The State of Piracy

@treefroggy#32403 I suppose the reason it rubs people the wrong way is because, well, her boyfriend is kind of a major part of the class that‘s in the way if we actually want “fully automated luxury communism” - and I’m not even necessarily sure we do.

Like Grimes isn't who I'd go to for good takes on political economy generally so I don't take it too seriously, but like, you can't solve political issues by technology. Under capitalism, AI will not liberate us from wage labor because that's not what its designed to do.

There have been instances of new technology undermining capitalist order by mistake, like when advances in networking tech completely pulled the rug from under the music business ~ 20 years ago. There is absolutely no reason to pay anyone but the artist for music in 2021, yet (almost) everyone has a Spotify or Apple music account, because copyright laws and changed priorities for electronic devices made filesharing less feasible. I think that's kind of telling. Music was decommodified by technology then recommodified by law enforcement and big tech in tandem.

@Syzygy#32434 Well yes, I am aware that most people don't use paid streaming services for music! Something like YouTube (not premium) is obviously used significantly more than either of those I mentioned. And filesharing is still definitely a thing!

It's sorta beside the point though, it's kinda hard to deny that hoarding music (or movies!) on harddrives is not feasible to the same extent these days as it was in the mid-00s. Laptops don't come with big harddrives unless you're willing to pay extra for it, and a smartphone has less space and does not want you to drag and drop files; it's a device made for streaming different forms of content, not for keeping a library of files on. If you want to fileshare properly, you'd need a desktop PC which is a pretty serious investment.

@Syzygy#32442 I find it very hard to believe I am better off than you - I had to cancel my Spotify subscription and rely on MP3s to afford a bus pass thank you very much- but discussing relative privilege is entirely beside the point.

probably just a matter of people having different strategies for getting media for cheap. Rights holders have definitely been trying to de-tangibilize media and make it streaming-rentable

@Syzygy#32448 Don‘t worry! Sweden is probably an extreme case, because it’s both the home of the Pirate Bay and of Spotify so like, torrenting was a national sport for a while - to the extent of my granddad getting rid of his CD collection and just torrenting - and it's very noticeably not anymore, and now Spotify is incredibly dominant. They claim some 70% of adults have an account!

It wasn't my intention to be flippant about it and I think filesharing rules. It's just been very noticeable recently, having to rely on mp3s for a bit, how my laptop has less harddrive space than a 2007 iPod and how my stereo setup is built around streaming music through my PS4 - which has much worse functionality than the PS3 when it comes to playing downloaded media or streaming stuff through LAN etc.

Like, *they* really want you to pay for services, a lot of people (myself included when I can afford them) just give in because of the inconvenience and it sucks.

i think piracy has never been easier and storage/devices have never been cheaper or more accessible. memory cards and external storage have been relatively affordable for years. once you have that, you don‘t really have to spend a cent on media. yeah, streaming platforms are trendy right now, but the material reality is that pretty much all media is accessible for free. hell, there’s even platforms like Plex, where you can share your local files with your friends and it presents them pulling metadata from the web, so it looks like your own private streaming service (and is free at a small scale).

@tombo#32489 I think both things can be true.

My experience is that less people have PCs at all these days and use cheaper, more specialized electronics: smartphones most notably but also tablets, stuff like Chromebooks, Rokus, game consoles etc, and those devices have less robust support for storing and sharing media than DVRs, MP3 players and laptops of yesteryear. PCs are better than ever, but they're expensive, take up a lot of space, are harder to use and do very little that the average user needs that their phone can't do. With that, there's a general movement away from the idea of the PC as a networked creative workstation towards devices that are much better for consuming than producing media: larger screens, no keyboards/mice, less storage, much higher down bandwidth than up. On my mobile data plan it's something like 20:1, for example, and standard broadband solutions here do at least 10:1 - you'll have to pay extra for upload speed.

I think that's more than a trend, I think it's a largely succesful reconfiguration. The economics behind it are shady, and the foundations are rickety since people are well aware they're paying for stuff that's readily available for free, but for a while there it seemed technologically inevitable that no-one was going to pay for recorded music or TV shows ever again, and that didn't happen.


i think anybody who bought a smart tv 4 years ago probably doesn‘t use it as such now, and everybody i know who got a chromebook was very often inconvenienced by its limitations. the trend in tablets is very clearly leaning towards them being more useful as a productive and creative tool, not less. it feels like the hardware needed to run most programs, except very advanced ones, has plateaued in the last 10 years compared to before. PCs are not more expensive now than before. storage is definitely cheaper. not everywhere has optic fibre, but in the places that do, piracy is quite literally a thousand times more convenient now than 20 years ago. bandwidth limitations are an arbitrary and exploitative measure that will hopefully be banished soon (they aren’t really a thing in my country, Spain, and the government is in fact legally forcing corporations who are able to to provide at least 30mbps internet everywhere in the country, even remote rural areas). the pandemic probably means anybody who can work from home has done so, or tried to, or thought about it. the jobs market is very clearly trending towards jobs in tech and kids are being taught programming at a young age. i think it‘s very clear in everyone’s mind that jobs that can be done on the computer, should and will be. i don't know the data but i doubt computer sales are on a downward trend.

it would be interesting to know how people's spending in media has evolved in the last 20 years. most people i know share their Spotify and Netflix subscriptions with partners, friends and family. surely the share of disposable income people spent on media was higher then than now. so they are paying *something* but it's kind of a symbolic amount compared to what it was before. a lot of people are choosing the convenience these platforms provide, but it's not sustainable at all. it's the opposite of convenient to have 5+ different subscription services, all with their bad UI experiments, IPs popping up and suddenly disappearing based on various licensing agreements, and an endless stream of garbage middle of the road original programming. if something is good, you will hear about it, and then you will download it in two seconds xD

@tombo#32600 Man, this is interesting cause my experience - I do some very light computer/programming teaching in my work - kids in general are much worse at computers than me and my friends were at the same age, and I was never a computer kid. They are much better at using the internet to communicate than I am, but Windows is a bit alien to them. This might be a class thing or it might be a Sweden vs Spain thing; I work in a “disadvantaged” neighborhood and most kids don‘t have PCs at home and if they do, it’s some crap their parents use to pay bills and not something they want to play or engage with. Lots of kids only have access to Windows PCs at the library - even schools have switched to tablets. I spend a lot of time explaining Windows basics - “what's a folder?” - to middle or high schoolers.

The point about pricing isn't that PCs in themselves have become more expensive, but the priorities are different. This is anecdotal, but when I was a kid around the turn of the millennium, you had one PC at home if that. These days you're expected to have a smartphone each, which is easily a PCs worth of investment in itself for a family of four if you're buying cheapo Androids. Combine with stagnant disposable incomes, the fact that you already have devices that do most of what you want it for anyway, and the space and it's a hard sell for a lot of people - and this is _very_ noticeable. I haven't seen a desktop PC that wasn't either a gaming PC or a workstation in years.

I'm not challenging you and I hope I don't come off that way. I'm interested in this because copyright and piracy issues were important in forming my politics once and it's a big tangled mess of ideological convictions (and general pessimism) being reinforced by experience for a decade or so. But that can be self-reinforcing; it's good to remember one's experience is not universal but situated, both geographically in this weird ass neoliberal techno-utopian nightmare of a country and in my geeky white middle class adolescense.

When it comes to spending I think it depends. I think more people subscribe to Spotify than bought €10 worth of records every month, and I _know_ that's the case with audiobook streaming services, but those are priced higher. On the other hand, you lose a lot of the "whales" (lol) that spent significantly more than that on media in a month. Spotify's enormous losses seem to speak to it being an impossible business model but the record companies keep showering them with money, so there must be _something_ going on. Might be as simple as wanting some sort of control over their "intellectual property".

@christoffing#32603 my stepsister is 13, middle class, and she does a lot of remote schoolwork using the google office suite, zoom, google hangouts, whatsapp, scratch… these are all accessible on a tablet, which i‘m sure is on purpose to make it more accessible, but they are much more usable on a desktop computer, so she has one of those Windows hybrid tablet things. she also uses her parents’ mac if she can get away with it. it‘s true that whereas 90s kids were introduced to technology mainly through desktop computers, kids today are much more likely to start with a tablet and go on from there, so they might not be familiar with Windows at an early age. but being familiar with software at all makes it much easier to learn other software, it doesn’t really matter what order you learn it in. i'm pretty sure all 20 year olds know what a folder is, for one reason or another.

the desktop computer / laptop has been devalued in the popular consciousness as an entertainment system, but at the same time its value for daily life has multiplied, specially within the last year. for many people, it's become an absolutely essential part of how they engage with work, education and socialisation. intricate familiarity with technology, for kids who just grew up with tablets, and also for boomers and older, is still a relatively new phenomenon. this ignorance is the foundation on which the subscription model is based, and i just don't think it can last. no idea what the alternative looks like, we'll find out soon enough! what seems logical, for me, is that eventually all media would be easily accessible in the same place, and people could choose to pay monthly, or per piece of media, or watch for free with advertising.

10€ was one CD... i'm pretty sure people bought more than one CD a month, no? some of the older people here, feel free to chime in!

@tombo#32626 I remember CDs being $15-20 a pop and out of my price range. Tried the method of buying something on iTunes for about half that price, then burning it to a CD-R, then loading that CD-R back into my computer as a non proprietary file, then transferring an .ogg to my non-iPod mp3 player, but uh……quickly tired of that. Did get a dozen or so CDs from Circuit City which was across the street from the Dunkin Donuts I worked at when it went out of business. Silly 17 year old me just got my paycheck and saw that they were practically giving them away for just $5 a cd and was like I‘ll never get this chance again! Now I don’t think I own a way to play a cd.

fwiw re media piracy and class status: the most dedicated stealer of media I’ve ever known is a physician from a very well off family from the UAE. Absolutely no economic reason to torrent, but she does, has received warning letters from her ISP etc. Maybe it functions as an adrenaline thing for sheltered rich people idk.

@Syzygy#32624 there's no configuration for those plugins unfortunately but you can delete the notification messages afterwards.