After much anticipation, we’ve finally seen the launch of some of YouTube Red’s first strands of original programming hit the site this week. Series like Scare Pewdiepie, Rooster Teeth’s Lazer Team and Lilly Singh’s feature-length documentary A Trip To Unicorn Island are available as extra content for Red subscribers in the US (where the service is only available right now) or as one-off purchases around the rest of the world. Either way, the content sits comfortably behind a paywall on YouTube.
And as expected, there are many voices across the internet who feel absolute injustice at the idea of having to pay for an ad-free YouTube experience that also comes with its own high production value content; and the requests for torrents and streams have already kicked off.
There’s a lot to be said about the business model of YouTube Red, and how its model of subscription fee sharing might actually have a less-than-positive outcome financially for smaller creators; but that’s a separate discussion. For now, we’re going to talk about the main reasons why pirating a YouTuber’s series on Red actually kind of completely sucks.
Actual independent creators are making that stuff
Pirating content is always justified as a cool easy way to “stick it to the corporate machine” – but in this case, doing so will only cause lasting damage to the people whose content you want to see: specifically, YouTubers.
For many creators, original programming on Red is their first chance to make something a lot more advanced than their usual videos. Using their own influence/creativity, plus a proper budget, team and promotion, YouTubers can finally do something to legitimise online video as its own platform.
The trouble with this, however, is that everyone involved has to get some kind of return on their investment – The people responsible for making the content (YouTubers) have to get as many eyes on it as possible, to justify the cost of making it to those who funded it (YouTube, sponsors, etc); and if they don’t succeed, won’t get to make any more.
Someone like Pewdiepie – one of the richest YouTubers on planet Earth and practically a corporate entity himself – is a bad example of the consequences of piracy; but if not even he can succeed, what does that mean for all the smaller, more independent filmmakers, musicians and other creators? For people whom this platform’s support system could benefit in the long term?
Most people won’t pay for it “when they can”
We know that unfortunately, not everyone can afford things that cost money. And of course, paywall content is an additional luxury that might feel like a smack in the face to YouTube fans with less disposable income. So some might take the easy route and torrent content, feeling safe by promising their conscience that they would pay for it if they could, or even more obscurely: will pay when they can.
But here’s the thing: they probably won’t. Why would they need to? When the time comes that they have some money going spare, they’ve already watched whatever it is they’ve pirated. Now that’s money they can spend on something else they need.
The disposable culture that surrounds YouTube videos is also an important factor: people watch a new video, maaaayyybe more than once, and then often will never look at it again. We can hope that this wouldn’t be the case for the much more advanced programming that YouTube Red promises, but past cases of creators’ content not getting the recognition it deserves in comparison to the most rudimentary vlogs suggests otherwise.
You’re abusing your right to free stuff
As we explained many months ago when KickthePJ suffered some piracy of his webseries Oscar’s Hotel, fans pirating content for the benefit of other fans only serves to feed the downward spiral of fan-based entitlement: the notion that because you love something so much, you deserve to have it right away, no matter the cost to the creator.
Listen, we get it: If a TV show isn’t available in your country, or you missed it live, or it was taken off Netflix before you finished, of course you’re going to pirate it. We’re guilty of the same thing. The difference is that most of these shows aren’t depending on your support after creating a years-long backlog of free content.
Honestly, if your first response after a YouTuber has spent years on a wide range of freely available videos for you (and will presumably continue to make more) is to say that some of their hard work “deserves to be pirated”, you really need to re-evaluate your own priorities. There isn’t much more to add to this.
I know it’s hard. You really like a person’s content, you don’t mind ads on YouTube that much, and you might not have money for yet another monthly subscription (or just don’t want to give it to YouTube). But as much as you think that your view won’t matter, contributing to the piracy of these series will only serve to damage the opportunities that genuine hardworking independent creators have been given.
Don’t do the sucky thing.