The ease with which one can access movies and music on the internet has made online piracy one of the hardest plagues for media owners and users to fight.
For many of us Kenyans, we have that “movie guy” who always hooks you up with the latest movies and episodes of your favorite shows (for just Sh50 per DVD!) You’ve probably never thought of this as piracy, especially since you are paying for the movie. But the reality is that these distributors illegally download the movies and shows and then write them onto DVDs for your entertainment.
Some of us are more internet savvy and we have installed torrent clients (e.g. bittorrent, utorrent) onto our computers and we download those pirated movies in the comfort of our homes. There are also numerous streaming services that give you access to thousands of movies and tv shows for free streaming (if you can get through the numerous pop-up ads).
The same goes for music. It is now possible to get a download of an American album within hours of its release without paying a dime for it. I admit that the jury is still out on some of the legal ramifications of downloading pirated copies of movies made in countries whose copyright laws don’t apply to us. In other words, Kenya is not part of the jurisdiction of many American copyright laws, which makes the issue of whether or not it is legal to download and watch pirated movies a tricky one.
But behind every law is a spirit an ethic, and a value system which the author of that law sought to satisfy. By making it illegal to download the film or show for free in the United States, the creator of that commodity intended that anyone anywhere who accesses it should pay for it (even if they can’t get prosecuted for breaking that code).
There is also the matter of artists who go broke and yet their music is making waves across the globe. However, this is not the post for that discussion. My aim here is more practical.
In the paragraphs that follow, I only seek to answer the question: “I feel it is wrong to download and watch pirated movies and TV shows, but it would be easier to avoid doing wrong if I had legal options for downloading and watching.” Here is my lame attempt at reducing the temptation and, hopefully, fighting piracy in Kenya.
HOW TO WATCH WESTERN MOVIES AND SERIES
The following are the only two service providers I know of that provide access to western movies and TV shows legally, but, of course, for a fee.
The American online streaming service has been active in Kenya for slightly over a year. Kenyans can now access award-winning movies and TV shows like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, the entire Star Trek series, and hundreds others. For as low as USD7.99 every month, one can stream all these shows with a clean conscience. In November 2016, Netflix added the option to download movies and series episodes onto your phone or tablet for watching while offline. This is a great option for those who probably access affordable internet at the office and coffee shops and don’t have the same access at home. You can just download the episodes you want to watch then catch up on them at the comfort of your home.
- PS: For new subscribers, Netflix allows you to access the full collection for free for the first 30 days.
- PPS: My research also revealed that in Kenya, we only access about 400 of the more than 4000 shows available on Netflix. This also means that while Americans can access all the seasons of all the shows, Kenyans can only access some seasons and have top wait longer for the rest of the seasons. Copyright issues.
This South African movie and series streaming service launched in Kenya just a few months after Netflix. While the collection is leaner than that offered by the American giant, sometimes Showmax gives Kenyans access to shows that are not locally available via Netflix. For instance, I found shows like Mad Men and Downton Abbey on Showmax and yet I could not access them on Netflix. So it may be good to subscribe to both services if you can afford it. Being an African product, Showmax also offers Nollywood films for Naija lovers. There is also a collection of some favorite Kenyan shows like Real House helps of Kawangware and the likes. For as low as Sh880 a month, you can access Showmax premium services, while Showmax Select is available for Sh330. Showmax also has a download option for mobile devices.
PS: For new subscribers, Showmax allows you to access the full collection for free for the first 14 days.
This service is barely two months old in Kenya and it promises to give Netflix quite a competition. It is currently available at the lowest subscription fee of USD2.99. But this will only be for the first six months, after which the subscription will return to USD5.99 (which is still a good bargain considering the collection that Amazon Prime Video has). Amazon Prime Video also has the advantage of exclusive content produced by Amazon and also features a lot of latest movies and series episodes, unlike Showmax.
PS: There is a seven-day free trial period for new subscribers, so you may give it a try
HOW TO LISTEN TO MUSIC
Currently, I know of only two music services that give you access to international music for free (with adverts in between songs) or for a monthly fee. These are Apple Music and Deezer (for android users). Of course some people can access music services such as Spotify, Google Music and Amazon Prime with a Virtual Private Network (VPN), but the issue of VPNs is another pandora’s box in the piracy discussion. For now, Deezer and Apple Music are the best options (for a monthly subscription fee of USD4.99)
HOW TO PAY FOR THE SERVICES
At the moment, the only payment options available for Netflix, Deezer and Apple Music are Visa card, Mastercard and Paypal. If you are too paranoid to use your Visa ATM online, you can obtain a Nakumatt Global Payment card and load money onto it via MPESA then use that to make the payments. That way, you can enjoy the movies and series without worrying about someone hacking into your bank account.
Showmax already anticipated this problem and now has an option for paying via MPESA Paybill. Just go to the Showmax page and they will take it from there.
I hope these options will be of great help in your efforts to fight online piracy.