Flying the Pirate Flag

The infamous US anti-piracy campaign ad that attempted to draw parallels between illegal file-sharing and violent crime, has ironically become the unofficial slogan for the Internet piracy movement.

‘You wouldn’t download a car…’ the ad begins. ‘I would if I could!’ is the retort. In fact, in honor of this ad, one of the first objects the Pirate Bay placed in its 3D printer template section was a toy car.

File-sharing has become a sort of a rite of passage in the 21st century, a way to bond with the international community. Oftentimes people who can easily afford to pay for the content will still opt to download it illegally, out of principle. But what principles exactly?

Firstly, it’s convenience. Content is often not available, or requires an elaborate payment method, or is too cumbersome. Why bother with all of the stress when on the dark side, content is one easy click away? Kim Dotcom of Megaupload summed up the solution to piracy in five easy steps: “Create great stuff, make it easy to buy, same day worldwide release, fair price, works on any device.” And some artists and creative content distributers have adapted. Radiohead sold its album online for a price suggested by the buyer, and ended up with one of their best-selling albums, with over 3 million copies sold and an average of $6 paid per album.

Secondly, sharing is caring. Not just about the people we are sharing the content with, but about the content we are sharing. If you truly love something, you want the world to see it, hear it, and experience it. Sharing inspires creativity, which births new content. It’s the circle of life. Unfortunately, a lot of legally purchased content can’t be shared across platforms and can’t be lent to anyone. Most illegally downloaded files can. Thanks to this mechanism of rapid sharing, unknown artists can become famous very quickly. Ironically, often these artists do a 180, going from praising the blessed opportunity of their music reaching so many people, to waging a war on file-sharing once they are signed by a major label. Other artists play their hand more wisely. Psy of Gangnam Style fame, for example, has made more than 8.1 million US dollars by allowing his song to be shared, parodied, re-posted by others. In the end, endorsement deals made up for potential revenue loss. In contrast, when Japan passed its uber-strict antipiracy laws, music sales plummeted as users became cautious even of legal downloading. Trying to stop piracy is like trying to stop a stampede with a do not cross police line. Or as Creative Commons co-founder Lawrence Lessig put it, “The war against illegal file-sharing is like the church’s age-old war against masturbation. It’s a war you just can’t win.” In the Open Source generation, content distributors should adapt to the file-sharing culture, and not the other way around.

Redacteur Redactie

Heb je een vraag of opmerking over dit artikel?

Comments are closed.