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To defeat online piracy, media companies need to think like pirates


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Downloading movies, television series and music via illegal bittorrent sites might seem like the classic victimless crime, but it is wreaking havoc on the entertainment industry nonetheless. This is not a new problem but what’s new is the technological advances that are throwing up platforms and strategies that could help content-creators take back the industry.

It’s worth noting that most internet users say they are drawn to illegal file-sharing websites because of the diversity of content on offer, not because they want to avoid paying. This means that to defeat online piracy, content producers need to create platforms they can monetise and can deliver potentially limitless content that can be shared or swapped – at least for a limited period or among a set number of people. In other words, the content producers need to be more like the platforms that offer pirated products than like the stodgy bricks and mortar vendors of yore.


It is a tall order but not an impossible one because the technology is already in place. Streaming video and audio platforms such as Netflix and Spotify have done much of the heavy lifting and consequently enjoy deep market penetration.

Their standard operating procedure appears pretty nimble, relatively low-cost, simple and shareable. Pesky regulatory procedures aside, these relatively viable platforms seem to show the way forward, offering a real solution to the problem of virtual piracy. This would go beyond the sometimes toe-curling attempts to persuade consumers to be more moral and put something into the virtual honesty box.

As The National reported yesterday, experts have called on broadcasters and regulators during the International Broadcasters Convention to educate people in our region about the ill-effects on the entertainment industry of illegally streaming content. Awareness is a good first step. The availability of viable alternatives should swiftly follow. The problem of online piracy will be defeated when the industry starts to think a little bit more like the pirates.

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