Ending Online Piracy – Is it the ultimate solution?


There must have been a time when the word pirates would have shivered the spine of even the most deadly. Many of them hardened by war-like situations, some missing limbs and all of them carrying weapons that can kill you. Indeed pirates must have been a deadly race in the past.


In today’s world, hearing the word “pirates”, three fragments come to mind at once.

  1. Johny Depp.
  2. Somali pirates.
  3. Everyone having a computer.

First one, I shall leave for someone else to write about. Second is not only, not my field of knowledge, but to my understanding the true inheritors of the terror that pirates once were.

The third though are somehow most feared, at least in the technological world. Look at RIAA and other such companies and they have you believe that piracy is the worst thing happened since paradise was lost.

I just sometimes wonder- Is it the case?

To begin with I must tell you though; I do not condone piracy in any way.

Piracy may not be stealing in the strictest sense (considering the person does not lose when stuff is pirated off him) but to me it is a direct attach at someone’s personal property. The person who has created something should have the whole right on whether he sells it or gives it for free. We can have opinions but cannot and should not force them on others.

The question I want to raise is a different one – Will an end to piracy help the music, movie, books, softwares (henceforth mentioned content) industry in the amount they lead us to believe?

Billions of dollars are being lost by these companies due to piracy (Trillions if some companies are believed) and they are angry about it. So, they come up with ingenious solutions now and then which should according to them remove piracy. DRM comes to mind of such a unique solution!

Hmm… So, I want to create a hypothetical scenario – a utopia where no piracy exists. Please bear with me. Now, there are three kinds of pirates (content stealers anyone) according to me.

  1. Those who can buy but do not.
  2. Those who cannot afford.
  3. Those who cannot buy because of Geography.

Let us take four types of content- An OS, a game, an album and a video (TV show or movie). So, in my utopian world what happens-

1. Most of them start buying everything. A few jump ship to Linux and other freebies. Mind you, not many will do so as they can afford and they are use to windows and their favourite TV shows.

2. Laptops come with pre-installed Windows so OS will not lose much here. Though, we might see cheaper Linux laptops getting a new life. Game goes out of the window and so do other products. People will watch movies sporadically now that they cannot pirate it. Youtube will see great success. So will other free video sites. iTunes of course will lead the course to sale of individual songs instead of albums.

3. Here lay us. People of the third world country who do not get half the stuff anyways. We will know Youtube in a way Aunties know their TV. Linux will win the war here. I believe every laptop below 35,000 Rs. will have Linux and as most run very well at the configuration found at that price people will have less incentive to buy costlier laptops (we are money-minded after all). Flipkart will see a surge in its sale of music and maybe online radio will get popular. Here, I am making a strange leap of faith, but I think if piracy vanishes we will rely more heavily on a better continuous internet (no downloading, eh?) and thus might spend more in getting good streaming service than buying costly CDs. Maybe, we will see Internet rising if piracy goes.

Whatever happens though, one thing is certain, only a fraction of actual pirates will buy what they pirate right now thus reducing the gains to a minimum. In fact to some companies that sell office products like Microsoft, Adobe et al. this will be a less sweeter deal. If people start using Linux and Gimp at home they will prefer using the same in office. Billions will be lost in getting those few millions.

This is though just my musings. What I think a solution is making buying so damn easy that people go for it unless they absolutely can’t afford it.

How can a person be blamed of piracy if he is not given the choice of buying it anyways. Give them the choice and make very easy to do so. iTunes did that to music, Flipkart is doing fine with its similar solution in India. They are not ultimate solutions but they are thriving, proving that people are willing to part with their money if they feel they are getting its worth and if it’s easy.

  1. Ashok says

    The main reason why peoples pirate is because they can’t afford… Majority of peoples peoples can’t afford Rs.40,000 for Photoshop… one can buy two laptops with that money… So they don’t have any other chance then pirating… I too pirate if i can’t afford, but if i can (android apps or games) then i will pay for it…

    1. Kunal Prakash says

      There are alternative solutions Ashok. Probably not at par but still very good alternative solutions. For example try GIMP instead of Photoshop.

      1. Alex shabu says

        Photoshop cannot be replaced by gimp :P

  2. Vivek says

    Kunal – What happens if people who have access to content today just choose to ignore them in the utopian world? I feel the millions and billions of losses portrayed by the industry is not going to shrink. As a pirate, an individual may download a content to view, play or listen to it. But if the content were to be mandatory payment type – they may simply choose to ignore it or seek alternatives. The revenue generated by these companies is going to remain constant more or less – piracy living or dead.


    1. Kunal Prakash says

      That is what I believe too. In fact, this is what I think the second and third category users will do. The first one though I think will buy the software.
      In fact over all, due to lack of piracy some revenue might decrease for some companies that have office purpose!

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