Bram Cohen Understands Why Pirates Prefer BitTorrent Over Netflix

Despite the growing number of legal alternatives, millions of people prefer to pirate movies and TV-shows via BitTorrent instead of watching them on Netflix. Bram Cohen, the inventor of the BitTorrent protocol, says he would probably be a pirate too if he was just a regular guy since "pirate" alternatives offer much better resolutions than streaming services such as Netflix.

bcEarlier this year the season finale of Game of Thrones was pirated by more than five million people using the popular BitTorrent protocol.

While unauthorized downloading is nothing new, it appears that many of these pirates still prefer the BitTorrent option even though they can watch the show for free on Netflix. And we’re not talking about trivial numbers here.

News Corp CEO Robert Thomson estimated that no less than 20% of all Foxtel subscribers who already paid for access to the show chose to pirate it instead. With other popular shows such as Breaking Bad a similar pattern emerges.

According to Bram Cohen, the inventor of BitTorrent and chief scientist of the similarly named company, this doesn’t come as a surprise. Talking with the BBC’s Click, Cohen notes that in terms of video delivery BitTorrent is far superior to the systems currently used by Netflix and other video services.

“The fact is that by using BitTorrent it’s possible to give customers a much better experience with much less cost than has ever been possible before. It’s really not being utilized properly and that’s really unfortunate,” Cohen says.

BitTorrent’s inventor says he doesn’t own a TV at home, but he does watch Netflix on occasion. However, not with too much pleasure as the video quality that’s offered by the streaming service is less than acceptable.

“I actually don’t have a TV at home myself, but I do watch stuff on Netflix and I find it very frustrating because the video quality is really terrible,” Cohen says.

Cohen believes that many pirates share similar frustrations, which may explain why so many people pirate video content via BitTorrent, even those who have a Netflix account and can watch it legally. In fact, if he wasn’t such a prominent figure he probably be a pirate himself.

“I really go out of my way to not do the slightest hint of pirating anything ever, but if I were just some nobody [...] I would probably pirate some of the stuff that I can watch on Netflix and already paid for, because I’d like to watch it in higher resolution.”

Moving on to the legal aspects of piracy, Cohen doesn’t believe that copyright infringement is a crime that’s on par with manslaughter or shoplifting, but stops short of explaining exactly what it is.

“Copyright infringement is not a crime in the way that beating up someone is a crime, or stealing an actual physical good form a store is a crime. It’s something else.”

Looking at the future, Cohen says he eventually hopes to be remembered for more than just creating one of the most disruptive technologies for the entertainment industries. According to him there are more important things he can delve into, including power generation and 3D printing.

“I don’t think my work is done,” Cohen says.

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