This story is over 5 years old.


Hollywood Knows How to Kill Piracy, But Won't Do It

Spotify has all but killed music piracy, but it's not clear that it's actually helped the music industry.

​The Pirate Bay is back, and we've already gleaned some interesting data from it: Of the 100 most torrented files in site's first two days back, ​none of them were music albums. That's a far cry from a decade ago, when the RIAA was suing a college student pirate seemingly every week.

But this is more a story about what people are pirating than what they're not. The excuse that people who pirate media have always used to rationalize their downloads has always been that, if there were a reasonable way to listen to music or watch TV with little friction and at reasonable prices, they would use that service instead.


With music, that has happened: Spotify, Google Play Music, and many other streaming services put albums online the day they come out. There are certainly problems with Spotify's business model—namely that there are many, many musicians (and some labels) who say they aren't getting a fair shake from the streaming service. Meanwhile, some investors don't think that Spotify itself is raking in enough money (​the company is still not profitable).

But consumers love this model, and have stopped torrenting music because of it. The takeaway here is that viewing "windows," which is the time period between when a movie or TV show is put in theaters or airs on television and when it's available on a streaming service, are still major stumbling points for consumers. If something is available in a digital file, people want to watch it, right away.

This is a bit of conjecture, but I'd bet that if shows and movies were available on Netflix or Hulu as they aired, or as they're entering theaters—maybe even if it cost an extra buck or two to watch—you'd see movie and television show pirating plummet.

The thing the television and movie industries have to figure out, then, is how to make their content available online immediately without seriously destroying their bottom line.

Will they ever make a move to copy the record industry? A-la-carte television and streaming platforms are extremely popular with consumers, ​but big cable companies still don't think it's the answer, and cable execs have suggested that bundle packages aren't going away anytime soon. And Sony experimented with putting The Interview out directly to consumers, but the circumstances there were extenuating, to say the least. I wouldn't expect to see a ​similar release from a major movie studio anytime soon.

It's entirely possible here that the industry has run the numbers, looked at how the music industry shifted in a post-Spotify environment, and decided to simply eat the losses associated with piracy.