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Sunday 31 August 2014

Is online Piracy the new taboo?

Jason Kennedy

Published 12/12/2013 | 13:13

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Shows like 'Orange is the New Black' are premiering exclusively on Netflix, a paid-for service

I'm sorry Mam. I'm sorry Dad. I've committed a crime and I've done it for a few years. It's time to come clean. I lived the life of an internet pirate. I've torrented and streamed over and over again, but don't worry, dear family. I'm a reformed man.

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During my college years I was a fan of torrenting movies and television shows that hadn't hit our shores yet. I got a rush from the online illegalities, even with average broadband. It became the norm for me, my friends and countless others. The cinema became a treat, with most box office hits premiering on my macbook rather than the local omniplex.

In the last year, things have changed. More online entertainment options have become available and we are all switching to them in our droves, even if we do have to part with some cash. Take Netflix for instance. Ireland's Netflix library may not be as extensive as our American counterparts, but a €7 a month account entities to a large selection of movies and television shows.

The thing that really makes Netflix worth the subscription money is the fact that various apps allow users to play it on phones, tablets and on television. If I ended up watching five seasons of 'Breaking Bad' over the space of a month on a computer screen, as I ended up doing on television, I would have ended up with square eyes.

For those more musically inclined, I've recently shelled out on Spotify, which costs the same as Netflix per month. For me, this was a slow burner. The paid-for version of Spotify allows music on mobile phones and no advertisements and is really sticking it to iTunes. There are rumblings of a free mobile app coming soon too. Not only that, Netflix and Spotify lure is in with the promise on a one-month free trial to their shiny new service. Well, that's how I was reeled into them.

A lot of really great shows are premiering on Netflix too. The highly-anticipated new season of 'Arrested Development' was a Netflix exclusive, even if it was a little disappointing. Have you heard anyone admitting to torrenting 'Orange is the New Black'? If you have, you should probably give them a little shake and tell them to cop on.

I'm not the only one making these changes even if they do have the odd disadvantage. One of the downsides of these businesses it their insistence on being linked with users social media websites. Thanks all the same fellas, but I'd rather my Facebook friends and Twitter followers not know my guilty musical and film tastes.

Whether people will admit to it or not, plenty of people made the transition from piracy to actually paying for their online entertainment jollies. When was the last time you've actually heard people talking about downloading a movie? For me, it was a few weeks ago when a friend said he downloaded Season Three of 'Breaking Bad'. Most reminded him that it's all on Netflix already, putting him to shame.

The fact that just about all major internet providers in Ireland have pirate sites blocked may also be an issue, even though that is very easy to get around. Maybe our desire to purchase that which we previously 'stole' is out of complacency more than anything. It's easier to pay for it than go to a proxy site, encrypt a download and, if you're so inclined, stop seeding. Sure we're out of a recession. What's the harm in €7 a month.

Whether it's laziness, a fear of getting nabbed or the desire to be upstanding citizens who don't partake in dodgy practices, the use of these services are on the rise. There are no figures to really show if Ireland is pirating less, but anecdotal evidence seems to suggest we are. So while I await a call from the authorities for admitting to my crimes against copyright, it's worth sparing a thought for scheduled Irish programming of international hit shows. For how are they to keep up when these options are at our fingertips.

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