Yager: Media companies should embrace the prevalence of piracy

You do it, your professors do it, your parents most likely do it and I do it. I’m talking about Internet piracy. The ability to copy data such as a music video, movie or song in an infinitely duplicable universe is so lucrative that recent polls according to Go Globe Web Technologies suggest that 70 percent of polled Internet users find nothing wrong with Internet piracy. They’re right, and in fact, piracy is great for content and content creators. Piracy will, however, be the end of bad business.

In 2004, Sky Television and SyFy split production and distribution of a reboot of the television series “Battlestar Galactica.” The new series, however, aired in the United Kingdom four months before SyFy. Thankfully, some European viewers uploaded the pilot to the Internet and BitTorent did all the work. Now, here’s the biggest part: “Battlestar Galactica” received 2.6 million viewers for the pilot on SyFy – the highest viewership for a cable show in that time slot. How did this happen? According to Professor Mark Pesce of the Australian Film Television and Radio School, “Battlestar Galactica” was a success because the Internet did what it always does to content that users like: It made it viral. In a matter of hours, anyone could see how good “Battlestar Galactica” was and they told everyone they knew about it.

With the advent of broadcast television our generation has been taught to demand the content that they want and with the progress of the Internet we’ve been taught to want our content now. But old school economics tell us that because there is a demand then there will be a limited supply. On the Internet, however, the law of supply and demand does not exist. Data is data and the cost to duplicate data is limited only by the cost of data storage. Add in the fast and efficient distribution provided by the Internet and you get content that is distributed quickly and is virtually free.

So why does piracy exist? Piracy exists because content providers (aka media companies) want to make as much money as possible and the best way they know how is to sell advertisements to a captive audience during a break in content. These ads then beget the need for controlled, and therefore expensive, distribution. Unfortunately for our country’s media monsters, we want what we want and we want it right now and piracy is our best option.

So what happens to content companies? They learn or die. NBC, CBS and any other number of media companies will have to learn to stop fighting piracy and instead support the distribution of their content on the Internet or their most loyal consumers will lose interest and turn to something else. This applies to all content. Movies, television, newspapers and magazines will find their profits drop as we the people move to cheaper, better alternatives to DVDs and broadcast television – such as sidereel.com, videobb.com, videozer.com, rapidshare.com and thepiratebay.org – unless they let the Internet do what it does best: Spread ideas and help popularity grow.