Will Game of Thrones help us slay the dragon called piracy?
Unless you have been living under a rock for the last couple of weeks, or had no internet connection, you could not have missed it: the new season of Game of Thrones has started with a bang. The second episode of the fourth season left us with a shocker, and also led to a piracy record: 1.25 million people downloaded the episode illegally within a day after airing. The Netherlands were included in the list of countries that most acquired the episode. With the risk of being fined by Brein, let me say that I may or may not have been one of the people that stepped out of the bounds of the law to watch the royal wedding (and, boy, was it awesome).
Though this system of illegally downloading movies, series and music has worked for me since I can remember, I would like to ask HBO and all other creators: please allow me to pay for your beautiful made, jaw dropping awe-inspiring creative works. I want to, really.
I started downloading media, because I found it idiotic to wait and watch episodes on tv that had aired in the US two years before. I also downloaded music because I could not afford the double CDs I liked, and who wanted to bother with ripping CDs into MP3s anyway? I had an iPod to fill. I did not think I would ever buy another album, but starting January I paid for my music again. Why? I found a way that was even easier than downloading – I got Spotify. For a lousy €10 a month I can now legally enjoy almost all the music I want without commercials.
With the recent Court of European Justice decision to deem downloading from an illegal source illegal (yes, it was considered legal up to that point in the Netherlands to make a ‘home copy’), I reconsidered my downloading of movies and shows. Should I stop? I can afford to pay for my desired media now – why do I still do it? The reason is pretty simple and more importantly fixable: because it is the easiest way to go.
I can get the new Game of Thrones episode within 5 minutes from an illegal source. Since I do not own a television – how else am I going to watch it? Get a tv, a paid cable plan, and then pay even more for HBO? No. Creators: make my life easier and allow me to pay either per episode like Blendle does with newspapers, or via a flat fee like Spotify. I will pay for this type of streaming service because it saves me the trouble finding a torrent and opening a separate program that allows me to download it.
This type of service will need a lot of cooperation between networks (because you want all content – not just what the Dutch Netflix offers), cooperation between rights holders and makers, let alone solve a lot of cross-border copyright issues between Europe and the United States. Of course a viable business model needs to be developed. But in the end, how many of those 1.25 million downloaders would have paid a flat fee of €10 a month to watch their favorite show the second it aired? And that is just one show, and one episode.
Is it not reasonable to give consumers a modern way of buying products, instead of criminalising people for wanting content? Short of creating worldwide bans on many websites or arresting a big part of the population, there is nothing legislators and rights holders can do to stop piracy. So stop trying to destroy something, and start building something. Put me down for a lifelong subscription. Because I want to know what happens to Daenerys Targaryen and I am willing to pay for it.