Piracy is never romantic, Jack Sparrow be damned

Not so Jolly Roger

Not so Jolly Roger

Piracy, banditry, or any other self-serving tag line you want to apply to thieves in the act of burglarizing intellectual property (IP) is never romantic, or audacious, or heroic, Jack Sparrow with his bandanna, earrings and self-effacing grin be damned.

Recently, Julie Andresen started a discussion on Google+ entitled “What are your thoughts on content piracy?” She got over thirty comments with opinions varying from “piracy is great,” to one advocating a personally administered penalty of “trans-anal evisceration.” Most of the heat came from a handful of the respondents, who purported to be listening but obviously were not hearing one another.

Ms. Andresen started her discussion by including a reasoned post, entitled The Question of Piracy by David Amerland in which Google stresses the major, and oft repeated, argument for piracy, namely, “Piracy often arises when consumer demand goes unmet by legitimate supply,” which, of course, is really no argument at all. It attempts to justify lawlessness by blaming inefficiency. With this reasoning, any time your mail is late you could go down to the Post Office to raid their coffers.

Here are some of the (slightly paraphrased, intent intact) arguments  in favor of piracy from that post. No names have been attributed to prevent author embarrassment:

  • Piracy is great. People who don’t want to pay for a book get to read it regardless and the author gets their work read and maybe some exposure. It’s a win-win. If that wasn’t the case, they’d have never read it, anyway, so…
  • It does not cost the creator much and provides him/her with exposure. Plus the more the public gets to know an author because of exposure to his/her work, the more personal the connection to that person becomes and the less likely they are to pirate his/her work.
  • While piracy may be against the law, there is insufficient data to prove it damages anyone.
  • Buying second hand anything  (like books or DVDs, etc.) is basically the same as piracy. None of that money goes to the creator or developer/publisher when you buy pre-owned.
  • Those who are against piracy, regardless of their reasoning, need to understand that their objections are practically irrelevant. They are not going to stop people from copying music, movies, books, or whatever. The market has changed, they must adjust.
  • Piracy is necessary. The copyright laws have been subverted by the media conglomerates in order to tie it up so that future generations won’t have access to it.
  • The industry is doing it to itself by charging too much.
  • You are presuming that you have the right to the buyer’s money. You don’t. Copying your work doesn’t actually deprive you of anything that you’re actually entitled to. If someone steals your car, you don’t have a car. If someone copies the bits and bytes of your story, you still have your story
  • Have you ever repeated a joke that you heard somewhere? What about the poor comedian you ripped off?
  • The default assumption against piracy is that every item downloaded is a retail loss. That’s nonsense. In the real world, people have limited budgets, and their entertainment budgets are realistically going to be smallest portion of their overall budget. Therefore, just because someone downloaded your book or movie or song doesn’t mean that they were going to give you money for it
  • I’d rather deal with pirates than the corporate looters of the publishing industry
  • There have been plagiarism laws on the books for decades and infringement laws as well. Enforcement has always been the problem and with global markets just a click away, the issues become more intractable. When the cost of defense is more than the loss, the only victories are Pyrrhic
  • Intellectual monopoly protections almost always hinge on Marxist notions of the labor theory of value. “I worked hard on this, so I must receive the benefit from it!”
  • I hope, for the sake of intellectual consistency if nothing else, you don’t use any elements from the public domain or the common cultural history of mankind. Since you evidently think that so-called intellectual property is identical to real, physical property, I can’t see how you can abide a time and statute-limited-definition of that property right.
  • The people who would pirate your material wouldn’t have bought your book anyway.

Notice that there is no real logic here. One excuse is offered after another, including some upside down interpretation of Marxism.

The main argument of this warped mentality is that if I want it, but it is unavailable for whatever reason, I will take it. This is akin to the argument that someone wearing a gold chain on a NYC subway deserves to be robbed, or that if a woman dresses provocatively and I desire her, I can rape her.

Their secondary argument is that piracy always has been and always will be, so I might as well participate.

And there is no shame.

Now, here are some of the arguments against piracy:

  • It robs the creator of his just dues
  • My concern isn’t piracy by an individual who wants to read, watch, or listen.  My concern are those who pirate with the intent to make money for themselves and/or their business concern from the pirated works
  • Piracy sucks, and people who do it should let me take money out of their pockets. It’s exactly the same thing
  • People pirate because they can get away with it. It has nothing to do with how much or how little something costs, or whether or not they “like” it
  • If I can’t get paid for what I do, why bother doing it? I have to eat, too. I have to pay bills. It takes months of hard work to create a book that must then be edited and proofed and formatted and a nice cover slapped on it. This stuff isn’t free. It’s asinine to say pirating is okay. Pirates steal from creative people. They’re taking the bread out of our mouths
  • Take enough of our work without compensation and pretty soon there will be nothing to steal
  • No one has the right to suggest that the IP creator should just bite the bullet and let his/her work go for free. We do NOT live in either a communist nor a socialist nor a fascist world…at least not yet.  IP anarchists be damned.
  • Copyright infringement is theft by any other name.
  • I am the creator.  My work is mine to monopolize.
  • At least pirates, thieves and scam artists are honest in their intent: “We will make as much from you and/or your stuff as we can get away with stealing.  IP abolitionists are off the cliff all the way around – beyond all rational mind,

I am not neutral. I believe in the ownership of intellectual property. I know how much work it takes to produce a product. If time is money, than all the time an artist takes to produce a work of art puts a value on that work. The popularity of the work determines how much people are willing to pay for it.

In no case is it free.FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

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