A new piece by David Pogue in Scientific American today echoes a very common argument about online digital theft: that if more movies and TV shows were available legitimately online, the problem of online content theft would take care of itself. The problem with this argument is that it’s not borne out by the facts. There are more legitimate avenues available today to watch movies and TV shows online than ever before: Hulu, HBO Go, Vudu, Crackle, UltraViolet, Epix, MUBI, Netflix, Amazon – and that just scratches the surface. Yet analysis of data from comScore, Inc, shows that pages views on sites facilitating online theft has grown exponentially in the past few years.
In the piece, Pogue claims that none of the top 10 most pirated movies of 2011 are available to rent online. In fact, many of the films on that list are available to watch instantly online. Take Fast Five, for example, which made the list for 2011. It is currently available to watch through HBO GO. A quick search also shows that Thor and Rango, also both on the list, are available for instant streaming on Netflix and Amazon. Now, no process is perfect – and that’s why the studios are listening to what their audiences want, and working to make their movies and TV shows available through newer, more innovative channels every day. Audiences deserve to be secure in knowing that the outlets where they watch movies and TV shows online are legitimate and safe. People want to get it right, and the entertainment industry is relentlessly innovating to help them do just that.
Pogue’s thesis is that people choose to download content illegally when it’s not available to them in a legal format. He cites the availability of music on iTunes and TV shows on Hulu as evidence. But, as we know, digital theft of music and TV hasn’t stopped – in fact, it’s increased. That increase underscores the challenge we face: online content theft is a complicated problem – everyone can agree on that. There isn’t one simple solution. That’s why it’s incumbent on everyone who has a stake in this discussion to come to the table to develop meaningful solutions that will protect the hard work of creators and makers while helping ensure that audiences have a seamless experience watching the shows and movies they love.