The Truth About Piracy

The majority of what most people probably “know” about piracy, likely comes from those annoying propaganda ads and FBI warnings found at the start of many DVDs. However, the truth, like with anything, lies in a bigger picture of the many different angles and perspectives and isn’t simply black and white.

Let’s clear up the obvious exaggerations. Sharing music, movies, software, etc., is nothing like stealing a TV or car or other tangible good from physical locations as propaganda ads would have you believe. Probably 90% of all pirated materials are digital intangibles that are simply duplicated over and over. It’s not as though you’re breaking into someone’s home or car.

There is no physical criminal act, no trespassing, no breaking and entering, there is no danger of hurting anyone individually in the physical, emotional, or financial sense. The only one’s that “suffer” are the corporations. The same money-hungry corporations that have been taking advantage of consumers and trying to control their rights since the beginning. There is no moral dilemma here, however, there is a legal one.

Possession is 9/10 of the law. But as anyone who has had legal battles knows, what’s legal isn’t always moral, and what’s illegal isn’t always immoral. The biggest difference between stealing a car and “stealing” music is the intent. When someone steals a car, it’s entirely for personal gain and they do not care who they hurt. They’re going to part that car out for whatever cash they can get. Now, with pirating, the intent usually isn’t to distribute (as in make money) or gain anything at all, except for the deed of sharing something they love and possibly making a statement in the process.

The big movie companies and music industries want to paint it as this evil thing, when the truth is, it’s less like a guy in a burglar mask and more like Robin Hood. If you go to a website like The Pirate Bay, they’re not selling you anything, you don’t have to pay, register, or do anything else to get access to content (which they don’t even store themselves). In a sense, they’re more like a forum for people to share with one another, a digital swap meet.

Thousands of “pirates” are sharing (almost always anonymously) lots of wonderful content. They’re not making money off it, they’re not gaining recognition for it, they’re simply avid lovers of a public domain, open source, or otherwise accessible world. They love music, film, games, and the rest and they want to share it with the world absent the high price tag and restrictions of the corporate world.

Another important note is that not everything on torrent websites is inherently copyrighted material that needed being valiantly robbed from the rich to give to the poor in the first place. A lot of it is simply genuinely unique and interesting content not available anywhere else. You can find TV shows, soundtracks, old software, etc., that simply isn’t even available anymore or never was officially released for sale to begin with. Rare and salvaged materials that the studios don’t care about or remain forgotten in their vaults.

Most all pirating, has nothing to do with stealing for profit, it’s about sharing with people without personal gain except for the knowledge of helping out. Other areas that aren’t so altruistic include third-world countries putting together bootleg DVDs in sweat shops for example, that to be honest, I don’t think are even that popular in the US.

A lot of the times, the purpose is to simply get movies in other subtitles and regions for distribution to countries where they couldn’t buy a copy the “legitimate” way otherwise, though I’m sure it doesn’t come from the bottom of anyone’s heart and there’s a profit to be made. Like in any community, there are always the bad apples with malicious intent, like infecting people with viruses. Not to leave any stone unturned, it’s important to mention too, that of course some people who download are just greedy and selfish and don’t care about others, period, regardless of the moral or legal implications.

How would you feel if someone pirated something you created?

Honestly? I would be completely flattered and a bit excited if someone thought something I created was good enough to go through all that trouble to share with others. A lot of the stuff I create I give away for free under public domain and open source anyway though.

And for those things I create that I do charge for, I offer at very fair prices ($5 – $10) and with a lot of freedom once they’ve made that purchase. Pretty much unlimited usage and free upgrades for life. But there’s a lot of these schemy companies that want to throw in all sorts of hidden charges, and reoccurring monthly or yearly charges and most importantly, they want to control how you use and share whatever it is they’re selling, including tracking you for advertising purposes and possibly worse.

Piracy and Privacy

Those words are frighteningly similar. A lot of these companies want to use piracy (this great big evil thing) as a catalyst to control and censor us.

The Bottom Line

Pirating isn’t about plagiarism, it’s about celebrating the art pirates (human beings) love. Credit is always given, where credit is due. I would be more upset about another blogger duplicating one of my articles and claiming it to be their own written work than for a pirate to share, as-is, one of my WordPress themes as a torrent.

That is how I define the difference, that sharing is not stealing and stealing is not sharing, it’s much more complex than that. They are two entirely different things based on context and based on intent. On top of that, morality is not the law and the law is not morality. Even further, there are official book definitions of things and then there are the human definitions of things.

However you feel about piracy, don’t let Government use it as propaganda to wage war for their other agendas. But, don’t ever be duped by malicious criminals who are just out to take advantage of unsuspecting downloaders either. Don’t ever take something at face value. Research all angles. Even this article, take with a grain of salt.

It’s not about promoting piracy or demonizing it, it’s about not casting a wide net on a complex subject and labeling it good or bad. Context always matters, in every situation in life.

How do you feel about piracy in the grand scheme of things?