Also known as ‘Digital Natives’, millennials have grown-up surrounded by technology and embraced it across all aspects of life. As the cohort is now reaching adulthood, it's clear that their relationship with technology and the law differ from older generations.
Today's millennials have the power to influence the younger generation - who will also grow up surrounded by and relying upon technology - and to set the standards for social norms. The internet has changed the rules of the game, the attitudes of millennials towards the use of social media, information sharing and media consumption have already changed the way content is pirated and future generations are likely to share these attitudes.
As avid social media users, millennials rely on sites such as Facebook not just as a means of sharing information but also as a source of information and news. They are more likely to regularly contact people through social media, visit social network sites several times a day and share personal information online in exchange for deals and discounts. Such behaviours have changed the way content is shared and in some cases aided illegal sharing - there have been reports of users streaming and downloading movies directly through Facebook and this trend could cause further problems in the future. Millennials' willingness to share information online also means that peer-to-peer torrent sites are still popular and users are better informed on how to sidestep piracy blocks. This also raises an important question; as digital piracy grows and grows, is social media to blame?
Piracy laws and online streaming
Millennials are also driving change in media consumption habits. Over 73% of this age group use a laptop or PC to watch media and the vast majority of their time online is spent streaming. While the rise of legitimate streaming sites like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu offer legal streaming sites, this practice has become so common that it has in some ways blurred the line between legal and illegal consumption, starting a debate on whether or not Netflix has made piracy worse. Multiple factors influence the consumption habits of young millennials but content accessibility is their main concern and where a movie is not available for streaming legally, they are likely to turn to pirate sites.
Piracy has become an area of ambiguity - 24% of young millennials believe downloading and streaming is legal while 33% say it is illegal. Further questions arise though regarding the legality of streaming content versus downloading, whether piracy is illegal or just ‘morally wrong’, and if it is a punishable offence. What is clear is that young millennials are increasingly relaxed in their attitudes towards piracy. Having grown up with technology, millennials are accustomed to on-demand media services and streaming movies - whether through illegal or legal methods - has become common practice. Even amongst those who acknowledge piracy is illegal or immoral, it is a social norm.
What this means is that traditional methods of fighting piracy may no longer be effective when it comes to targeting young millennials who are in one way or another pro piracy. Imposing stricter legislation will have little impact on consumers, prosecuting individuals has proven to be costly and ineffective, and education on piracy itself provides no real solution as millennials are already aware of the illegal practice.
Piracy sites are already improving their services using sophisticated streaming platforms and apps to compete with legitimate, high quality sites such as Netflix, and to keep up with consumer trends which favor smartphones and tablets over laptops. In seeking solutions to piracy, collaboration is needed at many different levels. Most importantly strategies need to be adapted to align with the attitudes and values of millennials and the next generation over whom they exert influence.