About a fortnight ago, caught in an in depth conversation that was devolving into insults, mainly centred around the smug arrogance that comes from private trackers, I had an unexpected epiphany. The vast majority* of my software, music and visual content (movies & TV shows) are now legitimately sourced, actually paid for. The concept that surprised me, however, was that it happened completely by accident.
It began with Spotify.
Actually, it's fairer to say it probably begun in 2008 with the iPhone.
More specifically, with the App store. For the first time, software was simply paid for, no questions asked. A great app cost a few bucks, and most of us were so excited to be using them that we didn’t really think too much about it. Millions of people all around the world were suddenly paying money for software, and unlike the PC, we just didn’t question it. It laid down the ground work for what happened next.
Halfway through 2012, Spotify launched their music streaming service in Australia. We’d heard a lot about it, and Rdio had already been around for a while. I’d tried it, but after a few days of fumbling around their mobile app, decided Rdio wasn’t for me. iTunes Match was also trying its best, but the latency on the iPhone killed it for me.** Spotify kicked off with a bang, and its tie-in to FaceBook had a lot of my friends using it from day one. I started really enjoying listening to music I didn’t personally own, and it soon became my go to music player. I clicked with the mobile App, and the delay to streaming from hitting play was miniscule. What really sealed it though, was the $12 a month cost. I signed up, then totally forgot about it. It just isn’t that much, and the massive library meant I was discovering artists I’d never have found otherwise. Speaking of which, yes, there’s absolutely holes in the library, they just don’t seem to be ones that I notice. (Phil Collins is absent, much to my fiancés chagrin).
It was in the switchover to streaming music that Netflix also took my eye. Something that’s still difficult (but not impossible) to obtain, the service allowed me to on demand choose from tens of thousands of movies / TV shows and a bunch of other content. Similar to the Spotify method, the biggest hook for me wasn’t the library, but the instant on nature of it. Unlike torrenting, which demanded forward planning, I could press play, and the content was immediately there, streaming in HD. No doubt this is how I lost an entire Saturday to watching Archer episodes back to back. Now, as for the legality of the service, it’s a grey area. While Netflix will happily accept an Australian issued credit card to pay the $8 a month fee, it will still geo-block you unless you’re using a service to also mask your IP address*** As this has never been tested in a court, I’m going with the ‘lesser of two evils’ approach. To bolster the argument, choice magazine even has a ‘how to’ article, demonstrating just how to get connected. To be clear though, it wasn't a conscious decision to just stop pirating content. It was more that Netflix was simply more convenient.
Naturally of course then, we roll into June, and Adobe announces a complete change of their pricing and purchasing methods for their software. Gone are the standalone options of purchasing Photoshop, which, along with Lightroom are my most utilized applications. For the longest time I used my partner’s second license of Photoshop for when I needed it, but now with a monthly payment option, it’s become super easy to become completely legitimate with Photoshop CC. Lightroom 5 is much the same story, with v5 being 1/4 the price of the original back when it left beta in 2007.
So what’s the point of this diatribe?
I don’t feel morally superior in doing this. I certainly don’t think it’ll serve as a way forward for anyone else, but I do think it was interesting that for the first time, convenience has (at least for me) won out over free, and that I think, deserved talking about.
* Game of Thrones and the Newsroom are still difficult.
** iTunes Match is still a great music laundering service, and I still no idea how it’s allowed to survive.
***I personally use unblock-us, but there’s a number of other services including browser plugins, that do it for free.