Stealing the Throne

Ever-brilliant Web comic The Oatmeal has a great piece about piracy and its alternatives. (The language at the end is a bit much, but it is the character’s evil Jiminy Cricket talking.) It mirrors my opinion about Major League Baseball’s unwillingness to offer any Internet access to the postseason, which is hard on those of us who don’t own TVs (or subscribe to cable). Even if you don’t agree with my moral claims, it’s obvious that as the price of lawful access diverges from the price of unlawful access (which is either zero, or the expected present value of a copyright suit, which is darn near zero), infringement goes up.

So, if you want to see Game of Thrones (and I do), your options are: subscribe to cable plus HBO, or pirate. I think the series rocks, but I’m not paying $100 a month for it. If HBO expects me to do so, it weakens their moral claim against piracy.

Unconvinced? Imagine instead that HBO offers to let you watch Game of Thrones for free – but the only place on Earth you can view the series is in the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. You’re located in rural Iowa? Well, you’ve no cause for complaint! Fly to LA! I suspect that translating costs into physical costs makes the argument clearer: HBO charges not only for the content, but bundles it with one particular delivery medium. If that medium is unavailable to you, or unaffordable, you’re out of luck.

Unless, of course, you have broadband, and can BitTorrent.

As a minimum, I plan not to support any SOPA-like legislation until the content industries begin to offer viable Internet-based delivery mechanisms that at least begin to compete with piracy…

Cross-posted at Concurring Opinions.

9 Responses to “Stealing the Throne”

  1. [...] are employing piracy because the barrier to entry is unrealistic for most consumers. Derek Bambauer explains, using HBO’s Game of Thrones series as an example: If you want to see Game of Thrones (and I [...]

  2. [...] are employing piracy because the barrier to entry is unrealistic for most consumers. Derek Bambauer explains, using HBO’s Game of Thrones series as an example: If you want to see Game of Thrones (and I [...]

  3. [...] are employing piracy because the barrier to entry is unrealistic for most consumers. Derek Bambauer explains, using HBO’s Game of Thrones series as an example: If you want to see Game of Thrones (and I [...]

  4. “So, if you want to see Game of Thrones (and I do), your options are: subscribe to cable plus HBO, or pirate.”

    Er, no, not quite. You can do what I’ve done: get on the waiting list for the public library’s copy. My library has a nice online reservation system which tells me that six copies are on order. I am number 19 in the queue, which currently has 41 people on it. I got in line on 1/19/12 when my tailored RSS feed from Wowbrary told me that the Miami-Dade public library system had ordered one or more copies.

    When I get season 1, I’ll only be able to keep it for a week, so I’ll watch as many as I have time for, return it, then get back on the queue. If 41 is the number requesting it, I’d get another shot at it in another seven weeks or so. As things age, of course, the demand goes down, and if no one else wants a DVD you have borrowed, you can renew for a week at a time, up to six weeks total. (Books circulate for a month at a time.)

    So I think what you meant to say was “if you want to see Game of Thrones RIGHT NOW” your only options are…

    But if you are fine with always waiting a bit, access is free and legal.

    None of which justifies SOPA of course.

  5. SOPA and PIPA were both ridiculous but so is the argument that HBO owes you access to their show. I want the thrill of riding in a Lamborghini but the costs are just TOO unreasonable. When they have such high prices for buying their cars it just weakens their moral claim against carjacking.

  6. Silly me I thought that giving control over method of publication, which has been a part of copyright since it’s inception, was legal. Don’t misunderstand, I have my issues with copyright, length of it for one thing is utterly ridiculous.

    But…

    Piracy is theft. But being about IP people get confused, it isn’t a physical object so they wonder, well what really got stolen. The IP owners rights got stolen.

    You might not like how a person exercises their rights, fine, but it’s their right in play, not yours.
    If you don’t like how I vote, great, but it’s MY vote, not yours.
    If you don’t like my religion, fine, but it’s MY religion not yours. (atheist by the way)
    If you don’t like the publisher I use, fine, but it’s MY copyright, not yours.

    Want the solution that’s fair, recognizes everyone’s rights, and will get most of what you want. Go found your own media empire, pool the resources, hire a bunch of talent, write some amazingly good stuff, and you can distribute it whatever way you want.

    Did you know there are a bunch of shows NOT on HBO. There are a ton of movies I don’t get on Cable at all. And did you know there are (at least) tens of thousands of books I can’t get on my Kindle.
    Oh, and yes, some shows aren’t on Hulu, others aren’t on iTunes, and some (shockingly enough) aren’t on Amazon.

    Oh yeah, because the decisions of HOW to publish belongs to the copyright holder, not the consumer.

    We used to have a pretty basic concept here, I can’t force you to buy my book, but you can’t force me to give it to you nor even how I must offer it for sale.

    Don’t reward those who violate my rights, and I won’t reward those who violate yours. Kind of the basis of a civil society one would think.

    If I ran an “business” where I broke into all of the bakeries in town and stole their bread in such a way that duplicated their own loaves, and gave it away, would you say your not going to support the police arresting those who have violated my rights until I find a way to compete with thieves?

  7. [...] Bambauer explains, regulating HBO’s “Game of Thrones” array as an [...]

  8. [...] Bambauer explains, regulating HBO’s “Game of Thrones” array as an [...]

  9. I wanted to thank you for well thought out arguments that are centered in the real world.

    I watch a LOT of HBO shows, but I do not have a subscription to HBO or to cable television. It is just too expensive. If I could just pay for HBO itself I would be open to that, but the combo of the two pushes it out of what I am willing to pay.

    In any case, I was always interested in lots of shows like The Sopranos, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Eastbound and Down, Game of Thrones, etc., but I had no means to see them, and I was not willing to shell out all that money for the DVDs without having seen them first to make sure I liked them. So, I saw them first via means that I suspect were not entirely legal, and I have to say that I loved every one of the shows. After that, I then bought all of them on DVD. I have every season of the shows mentioned above, plus many others. The same applies for many other TV shows as well.

    Is it against what the law says? I am sure it is, but I think it really helps point to why a different way of thinking needs to come around. In my situation, without piracy, the producers of these shows would have nothing from me at all. With piracy, I purchase their products happily. I would say that HBO probably makes more money from someone like me that sees pirated versions of their shows and then buys them on disc than from someone who subscribes to their channel, and I happily pay that money for their product.

    Maybe I am different and I am the only one that does things this way, but I have to believe there are others.