Why is piracy still a thing? Wasn’t streaming supposed to stamp it out?

It’s never been easier or cheaper to get legal access to almost kind of media you want. Yet people continue to pirate stuff.

Let’s head to Hypebot and this story from New Zealand. Maybe there’s something we can glean for some new research. I quote:

“The research confirms something many internet pundits have long instinctively believed to be true: piracy isn’t driven by law-breakers, it’s driven by people who can’t easily or affordably get the content they want.

Same as it ever was, right?

Maintaining multiple subscriptions is getting expensive. People might want Netflix, maybe HBO Go, Hulu (at least in the US), Amazon Prime Video, and maybe some kind of cable package. The cost adds up real fast. Much cheaper to steal, right.

There is good news, though. With the ubiquity and cheapness of streaming music services–we have access to 50 million songs even with the free tier of Spotify–fewer and fewer people are bothering to pirate music anymore. Yes

But while music piracy is down from its peak in the 00s, it’s kinda like polio: beaten back but not quite eradicated. The biggest problem is stream-ripping, the process of using some kind of audio capture software to download audio from YouTube or a streaming music service. The music industry is dealing with multiple court cases with companies offering this software.

Still, seems like a lot of work even to rip a stream, doesn’t it?

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

6 thoughts on “Why is piracy still a thing? Wasn’t streaming supposed to stamp it out?

  • March 15, 2019 at 8:04 am

    Depending on your country it goes further than that. In Canada, the rate for data is so expensive that many people can’t afford a large data plan, not the streaming service. Yes, you can download the music before you go out, but who the hell ever thinks of that! If you already have a library of music it’s much more convenient to just own the music (borrow) and sync it to your mobile device.

    • March 15, 2019 at 11:12 am

      I disagree. If you can take the time to pirate music to have around all the time to listen to while out and about, it will take less time to put that same music onto a device thru a streaming service. Thus, this has nothing to do with data rates since you are always adding music while at home

  • March 15, 2019 at 2:01 pm

    As someone who has long had an affinity for UK and European artists, I can tell you why people still pirate… Availability. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to listen to one of my favorite bands and found the selection on Google & Spotify less than adequate.
    Simple fix, download what you want, add to your own library, problem fixed.

    Seeing as I had to pay $20-$30 for import CDs back in the day, the priblpr of worldwide distribution clearly has not gotten better. Until it does, piracy continues.

    • March 15, 2019 at 2:02 pm

      *the problem of worldwide distribution

  • March 17, 2019 at 1:07 pm

    Interesting post, but i must disagree with a basic point. Reproduction is not theft. I understand the need to protect artists and the industry that produces their art, but that doesn’t make the logic work. For instance. If I were to copy and paste your blog into my own blog, and claim that I wrote it, yea i’m definitely guilty of theft- but its not the words i stole, its the credit for being the one who wrote it i’ve stolen….Likewise if I download a “pirated” song, copied the file 1 million times onto my hard drive, it’d be pretty much nonsense to claim I’d just stolen 1 million things from someone. Credit can be stolen, ideas cannot, reproduction is not theft.

  • March 22, 2019 at 2:37 pm

    With respect to video piracy, I think there’s a few things that contribute. Selection, at least outside of the US, is still spotty. Canadians have long bemoaned how much more selection is available on the US site than on the Canadian site and there are many services that simply aren’t available to Canadians at all. More than once I’ve felt the frustration that comes from really wanting and trying to give a studio some money in exchange for a movie or TV show and being told “Sorry, that’s not allowed in your country”. When I have tried to give them my money, and they have refused it, I feel a lot less guilty about going out and pirating the content.

    Another factor that keeps video piracy alive is that the services are all proprietary and not every device supports every service. I have friends who pay for Amazon Prime, and yet still pirate Amazon Prime shows. Why? Because none of the devices they own support Prime video so the only way to actually get the content on their TV is to pirate it. Sure, they could buy a FireStick but the attitude is “I already own a Blu-ray player, a Chromecast, an Android TV box and a video game console. I’m not going to go out and purchase ANOTHER device just for Amazon Prime. I’ll just pirate the content that I have already paid for”.

    As for music piracy? I’m not sure. I find the streaming service I use so incredibly easy and useful that it’s only in rare situations, like hunting down obscure bootlegs, that I would ever bother to pirate music anymore.


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