The New York Times has an interesting piece about Hana Beshara, who ran pirate web site and chat community NinjaVideo from 2008 to 2010 until she was arrested and served 16 months in prison. Beshara still doesn’t believe she did anything wrong.
Her position isn’t exactly helped by the fact that the site made about $500,000, of which she kept nearly half, but Beshara said for her it was more about being part of the online community than about the money.
The story takes a reasonably balanced look at Internet piracy these days, mainly in terms of music and movies but it could apply just as well to e-books. It seems that piracy isn’t so much about just getting stuff for free anymore.
There is another obstacle to stopping illegal downloads, said Andre Swanston, the chief executive of Tru Optik, the media analytics firm. People want access to everything, anytime, and there is little to stop them from having it. “Even if you added Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, Sony Crackle and everything else combined, that is still less content available legally than illegally,” he said. “The popularity of piracy has nothing to do with cost — it is all about access.”
Complex exclusivity agreements between networks and streaming sites govern when popular television shows are available. But people are not always willing to hop among a streaming service, a site or an app to watch different shows. Mr. Swanston gave the example of how ABC in January started requiring people to verify that they had a cable subscription to watch its shows on Hulu. Users either didn’t have the necessary information or declined to go the extra step, it seems, because the rate of piracy for “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” a network drama, shot up 300 percent.
I can see where they’re coming from. I subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime (well, when I can afford to resubscribe to Prime again), but there’s still a lot more stuff I can’t watch than I can. Indeed, it’s possible the existence of these services may help promote piracy by putting customers in the mindset that they should be entitled to pay a monthly fee and then watch whatever they want for no additional charge. It’s not a matter of not wanting to spend money in my case—heck, I just dropped $50 on a USB TV tuner so I could watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. directly off the air instead of waiting until it shows up on Hulu the next morning—but what I want just isn’t available.
That’s something that studios, record labels, and publishers are going to have to grasp. If the customer wants something badly enough, they’ll feel entitled to take it. You might want to get out in front of them and that way at least you’ll make some money out of it.