People Appreciate Content – Even if they Torrent It


Yesterday I received a tweet that came as a bit of a surprise. As a fan of Joe Rogan’s podcast (The Joe Rogan Experience) I had sent Joe a $5 tip in bitcoin on twitter via the viral service Changetip. It ends up that a week after sending the “tip” Joe had setup an account and accepted it. It is worth noting that Joe’s podcast is free and despite listening to a host of episodes it had never cost me a dime to access. I was more than happy to send $5 as I believe the value of the content I have consumed far exceeds this modest amount. It was an easy, simple, and direct way to pay my dues.

A far more interesting thing occurred after posting an update to Reddit on the subject. Along with a wave of tips sent to Joe, one users post stood out to me against a host of others. The post is featured below:

It turns out that one user had recently torrented Joe Rogans Comedy Central special “Rocky Mountain High”. It can currently be viewed unedited via Comedy Central for $5 here. What is so interesting to me about this is that here we have someone doing something many have done before – breaking the law viewing protected content online that has been posted illegally. That being said, many argue such activities are a “victimless crime”. This is debatable. What is not debatable is the intentions of the consumer — in this case they appreciated the content and wanted to see it. Furthermore they had no problem paying the designated cost of the content, but preferred to circumvent the middleman (Comedy Central) and send their funds directly to the content creator via Changetip.

(EDIT: A reader brought to my attention the error that has been crossed out above – there is in fact no law that exists that makes streaming copyright protected content illegal. Streaming protected content is often considered legal, while instances where the content is downloaded may fall into a grey area based on the type of content)

It is an interesting precedent and something I believe is the tip of the iceberg (pun intended) of an inevitable change (pun intended again). Traditionally to support content creators one must go through a third party, purchase content through a distributor or purchase merchandise as advertised on the program to display their support monetarily. We now live in a world where support and appreciation for content can be delivered directly, conveniently, and instantly in a peer-to-peer form.

Experiments have been around for years surrounding free content (Example: Radioheads In Rainbows pay what you want release). I believe this is the next evolution of this concept. I foresee a future where someone leaves a movie theater after Star Wars VII and tweets $0.50 to Adam Driver for a great performance in the film… where mid-concert a fan tips the Avett Brothers $10 for playing their favorite song during the encore. In the meantime, I also foresee a host of content consumers illegally downloading content online but deciding to “pay their dues” directly to the content creators in the form of online bitcoin tips. Ripped the latest Phish album? Send them $5. Streamed the whole first season of Game of Thrones? … clearly you should tip Sean Bean.

Like all things in this space, this is just getting started — but with that said it always seems that things take off faster than expected. Maybe Ellen’s “break twitter” tweet at next years awards will also raise $100,000 to fight child trafficking, wouldn’t that be nice?


2 thoughts on “People Appreciate Content – Even if they Torrent It

  1. Interesting. Upon contemplating this, it does factor into the equation the fact that the artist receives very little of the cost of any content. If i knew that the content creator or artist received 100% or something close to that i think most people would be more likely to pay for items instead of downloading. People that cannot afford to purchase content are the majority of people downloading it “illegally”. Are they any less of a fan? I think that it allows more people to become fans of content providers and those artists need to find new ways, like Changetip, to profit from their work. It’s another instance of a major industry fighting change and doing whatever they can to keep their grip on their profits. There is going to be a revolution for artists and creators and they are going to be able to take back their art. The Industry is the one telling everyone how wrong things are and fighting it. This major shift will be great for musicians, artists, podcasters and anyone creating good content and we will see another fall of a major industry that thought it would be around forever. Digital is engulfing major outdated industries rapidly. Newspapers, gone. Phone Companies, completely changed the major players, Music industry and Banking/financials are next.

    • I would agree – it’s an interesting point. Irregardless of the morality of viewing pirated content, it certainly happens. Furthermore it is often fans of the content that circumvent the payment requirements – I agree that they are no less fans then paying consumers. In many ways, this may actually prove a way to encourage at least some forms of payment vs. none at all — bringing a grey market into the light.

      You might imagine legacy systems including terms in future contracts where middlemen are entitled to a percentage of “tips” or alternative revenue streams related to a specific piece of content — although I find this unlikely and difficult to manage.

      It will be exciting to see how this all plays out in the years to come.

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