Online piracy has been on the minds of many thanks to the recent Sony debacle. Those who were torrenting movies and music anytime in the last decade may remember Gary Fung’s major contribution to the torrent community: isoHunt, a site much like the Pirate Bay, which shut down last year after Fung made a settlement of $110 million with Hollywood. Fung, who lives in Western Canada, wrote with a great degree of hindsight for TorrentFreak, saying that he envisions a future where streaming is the rule and Bitcoin is the medium of exchange.
Bitcoin and Online Piracy
The now-reformed pirate feels that pay-per-view streaming is the way for content owners to go if they really want to defeat online piracy. He correctly notes that in the absence of the Pirate Bay and isoHunt, online piracy is no less a formidable foe. He has come to realize that, however, that the only way best way to deliver content is with the permission and cooperation of its owner.
I wanted isoHunt to evolve into a service of frictionless content discovery. I realize now that without cooperation with the content owners, this isn’t possible, he wrote.
Looking to the future, Fung sees a system where everyone wins. In the era of near-universal broadband access, his expectations probably don’t seem unreasonable to most. After all, having the physical file available is only absolutely necessary in an increasingly limited number of situations, such as flights without reliable internet access.
Technologically, I envision studios and other media companies creating open APIs and platforms so new innovative streaming services can be developed on top. […] That would solve the studio’s fear of single players like Netflix dominating media distribution and eventually dictating terms in the industry.
Bitcoin plays a role in the future market, as Fung sees it. Not strictly for the currency’s ability to transcend international borders with ease, but also because of its lower transaction fees, this view makes sense. With Netflix, users pay for a curated selection of content which has to do with deals that the company can negotiate. In comparison to the company’s DVD library, the streaming selection is actually pretty weak. In the near-future, if content owners like Sony Pictures and others are smart, new streaming services which charge by the view, rather than by the month, could arise. Someone with very little money could then have access to content they want. As Fung put it:
New streaming services could find a hybrid approach by using BitTorrent P2P streaming to lower cost and Bitcoin for pay per view micro-transactions. […] Imagine when everyone can watch and listen to anything, anytime, anywhere, with mere cents, automatically and continuously deducted from your Bitcoin wallet. No, you won’t own your media, but that was never the case to begin with […] physically or otherwise, but […] priced low enough that you don’t think much about the charge.
Very important to note is the reduced cost that using P2P (peer-to-peer) streaming would have in terms of bandwidth, in theory, though it’s hard to imagine how this would work as far as a strictly-streaming service goes. Anyway you slice it, the owners of the content would have a far greater deal of control over how to get their work to market, without having to go through intermediaries such as iTunes, Amazon, or Netflix.
The role of Bitcoin in this future is hard to understate. The ability of companies to charge fractions of pennies for various services makes pirating them seem ridiculous to the vast majority of people who want the content in the first place. There’ll always be a group of people who feel entitled to the fruits of other people’s labor without any compensation, just as there will always be other types of incurables in society. But companies integrating Bitcoin or some future cryptocurrency as a means to in effect make more money for their products while delivering their goods quicker and more conveniently to their consumers will make the pirates of the future seem like thieves to everyone, not just the people who may or may not suffer at their hands today.
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