24 thoughts on “The Account Sharing Revolution

  1. I work for a large and successful ‘triple-A’ games company that make some very well-known games. I have a wife and two kids and am also on my way to FI. Last year we had a big game release and I worked extremely hard doing long hours and sacrificing time away from my kids. It wasn’t easy but this is my career and I have a family that I’m responsible for providing for.
    You say “companies [are] after one thing, profit.” Yes, of course this is true but these sales also help put a roof over my family’s head. In the case of last year, these sales meant that I received a generous bonus to compensate for the time away from my family.

    Unsurprisingly, I find this article galling. Me and most of my friends earn a learning creating media and software. Please don’t encourage others to take away our source of income.

    Being on the path to FI, I’m always looking for ways to save money. However, if an action involves harming someone else in *any* way, it’s not the right action. MMM really helped clarify my thinking in his post: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/10/24/frugal-vs-cheap/

    1. Hey Dan,

      I also create software for a living and have a game development background. Some games actually became more successful and earned more profit due to torrenting and the company actually allowed it. I forget which game this was! I’d always encourage people to buy the game if they enjoy it.

      Lots of people would fall prey to false advertising, buy the game and proceed to be unhappy with their purchase due to not being able to demo it first. This type of thing has received media coverage lately with triple-A games falsely advertising gameplay graphics on trailers. They’re then unable to get a refund. I feel like that’s just preying on people.

      I would thoroughly discourage torrenting a game simply to play it for free and never have the intent of buying it. But then again, I don’t think that games should only be enjoyed by the rich, the impoverished should be able to enjoy them too.

      Of course, I respect everyone’s opinion and I know that some people are against all things such as this. I believe it will never take away your income though, it may take an extremely small percentage off the company owners profits (and I mean pennies), but with the added benefit of free advertising if the game is good!

  2. If I follow your logic to its natural conclusion, then you would be fine with somebody cloning all your SavingNinja blog posts, republishing them under their own banner, and potentially monetising your work for their benefit?

    The world could have enjoyed Harry Potter or watched Star Wars, without JK Rowling or George Lucas earning a penny?

    The Rolling Stones should perform concerts for free from now on, because they have already made lots of money?

    Would you be happy to go to the office every day, doing your best work, plus the overtime and weekends necessary to push that big project over the line… and do it all for the love of it?

    That is exactly you’re asking the creators and artists and studios to do here. You’re enticing and encouraging your readers to steal from those creators.

    Not cool.

    1. 75% of everyone I meet does it, it needs to be explored. I’d hope people would use the power responsibly, paying when payment is due, and I think it’s within each person to be moral. Everyone that I’ve spoken to about torrenting games says that they do so to see if they like it before they buy it. Seems reasonable to me! Same goes for albums.

  3. Brave post, SN – can’t say I agree with it all but as someone who has downloaded numerous torrents in the past, I can partly see where you’re coming from. I have however, always paid for my TV licence! 🙂

    Interesting idea about affiliate hacking, not something I’d considered before.

    1. Thanks Weenie! Brave to you for admitting to downloading torrents too 🙂 I’ll convince you out of a TV licence eventually Weenie! 😛

      Affiliate hacking works really well with OM 😉

  4. Hmmm… I can see why this riles some people up but I can see both sides of the argument here.

    @Dan – It sounds like you got your fat bonus, so I don’t really see what you are complaining about? Looking at it another way, you are in an incredibly privileged position to be born in a country that provided you with the life skills and education to get the job you have done (I’m not saying you didn’t work hard for it, but let’s acknowledge that ~80% of the world population could not have done what you have no matter how hard they worked). Same goes for even having the option to work hard, get the bonus and put it towards FIRE. There aren’t many in the world that even get a shot at this game. Maybe a bit of gratitude wouldn’t go amiss here. It’s actually hilarious that you cited the MMM Frugal vs Cheap article, as he is one of the cheapest FI bloggers, in some ways* I think I’ve read. He spends thousands on flights to Ecuador for the Chaquatau with his chums but then says about not wanting to buy a trinket from the local vendors because it would clutter up his home etc… Talk about not giving to the local economy you are visiting!

    *Obviously he is very generous in other areas such as giving away his blog income. However that is very specific to his life journey and his current situation, Saving Ninja is still only just beginning his journey and it seems to me at least that MMM was a pretty cheap barstard while on his savings journey to FI.

    From what I read in this article, Ninja isn’t condoning that all of us wealthy (or on our way to being wealthy) folks just try to get everything for free at all, just highlighting the options available to you, if you so wish. By the magic of google search results, maybe this will help out plenty of people on the other end of the scale to enjoy things they otherwise could not afford.

    @indeedably – You can’t deny that it’s not worth at least talking about this stuff? Like SN says most people do at least dabble in it, so why not talk about it? Your “Timmy” comment completely missed the mark there IMO.

    “If I follow your logic to its natural conclusion” – What logic is that exactly and who are you ascribing it to? Not once has SN stated that people should get everything for free all the time in this post. In any case, most ideas sound incredibly stupid if followed to their natural conclusion. What if I’m a plumber and I’ve made good money off that and so recommend to my friends that maybe they should try plumbing to improve their financial situation? Do those friends then just say “Hmmm but if I follow your logic to it’s natural conclusion then everyone should become plumbers, and everyone would starve to death because there would be no food being produced” and so therefore not become plumbers?

    Personally though, I do find it offensive that a digital piece of work where the marginal cost of producing one more is effectively zero are priced so high (as you can probably tell from my comments above). Although I will in the main pay my way when it is required, I totally buy into the argument that people who cannot afford these sort of things (especially software that can help them improve their life situation) should totally pirate the sh!t out them 🙂

  5. This is one of those areas that is tricky! It’s not the sort of thing that’s talked about, but I would imagine that most people our age have done this.

    In one sense, torrenting is just like when, 20 years ago, you might have shared a VHS with a friend, or copied songs from the radio onto a cassette, but on a much larger scale!

    I have definitely torrrented in the past, but it’s usually been a convenience thing, rather than about the money (and I recognise that that way of thinking is a pretty privileged place to be!). For example, I lived in China when the most recent season of Game of Thrones was airing. I couldn’t find any legal way to watch it, so you better believe I downloaded each episode as soon as it aired in the US! But, now that I’m back in the UK, I intend to subscribe to NowTV for the 2-3 months that GoT is showing. And in another instance, one of my favourite bands recently released an EP. Unfortunately it was a record store exclusive, only on vinyl, and only in the US! Sooooo I downloaded it.

    I feel like, sometimes, pirating happens because companies have become too anti-consumer, or they’ve been too slow to adapt. I’m thinking of the music industry in the early 2000’s. With the advent of the internet, people realised that they no longer had to buy an overpriced CD just to hear the 2-3 songs that they liked. At first the music industry tried to fight back, but eventually a middle ground was reached with iTunes, where people could now buy whatever song they wanted for just £0.99, and then the subsequent arrival of Spotify. Nowadays, you don’t really hear about music piracy. Having said all that, I will admit that most musicians nowadays seem to make less money from CDs (unless you’re Taylor Swift) and have to tour more extensively to make up for it. What’s good for the consumer isn’t always good for the provider? Likewise with PC games – pirating was rampant when I was at school, but with the advent of Steam, buying a PC game is now so cheap and easy, that torrenting is more hassle than it’s worth!

    I can see why people might torrent for other reasons as well. I’ve bought every Pokemon game that’s come out for the various iterations of Gameboy and DS. A few years ago, I wanted to replay the original Pokemon Blue, so I installed it on my phone. I know that this is illegal, and I can even see why as, in this case, Nintendo re-released those games not that long ago, so they still want to make money from it. But should people have to repurchase their stuff every few years? This is a growing issue, as companies move away from physical products towards digital downloads; away from the consumer owning a good for life, towards leasing the product for a year at a time.
    I already own Pokemon Blue and the original Gameboy to play it on. Should I have to repurchase it, to play on my phone?

    One area that I actually do encourage pirating is with the reading of academic journals. I won’t get into it here, as I’ve already waffled on enough, but they are unbelievably expensive, for no good reason.

    Moving on from pirating, my family all share the same Netflix account. As long as it’s allowed, we’ll obviously take advantage of it!

    1. You’ve raised some points that I didn’t mention there Dr, thanks for that! I also completely forgot about academic journals… Whilst I was at university I think maybe 1 in 100 bought the ridiculously overpriced textbook, everyone else found them online for free!

      Sharing the same Netflix account if you’re not in the same household is actually against their terms of service, but if you’re paying for multiple devices, may as well use it!? They’re yet to add any geo-tracking ‘anti-sharing’ software.

      I also used to subscribe to NowTV just whilst Game of Thrones was out… But then I realised that I can see the episodes 1 day earlier if I download them as they’re out in the US first. I was fed up of getting everything spoilt for me!

      1. Yeah, the textbooks are a ripoff as well. As for academic journals… Most university research is funded by tax payer money. My PhD, my current job, all funded by the EPSRC, a scientific funding body, given money to distribute by the government. So, I do the research and I write the paper. I submit it to a journal – the editor thinks, yes, this looks like a good paper, I’ll send it to other academics in the field to peer-review. These academics will review your paper for the journal for free. Completely voluntary. After you make the changes they suggest, you then sign over any cipyright to the journal, who then publish the work. That paper now costs you £40 to download. So now you, Saving Ninja, who’s tax money already paid for my research, have to pay again to read it. These journals will also charge universities huge sums of money to subscribe to them. Fine if you’re in the UK, Europe or the US. Not fine if you’re from a poorer country. They’re being shut out from competing.

        I didn’t realise that that was against Netflix TOS. Oops, lol.

        Hmm, fair point about NowTV. Well, I’ll pay for the first month anyway, and if it turns out that they’re releasing it a full day later than in the US, then I’ll torrent it. Which brings me back to my point about convenience. I’m willing to pay them to watch GoT, but I’m not willing to pay for a subpar service.

  6. Another grey area is downloading audio and video from BBC iPlayer which you can do with a piece of open-source software called get_iPlayer – basically some tools wrapped around the mplayer utility.


    IPlayer Content is usually available for a limited time, generally 30 days, and this utility enables you to grab it and keep it indefinitely. This is of course contrary to the BBC terms of use. The software comes as a fairly cumbersome command line utility so I’ve developed a simple GUI that accepts the programme ID, downloads the file in my preferred format, tags it and stores it in my library.

    The justification on the website is “get_iplayer is primarily intended for use for recording and playing back TV and Radio content on devices that cannot support Adobe Flash/AIR/Silverlight or systems which run entirely on open-source software (i.e. no Adobe Flash/AIRr or Silverlight).

    It is also used to record content for mobile devices that have no access to broadband/wi-fi or running on devices that have such limited memory that running a browser with a Flash player or AIR is not possible (or not permitted).

    One of get_iplayer’s most popular uses is in enabling users with poor internet connections to download HD content that would otherwise be impossible for them to stream live.

    get_iplayer allows you to download such content slower than ‘real time’ for offline viewing at a time of your choosing, allowing you to and enjoy more of the BBC’s content.”

    Personally I’m not interested in TV, but I do use it to record the odd drama from BBC R4 and classical concerts from R3. One of my most treasured recordings is a BBC Proms performance of Rite of Spring by the Berlin Phil under Simon Rattle. Unless the BBC release the recording commercially, you’re depriving nobody of revenue and in a sense if you’re a license-payer, you’ve already paid….

    ISTR a director of the BEEB pledging to digitise and make the nearly entire programme archive available for free, so far they’re up to about 15 million items so if there’s something specific you’re looking for, try there first …

  7. I recommend deleting the trackers from your torrent (ask a search engine for a how to) to assist in keeping anonymity. Also use vpns as you say.

    Totally agree with the above comment about scientific research. Journals need to move to ad based revenue and not put up pay walls. Luckily in physics we have the arixiv.

    As for digital media in general its a matter of revenue impact. Torrenting a dvd copy of a film or two from one of the Big 5 isnt going to bankrupt this company as they’ve already profited from the box office release. Game studios on the other hand rely on sales and need this to fund future projects.

    1. Hey DrJ! Thanks for that tip, I’m off to Google it right now 🙂

      With regards to games, I use this solely for seeing if I want to buy it. My steam library has like 600 games on it, I’m all for buying them 😛 A great example of this is I recently ‘tried’ Sekiro (which was handily available the day after it’s release). Played it for 2 days then uninstalled it as I really didn’t like it. Glad I didn’t throw away £50 on it!

  8. This is interesting. I do/have done most of what you describe in this post (although torrents are for leechers and newbs – I’ve never downloaded a single torrent 😛 ), and yet I find it somewhat appalling that you’d write about it, in such detail 😉 (hello, double standard)

    I think you could have raised the same amount of comments/debate, had you just mentioned a few headlines and summarized a bit (no need to go into specifics!). I deliberately waited a few days to comment, because my initial thought was similar to the one that CashFlow Cop had 😛

    Even though a lot of people do it, it somehow seems wrong (to me) to talk so openly about it. I don’t believe in piracy, I have to say – and yet I can’t really claim the moral high-ground here, as I’ve been a movie/TV Pirate probably since before you could walk (I was never really into video games) 😛

    For a while, I excused myself with the same excuse that you use: If I like it, I’ll buy it! – And I did for a long time! But I haven’t bought a DVD/Bluray for years now, and I rarely go to the cinema anymore either (hello fatherhood). We used to go the movies at least once per month before we had kids.

    I have noticed a huge shift in our TV-consumption though. We hardly download any TV shows anymore, because we have Netflix and HBO (and a lot of similar local streaming services as well) now.
    And our flow-tv has been replaced by “archive-tv”. Anything that’s in our cable subscription, we can watch via their archive (granted, I use my grandmothers login, because she has the full TV package with sports and all, and doesn’t ever use it herself – so I guess there’s still a little pirate left in me! HA!)

    Anyway, thanks for another great (provoking) post 😉

    1. I feel like this comment is a compliment sandwich Nick :))

      You’re right I could have just talked about it, but I want the website to provide value in the way of guides, not just philosophical ponderings. I know what you mean though about talking about it! It’s like some weird taboo haha. But then again, talking about finances is also a taboo (at least in the UK) and we both do that!

      You seem like you’re better versed than me in this world, can you write a guide!? :))

  9. The Amazon Affiliate Hacking was the most intriguing part for me… Although reading through the ‘Get Started guide on Amazon the process appears to require you to have a website or mobile app you wish to monetise? Can you confirm whether this is actually available to those of us who do not have a web domain to enter into these fields?

    1. Hi Kate, this must be a new regulatory step that they have set up. Can you just put in a fake domain and get through, or does it have to be verified? If it needs to be verified, you can create a completely free WordPress blog (which will come with a free domain) in a matter of minutes over here.

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