October 17, 2017

KANKANHALLI | To Netflix: Chill

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Veiled by political unrest and other persistent distractions, Netflix has been up to no good. The company recently increased its standard monthly subscription prices from $9.99 to $10.99, which I would have totally missed had it not been for some pointed research. Granted, $1 extra is a reasonable trade for surplus dopamine, so maybe this is justified with some business terminology. Still, it was a bold move, considering 600,000 forward-thinking, likely SolarMovie users closed their accounts following the 2011 Netflix price hike.

What’s worse than the increased rates, though, is Netflix’s ascension atop the Internet Ethics soapbox. Rumored to be expanding its Global Copyright and Content Protection Group and installing mechanisms to shame and discourage third-party piracy, Netflix likely feels like a protective mother of Originals. Yet, in trying to hedge its brainchildren from premature deployment into the Real (Virtual) World, Netflix offers an uninvited lesson in the civics of the internet.

Try as it might to expand and conquer, Netflix is no match for the world wide web. The seas of the internet have always been and will always be sailed by digital pirates, and this is crucial to upholding the core, unrestricted promise of the internet. Especially now, biased journalism and selective coverage infiltrate the online space. The internet, which was created neutral, is quickly losing its impartiality, spotlighting some content and overshadowing the rest. At a time like this, digital piracy can be seen as one movement to reclaim the media. It is one avenue of reaching the unreachable and restoring free form to the internet.

Piracy also doesn’t assume the criminality of a legitimate, well-intentioned customer, who might just be watching last night’s episode and might not be planning to overthrow the government. The breach in morality often paired with digital piracy is relatively superficial and piracy also isn’t nearly as damaging to the creative industry as it is painted to be. Music and movie businesses are encouraged to operate under innovative and highly profitable business models that account for digital file sharing. Sites like BitTorrent and Pirate Bay urged the entertainment industry towards more accommodating digital policies, and hard anti-piracy stances have proven largely ineffective in the past. Some musicians, artists, and productions even find their audiences solely through buried channels, without which they might’ve been void before ever cracking the surface.

Understandably, a streaming company’s instinct might be to expunge digital piracy, but perhaps leveraging piracy to its advantage and expanding its own collection of titles would be a more civil strategy. How about reducing the need for digital piracy and gaps in content rather than ostracizing pirates for following the natural order of the internet? It just seems hypocritical for a company that exists to capitalize on the millennial craze for digital entertainment to condemn the same behavior when it occurs outside its platform.

I love to awaken my inner British gangster with Tommy Shelby and the Peaky Blinders. I love to feel jaded, bitter, lost, confused, hopeless (whoops, I digress) with BoJack Horseman. I shed tears when Sense8 wasn’t renewed for another season, and I even watched a season of Hemlock Grove, the weird second coming of Twilight — clearly, I’m faithful. I hardly think a denouncement of piracy is the right reward for loyalty of this caliber. Netflix was a friend all this while; it coexisted peacefully with my incessant online viewership and didn’t guilt me into conforming to a self-serving code of conduct. I’m not saying Netflix is the foe now, but I am saying I’m a little offended, and maybe I will pirate something out of spite right now — recommendations welcome!

 

Priya Kankanhalli is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at pkankanhalli@cornellsun.com. Matters of Fact appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.