Musing About Piracy

Have you seen those annoying advertisements at the start of DVDs? Those ones that claim piracy is stealing and ignite a desire in you to pirate the movie out of spite. These ads compare piracy to the theft of physical items, such as cars and handbags. However, this is almost completely erroneous. The true crime is copyright infringement, which is far more abstract than simple theft.


Pictured: Not at all what we're talking about.

Theft occurs when someone takes something from someone else, without fair recompense or even permission. This is a crime because the theftee loses the item, not because the thief gains it. Piracy, however, does not deprive the original owner of the item. What it does is deprive the owner of the possibility of getting paid for the item. At this point, the money's imaginary, so what's lost is something that doesn't yet exist and now never will.

When it's put like that, it doesn't sound so very unethical, which is probably the reason that opponents of piracy have given it such a sinister label. Unfortunately for them, today's pirates in popular culture do not invoke the same sense of horror as they used to, which is why we've ended up with advertisements mislabeling it as theft.

The true ethical dilemma that faces today's pirates is only peripherally related to the loss of revenue to the creator. Humans are well aware that you don't get something for nothing, so the chance to do so is grabbed with both hands (resulting in the success of Lotto, despite staggering odds against winning) and very little concern is given to someone you has no personal connection to. However, if the creation of works which pirates so desire does not result in profit, the creator will stop creating and the pirates will lose out in the long run.

It's almost karmic backlash, the way that a negative action causes a negative reaction. However, innocents are also caught in the backlash. People who have been paying for the produce also lose out, despite their devotion to capitalism and market forces. These are the people who are forced to watch these annoying ads, after paying for the privelege of not being able to skip them. They lose out in every turn, due to refusing to participate in piracy while others happily pirate away.

To conclude, piracy is not theft, it is a little more complicated. Piracy is the act of depriving someone of the possibility of getting paid, depriving the world of further creative works and depriving DVD owners of a lack of those annoying, bloody ads.