I’ve done something I haven’t needed to do in a while – I downloaded a DVD rip of Safe House, 2012 using BitTorrent.
I had to.
The Swissair flight from San Francisco to Geneva in summer of ‘94 seemed unusually long. I carried a 14.4K modem back from the U.S. and couldn’t wait to put it into my home PC. I spent the entire flight replaying in my head the tedious process of removing some of the 7 hard drives that were dangling in every direction from the SCSI controller, praying that there would be enough physical space to insert the beast somewhere between the massive SoundBlaster 32 and the S3 Diamond Stealth.
The modem worked. A few months later, via one of Geneva’s first BBS’s, I joined an underground organization within something called [Ne/V\eSiS]. The latter was an impressive world-wide operation of software piracy, giving me access to the world’s most expensive applications and games, for free, while others were paying hundreds of dollars to dial in. 4GB DAT tapes would travel through Europe and new shipments would arrive weekly by human traders. The Swiss law was unclear on the topic of piracy, but eventually uniformed and heavily armed police would clarify things.
I spent endless hours playing with tools that were outside of my financial reach, including Autocad 12 or Photoshop 5, ran every commercial and open-source major operating system before it was ever released (Windows Chicago, Linux, etc.), learned to program and much more. It eventually became my profession and I moved to the US before the turn of the century.
Much like software piracy, my first encounter with movie piracy was with a software decoder for the encrypted Canal+ French channel. After using a computer screen with a video decoder, I bought a Sony CPJ 200 projector. Then, in Seattle, my neighbors and I shared a network and a file server with a 100 GBs of DivX movies. We watched new releases all the time, before they were in theatre.
I was well aware of the illegal nature of my doings and I finally stopped pirating movies with the rise of Netflix, about ten years ago.
Last week my family and I travelled to Switzerland. It was a familiar route from New York to Geneva. No modems this time, but a Kindle fire in the carryon. A copy of Safe House, circa 2012, legally rented from Amazon. We eventually started watching it, but with the kids not doing so well with the jet lag, had to stop it. Just over 24 hours later we thought we’d finish watching it – at no avail. This was a 24 US rental. I tried to pay for it again, but that turned out to be impossible because the movie hasn’t been released in Switzerland!
So I downloaded it. Seven minutes later, we were able to finish watching this masterpiece, a true jewel of culture worth protecting from the imperialistic Swiss.
Fred Wilson often writes about how regular paying consumers are forced into piracy. The world is now connected. The walls have fallen. When is this craziness going to end?