, the most-pirated show last year. Besides being a well-received show, the reason for this is likely its availability (or lack of availability, rather). Many TV show episodes are available to watch the day after they are first broadcast with:

  • On Demand cable services (accessed with a paid subscription)
  • through online services like iTunes or Amazon Prime (pay per episode or per season)
  • On the broadcasters’ websites (paid for by advertisers or TV licence payers).

If you want to watch an HBO show, however, you can pay for an upgraded cable subscription or the streaming service HBO GO. If you want to just watch Game of Thrones and not pay for a huge package of other shows along with it, you can wait for the DVD release… or illegally download the show, as was done over 8 million times last year.  In 2013, on average, the number of illegal download views for Game of Thrones exceeded the number of its legal TV views. HBO is clearly being robbed of their potential earnings, right?

No, they’ve actually taken no financial hit, and the TV viewership for Game of Thrones has actually increased with each season.

“How can this be?”
“You guys pirated my show? Aw, shucks! You’re making me blush!”

I probably shouldn’t be saying this, but it is a compliment of sorts,” HBO programming president Michael Lombardo tells Entertainment Weekly.  He goes on to say that Game of Thrones is HBO’s top-earning show and its most-pirated show.  David Petrarca, a director who works on the series, echoed Lombardo’s comments, explaining that good TV shows become popular by being discussed and shared with friends.  I think the news stories about the Game of Thrones being pirated only increase the public’s awareness of the series, and being a popular show through any measure is positive press.

Piracy seems to have helped the show’s success and HBO has not announced an option for viewers to pay for the show by itself before DVD release, but HBO is working on making the show more easily available to viewers worldwide.

“Free sample, my lady?  One taste, and you’ll want to sign up for HBO GO— I mean buy a whole cask. It’s an analogy.”

This may not lessen piracy all that much, though.  Not too far behind Game of Thrones in the list of most pirated episodes from last year is The Big Bang Theory, which airs on CBS, free to Americans.  I think the reason piracy is a popular alternative to live television is because people just don’t like to pay for things.  While illegal, piracy acts as an illegal free sample for consumers of art and literature, which may encourage them to buy DVDs or online subscriptions for what they’ve sampled.
More on that in my next blog post

6 Replies to “The Benefits of Piracy… for the Author”

  1. I think this is a pretty interesting post since Game of Thrones has been really popular in the media for the last couple of years. Since the show is often very shocking and character deaths are expected, people often get into arguments over the availability of spoilers. I believe that this show has been pirated more than most since people do not want to risk hearing spoilers while waiting for a payable copy of the episode to come out. It is also pretty amusing to see the interactions between people who have seen the show only versus the people who have also read the books. The article below is an example of how many people are afraid of hearing spoilers of the show and how a teacher who has read the books can benefit from this.

  2. I can definitely relate to this post because I found myself Googling ways of pirating Game of Thrones just last week. Personally, even though I am aware that it is a crime, I think having a heavily-pirated show such as Game of Thrones is somewhat of a compliment as well. I am not that savvy when it comes to programs such as uTorrent (it ended up making my computer extremely slow, forcing me to uninstall the software), so I gave up my search for Game of Thrones. I am an avid Netflix watcher though (mostly because I use my sister’s account). The fact that Game of Thrones isn’t on Netflix is probably one of the main reasons why it is one of the most pirated shows today. We can only hope that someday Game of Thrones will be available on Netflix, or an easier and less costly way of watching TV shows right after they are aired is created.

    1. Victoria, your argument about piracy–that whether or not it should be excused, it happens because media distribution companies can’t keep up with the public and their methods of accessing content–is a classic one. It is also one with which I wholeheartedly agree. I used to pirate music, but I haven’t in a long time because iTunes is so convenient (if, admittedly, way too dangerously connected to my checking account). I think Netflix has been so successful precisely because they hit a business model that is inexpensive and works for people who want their content instantaneously (that is, when they aren’t pissing off Spongebob fans by failing to reconcile with Viacom…). HBO has capitalized on this shift towards on demand streaming with Go, but unfortunately doesn’t offer its service to anyone who doesn’t already subscribe to HBO on cable. I for one don’t own a TV–and I’m not sure plan on it either–but I am perfectly happy to use my father’s password in the mean time (something that HBO’s CEO has said he doesn’t mind because to him it’s a “marketing vehicle”).

      Sidenote to Charles: what an awesome use of screenshots and captions!

      1. Thanks!
        I read that surveys show not much more than 5% of TV viewers use the internet as their primary source for TV shows. 95% of people still watch TV on TV. Probably a reason why HBO is in no hurry to change their distribution methods anytime soon. I think the 5% of online TV viewers to steadily increase in the coming years, though.

    2. I think availability is definitely a factor.
      Also, it’s probably a common mistake to leave µTorrent running because it doesn’t actually close once you’ve closed the window for it. After you close the window, µTorrent’s still technically running unseen (and, if you didn’t remove the torrent file from the queue, it’s also sending out information to help other people download). That would definitely make your internet seem slower that normal if you accidentally left it running. You’d have to find it in the bottom right section of the taskbar (sometimes under “Hidden Icons”), right click, hit exit, and confirm the exit to truly stop it. On top of that, my roommates have told me that SUNY Geneseo’s internet service does not allow torrenting because it supposedly causes network issues of some kind.
      I’d also like to take the opportunity to add that I’m guiding people on how to break a law. Torrent programs are not illegal, but they can obviously be used for piracy if copyrighted content is being shared without permission.

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