Sunday, October 10, 2010

Piracy Isn't "Truly Criminal" - In What Alternate Universe?

Whether you believe piracy is a necessary evil or you fight it tooth and nail, I think it's comments like these, from an article about website filtering, that drive me to drink: 

True criminal activity means making a profit on the backs of the hard work of others. If file-sharing was “stealing” from these union’ members then why is is that the motion picture industry has enjoyed year after year of record breaking profits? 

Wow. Really? If you make an increasing profit over time and someone steals from you, you shouldn't care? That's not stealing? It's not criminal behavior?

So if my local drugstore makes increasing profits over time, I should be able to go in and steal a candy bar occasionally. That's the logic here, isn't it?

No? What do you mean, I'd get arrested for shoplifting? What the heck? I thought, if a business had increasing profits over time, that stealing from them wasn't really "criminal!" 

So why is it okay to steal from an author or an actor, but not okay to steal from the drugstore?

This belief stems from our idea that creative endeavors aren't valuable. I was in a graduate program that allowed us to do "art projects" in lieu of a final paper or exam. Many people chose this option, and many professors grumbled about it. Why? Because the perception of creative endeavors is that they aren't "real work." Somehow sitting down and writing a paper was more valuable than doing a painting, or a sculpture, or writing a poem.

The reality is, it's not true. In fact, I'd argue that being creative and imaginative takes MORE discipline and work than not. I know I learned more about myself and my subject doing an art project than I ever learned sitting down and writing an academic paper.

Writing is work. It's hard work. It requires thought and effort. Why is it we believe people who write, or act, or paint, or do anything that involves creativity, shouldn't get paid? I've made an increasing profit over the past two years since I've started publishing my work. So does that mean it's okay for people to pirate my work?

I don't think so.


  1. It's because people are entitled douches. Most people have jobs they hate. They are wage slaves and have their lives dictated to them by a boss at a job they hate. So they want everyone who actually ENJOYS their work (whether it's hard work or not) to be punished.

    They think writers shouldn't be paid because writers don't HATE writing. What they forget is... books are one of the ways people unwind and relax after their crappy jobs. Writers work hard to entertain them and help them unwind and relax. Writers should therefore be paid.

    I bet their crappy lives would be a lot crappier in a world with no entertainment or totally crappy entertainment because no one was being paid to actually WORK to improve it.

  2. I think this problem relates to the "customer is always right" attitude in our society. Taken to its logical extreme (as so many things are these days--just look at American politics), the idea that the customer is always right means that everything should be free. A lot of Americans today tend not understand capitalism, even though they claim to be capitalists. They don't always understand that in capitalism you have to pay for things or they won't get produced.

    It's related to other problems, such as plagiarism; since Wikipedia is free, a lot of people seem to think that the information there must be available to cut and paste into their term papers, and since their only goal is a good grade, not learning, any method they use to get that grade becomes morally acceptable. For those who patronize pirates, or who engage in piracy, only the end result, reading an entertaining book, matters, and so it becomes perfectly acceptable to them to steal it.

    On the other side of the coin is the fact that while the customer isn't always right, they are always the customer, and should be treated with fairness and respect until they give you reason to do otherwise. We hold those who buy our books in the highest esteem, and we are grateful for their patronage. It is for them that we keep prodding our writers to write more, and why I spend so much time proofreading and editing and discussing the books we publish with the authors, since there is something very satisfying for both readers and editors when they hear that someone has enjoyed their work.

  3. I think you really miss the point. It's a bad law. You don't start jackhammering roads to prevent people from shoplifting, to use your analogy.

    Also when someone steals a candy bar, the store looses the ability to sell that candy bar. Digital piracy has never been shown to impact actual units sold negatively. In fact, the most commercially successful products are those that are pirated the most. By the same logic used to say that piracy is lost sales, one could equally say that piracy causes financial success.

    It is a mistake to simply discount piracy as "lazy people stealing". There is far more going on here. This is especially important for indie authors and business women, who are completely responsible for their own success, to understand why people pirate.

    Why people pirate:

    1) They would never pay for the product in question. Free is the only acceptable price for them.
    2) The product is not available in the "correct" format. Digital v physical, epub v amz
    3) The product is priced too high.

    That it! Rather short list and two out of three are fixable by the product distributor. Notice I didn't say author or creator, piracy is caused by the publisher or distributor (you know, the ones that actually "own" the content), because the pirate only deals with the publisher or distributor they never have any contact with the creator. So in the case of the pirate the creator is irrelevant.

  4. I'm a visual artist, and I've experienced first hand that lack of value to what I do. It usually comes from someone who lacks creativity, who thinks linearly.

    I'm wondering if the commentor above is a pirate. Dismissing it as a bad law because you can easily break it? Are you serious?

    If people steal art, if they constantly want freebies - then I won't be able to pay my bills. Accolades don't do it, you know.

    Selena...I love you.