Keep It Cheap, Stupid: Psychology of the Pirate
Despite the proliferation of paid media models, online piracy of copyrighted materials will continue, according to a new report from PwC. In its survey of 202 people who admit to downloading pirated media, the company found that of course the chief motivator is price, supported by their perception that "everyone is doing it." Curiously, PwC found that the many ad-supported sources of free media might be contributing to the legitimization of piracy because they blur the line between legitimate and illegally obtained copyrighted material.
Video is the big attraction. Among content pirates, 83% say they streamed TV shows in the last month and 69% streamed movies for free. Almost half (48%) had accessed a movie within a month of its DVD release. Apparently many consumers find even digital pricing too high: 68% completely agreed that the reason they were downloading content illegally was because the hard copy was too expensive, but 58% felt the same about the digital pricing. If content producers want to lure consumers away from piracy via pricing they will have to go lower than some of them appear to be planning. PwC found that these pirates were willing to pay a maximum of $3 for a movie and $1 for a TV show. Only about a third of these consumers worry that piracy might increase media costs. The physical disc is not an overwhelming draw, either, with 56% of this group feeling they didn't need a hard copy.
Media cheats do not seem particularly remorseful. The survey finds 81% plan to continue accessing unauthorized material in the next six months. The mobile platforms will only make this worse, since 40% say they plan to use these remote devices to access content, too. The fear of being caught (68%) is a secondary concern to having their computers infected by viruses (80%). The moral issue -- that they simply are doing something wrong -- seems to concern only 59% of pirates.
Figuring out a strategy to lure the media pirates away from their swashbuckling ways is a poser. The lure of free is hard to beat, especially when 58% say they want to be able to access content free and prefer an ad-supported model. Eighty-seven percent said they were willing to watch ads in exchange for free TV content, and 84% felt the same about movies. Rather than playing with pricing and packaging of individual media titles, content providers may have better luck (nominally) with a Netflix approach. Thirty-four percent of pirates said they preferred subscription-based models, and only 9% seemed to like the transactional approach of on-demand systems.Of course PwC's report was not a survey of all consumers, so the actual size of the pirating population was not considered. But the fact that many of those who access copyrighted content learned about the sources from friends or family indicates the viral nature not only of piracy but the validation mechanisms people use to rationalize it.