Talk Like a Pirate Day

Yes, a day late.  Because I’m not going to talk like that kind of pirate, and I’m going to break my “non-controversial” seal a little bit.  This is going to be about piracy through technology.

Sometimes I marvel at the various technologies we have and the ability to receive entertainment through a variety of channels.  I can watch television shows, movies, and other videos on my phone, computer, or television via DVD, Blu-Ray, streaming video from my cable provider or from the Internet.  However, various and frustrating barriers remain preventing this from being easier, more convenient, diverse, and overall, practically useful.

A trivial complaint I have is format.  Be it physical disc rental or streaming content, the need to pay extra for that is ridiculous.  To me, it is marketing inhibiting the industry by making the next step needlessly more expensive.  Again, a trivial complaint, but there it is.  To me, the better solution is nix the premium and stop throttling the adoption of better format due to price — it is not that much more expensive to press a Blu-Ray disc or stream a 1080p HD video.

My phone is a great device for watching things before going to bed (especially given a variety of random sleeping problems).  A lot of content is hosted on Hulu.  They have setup their service to detect phones and prohibit watching of content on anything but a computer unless you are a Hulu Plus member.  So while I have a supposedly state-of-the-art phone, I need to subscribe to Hulu Plus to watch content that would otherwise be free if I watched it on my computer.  Netflix falls in another category as they have failed to maintain or expand their streaming content and are, for me, becoming useless in this regards.

Most Blu-Ray players in the mid-to-high-end range have the ability to stream online content.  However, deals have been struck such that, in general, you can only access subscription material.  Therefore I can stream Netflix content if I have streaming access enabled, and Hulu Plus content if I subscribe to that.  Conveniently there is Crackle which may have an scattered and odd selection, but sometimes has something amusing.

My computer generally succeeds where other devices fail … unless the host site is using a Silverlight or ActiveX player in which case those don’t work on Linux.  While I’m not a high-enthusiasm Linux advocate, personally and professionally I am an advocate of online content being accessible by any reasonable device or OS that can get to it.  Linux may be in the minority, but I can watch Hulu content on it — why can’t I watch Netflix streaming or stuff from some other networks?  (I do know some of the answer to this:  Microsoft technology is mostly or completely incompatible with Linux.  Sometimes there is also a simple OS check because the service does not want to support non-mainstream operating systems.)

As for content providers, I’m not sure what they’re up to.  The cable companies charge an arguably ridiculous premium for their streaming content rentals, and a disproportionately higher premium for HD content.  Netflix has changed their pricing and products such that streaming and physical rental, combined, cost more, offer less, and otherwise have not improved (by my observation).  Hulu seems to slowly becoming a subscription service — which is fine, they need to make money somehow, but deliberately blocking devices from viewing their free content is frustrating.

So now to talk like a pirate about the obvious.  Yes, you saw this coming, right?

Pirating content is free.  With a few, well-documented scripts, it can even be hassle-free to convert a file into formats playable on my phone, as a DVD, or streaming to another computer.  The selection is vast, the download rates reasonable, and overall the ability to do searches, automatically download shows or movies and convert these files is ridiculously easy.

But let me be clear, and I’m serious.  Pirating content is wrong.  It is illegal.  Period.  The convenience of doing so does not negate its illegal nature.  Watching pirated content hosted on another computer is still participating in the illegal act.

Yet while I write that, I laugh at the same time.  Stealing this content offers more variety, the best quality, the least hassle, and most convenience when compared to the legal channels.  It circumvents the nonsensical licensing issues that are preventing Netflix from carrying Showtime content, Hulu from having more than one season of Arrested Development up at a time, and other such restrictions.

The industry needs to wake up  and start making the services they pay for just as easy as pirating content.  I do not pay for aggravation, complication, or hassle.  Yet if I want to be a Good Boy, I must.

FWIW, NB, extreme disagreement will be addressed one-on-one.  Posts are moderated, so if you want to share your email with me, I can skip approving the comment and, worst case, I can delete it.


About John

I write about technology interests, cooking, and my own writing (sci-fi and fantasy... sometimes both). I try to keep things light, but sometimes I get side-tracked on an issue that I feel strongly about. No offense is meant, I'm just like any other person who feels strongly about something when I write. View all posts by John

2 responses to “Talk Like a Pirate Day

  • Patti

    I’m always interested to hear what people have to say about things like this. I’m no technology dinosaur, but I just haven’t had the time or inclination lately to push the envelope of technology that is available to me for entertainment purposes. Bravo to you for bringing up the point – those of us not fully in-the-know would surely support making things more available with less hassle, we just aren’t aware, per se, of what we’re missing. What would it take for the suits to get their butts in gear and do just as you suggested – make pirating less attractive by making the legal forms more accessible? I’m not sure, but it’s a question worth answering for a variety of reasons.

  • Rob

    You have articulated exactly the quandry most of us find ourselves in: once the threshold is met that makes access difficult and onerous, those of us with enough time and inclination will find an easier way to access what we want. Most people will pay if given fair and reasonable options.

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