“If we don’t get a chance to ask the question, then we really haven’t taken the opportunity that I think the Internet offers. And I think you risk closing off some new possibilities by holding onto an old rule, and the old rule was: Any copy other than the one delivered by the producer is illegitimate–it is pirate. And, in fact, the practice has often been that culture is shared, that we make mixed tapes and we show movies to each other and we make it part of our own lives. That’s in fact been the vitality of pop culture. And so we’d be denying the fact that pop culture, while in some way is owned by its producers, the very reason why it matters is it’s owned by the people who consume it.”
-Tarleton Gillespie, assistant professor, Department of Communication, Cornell University
This is a quote from a recent BBC podcast series about piracy. This is a fundamental reason why, perhaps not why it has begun, but why it will never stop, and why it is so hard to convince people of it being so wrong. The rules aren’t clear because you can’t make them clear, and if you can’t make them clear, you can’t get people to agree with enforcing them. Another issue brought up in the podcast was in reference to books, which is an excellent case-study. How often are books pirated? People sell used books for pennies, people share books, there are public libraries, and nobody seems to read anymore. And yet, through all of that, there is a seemingly endless stream of literature. Why? That’s up to interpretation. The podcast mentioned a drop in price wiping out pirated copies, but I would suggest the product is properly placed in the market. Packaging, quality control and pricing meet the place where it is more reasonable to purchase books you want than to get lesser copies through lesser means for lesser cost. But the option exists, and in fact, helps the market.
What exists now is an environment where everything is free. The Internet is the theory of communism as yet uncorrupted by power, and in a communist society, you can accept that you are all equal, or you can leave. You can’t keep hording things to yourself, and you most certainly will not be tolerated taking things away from everyone else.
When we look at piracy from a logical perception, there are instances where things can certainly get negative, and in a general sense, wrong. Someone did make this, and through their only means, released it as a commercial product. Without their effort, this product would not exist, yet someone is using it without permission.
The problem is the rarity of these instances among the vague strokes of licensing, a culture of sharing, and simple fair usage. Yet my evaluation means nothing. If there’s something to learn from the example of books, it’s that the issue forces change, regardless of authority. If your product is digital, you’re going to have to meet the public, which is on the whole rejecting that very market to which you appeal. So you can be like these digital pioneers,
CBC released it’s television series, “Canada’s Next Prime Minister” for free on bitTorrent
Radiohead released its latest album ahead of time, online, for free. Oh, and it released as the #1 album.
And of course, The Revolution Movie, which released in theatres asking the audience to pay afterwards, whatever they thought it was worth, if even nothing. Did I mention the average viewer paid more than the standard ticket fee?
I’ve given you the information, and some opinions in there, too, so you can make a fairly well informed decision. My last judgment? Well, while there are some dark spots, and you may want to avoid downloading music if you’re a college student, I wouldn’t worry too much about the morality of it all, because, in time, you simply won’t have to.