File-sharing news and advocacy site TorrentFreak asked earlier this week whether the growing popularity of legally-streamed movies from Netflix would kill illegal movie downloads in the U.S.
The story asked whether eliminating lack of availability as a justification for people to download movies illegally, citing Netflix membership numbers that have increased to 22.8 million and is grew by 3.3 million during the first quarter compared to 1.7 million during Q1 2010.
Netflix' streaming service is so easy to use compared to the hunt for complete copies of the movie you want, avoiding malware, mislabeled porn or adware, that there isn't much reason to pirate a movie you can find online.
Good thought, but piracy is more complicated than that, according to Wired, which delineates the reasons, channels and types of content that make up the biggest part of the illegal file-sharing market to make clear Netflix can only take a very small bite out of it.
You still can't get good PC games free on Netflix, or anywhere near the breadth of movies and other content available on Pirate Bay at any given time, let alone the other software, viruses, developer kits, hacking tools and MP3 music files, for example.
iTunes, Amazon and a million other paid-digital music stores did a lot to cut down music piracy by making it possible to buy the music you want for negligible amounts of cash. Netflix is doing the same for a small subset of the movies available online.
The quality of what you get through the paid services is a lot better than you usually get illegally, it's a lot simpler, safer both digitally and legally, and much, much easier on your conscience.
It's not going to quash the pirates. Any more than automated license-checking services that install automatically with commercial applications eliminated abuse of those licenses.
Netflix, at least, doesn't reduce piracy by pissing people off.