Fans eagerly anticipated the fifth season of Game of Thrones. In fact, it was so anticipated, someone leaked the DVD screener containing the first four episodes online before HBO’s season premiere on April 12, 2015.
HBO has responded by sending angry letters to ISP’s, snitching on user’s IP’s who downloaded the files. Who’s to blame in this scenario, though?
It was clearly a media screener that leaked, and the screener being made available to the media in the first place only increases an entertainment industry monopoly, as small sites struggle to compete in a time-sensitive news environment. Why is information never free?
Would you still enjoy The Avengers: Age of Ultron if you got to see how it’s being made? One industry argument against online piracy is the anticipation and buzz sells the movie. But how does piracy not build a buzz?
The Battle of Digital Piracy
This is hardly the first time a series was leaked. Last fall, Key & Peele suffered web leaks of new episodes weeks prior to airing on Comedy Central. Neither GoT nor K&P seem to be suffering in popularity due to the leaks. In fact, both are among the most popular television shows by any standards.
Like Eminem, N’Sync, and Britney Spears broke Billboard and Soundscan records in the midst of the music industry’s battle against Napster, this avenue of (albeit unintentionally) allowing fans to watch these shows for free only increases the Internet fandom, which, in turn, raises the overall brand profile.
It wasn’t until nearly a decade after the proliferation of online piracy that Steve Jobs was able to finally steer the music industry to a new direction with iTunes. This path later led to SoundCloud, Spotify, Pandora, and all the streaming music services we now enjoy.
Apps and Movies and Games, Oh My!
It’s not just music and movies – if not for piracy, we’d still be buying apps, games, and everything else on physical disks that support used media retail stores like GameStop and FYE. In fact, suing a fan simply for downloading a readily available episode of Game of Thrones isn’t akin to arresting a shoplifter attempting to steal a copy from Best Buy – it’s more like arresting a customer who bought a used copy at Bookman’s.
If you’re not being tackled and tazed for purchasing a used DVD from a private seller on EBay or at a garage sale, why are you at risk for clicking a link on the wrong domain name?
Some analysts believe the move by HBO to target downloaders instead of leakers signals a new battle in the war of digital piracy, but it’s nothing new. As described in my Huffington Post article on piracy, Hollywood studios have been sending these notices to ISP’s at least as far back as the 6th Harry Potter movie. Prior to that, they were only tracking you to the level of your Internet portal.
Of course that was before 9/11 gave the government god-like monitoring powers…
The Future of Piracy
What lies ahead in piracy is actually more of a cyclical movement than forward. Software giants like Google, Microsoft, and Adobe are relying on cloud-based subscription services to combat piracy of their software. Stockpiling old versions of Acrobat, Dreamweaver, and Office will allow you to maintain functionality while you wait for new services to fill in the gaps left open by these money-hungry mega-corps.
Services like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime are trying to lock down digital movies, while YouTube, Vimeo, and other services try to maintain artistic intellectual property. Meanwhile EZTV and ThePirateBay are weathering heavy fire from .gov trolls.
Content creators and providers are at war, as cable-cutters, Internet stars, and 1337 hax0rs disrupt the industry.
At the end of the day, movies, television, music, software, games, and media make a lot of money. These companies aren’t trying to lose any market share to each other or to you. While pirates continue testing boundaries, expect to see the industry further crack down, attempting to set an example so the rest of us comply.
But always remember if it bleeds you can kill it, and if it saves, you can download it…
Brian Penny is a former Operations Manager and Business Analyst at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and writer. He’s a frequent contributor to Huffington Post, Main Street, Hardcore Games, Cannabis Now, and more.