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What might kill illegal downloading do you think? The long (and mostly ineffective) arm of the law perhaps, or maybe a sudden (and unlikely) feeling of overwhelming love for the poor music and movie industry?

According to the Global Web Index the answer could be simple and obvious: why bother downloading something illegally when you can watch it or listen to it perfectly legally using streaming media services?

YouTube has certainly showed a thirst for streaming videos, free of charge to the end user. The Global Web Index research reveals that 64% of Internet users watch video clips this way. Aha, you say, video clips are not the same as movies though. However, according to the report it seems that 31% are already watching full length TV and 'video programming' (whatever that might be) so perhaps the notion of streaming advertising supported full length blockbusters isn't a total non-starter.

Tom Smith, Managing Director of Trendstream who led the research says "Thanks to the rise of online services such as Spotify, Hulu, iPlayer and of course YouTube, the environment has been created where you can stream almost all the content you would ever want. If everything I want is available on demand, the concept of ownership is diminished" and adds "This is not only a threat to traditional packaged sales of music, TV and film, it will also kill off piracy. Why pirate when you can stream?".

It's all about the money, I hear you scream. Yet this research suggests that isn't actually the case with people downloading illegal media content are also driven by a desire for immediacy, being able to get that content as soon as it is available. Take the example of watching US TV shows in the UK, shows which are not legally available for months thanks to complex licensing issues.

Tom Smith concludes "This does not mean consumers won?t pay for their online content. When content is great and it can be accessed when and how people want, they will pay. Instead of taking legal action against isolated individuals, the content providers should take the opportunity to get their content online in a relevant format and at a fair price. If they do that, people will no longer to seek illegal alternatives. In a world of instant information and content, media owners are missing out on millions of dollars of revenue by restricting content through time delays, regional staggering or by relying purely on traditional media delivery".

Only time will tell, but history suggests that as is the case with online porn it will not be easy to rid the Internet of illegal downloaders and file-sharers.

As Editorial Director and Managing Analyst with IT Security Thing I am putting more than two decades of consulting experience into providing opinionated insight regarding the security threat landscape for IT security professionals. As an Editorial Fellow with Dennis Publishing, I bring more than two decades of writing experience across the technology industry into publications such as Alphr, IT Pro and (in good old fashioned print) PC Pro. I also write for SC Magazine UK and Infosecurity, as well as The Times and Sunday Times newspapers. Along the way I have been honoured with a Technology Journalist of the Year award, and three Information Security Journalist of the Year awards. Most humbling, though, was the Enigma Award for 'lifetime contribution to IT security journalism' bestowed on me in 2011.

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Last Post by canadafred
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With all this talk about music piracy and movie piracy, there are companies operating out in the open creating software that you can purchase, download for free or as shareware that will let you rip CDs and DVDs. Instead of going after the people who are downloading how about going after the people who are providing people with the means to rip media so as to upload. Just thinking.

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MktgRob

I do agree but the analogy of "It's not illegal to make a gun but it's illegal to use one in an illegal way, like murder" still holds. If these free software programs can be used in a legal way then there is little the law can do about it.

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I look at the movie and music industries in the same way as I do the software companies and the search engines. Once a year they make a big spectacle out of charging some poor high school kid and get all kinds of media attention for a day. Then it's back to business as usual.

Unless the industries seriously protect their resources there will be no stopping illegal downloads. Many people don't even know it's illegal, "got it from the Internet" is all they know. Downloading illegally is equivalent to spitting on the sidewalk, it's illegal but no one seems in much of a hurry to prosecute.

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