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DMCA What Is the Digital Media Copyright Act? What Is the Digital Media Copyright Act? Read More , SOPA SOPA And PIPA Abandoned After Day Of Internet Activism [News] SOPA And PIPA Abandoned After Day Of Internet Activism [News] As the day of online activism opposing SOPA and PIPA continued, supporters quickly began to have second thoughts. Now, the final blows have been struck. Senator Harry Reid has decided to put the Protect IP... Read More , MegaUpload Why MegaUpload, And Who's Next? Why MegaUpload, And Who's Next? In the middle of some very aggressive anti-SOPA/PIPA protests, the feds managed to prove that they don't need to pass such a bill to pull the plug on a certain internet website. The casualty this... Read More shut down, piracy becoming a religion in Sweden – not a week goes by without some shutdown, anti-piracy laws or shocking statistics about torrents – and I have to ask myself, is it really worth it? Is this really how want to be spending our time as a society? Is piracy actually all that bad?

MakeUseOf does not condone piracy in any way. This article expresses the opinion of a single author only and should not be taken as the representative opinion of MakeUseOf as a whole.

“Piracy”? Really?

The very word chosen to describe the term copyright infringement is misappropriated. Piracy used to mean acts of violence at sea, and physical stealing of gold. As is said time and time again – piracy is not the same as stealing. Stealing takes the item away from the original owner. Piracy was chosen to deliberately evoke an emotional response.

If the music industry insists on equating copyright infringement with stealing, I think it’s time we put a new face on piracy. Have you ever heard the story of Robin Hood and his merry band of men? He lived in the forests of Sherwood, England, and whenever a rich upperclassman would travel through the forest, they would hold them up and steal their gold and jewellery. They would then give it all to the poor people in town. “Rob from the rich, give to the poor” – Robin Hood was the great equaliser, a legendary hero to the common man. I think it’s about time we replace the verb “pirate” with “Robin Hood“, and see how the perception of copyright infringement changes then.

Rich Enough?

The music industry as a whole is undoubtedly making somewhat lower profits than it was 20 years ago, though digital sales are undergoing rapid growth. Should we really care about their losses? Doubtful. Major artists are overpaid, and the executives that own the record companies are overpaid too. Do you really think I care if P.Diddy can spend a few less nights every year in that 7-star Dubai hotel that costs $28,000 a night? No, I sure as hell don’t.


Whatever losses you are making Mr Music Industry, take them out of his paycheck. No one deserves that much money, ever. Same to you Mr Hollywood.

I wonder though…what would happen if you charged fair and reasonable prices for music? If you put those executive and artists salaries down to something reasonable, and charged fair prices with a fair percentage going to the smaller artists – do you think piracy would be such an issue then? I don’t.

It Doesn’t Hurt The Smaller Developers/Producers/Indie Bands

Anti-piracy statements inevitably come only from the big companies and big artists who are already rich. The smaller artists – the indie bands and such – are usually quite encouraging of piracy. Anything that gets their name out there, creates a buzz, brings people to gigs – is always a good thing.

I think all of us are happy to pay when we can afford it, and the price is reasonable. Here’s indie developer Notch – creator of Minecraft – who when asked by a fan who couldn’t afford the game what to do, replied:

@AndresLeay Just pirate it. If you still like it when you can afford it in the future, buy it then. Also don’t forget to feel bad.

Trent Reznor, lead singer of industrial band Nine Inch Nails, understands how the music companies screw the consumer:

The ABSURD retail pricing of Year Zero in Australia. Shame on you, UMG. Year Zero is selling for $34.99 Australian dollars ($29.10 US). No wonder people steal music. Avril Lavigne’s record in the same store was $21.99 ($18.21 US).

By the way, when I asked a label rep about this his response was: “It’s because we know you have a real core audience that will pay whatever it costs when you put something out – you know, true fans. It’s the pop stuff we have to discount to get people to buy.”

So… I guess as a reward for being a “true fan” you get ripped off.

More recently, PirateBay even [NO LONGER WORKS] launched an initiative to highlight a single artist on the homepage by allowing those who freely distribute their music on the site to upload a small picture that will be randomly displayed on the PirateBay homepage, linking to their YouTube channel or blog.

The point is – piracy doesn’t hurt the little guy. If anything, it helps the little guy.

Lost Revenue Figures Are BS

We’re constantly hearing outrageous figures for how much piracy “costs” the industry. £200 million a year, they cry out in the UK. But all these figures assume that a single download would otherwise have been converted to revenue. Now while I don’t doubt that some people choose to download instead of purchasing the product, the vast majority of downloads are those that otherwise wouldn’t have been a sale anyway. Take that figure, and shave 95% off it, and it’s a whole lot more believable – and suddenly, somewhat irrelevant in the big scheme of things.

A Waste Of Money

When tough new measures for ISPs in the UK were suggested back in 2009, British Telecom estimated that dealing with the new rules and regulations could cost them up to £1 million a day. That’s £365 million a year, to save the industry £200 million – which was an overestimated loss anyway.

It’s not just a waste of money though – governments around the world spend thousands of hours working through these laws, launching various committees to discuss proposals. That’s your tax dollars at work there, by the way. Do you honestly think they aren’t some more serious problems they could be dealing with?

Anyway, that’s my take on all this piracy nonsense. The “problem” is overblown, and the people it really hurts could do with being taken down a notch or two anyway. Services like iTunes Store and Netflix are creating new revenue streams, reducing piracy Is Netflix The Solution to Video Piracy? [Opinion] Is Netflix The Solution to Video Piracy? [Opinion] Netflix recently launched in the UK - and I wrote up a full and shining review of the service last time. It offers an affordable way to get high quality on-demand movies and TV straight... Read More by providing viable and affordable alternatives the traditional model.  Society and governments waste time and money on catering to the whims of executives, and I say it’s time we just stopped caring about so-called piracy.

How about you, what’s your take on piracy? Do you agree it isn’t actually a problem at all, or is it a scourge of the Internet age that must be tackled?

Image credit: ShutterStock

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