Acknowledging that piracy is theft, and therefore illegal I'd like to offer some thoughts on the subject.Firstly, I don't think piracy will ever die, that's just a fact of life with the internet. Knowing that, what can be done to curb piracy? Should we sue the downloader?
No. You may remember Metallica tried this with Napster in the early part of the 2000s and it didn't work so well. I was a Napster user after the Metallica Raid — I got back online later that day. My new username? "MetallicaBannedMeToo". The fact of the matter is piracy is so rampant that trying to catch all the downloaders and sue them would tie up the courts for decades.
Should we jail the uploader?
No. The way torrenting, Magnet Links, and Peer-to-Peer File-Sharing networks operate everyone who downloads is an uploader. See previous problem with finding, charging, and trying all of those millions (billions?) of people.
Should we shut down the middleman?
No. Like Napster, Kazaa, The Pirate Bay, Megaupload, and BTJunkie? For as many as get shut down another will open. It's like a game of Whack-a-Mole - no one ever wins. You just play for the highest score.
Should we police the internet?
So, what's to be done?
The best part of downloading music in the early 2000s was that I could get just one track. I know it seems normal now, but back then the only way to get one track was to buy a 'single' which usually cost about $8 and came with two or three other tracks you didn't really want. Now, what if the song you want is a deep track, not released to radio? Or the label didn't release a single for it? You had to go to the record store (remember those) and buy an album for $15 rip the one song you liked to your computer. So what happened? The iTunes Music Store. Did it stop piracy of music? No, but Steve Jobs decided that rather than try to kill it, they'd try to compete with it. Genius. Here is the video of the iTunes Music Store introduction in 2003. The audio is out of sync, but it's still worth watching:
Right now, the industry is still stuck in the past, and is crawling oh-so-slowly into the future. They still believe people are going to want to buy DVDs or Blu-rays in five years, and that a movie ticket is well worth $15. Netflix is the closest thing they have to an advocate, but the studios are trying to drive them out of business as they see them as a threat, not a solution. It’s mind boggling.
Paul also posted this image from reddit:
Studios and Networks needs to yank their heads out of the sand and build a model that allows them to compete with piracy. Make your product better and MORE convenient. Say I want to watch Commando. Video rental stores are dead so I have to go down to Best Buy, drop $8-$12 bucks to pick up a movie who's special features are "Interactive Menus" and hopefully I like it. This is how I ended up with Seven Pounds - which I will never watch again.
Put the movie for rent in iTunes for $2. And I will rent it cause it's cheap and reliable. Then, offer an upgrade path, so if I like the movie I can upgrade my rental to a purchase for $3 more — $5 for a catalog movie from 1985 seems pretty fair to me. More for movies with special features. More for new releases. As it is now I can download a movie from the internet in 10 minutes and own it forever with no DRM. Hollywood has nothing to compete with that.
An anecdote in closing:
A couple years ago I spent over $250 to buy every season of MacGyver. A show that had been off the air for 15 years. There was not a single special feature or commentary or anything. And it took almost 2 years to get the full set and an additional 4 years to get the TV movies. In two days I could download every MacGyver episode and movie ever made and it would be free. Most of the time, in fact, it's faster to download something I already own then it is to rip it off my DVDs.