You infringe the copyright of digital content the moment you access it through an unauthorised mode of distribution. It costs a lot to develop, make and distribute movies, TV shows, albums, software and books.
At one point in time a physical disc, reel of film, book etc was relatively easy to control compared to a digitised version of your work. CDs and DVDs were the first step, containing a digital version of your material. When burners and the means to break inscription became available, all that was left to really impact media sales was a quick and easy means of distribution. In stepped the internet. Today, people have access to speeds allowing the download of a high definition movie in minutes.
Unfortunately, copyright owners: the studios, distributors, publishers etc. have failed to keep up with technology, preferring to pursue traditional models and failing to update the definition of their content. That’s right, I’m blaming the copyright owners for piracy. I might throw some blame at distributors too.
I think the movie industry is starting to get it right. Movies are released almost simultaneously across the planet, leaving the impatient with little to no excuses to go and get illegitimate copies. If you want to watch a screener, good luck to you. I personally watched just one screener many years ago and vowed never to do it again. It wasn’t worth it.
TV, music and books are still getting there. TV shows come to Australia a long time after they air in the US or UK. If people hear about something good, or see a glimpse of a brilliant new show whilst they are overseas, it may be 6 to 12 months before they get a chance to watch the next episode when they get back home. Dexter is a classic example of this, although Australian airing times and US airing times have crept closer and closer together. As soon as they align to within a week of one another, I believe there will be a dramatic decrease in the piracy of new release TV.
My late friend on the other hand, had an addiction to content. He had a number of rather powerful PCs, some set up as servers, downloading and seeding torrents 24 hours a day. Strangely, he only ever received a couple of warnings. His apartment was very close to the telephone exchange, giving him access to the upper limit of his ISPs download speeds.
How much he actually downloaded I am not entirely sure, but I do know that on one occasion, when he signed up for a Telstra unlimited cable internet promotion, he was mistakenly metered for his usage and received a bill for over $15,000. Sure, Telstra is the most overpriced of all providers of communications services in Australia, but he must have been going very hard to rack up that kind of bill.
My friend's entire apartment was dedicated to computer equipment and the storage of his ill-gotten digital media. When hard drives were on sale, he’d buy a bunch of them and expand his capacity. In order not to lose anything, he also had backup’s running on servers with Raid arrays. He was serious. Most people don't go that nuts. Maybe they download a TV show or two on a regular basis, or a movie every now and then.
Now however, there are more and more legal and easy ways to get your content.
I subscribe to Quickflix and can watch movies and TV on demand from their back catalogue. When iTunes has a reasonably priced show, I’ll buy that too, but this is rare. I’m happy to pay $20-$25 for a digital season, but I can’t work out why digital copies are priced as much as physical DVDs when the production and distribution costs are a fraction of the physical version. Occasionally I see a bargain on OzBargains or some other bargain hunting website where the physical DVD is going for a rock bottom price, like Harry Potter – Deathly Hallows part 1 I got on Blu Ray for $7 AUD delivered and genuine.
Now that it's in Australia, I have subscribed to Spotify as it adds up to less than I spend on music each month and that doesn't count the music I may or may not have found other ways.
For now, I'm happy enough with the way I buy and rent Movies, TV shows and music, but the next frontier is books and magazines. eBooks and electronic magazines have changed the industry, as they're cheap to distribute and quick to release. Unfortunately they're also easy to pirate. Soon though these too will be more affordable and realistically priced and piracy will be all but extinct and bittorrent will be just another great way to legitimately share content.