Piracy is justified, even dignified stealing â€“ at least according to the large number of people pirating today.
It’s as if the act itself, a Robin Hood-esque gesture, takes the guilt of the criminal and replaces it with the valor of a hero. It’s common water-cooler talk to overhear how the latest HBO show was torrented, or of someone using a cracked copy of Adobe’s latest Creative Suite. If these overheard crimes were truly criminal, then why aren’t they reported? Who would even dream of reporting the crime of copyright violation? I know I wouldn’t. It bugs me, but it bugs me the same was as someone’s running a of red light, or driving drunk – acts far more serious that could lead to loss of life, yet whose penalties are oddly similar to the 5 years, and up to $500,000 a copyright violator might face.
The reason behind this murky area of criminality and justified taking-from-the-Man, could be, that regardless of our social codes of conduct, as humans, our morality is instinctive, and while we understand the illegality of an activity, if it appears to not cause harm, then no harm done. I’m not a social anthropologist, nor a historian of legalese, so I’m going to avoid going down the path of tracing where along the evolution of man we moved from enjoying all our entertainment for free, to paying for entertainment, and now returning to taking our entertainment for free again. However, my guess is this isn’t a long enough history to be engrained in our DNA quite yet.
Instead, my reason for calling to task piracy, is it’s impact on creativity, and the stuff creative individuals produce that makes this life more enjoyable – those songs that define a period in our lives, the movie that changed us, made us cry, or feel better about being human, or the software that opened up new worlds of expression and expertise and gave artists unimagined ways to create.
I wouldn’t go to the point of saying that piracy is killing creativity. It’s not. It’s just making it a lot more expensive and difficult to be creative in a period of expansive creative options. It’s not a coincidence that the golden age of the original pirate came during a period of technological innovation and exploration. The world was no longer round and the high seas, with their galleys of gold, were ripe for picking. And in the end, what was a monarchy with a few less heavy bars to clog their coffers. Today, as media companies appear to make millions, who’s to care that a few songs get swiped for free, or few less DVDs aren’t sold because someone already watched the show for free on YouTube.
In times of creative surplus, bring in the surplus of crime.
However piracy is making creativity more expensive. Piracy is stripping away the reward for being creative. And it’s forcing copyright laws to be even more ludicrous (can’t forget SOPA) and invasive. If you stop and look at the financial impact, there’s no difference between the hijacked truckload of DVDs destined for Walmart, and the person that posts the latestÂ HBO show for millions to download. But what would you say to Joe over coffee when he told you about the Freightliner heÂ commandeered last night, full of the latest releases from Lady Gaga. You probably wouldn’t smile and look away. Even if he claimed he was planning on giving all the CDs away for free.
There are those that will counter this argument with examples of creative work, made for free, given away without expectation of profit, that bring satisfaction, and recognition to the artist(s) involved. However, for anyone that’s tried to dine on recognition it’s not that satisfying. If there aren’t methods to take away the option of piracy, slowly, creativity will dry up. The shows we truly enjoy, for their ability to expertly take us to Mordor with the carefuly crafted scene, will be replaced by YouTube cats and corporate banter against the backdrop of green-screen halos. The great photography of Helmut Newton will be replaced by a plethora of stock photos and Facebook Instagrams, and the writing of Hemingway will be typed by robots injecting blogs with SEO keywords.
And posts like this.
The only and way to truly stop SOPA, piracy and bad cat videos and make sure we continue to enjoy the fruits of creativity, is to frown at our friends that hijack Freightliners, and think twice before hitting download on the link that no one will likely every call you on, but will slowly bring to an end the type of shows you wanted to watch in the first place.