HBO Calls Google’s (and the Pirates’) Bluff

HBO’s series Game of Thrones has been one of the most popular TV series for quite some time. 1 It is also one of the most pirated shows for that same period of time. 2 One the first (and most popular) blog posts here cited the fact that 1.5 million people had illegally downloaded Game of Thrones’ second episode within hours of it airing. 3 Over time, it gets worse. This year, the premiere drew 8 million viewers. It also drew 13 million pirates. 4 What makes it interesting is those 13 million pirates could have, if they wanted to, watched the show legally, for free. 5

The excuses for piracy of Game of Thrones all just got blown out of the water. The same tired excuses for piracy get repeated over and over:

  • The content (whatever it’s form) is too expensive, so I just take it for free.
  • HBO does not make it available in my country at the same time in the US, so I just take it for free.
  • I don’t want to have to pay for a cable subscription and for HBO, so I just take it for free.

Google, for its part, also repeats the same tired excuse for piracy over and over:

“Google’s advice for the best way to combat piracy? Content owners should provide ‘better, more convenient, legitimate alternatives.’” 6

Google, BitTorrent pirates, meet “HBO NOW.” Like Netflix, you can now get HBO streamed directly to you. 7

“To use HBO NOW in your browser, you need a laptop or desktop computer running either Mac OS X version 10.6 or later, or Microsoft Windows Vista or later. In addition, you’ll need one of the following support browsers updated to at least the version shown:

  • Internet Explorer 10
  • Safari 7
  • Chrome 37
  • Firefox 31” 8

I think that covers a large majority of those who have been using BitTorrent to download Game of Thrones. So what does this service cost? Currently, $14.99 a month, 9 a lot less than a pirate is probably paying for their internet connection.

In addition, HBO is offering up a free trial period. 10 So, as this article in Entertainment Weekly succinctly pointed out:

“HBO offered a 30-day free trial of the service in April that subscribers could cancel at any time—so users could have binged the entire series legally and for free.” 11

And here’s the kicker: For regular HBO subscribers, HBO made the premiere of Game of Thrones available in 170 countries at the same time. 12

So, effectively, HBO has called Google’s bluff. HBO did exactly what Google recommended: they set up an easy, convenient and inexpensive way to deliver their programming. And guess what, people still pirated the work to the tune of 13 million people.

HBO called the pirates’ bluff as well. Going beyond cheap and easy, HBO made the premiere of Game of Thrones available during a free trial and made it available virtually everywhere simultaneously. And guess what, more people pirated Game of Thrones than watched it legitimately.

Face it; pirates take stuff because they can get something of value for free, without any real fear of negative repercussions, either by way of a lawsuit or the local gendarmes showing up at their door. Which is what would happen if you took something of value without paying for it if it were a tangible object.

As a final note, in a situation fraught with irony, the pirate BitTorrent site Demonoid is now blocking people who try to access their site with their Ad-Block software turned on. 13

“Demonoid informs [Torrent Freak] that ad revenue has decreased a lot plus the site has had difficulty collecting money from affiliates. The site can accept donations via Bitcoin but Demonoid says that users are reluctant to use it. ‘We need to implement some measures, or we face closure,’ the site concludes.” 14 At least one outraged pirate has stated that he will now “boycott the site.” 15

You mean to tell me there is no honor among thieves? Welcome to the modern internet world.

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