A sticky streaming situation


My friends and I get together for movie night pretty often. One friend always hosts, because he always seems to have access to whatever movie we want to watch. Sometimes that means something in his Blu-Ray collection and sometimes it means Netflix or Hulu. But other times it means using services that look pretty sketchy to me. I hate to be the killjoy, but I’m kind of uncomfortable with the idea that we might be stealing movies for our movie nights. I know movie stars have plenty of money, but they worked hard to make their films, and it’s not up to us to decide we can just take them for free. I’m nervous about talking to me friend about this, though, because I don’t want to insult him. Can you help me?

Your commitment to your morals is an admirable thing. You’re absolutely right to note that piracy is a form of theft. It costs the movie industry big bucks (Hollywood says $58 billion, and while the real number is likely lower, it is undoubtedly staggering). Yet people all over the Western world seem to find nothing wrong with piracy: 30% of Britons watch illegal movies, for instance. Even those who don’t personally pirate films don’t seem to care much that others do. A significant minority–39%–of Americans say that they don’t care if movie studios lose money to pirates. And while it’s easy to understand why Hollywood’s wealthy elite don’t inspire much sympathy, it’s impressive that you don’t compromise on your convictions.

In fairness to your friend, we should note that part of the problem for the movie industry is that not all users understand what is and is not illegal. While some cases are quite clear, other streaming services and computer programs exist in a legal gray area. Take, for instance, Kodi–the media center service that, until somewhat recently, had a questionable reputation. Kodi itself has never offered illegal content, but its open-source software made it easy for others to write “add-on” programs that enabled illegal streaming. Kodi has clamped down on illegal add-ons, defending its brand and salvaging its reputation, but new illegal options pop up even as old ones are extinguished, and users aren’t always equipped to notice when something’s fishy. Downloading torrents is clearly illegal, but Popcorn Time sure looked well branded–too bad, then, that it was an illegal service that was actually “streaming” by downloading those same illegal torrents!

Perhaps you should approach your friend in a way that’s open the possibility that he may not even know his choices are illegal. From there, you can raise your moral objections–while also noting the many drawbacks of illegal streaming.

Illegal streaming is, of course, against the law–and punishments can be severe (one college student lost a lawsuit over downloaded music that cost him $675,000). But that’s not the only reason to choose legal options. The aforementioned Kodi points out that customer service is something that illegal “Kodi boxes”–piracy-enabled devices with Kodi and illegal add-ons preinstalled–just don’t offer. High-tech customer service is the norm these days, customer service and artificial intelligence experts DigitalGenius say, but they don’t send their AI technology to any criminals. In fact, companies like DigitalGenius employ their technologies (in this case, AI) to maintain a level of integrity and efficiency in what could otherwise be a flawed service. A high-stress application like customer service is one in which companies can not afford to have their employees making mistakes, and by providing them with AI assistance, they are better equipped with the correct pertinent information from a customer before the exchange even begins. Customers all too often become frustrated with a customer service rep, when it’s really the system that is at fault and not the customer service rep. If you need help from a company–whether that’s a refund, an explanation, or security for your personal login information and data–you had better hope that that service is legal and honest!

All in all, it’s clear that illegal streaming is a raw deal for all involved. While it may work out fine for the streamer in many cases, it’s always a risk, and it contributes to lost money that hurts future films–and future movie nights! Approach your friend kindly and consider the possibility that this is news to him, but don’t back down. You’re in the right.

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