Pete Davison: Yar-Har-Fiddle-De-Dee

Posted on March 16, 2011 by


Piracy is a crime. Most people are aware of this by now, but it still goes on. And as much as I’m not a fan of piracy per se, it’s becoming increasingly understandable why people resort to less-than-legal means to get hold of digital content. Sometimes it’s because said content isn’t available where they live without paying exorbitant amounts of money to import things. Sometimes it’s to get a different version of some content they enjoy. And sometimes it’s because the legal versions of the content don’t work in the first place.

Let’s take YouTube as an example here. YouTube launched a service in the UK last year called YouTube Shows, which carries content from Channel 4, Channel 5 and various other sources, allowing viewers to catch up on programmes they’ve missed, rather like iPlayer. This is a great service, particularly considering it’s available for free, thanks to the fact it’s supported by advertising.

At least, it’s great in theory. Until the advertising service breaks, rendering the content completely inaccessible. Because there’s no failsafe to skip a broken ad, no means of reloading with different ads if they cause the video to fail and no means to report broken content, if YouTube decides that you’re not going to watch something, you’re not going to watch it.

This is obviously a Bad Thing, but of course it’s not YouTube’s fault directly. Computers fuck up, that’s part of What They Do. But when the fact that Computers Fuck Up That’s What They Do means that a service becomes unusable, that’s when alternative means start to get 1) sought and 2) provided.

Take the various means of digital rights management that many PC games come bundled with these days, too. Several of Ubisoft’s games won’t run at all if you’re not connected to the Internet constantly while you’re playing, so if you have a dodgy wireless signal in your home, good luck playing Assassin’s Creed on the PC, since it’ll kick you from the game every time your connection drops. And now some console games are starting to take the same approach, too, with Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 on PSN being one of the first. Modern consoles are very much geared towards “always-on” connections these days, of course, but with the number of times my PS3 logs itself out of PSN with no warning every day, playing a game that depended on Internet connectivity would quickly become very frustrating.

It ends up as a vicious cycle, however. The pirates determine more and more inventive ways to circumvent the more and more inventive protective systems that publishers put in place to deter the pirates from circumventing their protective systems. And it never ends. At the moment, particularly when it comes to PC gaming, cracked versions often offer a more convenient, “better” experience than legitimate copies. And when it comes to DVDs, not having to sit through several minutes of unskippable bullshit every time you want to watch a 20-minute episode of How I Met Your Mother is always going to be a mark in favour of downloading the episodes rather than buying the DVDs.

Piracy is a crime. But buying a product isn’t, and nor is tolerating advertising to make use of a free service. So how about the legitimate consumers stop getting treated like dirt, huh?


Posted in: Pete Davison