A Pirate’s Life for Me…and You…and the Vast Majority of Media Consumers from 1999 to the Present

What key terms come to mind when you hear the word “piracy”? Johnny Depp’s beloved movie franchise? An MLB team that was one Andrew McCutchen away from deserving relegation to Triple A ball? (He’s gone now, Pittsburgh. Better wait for football season.) Perhaps Somalians?

Following the invention of the MP3 and compressed sound encoding, piracy became a term that was applicable to the music industry as well. File sharing sites like Napster, LimeWire and The Pirate Bay allowed music consumers to access music files for years without paying a cent.

Concerned with the loss of sales revenue that they were experiencing due to these illegal downloads, the music industry responded by launching a volley of lawsuits aimed at shutting down these file sharing services. While some websites like Napster and Kazaa reestablished themselves as legal entities, most sites were closed down.

Eventually, several major Internet service providers (e.g AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable) began to throttle access speeds to piracy-based websites and directing customers towards legal information concerning piracy in an effort to dissuade future would-be thieves.

The problem is not limited to the music industry. The adaptation of the MP4 video file led to the same problem–why would consumers pay full price for a good that they could acquire for free over the Internet? HBO’s smash-hit “Game of Thrones” has set piracy records; the seventh season alone has been illegally streamed more than 1 billion times.

It is likely that the TV and film industries will follow the examples set by the music industry–indeed, HBO made public statements to discourage piracy just as ISPs did for MP3 piracy.

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