Choosing Shoes or Subscriptions?

As featured on Forbes.

If you were to go looking for an international criminal who respects no borders, operates by stealth and takes what they want, it’s unlikely you’d look for them amongst the lifestyle threads of a parenting site.

But it’s not just toddler training tips or recipes being shared on these threads. Users, while enthusing over their new favourite TV show or film, will sometimes share links to illegal download sites. While we are living in what is currently acknowledged as the Golden Age of Television, it is also the age of austerity, and one of the many handy household budgeting tips on mainstream sites such as these is to ditch TV subscriptions along with the smashed avocado on toast. When piracy is presented in such a wink-wink, nudge-nudge context, it seems innocuous and if everybody else is doing it, then why can’t they?

Online piracy is like taking candy from a baby. Quite literally. In June 2019 alone, the Pokémon movie Detective Pikachu was illegally downloaded over 4 million times via the torrent network alone. In July 2019, How to Train your Dragon: The Hidden World had over 1.2 million torrent downloads and over 1.6 million people illegally downloaded Season Two of Big Little Lies in the same manner. It is also worth considering that torrenting only makes up around 10% of piracy activity.It would seem that a lot of modern day pirates are merely frazzled parents who wouldn’t dream of stealing their Friday night bottle of chilled Riesling from the grocery store but don’t want to pay the same amount to watch the latest TV phenomenon. And if taking a family of four out to the movies is an even more costly exercise, it’s not hard to see how the price conscious will plump for two or three small clicks and a night at home watching the latest family blockbuster.

Kids, mums, dads, grandparents: somebody you know as an upstanding citizen who pays their taxes on time, always takes their bins out and would never dodge the ticket inspector on a train, somebody wearing elasticated slacks and Birkenstocks – well they can be a pirate too. No eyepatch needed.

The global situation right now is fiscally precarious. As I write, oil prices have spiked 10% in light of attacks on Saudi oil-fields, Britain is running the Brexit gauntlet and the Amazon is still on fire. Growth is stagnant or contracting; pressure on wages is downward. Yet at the same time, every content provider is seeking to launch their product on their own exclusive platform, complete with a monthly subscription fee. What gives? The more platforms fragment, the more subscriptions necessary to experience content, the less cost effective it becomes and piracy increases.

So next time you picture a digital pirate as a spotty teenager in a hoodie illegally downloading The Fast and Furious 42, you’d do just as well to imagine a forty something Orange Is The New Black fan who spends her money on shoes instead of subscriptions.

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