In this series of articles, BrightReviews looks at the dynamics behind the growing cord-cutting movement, aka getting rid of a cable TV subscription in favor of watching via the Internet. In Part 1 we looked at why this movement began, and in Part 2 we looked at some of the key players and in Part 3 we told you how to actually do it. 

But now that you are on the “high seas” of the Internet, we want to warn you about a scourge of ruffians and urge you NOT to join them. We’re talking about piracy, maties!

Part Four: Beware the Pirates!

If you’ve cut the cord and are trying to still get the benefits of cable TV without paying there is a tempting lure of pirated content of movies, television shows, music and sports that many people take advantage of, often without a second thought. 

But this culture of “free” is wrong and harmful in many different ways. We’ll lay out 5 good reasons you shouldn’t download or share pirated content.

#1. It’s illegal

All the content from movie and television studios is under copyright. Copyrights protect the owners of creative ideas so that they may earn money for their original work. Copying, sharing, or viewing pirated content could provoke a visit from the FBI. On their website they state:

“The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of a copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement is investigated by federal law enforcement agencies and is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.”

#2. It’s immoral

Taking something that doesn’t belong to you or you didn’t pay for is wrong. If it was on a DVD in a store, would you walk in and put it under your jacket? Most certainly not. The world has made it too easy and convenient, blurring this line of morality but it’s still the same thing. 

#3. The wrong people are getting the money

When Napster rose in 1999, it allowed file sharing of music on a massive scale and it became almost a fad to use it. This has lead to the demise of the music industry, whose sales of CDs have declined more than half since 2000. But it’s not just that music, movies, etc. are now just free for the taking, the advertising revenue and other income are going into the pockets of people who had nothing to do with the creation of the art. 

One of the biggest winners in piracy is Google. According to Jonathan Taplin, a professor at USC and producer of movies like “Mean Streets” in an essay called Sleeping Through a Revolution, while music and movie revenues have decreased, Google’s profits have increased from $1.2 billion in 2001 to $66 billion in 2014. A good chunk of this transfer is from advertising on pirate websites and search results. Type in the name of your favorite movie or song and type in “free” and you’ll see what we mean. Google has been “experimenting” with placing legal content at the top of the search results… while still leaving the pirated content below. 

In addition, people like Kim Dotcom, a notorious pirate who boasted of his file sharing website Mega Upload was arrested and accused of costing the entertainment industry $500 million. He would not only accept advertising but also made money from subscribers for content he paid nothing for. He is still fighting extradition charges to the US (he’s based in New Zealand).

Kim Dotcom
This crook made bootie off of other people’s hard work. (Image: kim.com)

#4. It can harm your computer

Sadly, you’ve probably shrugged off the last few reasons or perhaps even gloated in some of the details. Now this one may change your mind because it can negatively affect YOU! Much of the content on these pirated sites can contain viruses or malware that can infect your computer. A study conducted by UC San Diego estimated that over 50% of files shared contain some kind of virus. Which brings us to #5…

#5. It’s not worth the odds

In many ways, this is a golden era for consumers for entertainment. Never has so much been available for instant access both inexpensively or legitimately free. A subscription to Netflix, for example is currently just $7.99 per month – that’s just one ticket to the movies! A song on iTunes is just 99 cents. As we pointed out in the last article, the Internet Archive contains thousands of hours of film, music, videos, and more for free. You couldn’t watch all of it in a lifetime!

We hope you begin to understand where we are coming from. We also understand that some of the time it may be hard to even know what is illegally shared content – YouTube (owned by Google) is one of the biggest repositories for bootlegs and is selectively policed.

Therefore, when it comes to watching things on the Internet:

  • Avoid any sites that actively boast free movies and software, especially titles that are currently in theaters or on cable. Most likely, they are pirates.
  • Subscribe to legitimate services like Netflix, Hulu, etc.
  • Don’t share anything that you didn’t create by uploading.

If you want to go further, check out the Content Creators Coalition an organization seeking to change the way the money is distributed as well as The Tricordist, a website devoted to stopping artist exploitation. 

Also, we highly encourage you to read the entire Sleeping Through a Revolution post by Prof. Taplan.

And speaking of “cutting the cord” – why not just turn off the television and Internet altogether for a while? Go outside, talk to your family, get some exercise, or how about just reading a BOOK?

Let us know what you think of our advice below…