Recently there has been a lot of discussion about how media companies don’t provide enough online digital formats to match users wants for how they consume videos, movies, and episodic programming. A lot of the time I hear people justifying downloading content from torrent sites as “the companies won’t take my money how I want to give it to them so I’ll just download it.” The Oatmeal even posted a comic about this that I saw repeatedly linked with positive comment.
My entire career has been built on working at places that work very hard to create content to sell. It’s the lifeblood of the animation, visual effects, and game studios I’ve worked at. Without sales they can’t go on to create more and better content for people to consume. When I see otherwise reasonable adults acting childish and resorting to theft it makes me sad. I’m not going to mince words here: downloading content without paying for it is theft, plain and simple. You can try to justify it all you want in that the media companies don’t make it available in the format you want or for the price you want to pay, but you’re still stealing. As content owners it’s their right to say how it is distributed or how much it should cost. If they’re leaving money on the table by not having it everywhere for an affordable price then that is their business decision, you don’t get to break the rules because you don’t agree.
The most rational rebuttal to the Oatmeal comic is from Andy Ihnatko with Heavy Hangs The Bandwidth That Torrents The Crown. I mostly agree with what Andy says. I don’t download. I’ll wait for DVDs to come on Netflix if need be before I see something. I purchase content when it’s available on iTunes or other outlets.
I’m not saying I’m better than anyone else. I’ve shared music from friends, but every album I get I go and purchase it (directly from the artist if possible). I’ve made my decision knowing where my livelihood comes from and knowing that by not supporting the things I like I risk them going away. If you’re an adult you have to make your own choices and be ready for any consequences. If you decide to download content illegally I will look down my nose and cluck my tongue at you and then remind you that every time you steal content you’re playing into the hands of the media companies when they try to get laws like SOPA and PIPA passed. Every time you download content illegally you should think about it as a tiny cut in the fabric of your freedom. You feel like you’re sticking it to the rich fat cats at media companies, but in the end you’re just helping to hurt yourself.