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Piracy Sucks

This is something that has been on my mind for quite some time (think years), but I've refused to blog it, because it goes against the beliefs of many of my friends. In short, this post is going to hurt, but I just can't hold out on it any longer.

Question: Are you one that pirates music? Movies? Software? Any other digital media that is otherwise copyrighted in a manner that would consider your actions piracy? If so, then I have a second question for you: Do you believe in the principles of freedom and liberty? Then this post is for you.

I'm going to shoot straight- piracy is a slap in the face for those of us fighting for copyright restrictions to be lifted, for Digital Restrictions Management wiped from the face of the Earth, and the DCMA over turned. The fact of the matter is, we hate the RIAA, MPAA, blood sucking lawyers, and everything else wrong with copyright just as much as pirates. However, we recognize there are more mature ways to reaching our goals, and we further recognize that piracy is just hurting our cause, not helping it.

Think about it for a second. If you pirate music, books, movies, software, or any other copyright material, what are you saying? At first thought, you're sticking it to the man, right? You're also harming material that is open, in the public domain, or otherwise copyrighted in a manner that let's you share to your hearts content (commonly referred to as "copyleft"). Look at all the artists who have chosen independent labels, if any label at all, that encourages sharing of their music. Instead, you're sharing Tori Amos, Metallica or some other artist. What you're saying, is their music is better, but I doubt you've given the other music a try, haven't you? What about proprietary software? You're saying that you don't want to pay these outrageous prices on software. You're also saying that this application is superior to Free Software. The same can be said for images, books, videos, and other digital works. Piracy isn't liberating anything, it's just making it so you don't have to pay, and it's making more laws on copyright further complicating the system. It's not the solution to the problem.

Now, I understand the want, or even need, to get these materials. Maybe school requires Microsoft Office. Can you use, or some other Open Source office suite? If so, why pirate Microsoft Office? If you absolutely need that specific office suite, surely the school has student discounts. What about Metallica? I was just as pissed as the next guy when they went against Napster, but pirating their music only says you still like the band, and you still like their tunes. Why not boycott them? Why not find another artist in metal that allows sharing and free distribution? If you just like their tunes so much, why not listen to them on a radio service, like Using a service like this, not only will you get Metallica tunes, you'll also get similar artists that you may not have known about. Discovering new artists is a great way to support music in the Free Culture. If you must have their stuff, is it really that hard to pay a dollar on Amazon or iTunes? If you don't want the money reaching Metallica, why not get their albums from a gray market shop?

Piracy just doesn't equate to honesty as well, no matter how you look at it. You're not being honest in your dealings with your fellowman, and if you're engaging in piracy, how can others trust you in different aspects of your life? Sure, you can admit that you're a pirate, but you're still not honest with the law. You're not honest with the artists or developers. As much as it sucks sometimes, we should believe in honoring, obeying and sustaining the law. I'm not saying follow the law blindly, and there are always times when we should lobby changes to the law. This seems more the right path than ignoring the law and engaging in piracy, don't you think? Now, we're not perfect law abiding citizens. I for one have a hard time sticking to posted speed limits on the road and coming to a complete stop at stop signs, so I'm certainly not one get all high and mighty, but is that an excuse for me to break other laws? Further, what if I place something in your care that requires your trust? Can I trust you won't put it on bittorrent, or otherwise break my trust?

Piracy especially is troubling for those of us who believe in the Free Software ideals. Here, we're fighting the good fight for software freedom, then in the dark corners of the basement, we're pirating proprietary software. Isn't this hypocritical? You either believe in the ideals or you don't. Playing both sides doesn't work. Further, as already mentioned, pirating the software only pisses off the software execs and their lawyers, making the whole copyright process more complicated- it's doing nothing to liberate the software at all. Boycotting the software, and using competitive open source applications are a couple ways of getting the point out that software should be liberated. If no one is using their software, how can they continue with their business models?

Finally, I admit to being a pirate many years ago. I had a collection of gigabytes of music, videos and software. I was on the peer-to-peer networks night and day. However, when I thought about it, I realized that my actions could not be justified. How could I promote and advocate "copyleft" licenses and continue doing what I was doing? No man can serve two masters, and I had to make a choice. I deleted my entire repository of music, videos, books, software and anything else that was pirated, and started anew. This was nearly five years ago, and guess what? I don't miss any of it. I have all the music I want to listen to through I have all the software I want to install through my distribution's software repositories. When I need movies or music, I hit up the gray market shops, getting them for cheap and in excellent condition.

Give yourself a soul-searching moment. Think about your beliefs and then your actions. I think you'll find that piracy just isn't the right way to go about removing all the restrictions we currently face. Piracy only makes more ridiculous laws and prevents the Free Culture from furthering it's cause.

{ 38 } Comments

  1. Aigars Mahinovs | May 17, 2009 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    Yes and ... NO.

    While piracy makes RIAA/MPAA fight harder for even tougher copyright and DRM legislation, it has exctly the opposite effect on actual progress in the area.

    Copyright is not a right. Copyright is a limited monopoly that the society has granted the authors for a limited time. If the authors abuse this grant of monopoly to the extend that we, the people, no longer feel that such grant is to the benefit of the society, then we have every chance to revoke it.

    Piracy is and act of civil disobedience that clearly illustrates the fact that a significant part of the society is of the opinion that the copyright monopoly is overextended.

    The more piracy there is, the more MPAA/RIAA will fight it. The more they will fight it, the more people they will piss off. The more people they will piss of, the less customers will their member organizations have and the more there will be support for The Pirate Party and similar organisations. And when the threshold is high enough, the copyright will fall.

    How low and how hard is still to be determined, but the end result is inevitable.

    Free Software and Free Culture have absolutely no relation to this. Free Software is about controlling our own digital future and Free Culture is about creating and controling our culture. It has zero relation to copyright law.

  2. Drew | May 17, 2009 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Dear Aaron:

    I pirate because I don't believe in intellectual property. I support free software because it discourages most of the tenets of intellectual property (though not all).

    And my piracy doesn't hurt anyone, because if I didn't pirate my music, I simply wouldn't have any. I wouldn't pay $15 for recordings. In fact, through pirating, I know many indie bands I'd never have heard of otherwise, and I tell my friends about them and thus I actually get the band a larger fanbase.

    I don't stick it to the man. I just don't believe in what the man believes, so I circumvent him.

  3. nixternal | May 17, 2009 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    Great write up and I have similar feelings to this situation as well, however Piracy also helps a much larger crowd than us in the Open Source world. The Music Industry has lied year after year now stating that piracy is hurting them, however there have been recent articles (past 2 years) that state the opposite, and even our own Matt Lauer on NBC said something recently about it when talking with Trent Reznor. The music industry has stated that piracy hasn't hurt the money they make all that much, though the RIAA and such will not advertise that. What the music industry has said is that piracy isn't allowing them to sign new bands. I don't know about you, but this is good news to me. This only allows them to sign the best of the best. Which if you think about it, if this were true, then we wouldn't have Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears, or the little boy bands that came out.

    Also, because of piracy (I think) bands are getting the hint. I mean getting your music via a torrent isn't taking money out of Lars' pockets. They don't get any money really from their CDs, and because of piracy bands are realizing that they need to tour and really cater to the fans. Heck even recently Lars' and the rest of Metallica spoke with Trent, or are planning on speaking to Trent, about using or trying his business model. That is great, and if it weren't for pirates (I really hate that term) this wouldn't be happening.

    So yes, I do feel from our perspective, the open source junkies, piracy may hurt a bit, however I look at the bigger picture, and there are far more people in the world than us, so I would rather fight for many than just a few in this case. So because of this, I say keeping on pirating!

    I would pirate, but I am to lazy and can't wait. I rarely ever buy new music, as the bands today typically suck, plus Amazon has made it so easy now, there is really no reason for me to go to Pirate Bay and search for music. I will use PB though if I can't find a good way to sample a new group before making a purchase. I also really like having the CD in hand, as I like the album artwork and what not.

  4. Bugsbane | May 17, 2009 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Hi Aaron,

    First up, this is a post that needed to happen sometime, and I'm glad you were the one to raise it intelligently. I came to free software because at first, I only wanted free (as in beer) software without hating myself. You can justify it consciously, but if you hate people who steal stuff and you see yourself stealing stuff day in and day out, it doesn't matter how you justify it. How you feel about yourself is going to suffer.

    Once I started using Free software though (starting with Joomla and OScommerce) I came to be grateful. This stuff was letting me feed my family and achieve my dreams and making me *more* happy with who I was becoming rather than less. And the people spending thousands of hours making it weren't asking me for *anything*?! This renewed my faith in people's ability to create good for ourselves and each other at the most basic level. This kept me around long enough to make me value the decentralised, freedom for the people, community caring for each other values of free (as in freedom) software that just isn't available as a bulletpoint feature in the latest iTunes / MS Office.

    A point or two I feel you missed though is that often the pain that comes from doing the "wrong" thing is not obvious retribution, it's missing out on the improvement that comes from doing the "right" thing. Many people feel if they didn't get caught by the law taking money from someones pocket that they "got away" with it. Did you really if *you* caught you doing it? If you use a pirate version of MS Office you can argue that you're not directly giving money to MS, but are you making Abiword, kOffice or an equivalent better for everyone? Are you inspiring others to make the software *better for you*, just as many people inspired me to help out in the Free Software community? Are you discovering the indie musician you can help make more popular with your friends? Are you creating a habit of using something more free so you can openly help others do the same, or are you hiding your actions away from the public eye? If you live in secrecy and fear of being caught (remembering your actions speak louder than your words) in one area of your life, that becomes part of how you do *everything*. When that's how you live your life, how does it affect how you connect with other people and what you feel about yourself? You always learn life lessons regardless of what you do, either useful ones or damaging. What life lessons do isolation, secrecy and fear teach? What lessons are taught by community, working towards freedom for all and taking part in the improvement / development of your own future?

    These are lessons that can't be duplicated with a dvd burner.

    Don't give the copyright agencies any reason / justification to count you as another dollar sign just waiting to be collected by a new more restrictive law and police powers. Make your actions count as a force for good in your community.

    Your self respect and community will benefit from it.

  5. Bugsbane | May 17, 2009 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Oh, I also needed to add, yes The Man is often wrong. We correct this by making something better. Using pirate software / media just strengthens their case for taking away our freedoms. DMCA anyone?

  6. Peteris Krisjanis | May 17, 2009 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Aaron, I second you 100%. In fact, last month I made decision not to download anything illegal anymore (which I did very less frequently during last year than previously anyway). In fact, I really don't have to anymore. In shops DVDs are laughingly cheap (Old movies and tv minies about 1 - 3$, previous year releases 8$), legal mp3 downloads are not problem anymore - well, except I can't get mp3s of foreign artists in my country legally, but for local performers I already use legit downloads for a year or more.

    My reasons for doing this are very close to yours - if I am standing for freedom and free exchange of ideas, I do encourage that (I do lot of info commits to wikipedia and OSM, for example). But it also means that I have to respect current copyright regime - in fact which I don't really see problem with, except criminal charges against people who simply download stuff - laws should take care more of mafia which counterfeits DVDs en masse and create huge losses for distributors - but in overall, copyright exists for rather solid reason - for work creator to benefit from creation. And I actually don't care if that movie was made purely for money or for entertainment and enlightenment. I watch it and make my own judgments.

    Drew, it doesn't matter that you don't believe in IP, because such concept legally still doesn't exist. However, copyright does. Yes, we have various theories how copyright hurts creativity, etc. However, it is still a law. Actually, a law which have given us opportunity to create software by free will and not to be ripped of by Microsoft and friends. If you don't like extended copyright time, if you don't like current trends where it is going - then fight it, politically, emotionally submit yourself to fight it. Because downloading something you don't helping it, even more - you hurt it.

    "And my piracy doesn’t hurt anyone, because if I didn’t pirate my music, I simply wouldn’t have any. I wouldn’t pay $15 for recordings. In fact, through pirating, I know many indie bands I’d never have heard of otherwise, and I tell my friends about them and thus I actually get the band a larger fanbase."

    And what those poor indie bands benefit from your downloading? If they have publicly accepted it, fine (it is still grey area, but morally it is ok I guess), but if they count each sale? Not all of them are signed to big fat cats of MAFIAA. Lot of them are contracted with small companies who actually make a small dime of the sale. So in the end you not only rip artist, but also a company which actually helps such acts like him to get out in the market.

    Anyway, everyone should make up their own mind, but I think piracy is wrong. No matter how you twist it.

  7. f.p. | May 17, 2009 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    I think you've made some good points, but that they don't always apply. Pirates who don't give free alternatives a chance are more likely the type who are unable to break free of mainstream popular culture in general. They're not sharing creative commons music and GPL software because they've never heard it on the radio, seen it advertised on TV, and their friends aren't doing it. It's not that they're too busy pirating mainstream stuff to discover something else, otherwise there'd be no explanation for my growing collection of music from Jamendo.

    For some, piracy is indeed an act of civil disobedience. I think Mohandas Ghandi and Rosa Parks would disagree that breaking the law makes you untrustworthy. There are many pirates who certainly are selfish and untrustworthy, but there are others who are principled about it. Please don't bush it off as mere rationalization if you don't understand. In my case, as in many, my funds are limited. I take issue with the copymonopoly's idea that a pirated work is a lost sale, because if I pirate something, it means I can't afford it right now. Depending on how much value it has to me, I may purchase it legitimately at another time. "Oh, you say that," I might hear, "but once you've got it for free, you won't want to pay." But it isn't true. Several times in the past, I've bought things I'd already "stolen" and will do so again. I view it the same way I view donating to copyleft artists and developers. After all, you don't claim that if everyone can get GPL software and music from Jamendo for free that they'll never donate, or go to live shows, or buy Ubuntu mugs and stickers, right?

    I also take exception to the label of "stealing" for the above reason. To be stealing, I have to take something away. I haven't stolen a sale, because I couldn't have made the purchase, and would simply not have the product. I haven't stolen the product, because the seller has no fewer copies to sell. I haven't stolen "intellectual property" because I don't claim the creation is mine.

    In short, piracy isn't hurting copyleft--closed-mindedness of the public is. Principled pirates aren't dishonest--warez kiddies are. What we need is for the on-line culture of piracy to show more solidarity in a mature and honest approach of sharing, and to shun freeloaders who merely see it as an opportunity to not pay for something. Those same freeloaders would never benefit open culture anyway, and those of us with a moral core are simply treating all media is if it is copyleft already. Those ideals will resonate well with open source, and is in fact how I became interested in a model of production that already follows the beliefs I've been practicing.

  8. Fabian Rodriguez | May 17, 2009 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Aaron, look up what piracy means. I guess you were referring to content sharing. Why is sharing content illegal ? That's the quesiton we should be raising. I suggest you watch RIP: A remix manifesto - or download it for free.

    Anyone buying CDs and DVDs under the current model supports and validates and outdated and obsolete way of delivering and controlling such content. By that logic we should also support DRM and other methods of content control.

    Count me out!

  9. Jared Spurbeck | May 17, 2009 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    I agree 100%, and I'm glad to see someone standing up for these things. >.> But I think you left out the most important point:

    Piracy always helps the copyright owner.

    That's the biggest reason why it is wrong. When the MPAA and the RIAA are trying to destroy our freedom, control all the channels and prevent others from competing with them, why are we listening to / enjoying / promoting their music? If we're humming Metallica on the way to school or work, aren't we supporting them? If we're telling our friends about this awesome band and giving them MP3s (or even Ogg Vorbis files!), aren't we promoting them?

    Do we really want to promote the corporate egos that see our money as their right?

    Buying and selling used -- or previously sold, as the case may be -- copies is good, as it recycles the old media and keeps more money from going to people who exploit the artists. And buying indie is good, too, because it supports the actual artists themselves. But the best thing to do is support Free Culture, whether Art Libre- or Creative Commons-licensed music and artwork and writing. Because that's the way humans naturally think and talk and exchange their ideas, and the more we can help those who acknowledge this the better.

    And I guess this is like the tenth rant you've received in response to your original post. ^.^; Hope this discussion attracts thoughtful and considerate people.

  10. A.Y. Siu | May 17, 2009 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    Since Bill Gates has said he'd rather people pirate Windows than use Linux, I'm going to say I'm also against piracy.

  11. f.p. | May 17, 2009 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    "Since Bill Gates has said he’d rather people pirate Windows than use Linux, I’m going to say I’m also against piracy."

    I'm not making any judgments about the person posting this, but I find it amusing and ironic to see it posted from a closed-source OS--especially one by a company that's supportive of DRM and exploits vendor lock-in.

  12. Big Dan | May 17, 2009 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Hi Arron,

    I agree with your arguments regarding copyleft artists and the like however I think most people who pirate just don't care. A vast majority of those people have nothing fundamentally against copyright/patents like most in the Linux crowd, they don't even think about it. Their mentality is "Hey I don't have to pay for something I otherwise would have, I'm in" In going after those folks as bad as I think the RIAA and MPAA is, I support them. Going after folks for ripping movies to their computer and not sharing them is where the MPAA and their ilk loose major points with me. Going after Grandma who is lucky if she knows how to turn on the computer because her grand kids downloaded music is just a tad bit extreme, dontcha think?

    On alternative software many people just flat out don't know it exists. I cannot tell you how many times someone was looking for a 'free' copy of MS Office and when I point out and install Open Office for them they're amazed that they can get that for free, Same thing with the Gimp and Firefox, etc and lets face it none on these open source apps do a great job at promoting themselves. I realize most don't have the budget for promotion if any budget at all however they *have to* to realize that there are other avenues to advertise than the internet and that where they do happen to advertise you average internet surfer isn't surfing. Add to the fact that security people tell Windows users to distrust anything free because lots of times it's loaded with malware..Where does that leave production ready FOSS products?

    I wonder if there's a foundation or something that accepts donations exclusively to promote open source software, if not one should be created that would be awesome. Could you imagine seeing a Ubuntu/Open Office/Gimp commercial during the super bowl? How many millions of people would now know about free alternatives?

    Just some thoughts,

  13. Aaron | May 17, 2009 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    I would like to make a clarification that I should have made in the post, but overlooked it:

    * Piracy brings about things similar to the DMCA. As such, who "owns" their media? Who "owns" the right to use the media. Because of piracy, copyright laws are getting more screwed up and twisted every day.
    * Piracy is the reason for DRM. The whole point of Digital Restrictions Management was to control how the content was used. Unfortunately, all it's doing is increasing piracy, and hurting those who wish to be honest.

    Piracy does not have a good side. For those who are short on funds, piracy is just an excuse. If you can't afford it, pirating it isn't the answer. Looking for cheaper or other alternatives is. Also, as mentioned in one of the comments, piracy is still advocation for the product at any event, and if you are a Free Software advocate, how can you advocate Free Software while advocating proprietary software through piracy? As I mentioned, no man can serve two masters.

    The fact of the matter is, piracy improves nothing. It makes copyright law more complicated and twisted. It hinders the progress of Free Culture and Software. It's dishonest and flat out illegal in most countries, no matter how you look at it.

    Lastly, and very fortunately, piracy is only a very small percentage of the digital media market. I don't think the threshold will ever be the case, where companies and media execs stop and take a look at what they're doing wrong, because of piracy, and change their business models. It's not mainstream, and I don't think it ever will be. So why blog it? Because it's so rampant in the Free Software movement. I see GNU/Linux advocates supporting piracy, and I have to scratch my head, wondering where we went wrong as a culture.

    Piracy just isn't the answer to the problem. Supporting Free Culture and Software is. The former is dishonest and illegal, the latter is trustworthy and legal. The former is underground kept in the shadows while the latter is on the front of many a website. The former creates a culture of screw the man, while the latter creates a culture of a diverse, helpful and energetic society, optimistic about the future.

  14. Aaron | May 17, 2009 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    @Fabian I have no problem with peer-to-peer networks and protocols. I'm not pointing the finger at the technology behind piracy. I'm explicitly referring to using this technology for piracy. Again, I have no problem with content sharing. I fully support Bittorrent for sharing content that is licensed to a degree that allows it, such as the GNU/Linux software applications.

  15. Mackenzie | May 17, 2009 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    There is one argument I can make *for* piracy:
    There exists a decent amount of video footage which is not available for sale AT ALL. For example, there are TV shows from the 80s and 90s that were never released on either VHS or DVD. In that case, there is no legal way to obtain that footage. The copyright owners aren't trying to sell it, so they are seeing no profit loss.

    And your OpenID is *still broken*!

  16. f.p. | May 17, 2009 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    "Piracy is the reason for DRM. The whole point of Digital Restrictions Management was to control how the content was used. Unfortunately, all it’s doing is increasing piracy, and hurting those who wish to be honest."

    You're hurting your own point by mentioning that DRM increases piracy and hurts honest people. The reason is not piracy per se. I firmly believe companies that try so hard to exploit "IP" would implement copy restriction measures even if "piracy" were not illegal, just as they already implement region restrictions in DVDs and video games, even though there's no law broken in legally buying a DVD in the UK & trying to watch it in the USA. The reason for DRM is the desire to control natural human impulses in the consuming public. When those measures are so foolish and poorly considered, it is the fault of the people implementing them, not "pirates". Especially when "pirates" are such a small market as you say, and since the legal standing of piracy has nothing to do with implementing the restrictions.

    I will ignore the complaint of "endorsing" proprietary software by "pirating" it. By not honoring the imposed idea that we can't copy the software, "pirates" are clearly not supporting current copyright models. That simply leaves the fact that the software is closed-source. That we should never use software without released code is a zealot's position, and one not even endorsed by Linux's creator. I will prefer open software as a rule, but use closed software as I see fit. I will also pay for it as I see fit.

    I offer a counter challenge to your statements about piracy not helping change copyright law: by implementing free "licenses" (which are honestly a reversed version of a EULA) by--ironically--placing restrictions against restricting the software, thereby fitting our "free" ideals into the broken non-free copyright system, don't we downplay the fact that the system is broken and needs to be fixed? Shouldn't we be highlighting the problem instead of saying "yeah, we can make the current system work for us, no big deal."?

    "The former creates a culture of screw the man, while the latter creates a culture of a diverse, helpful and energetic society, optimistic about the future."

    I don't see the contradiction in this. Many a peaceful idealist group says "screw the man" and practices civil disobedience, ignoring the law when the law is wrong (which is NOT dishonest) while also funding charities and doing public good works. Now, if someone represents a free software project, especially if it seeks widespread use and acceptance, that person may need to be careful to keep his/her nose clean. End users are under no such obligation. "Pirates" who copy Windows for their personal use don't make Windows look bad, after all.

  17. Michael | May 17, 2009 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    I guess everything have been already discussed in this book :

  18. Alberto | May 17, 2009 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    About the main post:

    I agreed 100% with you and in fact I was using as you said... until they make me pay while in other countries remained free (as in beer). I didn't like that (I know you are in a country where their service is free, while I'm in one where is not).

    I'm not completely a proud pirate now, but those are things that makes you wonder why you keep trying to enter in the labels and studio games listening their music and watching their movies, and I don't know yet why.

    (Besides the utterly discrimination I felt when did that, which is another thing, and sorry to put it here, but I felt BAD when happened).

  19. Aaron | May 17, 2009 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    @Alberto Yeah, I wasn't excited when I read about that. I understand the position from to provide a quality service to all of it's users, but they should have kept existing accounts free, and new sign-ups pay. At least then you keep your existing listening base happy. On the flip side, there is, offering "cofyleft" music using a similar model and design as Check it out. It's quite beta right now, but It's adding new features fairly regularly.

  20. Justyn | May 18, 2009 at 1:05 am | Permalink is great.
    I did the same thing as you and decided to delete my whole pirated (or allofmp3) music collection a couple of years ago and start from scratch, legally, finding stuff through
    Thanks to eBay and Amazon marketplace I now have 220 secondhand CDs (96 different artists) all ripped to FLAC, with the CDs in a binder for backup.
    I listen to Jamendo sometimes but sadly I rarely find artists that I really love on there.
    Every single artist I have found through, many of whom are totally obscure, still don't release their music under creative commons etc and require tracking down a CD. It's a shame.
    I'll give a try though.

  21. Andy | May 18, 2009 at 2:42 am | Permalink

    Strong agreement here.

    Even if piracy isn't helping the people you disagree with, by choosing an alternative, you are definitely helping the people you agree with.

    Take the bit-torrent throttling problems you have (had?) in the states. It would be a lot more difficult to pull that sort of stunt if people didn't associate bit-torrent with illegal stuff.

  22. Erik | May 18, 2009 at 4:19 am | Permalink

    @Alberto : there are also webistes like grooveshark and jamendo - and I'm sure many more that I don't know about either 🙂

    @Mackenzie : agreed. Abandonware, as it is called, doesn't make my moral compass go crazy either 🙂

    Fully agree with the original post - if you're going to use a product for which the publisher requires that you pay, you either pay or don't use it. "I can't afford it" is too bad, but not a good excuse. The trick here is saving up until you *can* afford it. In my experience something you've had to wait for becomes a lot nicer ...

    "But I wouldn't have bought it anyway" is something I find a bit of a weird argument. Not buying something is your choice. The consequence of that choice is that you do not get to enjoy the product. As far as I'm concerned, making a choice also involves living with the consequences.

  23. anyname | May 18, 2009 at 10:24 am | Permalink interesting thread on piracy.

    now days piracy is similar to sharing with everyone. while in the ideal world "don't buy if it's too expensive but don't pirate either" argument is nice, the reality is that if people can get it for free by someone allowing/sharing it with them, the ideal principles won't win the masses.
    of course that doesn't mean the ideals aren't worth reaching for.

  24. Mr. Bill | May 19, 2009 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    Well said.

    You know, as an IT professional, I CONSTANTLY get people within my personal circle of acquaintances, who come to me and go, "say, can you get me a 'free' copy of {your favorite commercial software, typically Window$ XP or Micro$oft Office, here}?"

    This drives me stark raving nuts, and I usually rant back to them, "Sure, I COULD... but I won't. Why don't you just use Ubuntu and OpenOffice, instead?"

    It frustrates me no end that even in an environment where there is a legal, free alternative that is FAR superior to the commercial product, people are still so short-sighted and cheap that they'd prefer an illegal copy of the commercial thing, to a legal copy of the free thing. All we can really do to stop this, is simply to educate people about Open Source. It is going to be a slow and painful process, but it's also a necessary one.

    Having said the above, there is one thing about your position that I really have to take issue with.

    Whereas it is obviously unethical to pirate some kinds of digital goods (the latest Britney Spears CD, for example... though I have no idea why anyone would want it, even if it was free), there is a huge "grey area" of digital goods, the unauthorized downloading and / or use of might IN THEORY be illegal and / or unethical, in practice, I think you would have a hard time convincing any reasonable person that doing this would in any real sense be worthy of sanction.

    For example, consider using BitTorrent to download a rare, "niche interest" song or movie, that is simply unavailable for you to purchase, in your area of residence, for any price (or, any reasonable price).

    What if you're using some kind of semi-legal service to watch television shows that the motion picture industry hasn't "released", for the part of the world in which you live? Or what if you want to buy something, but they refuse to sell it to you?

    One glaring example of this is, in the country where I live, I once tried to pay Amazon U.S. to download a few .MP3s, from their on-line store. I was promptly presented with a "geo-blocking" error message, saying, "We are not authorized to sell you digital music, because we have not been able to conclude a licensing agreement with the recording industry in your country."

    So here we have the ridiculous situation in which a customer WANTS to pay for a digital good, but is prevented from doing so, purely because of the archaic licensing rules of the recording industry. This kind of nonsense goes on hundreds of thousands of times each day. Is it any surprise, then, that music enthusiasts just download what they want, from BitTorrent?

    There are thousands upon thousands of other examples of this kind of thing, in which, one's accessing digital content in a way that "the authorities" deem to be "illegal", can't possibly have any real effect (or, more than a marginal effect) on the revenues of whomever theoretically "owns" that content. It strains credulity to believe that consumer non-conformance with wildly unreasonable and one-sided "intellectual property" laws designed to enforce these types of restrictions, should be considered as "illegal" or "unethical".

    The larger point is, we are living in a world in which (for example) the U.S. RIAA and MPAA are steadfastly demanding that it should be "illegal", for a consumer to transcode songs from a legally purchased CD, or a movie from a legally purchased DVD, to some other format that might be compatible with (say) an iPod, etc.. These trade cartels are seriously arguing that each time that a piece of digital content gets transcoded, the "intellectual property owner" has to get paid again... and again... ad infinitum.

    The huge power imbalance going on here is that the IFPI, RIAA, MPAA and so on, have a huge lobbying budget and a strong parochial interest in abusing the political process to impose their way of doing business, on consumers. Conversely, the rights of digital content users are diffused across millions of individual citizens, who have neither the time, nor the expertise, nor the money, to challenge self-interested groups like the recording, software and movie industries.

    Given this kind of obstinate denial of basic consumer rights to access LEGALLY PAID FOR digital content, it is both unsurprising and wholly legitimate, for consumers to use whatever technological means that may be at their disposal, to 'end-run' stupid laws like the DMCA, that were imposed by an incompetent, corrupt political process.

    So am I in favour of "piracy"? Not at all. But when I have a recording industry, or a government, telling me that ripping a CD that I just bought at the local record store, is "piracy", then they have just completely discredited themselves. They can drop dead, and take their so-called "lost revenues", with them.

  25. SoftCoder | May 21, 2009 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    Free Software Advocate + Piracy = Techno-adultery + Techo-Pharisee + Techno-Prostitute.

    Bottom line is that it is hypocrisy in no uncertain terms and de-evaluates your imfluence, who wants to listen to a double minded man. As you said, no man can serve two masters.

  26. onlyme | May 24, 2009 at 12:02 am | Permalink

    If everyone is disobeying a law then the law is dead. We can't stop now. If we will accept the copyright they will win.

  27. anonymous | May 28, 2009 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    I don't agree with you at all. All I have to say is that NORMAL people don't care (pardon me for sounding rude, but it's true). Who in hell would write books for free? Who in their right mind (both politically and morally) would even make free software that matches the quality of well-tested proprietary software. I need to make those cool 3D smart art presentations that Office 2007 has. What do I do now? Download open office (aka Microsoft Office copycat circa 1995) and wait for someone to write an extension? See, the world isn't as extreme as you or for that matter extreme rightists are. People don't like to make compromises. I'm not defending piracy. All I'm saying is that it's unavoidable quite a lot of time, and most people are not as patient as you want them to be. They want to get on with their lives and get their work done.

  28. Jason | May 28, 2009 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    A quote I've used occasionally, that I picked up from

    "Stop software 'piracy', support Open Source!"

  29. Dara Adib | May 28, 2009 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    I really had to say thank you for the blog post. It's excellently written and gives a voice to the ideas inside of me.

    Do you think the (American) civil rights movement would have succeeded if Blacks pretended to be Whites in order to use facilities as they pleased? No, they had to show the world that we are a community which will not put up with your racism -- by boycotting the racists and by empowering themselves.

  30. anonymous | May 30, 2009 at 1:08 am | Permalink

    @Dara Adib: What bullshit. Change is only brought about when you're inhumanly stubborn and are in the pain in the ass to yhe authority inasmuch you cause so much suffering to yourself that it's perfectly okay and logical to declare yourself insane. Take M@h@tm@ G@ndhi or any civil rights leader for example.

  31. Jan W | June 1, 2009 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    "The test for justification of an act is not its legality but its morality" --Howard Zinn

    Piracy is like smashing a store front and stealing TVs. Yeah, it's a form of civil disobedience. There are better ways to leverage civil disobedience against copyright, "intellectual property," software patents and the like. Piracy just devalues software. Free software (although given away freely) has alot of value. Put your time into free software. It won't be a bad investment.

  32. Dara Adib | June 18, 2009 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    @Anonymous May 30
    I don't think you quite got the grasp of what I was saying. The civil rights movement was in part successful because the boycotts targeted where it heart (their wallets). Copyright infringement doesn't do the same to the media industry, despite what the MAFIAA will claim.

  33. Dara Adib | June 18, 2009 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    correction: that should be hurt not heart
    The civil rights movement was in part successful because the boycotts targeted where it hurt (their wallets).

  34. Anonymous | August 6, 2009 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Listen buddy I see that you reallt like to have the reliability of a good citizen follower of the law, but then again, these methods seek to eliminate all diversity in our society. If people would choose to just listen to those artists that freely share their music under GNU or other form of free license, then what about the other bands? Will they simply extinguish? Sorry for the anonymous post tough.

  35. jim Shaver | August 9, 2009 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    @Fabian Rodriguez You can't at this point download RIP! a Remix Manifesto outside the US. It is geo-blocked

  36. zazuge | December 16, 2009 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    to go legitimate piracy is a problem by itself
    i'm not pretending that 'im an angel who didn't pirate or used pirated products
    but part of human enlightment and personal maturing is to try to change and to repent from your sins
    so if your advocating tobaco and justifing smoking for yourself you'll never try to stop smoking
    yeah it's hard to stop piracy bu i must aknowledge that i'm doing wrong and i have to try to find alternatives or abstain.

    i'll give an example why piracy and effortlessness do to harm creativity and community work in my country
    here in Algeria 100% of pc use pirated MS products and people have never heard nor used opensource softwares
    when i try to predicate about FOSS they give me those replies:
    1) it's hard to use
    2) i have to relearn and i'm lazy
    3) why bother
    4) i don't understand those principles
    5) our county don't belong to the OMS
    6) there's no law about software copyright

    when people find easy access to something they won't bother to find let alone create and invent alternatives
    when people don't believe their actions or personality are wrong they won't try to change

  37. zazuge | December 16, 2009 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    ah I forget to remind you people
    about how richard stallman acted when he faced the problem of closed sources printer drives in MIT
    if RMS chose easiness over his principles would we have a FreeSoftware movement ?

  38. singleuser | April 16, 2010 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    I loved to see the browsers and operating systems of all commenters. ^^

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