|Piracy is adorable|
Ultimately, piracy is not about content. It is about the way content is distributed.
|Set the Wayback Machine to 'Back in the Day'|
Patronage exists today in various forms. The latest and greatest form of arts patronage is Kickstarter - it puts the ability to fund the arts in the hands of the little guy. The big-ass television studios that produce shows like Game of Thrones are a form of patronage. They expect returns on their investments, but they do gin up the initial revenue to get production rolling. They also decide what sort of distribution model this content is going to get. Will it be on Hulu? When is the DVD release? Will it go to iTunes or Amazon? How about Netflix? All of those rights get ironed out through a variety of contracts as they go along. (Mind you, the artists are not involved in pretty much any of this, it's all the patrons who decide distribution.)
Let's talk about Sherlock, because this is what chapped my ass most recently. I love Sherlock. I am sure you do, too. If you don't, you should start because it's awesome. However, because I'm a filthy American, I can't actually get Sherlock. The only legitimate avenue for me to watch this show that I love is to wait 6 months until the BBC decides to put it on American television (where it'll be chopped to shit because everything on BBCA is defiled by some bizarre-ass censoring algorithm). If I could buy it on iTunes or Amazon or Hulu or Netflix or anything, I would. I want to give them my money. I'm practically begging them to take it. There are multiple interfaces where they could publish this content right now, today. The content distribution infrastructure is there, they have simply declined to use it.
Now, as my favorite outrage piece reminds me: They don't owe you this content! You don't deserve it! You can wait until they damn well decide to give it to you for whatever price they please - or never if they choose not to! All fair points and all true. Unfortunately we're not in the 1400s anymore; patrons no longer have exclusive control over the distribution of content. They never did, really, but it's more marked now than ever. It is time for modern-day patrons to understand this simple truth: If you don't include us in your distribution model, we can opt in ourselves via other means.
And that's the whole point The Oatmeal and people like him are trying to make. We want to buy this stuff. We want to be able to go to any of the many and various interfaces (all DRM'd for fuck's sake) and purchase your content with our dollars or pounds or euros or pesos. People are not pirating this stuff because they can't afford it or don't want to pay for it or because they like talking like a pirate. They're pirating this stuff because you make it fucking ridiculously hard or impossible for us to get it - and someone else doesn't. The answer isn't to yell and scream and sue. The answer is to sell us the fucking product. Seriously. That's it. SELL IT TO US AND WE WILL BUY IT WITH MONEY.
I don't understand why that hasn't sunken in.