Anyone remember piracy? It used to be a really big deal. Everyone was doing it. Well, obviously not you or I, friend, we're law-abiding citizens after all. But ya know, others. Bad hombres who'd turned their computer hard drives into copyright-snubbing treasure chests, overflowing with glistening .mp3s to listen to and ill-gotten .mpegs to watch.
Piracy used to be such a big deal we had ad campaigns combating it. "Would you steal a car?" they asked. "Yeah, sure," people answered as they waited for their downloads to begin. So to make the illegality of piracy feel more, er, illegal the laws of the land were changed.
But we all know pirates are traditionally at sea, so land laws don't bother them much. Our 'Three Strikes' law certainly didn't. Only a few poor souls ever struck out and got whacked with the full force of the law's punitive justice. The punishment: Jail time? Community service? A sternly worded talking to? Nah. Just a fine of a couple o' hundy bucks.
Eventually, the copyright-protecting prosecutors gave up, citing the heavy legal expense of charging people and the lightweight consequences pirates faced if found guilty. Piracy won. And then piracy started to lose.
Legal streaming services really took the wind out of piracy's sails. Netflix, Neon and Lightbox all launched roughly the same time in 2014/2015 with an irresistible offer; all of the content at great quality for an absurdly low cost. Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal also showed up offering the same sweet deal for music.
And that was that. Piracy was beached, bro. Who could be bothered living the pirate's life anymore, navigating pop-up infested websites, scanning virus infected downloads and mucking about with torrents when streaming apps were so convenient?
Much easier, and only marginally more expensive, to stay on the straight and narrow. Streaming won because it was easy and cheap and everything you wanted was right there.
But now, I fear, piracy is on the cusp of a comeback.
Earlier this week Apple announced it was also getting into the streaming and content making business with a service called Apple TV Plus (ATP). They wheeled out the brightest superstars, including Oprah, J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg, who all announced they were making exclusive shows for ATP which you will assuredly want to watch. Apple didn't announce ATP's monthly subscription fee yet, but I imagine it will be like their Spotify competitor Apple Music, and priced competitively.
ATP is not to be confused with APV, which is Amazon Prime Video. As you can guess this streaming service belongs to online shopping behemoth Amazon, which is also super busy making exclusive shows that you'll want to watch in exchange for a competitively priced monthly subscription fee.
APV already has really good shows like Sneaky Pete and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, but its real precious is the much anticipated Lord of the Rings prequel, which it is pumping an insane US$1 billion into. They'll need a lot of monthly fees to cover that...
But the biggest, baddest new challenger is Disney and its upcoming streaming service. If you've got kids or are heavily invested in geek culture then it's all but guaranteed you'll be shelling out for what will no doubt be a competitively priced monthly subscription fee.
The House of Mouse just completed a US$70 billion merger with Fox, which means the entirety of 20th Century Fox's movie and TV show catalogue will be available alongside all of the Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars movies and shows.
Disney isn't mucking about, it plans to launch with a brand new, huge budget, big talent, live action Star Wars show called The Mandalorian, which already has people raving.
It's a galactically appealing proposition. It's also another monthly sub on top of all the other monthly subs. Which raises the question of how many monthly subs is too many monthly subs? Because we must be fast approaching that number.
Latest independent research indicated that 'piracy is dying a natural death,' which is obvious but it's always good to make these things official. In the survey of 1000, half admitted to pirating during their lifetimes but only 3 per cent pirated these days. You don't really need to. Everything you want is easy to get and cheap.
But, the cold hard fact it that this glorious, golden age of cheap, convenient streaming is now coming to an end.
If you're someone who must watch all the incoming must-watch content heading our way then, sorry, streaming is about to get really expensive, really quickly. I suspect a lot of people won't want to suffer FOMO, but also won't want their pay cheque to die the death of a thousand subscriptions. They will instead simply follow the streams out to the ocean.
And in the ocean? Well, thar be pirates.