If you've been using the Internet awhile, you've probably come across someone, in some damp forum somewhere, expressing the following sentiment:
"What do you mean I can't get ______ for free anymore? How dare they charge money for this! This is worse than when they put ads up! Which I also bitched about! I'm going to take my business elsewhere! No! I'm going to bitch about it anonymously, and then take my business elsewhere! No! I'm going to bitch about it, then steal it, and then play with my business elsewhere!
"Or even right here in the computer chair!"
You will of course see similar rants when this poor person gets free stuff but discovers that the free stuff wasn't good enough. "What do you mean this free app doesn't have ________ feature, YOU CORPORATE FAT CATS?!" And again if something is free, and is awesome, but it doesn't come quickly enough.
"What kind of Nazi/Communist/sentient genital wart do you have to be to dare take a vacation instead of producing things for me to enjoy!?"
And if you're being really honest with yourself, you might even have felt the same things. I know I have. I'm not holier than thou. I'm exactly as shitty and self-entitled as thou.
But why? Like you (I'm imagining), I'm not normally a huge asshole in the real world. I'm constantly paying for things and not shrieking in the faces of shopkeepers. So why is it that you and I and everyone else on the Internet are so convinced that the world owes us everything, quickly, of the highest quality, and free? How did we get to be such self-entitled little bastards?
4We Don't Really Care About the Content Providers
The fact that someone has to write the things we read, or program the games we play, or produce the shows we watch isn't that relevant to most of us. We're just interested in the product, and more specifically, getting it in our grubby hands. When I went out and bought this Rush album ...
This one here.
... I didn't buy it because I cared about Mr. Rush, or wanted to buy Mr. Rush a new boat. I wanted the music, I guess.
Unless it was something else.
From my point of view, I gave my money to the music store, and they gave me a record. I wasn't rewarding the content creation. I was rewarding the content delivery.
This is part of the reason piracy is so rampant. That didn't blow over when Napster left, incidentally: HBO's current hit show Game of Thrones is now probably watched by more people illegally than it is legally. Sure, that might be in part due to the restrictive ways of legally getting it, which I think involves sending HBO a check each month. (Does that sound right? That sounds too crazy to be right.) But it's still an insane amount of piracy.
But even when it is easy to legally get something, piracy is still rampant. When websites like NYTimes.com put up pay walls, the Internet quickly fills with tips on how to get around those. No links here, though you can probably figure out how it works (it basically just abuses the free trial system). Same deal with ad blocking. And those little 99 cent apps in the Android app store? Despite being cheaper than shit (and easier to buy), those get pirated, too.
"How dare someone charge me the price of a taco for anything other than a taco!?"
I know there are a lot of reasons why we pirate media with an intensity that would make actual pirates blush. We do it because we can, because it's easy, because there's no penalties, and because everyone else on the Internet does it. But most importantly, we do it because, deep down, we could not give less of a damn about the people who create it. The guys who create Game of Thrones, talented and hard-working though they may be, are simply outside our Monkeyspheres. Their livelihoods and general welfare don't just rank below ours. In our minds, they essentially don't exist.
3Also Maybe It's Actually the Content Providers' Fault?
On the other hand, maybe we're right to poop on the content providers a bit. This might sound a little twisted; after all, if we hate them so much, why are we interested in their content? Well, when we perceive that the content provider is a middleman, someone who isn't responsible for making the content so much as they are for marking up its cost, that might have something to do with it.
During the 1990s, a lot of pro-piracy rhetoric was based on arguments like this, rooted in the fertile soil of music industry hatred. The music industry did of course have a lot to answer for. Charging $20 for a CD, of which the actual band might see $2. Charging $20 for an album with only one good song on it. Price fixing. Everything to do with Ace of Base.
And sure, pirating the songs denied the actual artists (who we maybe don't hate) their $2 of income. But then we did it anyways, because they're rich, and that sounds like a good enough reason to hate them, too.
Also, charging $20 for a CD with no good songs on it.
There's also the issue of episodic content being delayed. When people complain about this, most content providers typically respond with something like "We'll release it when it's done," or "These delays aren't costing you anything, so quit your bellyaching," or "Go to hell, you fat lazy bastards. Jesus Christ. Ride a bike."
There's a problem with that, though, when the consumers have already paid for previously released episodes. Basically, the value of an individual episode is based in part on the fact that it's only a part of a larger whole. The Fellowship of the Ring, on its own, is worth less than The Fellowship of the Ring as the opening chapter of The Lord of the Rings. In fact, on its own, The Fellowship of the Ring isn't worth much.
"That's it? I guess Boromir was the bad guy, then?"
When someone sells an episode of an incomplete story bundled with a promise that the story will be completed in later episodes to come, and then stops releasing new episodes, that reduces the value of the episodes they've already sold. Believe me, I am sympathetic to content creators and the challenges they face making novels and video games and novels based on video games. But I also have sympathy for people who pay for stories that were promised to be finished and then don't get finished. That's worthy of complaining about.
(What isn't justifiable is people who bitch about free content being late. Those guys are assholes. If you see anyone doing this, kick them in the ear.)