Top 10 Interesting and Surprising Facts about Online Piracy

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Piracy is one of those subjects that completely divides people. On the one hand, it’s blatant thievery. On the other hand, free episodes of Breaking Bad, yo.

The internet is chock full of horror stories about digital piracy ruining people’s lives when the RIAA knocks on their door, so we wanted to share some stories about piracy that everyone should be able to agree are awesome.

10. The People Behind Game of Thrones Think Piracy is Pretty Damn Neat

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Game of Thrones, AKA We’re All Going to Die: The Show is one of the most popular TV shows in recent history. In completely unrelated news, it’s also one of the most pirated shows of all time too.

However, not only do the people behind the show not care about it being pirated, they’ve gone on record as saying the piracy is more flattering than an actual award. Probably because millions of people risking prison to see your show is a bigger compliment than a bunch of pretentious people giving you a shiny statue in a desperate bid to stay relevant.

9. Netflix Use Piracy Figures to Decide Which Shows to Buy Next

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Netflix will likely rule the TV game in a few years, so why bother dropping $80 a month on a severely limited TV package when, for the price of a broadband connection and a Big Mac, you could have every film ever made?

In an effort to really keep its finger on the pulse of what people like, Netflix higher-ups have openly admitted that they’ll look into what people are pirating to make a more informed decision about what rights to buy. For example, in the Netherlands they noticed people there really like Prison Break (though not enough to buy the DVDs,) so when the service launched there they made sure Prison Break was one of the big titles they had to offer.

This isn’t just Netflix either; a big-wig at Warner Brothers admitted earlier this year that piracy is one of their preferred methods to help gauge consumer demand. It’s not a perfect system, but just remember this is probably why you can now watch every episode of Breaking Bad on Netflix, and it’ll probably only be a matter of time until they have every awesome show people love to not pay for. So what we’re saying is: download more Adventure Time so we can watch it legally.

8. Trent Reznor Hates His Record Company So Much, He Tells Fans to Steal His Music

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The brilliantly-named Trent Reznor is the frontman (and only man) of Nine Inch Nails, and you better believe this man hates him some high CD prices. When he visited Australia, he was so appalled by the stupidly high price that Universal Records was charging for his music, he openly told fans to steal their songs on stage.

The thing is, when Reznor asked Universal why his CDs cost so much more than other bands they represented, their answer was that they were basically fleecing the most die-hard NIN fans because they knew they’d pay whatever Universal charged. So, Reznor was told that his fans would pay anything for his band’s music, and his response was to order them to go get it for free. How rock and roll is that?

7. System of a Down Were So Annoyed at Songs Being Pirated, They Released Better Versions on Principle

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A little while after System of a Down’s explosive and well-received Toxicity album, a few incredibly poor-quality songs were released under the name Toxicity 2. These were songs the band didn’t feel gelled with the original album, and they were all in a very rough state. Upon hearing them, the band was so upset that they recorded an entirely new album and added even more songs to spite the pirates. They then called it “Steal This Album” as a final jab.

Basically, System of a Down saw that people were pirating their music and, rather than complain, just wrote better songs and released a better, cheaper version than the pirated bootleg versions people were selling. That seems like a solution we can all agree on.

6. Piracy will Likely Save All Your Favorite TV Shows

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Back before you could download an episode of Breaking Bad minutes after it was uploaded, people simply taped things they saw on TV and made copies of them. Though this arguably seems more harmless, it was still piracy.

However, now the ball is in the pirates’ court, because some of these illegally-made tapes are pretty much the only recordings of these shows left. For example, the Digital Archive Project is dedicated to ensuring recordings of old shows like Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Bill Nye the Science Guy are preserved.

Another, more extreme example are the so-called missing Dr. Who episodes. Back in the 70’s, due to pressure from acting unions who saw tapes as a threat to their livelihood (since why record new shows when you can simply replay old ones?) dozens of episodes of the now-iconic series were exterminated from the face of the Earth. However, because some fans saw fit to record the show, some episodes have since been recovered.

5. Microsoft Doesn’t Mind if You Steal Software, as Long as You Steal Their Software

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Microsoft invest millions in anti-piracy measures, though they’re aware that people will invariably steal their products anyway, because people love getting things for free. Which is why the company has a fairly odd stance: “if you’re going to steal, steal from us.” The logic here is that a person using their software illegally is still using their software and will, as such, become used to it and possibly become a paying customer somewhere down the line. Again, Microsoft aren’t happy with people stealing their product, but you have to admit it’s pretty awesome that being stolen from more than Apple is something a Microsoft executive has probably bragged about in the past.

4. Radiohead’s Songs were Bootlegged So Fast, Fans Could Sing Along to Their New Album

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Radiohead has long realized people are going to steal their music no matter what, so they’ve decided hey, might as well embrace it. Along with being one of the first bands to pioneer “pay what you want” albums and digital downloads, the band has also expressed amusement at the results of bootlegging and piracy. For example, the band kicked off a tour in Barcelona, in support their new album Kid A; within a few hours of the concert, the entire thing was on Napster. When the band played in Israel a few weeks later the entire crowd, who by all rights should have never heard the album before, sung along to most of the tracks. Radiohead’s bassist said the experience was “wonderful.” Presumably because it proved that, though many people had stolen their music, a whole bunch of them had stuck their hand into their pocket and actually paid to see them live, which in virtually every case results in more money going to the band anyhow.

3. My Morning Jacket Happily Rip Their Own CDs and Send Them to Fans

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My Morning Jacket, AKA That Band You Saw on American Dad, are a fairly popular and successful band in the states with a few albums under their belt. They’re also really cool guys, something they proved in 2005 when Sony slapped a bunch of restrictive measures on their new album ZThese measures stopped the CD from being burned onto iTunes, a service we’re assured a lot of people use. The band had no idea these measures were in place, and actually put instructions up on their website telling fans how to circumvent them.

However, this still irked some fans, which is when the band decided to go one step further. Along with personally responding to virtually every email they received about the issue, the band also went to the effort of burning copies of the CD themselves to send to disgruntled fans, as a means of apologizing.

2. A Number of Bands Offer People Blank CDs so They Could Burn Their Own Albums

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Perhaps the ultimate embodiment of bands realizing everyone is going to steal their music is the act of releasing a blank CD. To date, only a few bands have taken the plunge, but it’s such an awesome move that it can’t help but catch fire as a legit movement down the line.

For example, Green Day, realizing many of their fans had gotten hold of their songs illegally, released a special album full of unique blank CDs, so fans could create their own Green Day albums. Meanwhile, DJ Danger Mouse, realizing he’d be sued if he released his mash-ups, released a blank CD instead so fans could make their own. But perhaps the coolest example is that of the Dead Kennedys who, for their  album In God We Trust Inc., intentionally left the B-side blank so people could copy their own music. That album, by the way, was released in 1981, meaning the Dead Kennedys are hardcore hipsters, who were fighting soaring record prices way before it was cool.

1. Lars Ulrich Pirated His Own Album Simply Because He Could

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Lars Ulrich is a member of Metallica. If you didn’t know that, we’re sorry for the considerably un-metal upbringing you had compared to your peers. The band gained a lot of infamy in the early 2000’s, when they came out in staunch opposition of digital piracy, despite being kajillionaires who made their money off of non-stop touring, and who actively encouraged fans to record their shows and trade them back in the day.

However, in a 2009 interview Ulrich admitted that, a few days after the band’s new Death Magnetic album was released, he downloaded it illegally just to see what piracy felt like, and also just because he could. As he put it, “if there is anybody that has a right to download Death Magnetic for free, it’s me.” You have to admit, he’s got a point, but why he didn’t already have a free copy in his house speaks volumes about how popular he is with his band mates.

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But that album was hugely pirated for two reasons: one, “screw Metallica” and two, because the album was so torn up in post-production that the version included in Guitar Hero was objectively better. This led to legions of fans downloading the Guitar Hero version instead because it actually sounded better the the official copy you could buy from shops. Wow, no wonder Lars finally embraced his inner pirate.


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3 Comments

  1. What I find funny is, all of these musicians, like Lars Ulrich, that are so against anyone pirating their music, freely admit to tape-trading back in the 1980’s, which was a form of piracy. I’d be willing to bet that almost ALL rock musicians bootlegged cassettes, back in the day.

    The bands make their money off of concerts, more than they do off of cd sales. The cd’s are just a way to get the songs to the fans, so that they will come to the concerts. The record company is the one that profits from cd sales.

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