The Piracy Threshold

Matt Gemmell on Hollywood versus Piracy:

The majority of people have a basic desire to be honest – and I mean actually honest, rather than some limited definition based strictly on the law. People will go to reasonable lengths to be honest. It makes us feel good about ourselves, and it confers a certain immunity from legal problems.

But then you fuck us. First you fuck us with exorbitant pricing. Then you fuck us with inconvenience by not making your content universally available when we want it. Then you fuck us by treating every paying customer like a criminal.

This bit, however, I disagree with:

You’ve got the whole situation almost exactly backwards. You laughably think that:

  • Piracy is an unfixable social disorder.
  • Piracy happens because of a lack of effective security measures.
  • Piracy is the consumer’s fault.

I don’t think the studios think that at all. I think they know full well that people would pay more often and pirate less frequently if prices were only $1–2 for a movie, with no DRM and no ads. But their incorrect thinking is that if they go down that route, far fewer or only the same number of people would pay for movies anymore—or rather, the number of people who pirate movies would stay the same—and they would thus make far less money. And they are deathly afraid of making less money. They are so afraid that they simply refuse to believe that many more people would buy movies legally in that hypothetical scenario.


Because they have come to despise all customers equally. Hollywood despises the people who enjoy movies, because in their eyes, all of these people are “probable pirates”. And so they won’t believe them on their word when they say “stop fucking us over and we’ll give you more money!”

This is why they turn to legislation. And that, in turn, is why stuff like YCombinator’s “Kill Hollywood” happens. Because we’re tired of giving Hollywood a chance to behave like non-corrupt businesspeople, only to be pissed on over and over again in return.