LifeHacker asked a very intriguing question today of its readers: What Would it Take For You to Stop Pirating?

There’s no getting around the fact that its a steep slope for content providers.

For those willing to torrent, the crowdsourced nature of the content means the selection is virtually endless. It’s a steep slope to compete with content that is readily available, often of high quality, and virtually free to the end user.

It’s stealing. Everyone who torrents (copyrighted content) knows that. I did it too during my college days. I’ve stopped since, frankly for 2 main reasons: my ISP has warned me multiple times, and I now have a job and can more easily afford to pay for Netflix and physical copies.

Were there instances in which I streamed/downloaded things I subsequently paid for and would very likely have never done so had I not pirated? Yes, absolutely – especially now that I am out of college and working. (As a total GUESS, though, I would say this happens much less overall with music than software and video)

That is something content providers should be VERY cognizant of, because I do think there is a lot of potential in that direction.

However, let us – if I might speak for a moment directly to my digital brethren who have dabbled in piracy – as the great vindictive Internets not get too high and mighty. There are a heck of a lot of people who pirate and never buy a thing – and even those of us who do aren’t buying EVERYTHING we pirate (and just because we didn’t LOVE whatever it was we downloaded doesn’t mean the creators don’t deserve to be paid for us having consumed it). We’re thieves. It’s there, its free, its easy, and we take it.

It’s not fair – not to any content creator or content distributor. But it IS a reality. The current society is not willing to accept a solution involving restrictions on a user’s Internet activity, and no method has yet been found to stop piracy without doing so.

And on the other side, SOPA certainly wasn’t fair (which is why it got stomped out). And maybe what happened to MegaUpload wasn’t fair either. But make no mistake – it made a giant, instant impact on online piracy. It didn’t stop it by any stretch, most obviously because it didn’t have any impact on torrents. But it did hurt it.

So maybe neither side is playing fair. The powers that be are not going to stop online piracy without compromising far more. Nor is PirateBay, TorrentFreak, or MegaUpload going to stop law enforcement from shutting down major operations. What, then, to do?

Find the middle ground. Offer a service that comes as close as is possible to the conveniences of piracy (availability, quality, price). The closer you can come, the more pirates you’ll reclaim and the more new consumers you’ll generate. Netflix, Hulu, and Spotify are the biggest bastions of this new effort – neither is perfect, but their popularity proves their potential. Let us embrace those who make such efforts, because they might be our only hope.