Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Piracy: An attractive word?

Who would have thought, all those years ago, when they labeled copying digital information as piracy, that being a pirate would become so attractive to so many people? Perhaps if they had called it something less attractive, like shit-covered vagina, that it would make people less likely to perform the act. On the other hand, what are the motivations for pirating software, music, and movies?

There are different motivations, and perhaps it might be prudent to figure out if the act alone is destructive, or if the reasons behind the act, are what cause the problems. There is also an issue of whether accepting the act causes it to redefine the value of people's work.

The biggest issue that I've come across is that people say that pirating does not equal theft. Pirating is illegally copying published materials (many people say the laws haven't caught up to what should be legal or not, but for right now, anything that is not okay to copy, is piracy). Theft is the dishonest appropriation of someone's property, without the owner's consent, with the intent to deprive them of its use, either temporarily or permanently (taking something from someone, with the result being that they cannot use it).

In the case of the most horrible offenders of plagiarism and piracy, an intellectual work, would be copied, and sold or even given away, for less than the price that the owner of the material intended, resulting in the owner not gaining value for their work (depriving use).

In that sense, piracy IS theft.

There are a few other situations, such as people who stream movies/tv shows online, when the company itself doesn't.

Or, the wouldn't have bought it anyway argument, for those who make a copy of a digital product. Or the act of ripping a DVD movie and condensing it for use in a portable device. At what point is the product yours to use, for your own personal use, and at what point is the product just the purchase of a use as is license?

We still define a purchase as product transferring from one entity to another. So if an artist made a painting, and sold it, it became your painting. If you wanted to duplicated, the artist was SOL since he sold the painting to you (and therefore all rights to the painting). That concept stayed with us into the world of mass production, and later into the world of commercial art (current music, literature and what not), which is where copyright laws came into play.

With copyright, the artist retains the right on duplication and distribution of their work, unless explicitly given to the purchaser. This remains for such a time until the work is considered public domain (note nothing modern would be considered public domain, unless explicitly put there by the creator). So now, we see that piracy (duplication of the work) violates copyright, which fits perfectly with its current definition.

Now if you are to purchase a book, and scan every page, and put it into a pdf for personal use, does that make it piracy? What about copying a video game, and playing it on the computer instead of on its original medium? I'm still unclear about that, and for the most part, I feel its okay (even though I say I feel its okay, I know that currently it is against the law, just a btw to those who read this). The line, for me, comes when you make a copy for a friend, or distribute it for money, or for any other reason than your own personal use.

So perhaps we need to redefine what is being sold and purchased, the product, or a license to use the product for a certain amount of time (this of course would result in LESS creativity and exploration, wouldn't it?).