I refuse to illegally download films for any reason. It just seems sacrilegious. On top of which I can’t abide watching films on my desktop or laptop. Not visually satisfying, and certainly not after banging away at the column all damn day. I guess I”ve become spoiled by watching films on a 42″ plasma so it’s that way or the highway. (Unless you’re talking a 52″ LCD, which I now wish I’d sprung for.)

When the option to download Bluray-or-better quality movies from an Apple TV-like box becomes widespread and affordable, maybe. As long as extras options (commentary, making-of docs) are also offered.

But honestly? If I could easily download my favorite missing films now (Betrayal , The Outfit, Play It As It Lays, etc.) from a pirate site, I might conceivably change my tune. That is, as far as these particular titles are concerned. Because they’re not obtainable any other way. Not from Warner Archives or any other site along these lines. Unless I’m missing something.

And we all know where that could lead. For “once a man indulges himself in murder, very soon he comes to think little of robbing,” wrote Thomas de Quincey, “and from robbing he comes next to drinking and Sabbath-breaking, and from that to incivility and procrastination.” I could go there, in short, despite my general opposition. The thin end of the wedge.

Which is why I feel at least a measure of sympathy for Farhad Manjoo‘s 4.17 Slate piece on illegal downloading, called “My Mythical Online Rental Service for Movies — Why Hollywood is so slow to catch up on offering all of its movies and shows online.”

“I would gladly pay a hefty monthly fee for [a Pirate Bay-like] service,” he wrote, “if someone would take my money. In reality, I pay nothing because no company sells such a plan. Instead I’ve been getting my programming from the friendly BitTorrent peer-to-peer network. Pirates aren’t popular these days, but let’s give them this — they know how to put together a killer on-demand entertainment system.

“I sometimes feel bad about my plundering ways. Like many scofflaws, though, I blame the system. I wouldn’t have to steal if Hollywood would only give me a decent online movie-streaming service.

“In my dreams, here’s what it would look like: a site that offers a huge selection — 50,000 or more titles to choose from, with lots of Hollywood new releases, indies, and a smorgasbord of old films and TV shows. (By comparison, Netflix says it offers more than 100,000 titles.)

“And don’t gum it up with restrictions, like a requirement that I watch a certain movie within a specified time after choosing it. The only reasonable limit might be to force me to stream the movies so that I won’t be able to save the flicks to my computer. Beyond that, charge me a monthly fee and let me watch whatever I want, whenever I want, as often as I want.”