4 Ways In Which Internet Piracy Can Be a Good Thing [Opinion]

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internet piracyBack in January, users of the Internet were faced with an interesting phenomenon – the SOPA/PIPA blackout. When American legislators introduced a bill that would give unprecedented power to the government over the Internet, consumers had no choice but to react. To be fair, the heart of the SOPA/PIPA bills were innocent. All they wanted was to provide a way for producers to protect their intellectual property. On the surface, those bills were meant to fight against Internet piracy.

But let’s open up a can of worms and think about this for a minute. Does piracy really need to be combated? Is Internet piracy bad? Or does it carry a number of benefits with it?

I’m here to argue that Internet piracy – while wrong – can provide a few benefits.

Disclaimer: Piracy Is Illegal!

In this context, when I speak about piracy, I mean the act of copying and acquiring computer data (video, music, software, etc.) without the authorization to do so. A lot of the definitions can get gritty, murky, and convoluted, so let’s just leave it at that.

internet piracy

Despite how you feel about piracy, it is illegal – at least for now. Even though this article observes some of the benefits of Internet piracy, MakeUseOf does not condone any action that leads to the breaking of laws.

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Discovering The Unknown

Organizations like the MPAA will often claim that they are losing millions – even billions – of dollars to Internet piracy. After all, if Internet piracy didn’t exist, then consumers would have no choice but to buy products legally, right?

Not so. Just because I pirate a movie doesn’t mean that I would’ve bought it if piracy wasn’t an option. Sometimes, the only reason I’ve even seen some movies is because I was able to watch it for free. I didn’t feel that they were worth spending money to watch. In that case, the MPAA really hasn’t lost anything.

internet software piracy

On the contrary, Internet piracy could actually be beneficial for mass media. If you pirate, then consider this question – how many music artists and TV shows have you discovered through illegal means that you would’ve glossed over otherwise?

Piracy allows us to discover media that we would’ve otherwise skipped. It could be argued that Internet piracy is actually what placed some bands and TV shows on the map thanks to word of mouth. Perhaps without piracy, they would’ve faded away into obscurity.

Accessing The Inaccessible

Suppose you’re wandering the Internet and you keep hearing about how Breaking Bad is the best TV show ever. Suppose you live all the way out in Venezuela or Siberia where they don’t air the show. What are you supposed to do?

Perhaps you’re fully willing to fork over some money to watch the show legally, but you can’t. You would buy the DVDs but nobody ships to your location. You would buy access to stream online but it’s not available in your country. When there are no legal means to access a product, what can you do?

For some, Internet piracy is the only way to access products that are otherwise unavailable. Some may call this self-entitlement. Others may call it fairness. I’ll leave that one up to you.

Spurring Technological Advancements

Have you heard of BitTorrent? I’m sure you have. It’s an amazing file distribution protocol that has many legal applications. For example, Blizzard Entertainment uses it to distribute their games. Florida State University uses it to distribute scientific data to researchers.

internet software piracy

However, despite its legality, BitTorrent is mostly known for its connection to Internet piracy. Unlike direct downloads, where you download files directly from a host server, the BitTorrent protocol does not require a centralized network. There is no host. Thus, there is no direct “owner” that can be held culpable, and that means easier piracy.

If Internet piracy hadn’t existed, would the BitTorrent technology be as widespread? It could be argued that Internet piracy had its hand in pushing forward the development of this file sharing protocol.

internet software piracy

Then there’s Internet streaming. What if instead of being tied down to a network schedule (e.g., you must be available at 9pm on Mondays to watch House), you could watch your TV shows at your own convenience? That’s the question that Netflix and Hulu have tried to answer.

Piracy is not always about price. In the past, I’ve pirated episodes of TV because I just couldn’t find the time to watch it live. And now, I know plenty of ex-pirates who only stopped pirating their shows because Netflix filled that void. Without piracy, perhaps we’d still be stuck to our analog televisions without a Netflix on the horizon.

Making a Stand

In capitalistic societies, our demands are determined by our actions. We vote with our wallets, and producers and corporations will respond to that consumer demand. In this kind of world, piracy is another way that we can vote.

In an effort to maintain their power, media corporations will often go to extreme measures to make sure that their handhold on the market does not falter. For example, consider DRM technology. Since its inception, it has been widely protested – from video games to music to DVD purchases.

internet piracy

After reading the above comic, it’s easy to see why someone would opt to pirate. Not only is it free, and not only is it more convenient, but piracy doesn’t treat legitimate customers like criminals. In the world of anti-piracy, paying customers are punished while pirates remain free.

In some sense, pirating can be an effective means of voting with your wallet – or as the case may be, not using your wallet at all.


To reiterate, Internet piracy is illegal according to current law. You may or may not think that Internet piracy is immoral, but I think it’s clear that there are definitely benefits to its existence.

What are your thoughts?

Image Credit: Piracy Image Via Shutterstock, Copyright Image Via Shutterstock, BitTorrent Image Via Shutterstock

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Comments (45)
  • gorrion2


    Anyone who is against it hasn’t experienced the frustration of wanting to buy something legally and not being able because “this content is not available in your country” or having to pay extra fees because you are not part of the “first world” club.
    If producers treated every user equally regardless of their origin, piracy would diminish. A principle of microeconomy people, the black market diminishes when the (legal) supply grows.

    While they continue to do this differenciation between a potential costumer from Africa, South America, the US, or Europe, I will continue to enjoy as much free (I don’t care if it was stolen) content as I can get my hands on. Just because I can.

  • Captain Black Bart

    Argh, shiver me timbers matey,

    None of this discussion changes my opinion on the matter. It’s not theft. It’s copyright infringement. It’s seems very similar to taking a library book, cd, dvd and copying it in some way. Assume the library media is copyrighted. If my use is strictly for personal use or reference, I find this less objectionable form of copyright infringement. If I try to profit from it think it more fitting to call it piracy and copyright infringement. It’s not something I would ever do….

    Bit torrent is never going to stop. There are too many legitimate uses for it for distributing large files. Thinking of Linux mirrors. The more the media conglomerates crack down on this, the more people will obtain the content with VPN, Proxies, Seedboxes or even resort to dark web solutions. I2P comes to mind. For every copyright infringement protection measure, there will be a hack.

    The media conglomerates will continue tomake money from the lemmings who choose to spend money on that content. It’s going to have to be enough, because it’s always going to be a problem for the industry.

  • Painekiller12

    This article is straight up supporting larceny. It shows flawed “benefits” of pirating and doesn’t review the consequences of these actions. None of these points are legit and some of them are just selfish people justifying theft.

    If you are not going to spend money on an item because it not “appealing” enough, then that makes stealing OK? What? “Well I wasn’t going to pay for it anyways so it’s not like I’m hurting you by just taking your product.” Yes you are! You’re taking a unit of their product. Sure, maybe you won’t pay for it at first, but if the movie ends up being good then maybe you’ll want to see the movie and then they have your sale. But if you have seen the movie alreadu then they get no sale from you you! You obviously have no economic knowledge on that regard.

    Also, why are you acting like previews are torture? It takes 5 minutes of your life to get a quick look at movies that you would potentially want to see. And warnings and disclaimers take up 1 minute of that 5 minutes. Seriously, if you can’t take 5 minutes to spend 2 hours on a movie then you need to rethink your life. That’s just plain selfish to say, “Why should I have to watch these previews? How could they do that to ME?!?” Well guess what, life isn’t fair nor free. I’m sorry that if you want something that you have to give up something you have. Everyone has to deal with that. Especially in a capitalistic society. Also, media would be helped through that, not Piracy.

    As for the foreign country arguement, considering that 40% of the world has even touched the internet and trade reaches over 80% of the world then I doubt that if you can’t have a media format delivered to you by legal means that an illegally streamed media is even available. In any case, that would be a very rare situation and not a good enough reason to even consider legalizing piracy.

    Technological advancements? No, Netflix and Hulu have nothing to do with Piracy. Before there was even internet there was a thing called a DVR which lets you record your shows or movies. Netflix and Hulu based their existence off of that and internet streaming was a convenient way of doing it.

    Piracy is theft, you are taking from someone. It is no different then going to a store and taking a movie off the shelf. It does not benefit anyone but the pirate who decides he is too good to pay for things he want. Too good to get a job and earn the things you get. Piracy hurts the economy and loses jobs. So stop it.

  • ekfrasi

    Filesharing is just a miracle :)

    You own a copy and you give it to others by multiplication.
    You do not steal someone else’s copy.
    When Jesus took 2 fish and 5 bread and fed 5,000 it was exactly that!
    (I don’t care if you believe or not, it is for the sake of the argument)
    The bread making chamber did not accused him of being a thief, nor did the union of fishermen of being a pirate. No one got his fish stolen and none lost his bread. The “industry” did not accused Him of copying the patterns on bread making and the crowd was happy.
    He took what was there and shared it. (sharing is caring)

    If you are against “piracy” call Jesus a pirate and a thief :P

    As long as none is getting money for “selling” the copy and no copy is stolen from someone else it cannot be called theft, like it or not. The IP people should wake up and stop talking about theft, they’d never sell these copies and none is stealing from them. And stop using Intellectual property, is is an oxymoron. Monetization rights, yes but intellect is not property.

    Read http://falkvinge.net/wp-content/uploads/large/The%20Case%20For%20Copyright%20Reform%20(2012)%20Engstrom-Falkvinge.pdf it’s worth it :)

  • Skylark-Torch

    What you say about piracy and finding those hidden stars is true, if it weren’t free there are a few artists that I would have skipped completely. The thing with me is though, if I like an artist enough because I heard them on the internet, I will later go and legitimately purchase their music to support them; it’s as simple as that.

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