Of course, the term’s definition has changed significantly. With the excess of sources these days, one does not need a ship, a crew, nor a parrot in order to plunder, steal or loot.
(Though any amateur with a laptop could use Google Maps for ocean views, use Illustrator to create a ship and get your fair share of parrot-talk here.)
The pirating I’m referring to, naturally, is using the Internet to uncover what is technically not supposed to be mine. Music, movies, audiobooks, ebooks, games – these things are becoming less and less like purchasable items in the minds of the young pirates growing up.
This, of course, is a problem for some people. The artists that create these items, yes. We’re sorry for “stealing”. Though, if I had to pay for all these items, I wouldn’t have the ability to access the other 95% of things I’ve been able to. Pirates try and thank you in other ways, I hope.
Then there are the big wigs. The record companies that cried their way to court over Napster. The movie companies claiming they can’t fund summer blockbusters as long as pirates aren’t flocking to theaters. The corporations urging the government to shut down sites like MegaUpload. TV providers have followed suit.
So that’s why it’s been such an interesting turn of events that HBO has balked at making a solicited statement concerning its show Game of Thrones being pirated. And not just pirated, but pirated on a mega-level. In fact, the show is set to become the most pirated show of 2012, and of all time.
It wasn’t difficult. HBO was already a subscription service, knocking off the general cable watchers who may tune into the show, instead of pirating it online.
Moreover, though, HBO has refused (more than once) to offer an online platform of its shows, other than to those who already pay for the subscription service for their TVs.
With news that Game of Thrones was taking a “throne” of its own, HBO had a chance to respond to those (yes, like me) who watch the show for free. Instead, it balked. It went soft. It hardly made a sound.
That’s when things got interesting. A computer programmer named Jake Caputo started a website. His site – takemymoneyhbo.com – pleads for HBO to offer a standalone mobile version. It has, needless to say, garnered some followers and some press.
HBO even took notice. The company tweeted it had seen the site. It should have been thrilled – people were begging to pay for its show!
And then, instead of responding to the hoards of those opening their wallets, HBO simply tweeted that the author of this article “has it right”.
Ryan Lawler’s article on TechCrunch is a well thought out examination of what happens if HBO did introduce the standalone service. His findings? It wouldn’t recoup the losses from its subscribers if the standalone service went for $12 per month (the average amount visitors said they would pay when asked by Caputo’s site).
HBO, like Lawler, had done the math. The conclusion was that pirates be darned, nothing should change. Any disruptions to the current business model would not help the company’s bottom line.
I admire HBO for its resolve. Pirates are far and wide these days. I could teach a 4th grader how to find these shows online for free (though he/she will probably know more places than I do within a year or two). You can’t and won’t stop them. Our government (and that of the European Union) haven’t learned this lesson yet.
Clearly the company knows the situation and its calculations have led it to leave the status quo. And also to behave in such a way as to not cause any wars with the online community (who, of course, is fanatical about some of its shows).
Its moves do beg some questions, though. How long can HBO wait? New TV viewers are going to increasingly turn toward the Internet for their show-watching. Netflix, Amazon Instant, Hulu… etc are only going to become more popular. And lastly, if HBO is going to introduce a standalone player, doesn’t it want time to test out the platform?
I guess, what this affair comes down to is the idea of a successful business model. HBO has one. It has had one for quite some years now. But business models have to be adaptable, yes? With millions now flocking to the internet to satiate their TV appetite, dozens of channels, producers and companies have changed their models to embrace this change. HBO hasn’t. Yet.
In fact, at this point, the company is even alienating those asking for an embrace. Willing to pay for it. Willing to endure HBO ad campaigns, commercials, time lapses, whatever the company could throw. But no dice, so far.
So, for now, we’ll both stick with what we know best. HBO will put out its shows. 7 or 8 million people are paying for them, after all. And I’ll continue to sneak-not-so-secretly around and find the show without paying a cent. All may be good for now, I suppose. Though, the scale seems to be tipping more and more in my favor, and it may only be a matter of time that someone whispers to HBO, “I told ya so”. Though us pirates certainly owe our debts, we can’t all be Lannisters, can we?