Movie Piracy is a Service Problem

Accessibility to movies has never been easier. Amazon Prime, Netflix, Apple TV, Google Play, Disney+, Mubi, and dozens more have a variety of movies in their catalogue. These days, thanks to Covid, you can even stream the newest Blockbusters at the same time or shortly after their theatrical release.

But that is already where the fun ends. You want to watch Squid Game? You can only do that with a Netflix subscription. You want to check out Baby Yoda in the Mandalorian? You need to buy Disney+. You want to watch an independent foreign movie? Try Mubi.

As a consumer, there is no legal alternative to buying three subscription services. If I want to buy just that one movie or show, there is no way for me to do it.

But the mess only starts here. The newest James Bond movie is a great example: available everywhere but in different versions.

Who is in charge of this nonsense? Why does Apple, the company with the most closed off ecosystem, have the highest quality version and most variety for consumers? Do Amazon and Google think I am dumb enough to just buy an inferior version of the movie? Do they not want my money? But regardless, I would have to install iTunes to watch the movie, and even then, I have no control over the movie file. I can’t add subtitles, foreign dubs or watch it in the video player I like the most. I can’t watch it offline or copy it to another device. Plus, I need to install spyware to ensure the studio executives that I am not recording and pirating their movie.

And if you think this is bad, try buying an independent foreign movie. If you can find them in the first place, and they are not blocked in your country, they are only available with one audio track. Either the original or the dubbed version that you don’t want to listen to. You want subtitles? Either there are none or only the original language you don’t understand in the first place.

If you treat me like a braindead consumer, if you give me the worst possible service experience when searching for and buying a movie, if you treat me like an enemy who only wants to pirate your movie, you are not entitled to my money and you only encourage what you try to prevent. If piracy is easier, or the only option because you blocked access in my country, how can you not take responsibility for how messed up your copyright and licensing system is? As Gabe Newell once said: “Piracy is an issue of service, not price.”

I want to support movies, I want to support the artists creating them, but I don’t want to support a service economy that is treating me like garbage. If I buy a movie I want full access to the file, with no spy or bloatware. I want to be able to download all the dubs and subs available and not have anything excluded because I live in one certain part of the world you don’t have a license agreement with. Right now, only piracy gives me that kind of choice and control, and as long as the movie industry does not care about its audience and is still doing well enough to not improve its service, piracy will always fill the gap.

Btw, I definitely recommend watching Head-On.