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When lawyer Evan Stone worked as an in-house counsel for anime distributor FUNimation, the company tried all sorts of techniques to stop piracy. It sent takedown notices and DMCA complaints to anyone who would listen, like ISPs (which sometimes took action) and torrent sites (which rarely did). It hired outside firms to flood torrent sites with bogus files. It put more than 90 series online for free streaming.
Stone finally came to believe that suing file-sharers was the only approach left. "I didn't know what other options we had," he told me earlier this year. "We were at our wit's end."
But making money in anime isn't hopeless; it turns out that anime lovers will pay for content even in an age of widely available free versions. "In almost all cases, piracy is not an issue of legality," says Kun Gao, CEO of the anime streaming site Crunchyroll. It's often a market issue—and Crunchyroll turns a profit by offering anime lovers what they want: legal access to anime shows right after new episodes have aired in Japan.
Pirates can't compete with this kind of availability, since even the most dedicated fansub groups need time to do their own translations. Crunchyroll gets its content a week before first air date, giving it time to do a proper subtitling job. Piracy may never go away, but Crunchyroll is out to prove that "competing with free" is possible by treating piracy like a business problem.
You know its the same for music. Piracy's entire charm isn't "free", its also convenience. I don't know a person who minds the $4.99 or $9.99 a month for Rdio.com considering they can listen to new albums every tuesday and their old favorites whenever.
It's somewhat similar for movies, I don't know anyone that minds the $7.99 a month for Netflix. It's probably slowed piracy for subscribing persons prone to downloading movies online. But if they have to buy a DVD, Blu-ray, Pay-Per-View to get what isn't on Netflix's Watch Instantly, they might pirate instead.
Games are somewhat the worst since they're tied to brick and mortar stores still largely. If all new games were released by download over Live (Xbox and Windows), PSN, Steam and whatever else, I imagine piracy might drop due to the extra convenience.
That said, company's could figure out how to teleport games into hands and price would still matter too. Free is always going to be most appealing, but that "free" often comes with a price; no online play for games, inferior quality for movie rips/cams, music pieced together based on leaks missing any bonus tracks/content.
But, at the 7.99 Netflix does with movies, 4.99 for Rdio if you listen just on your PC, 6.99 for Crunchyroll as mentioned in the article above...I don't imagine how pirates could prefer "free" with the pain points involved with it to quality full-featured convenience.
Of course, Netflix isn't completely there yet, unlike Rdio it doesn't get the latest and greatest every Tuesday. I think movie studios need to accept the fact people want convenience, and cheaply. We're used to it. It's a usability issue at this point, and having to buy something in a plastic case for 20-30 dollars that we aren't sure is good or bad is less and less likely to happen.
Maybe one day piracy used to be about "free", and thus greed on the part of pirates, and maybe for a majority amount of pirates that's still what its about, but you have to think that if in 5 years Pay-Per-View still gets new movies before Netflix and the music and game industry are still pressing CDs, the case for piracy is then wholly one of convenience.
Anyone who's chatted with me on these boards about piracy knows I could give a crap about 'em. I work in software and company's I've written software for have been pirated to all hell. I have personal incentive to think the worst of pirates, but its clear to even me that company's have to compete on convenience. The recipe seems simple: online immediately, accessible through subscription, regardless of what it is.