Illegal downloads: accepted illegality

Jon Snow doesn't look too happy
about people stealing his show
A new record was set earlier this month when almost 200,000 people illegally shared the first episode of Game of Thrones season 4 within an hour of it airing. 

In fact, Game of Thrones is the most illegally download TV show of all time.  This leads me to two statements:

1: I like the TV show Game of Thrones.  2: I don’t illegally download music, movies or TV shows.

There, I said it.

With that simple statement, I’m firmly in the minority of people… well… just about anywhere.

It’s become one of society’s most accepted illegal activities.  In fact, I’m so far in the minority that I can count on one hand the number of people I know that don’t illegally download stuff.

I wasn’t always in this camp though.  I used to download movies like no one’s business.  Back in the early noughties (2000s) I was a huge fan of the TV show, Smallville.  I’d watch it every week on TV but then something terrible happened – Channel 9 decided to cancel screening it.

Smallville: what an awesome show...
I was devastated.  Where was I going to get my trashy teen drama with superhero themes fix from?  Then, I found out you could download episodes online.

In fact, you could download entire series!  Amazing.  I didn’t even stop to think about what I was doing, I just started getting as much as I could as soon as I could.

It wasn’t until about 7-8 years later that someone actually called me out on it.  I was at a party talking to my mate Angus when I casually mentioned that I downloaded a movie recently.  He looked me right in the eye and said, ‘you mean you STOLE a movie, right?”

I was stunned for two reasons.  One: it never occurred to me that people thought you shouldn’t download this stuff.  Second: I had nowhere to go because he was spot on.

Yes, I’m sorry everyone, but downloading movies without paying for them is illegal.  Yet people continue to justify it to themselves in all sorts of ways, two of which I hear the most.

It’s not that bad
People often claim that compared to actually stealing someone’s purse or handbag, or even worse murder, illegally downloading things isn’t a big deal. 

Without getting into a discussion on moral relativism (even though I SO want to go there) I’ll simply say: that defence wouldn’t stand up anywhere, let alone in a court of law.  Stealing is stealing, regardless of how you justify it to yourself.

As for it ‘not being that bad’, the flow on effects are potentially huge.  By not paying for these films/TV series you’re costing the distributor and studio money, you’re costing your country tax revenue (which stops the Govt building things like roads, among other things), and you’re (caps lock alert!) BREAKING THE LAW. 

It’s the only way to see it
This was the excuse I tried explaining to my mate Steve one time when I was explaining how I was watching Smallville season 10.  I knew illegally downloading TV series was illegal, but I tried to justify it by saying, “there’s no other way I can watch it!”

There’s a couple of problems here, chief of which is this: it’s a lie.  I could’ve waited for it to be released on DVD and bought it, I could’ve got a Foxtel subscription and watched it there, or I could’ve got over it and not watched it at all.

Let’s dwell on this last point though: not watching it at all.  For so many people I know this is the sticking point.  The argument goes, ‘I refuse to wait for it to be out on DVD and I’m too cheap to pay for/can’t afford Foxtel, so I’ll break the law and download it.”

Now, I understand the Foxtel part, but the not waiting for the DVD or blu ray is illustrative of a broader problem.  For so many people a gratification delayed is a gratification denied. Delayed gratification is not an option.

Unfortunately, most of the time,
what Paris wants, Paris gets.
People don’t want to wait for stuff anymore.  Look at internet speeds, road delays, phone calls – people want stuff right this second.  And when it comes to downloading movies/TV shows, people are willing to break the law to ensure they get what they want right this second.  I'm considering calling this 'Paris Hilton syndrome'.

Funnily enough, very few people I know offer an honest reason for illegally downloading stuff.  But if they were, I reckon the honest excuse would be this: “I want to see this now and am willing to break the law to do it.”

So if you’re someone that illegally downloads stuff I’m not going to stop you.  Feel free to keep doing it.

But the reason I stopped is because I decided that I’m happy to not see something (or pay the $3.99 to rent it later in life) if it means not breaking the law.

I'm not perfect (not by a loooong way) but I decided to make a stand on this.  Maybe you can think about doing the same.


Agatha said…
Thank you for being you.