Set Sail            

When I think to why there was such a spike in piracy, I can’t help but think that it may have stemmed from the same reason why other pirates of the past got into their chosen fields, the outrageous costs that come with allowing company heads to charge whatever they felt like. Nowadays to go and watch a movie costs you more than a dinner for two. To get a cable package that includes hundreds of channels that you wouldn’t bother watching anyway costs you as much as your monthly power bill. All of these charges, incrementally growing over the years that get to a point where your entire paycheck going to what should have been simple fringe expenditures.

Over time this adds up, and leads to people eventually getting fed up. So saving yourself twenty bucks by downloading a movie versus going to see it in theatre all of a sudden doesn’t feel like too big a crime. Of course that’s not the way things work out, but it becomes understandable. Now that companies are making it more affordable to take part in these things we enjoy, perhaps we’ll see a downward trend in illegal downloading. But where some companies are getting savvy to it, and allowing themselves to be more consumer friendly, there are others of course who are only bringing up the cost of everything they do, which turns the whole wheel around once more.

Personally, I think that pirating played an important role in making the market a little less iron fist like, and more malleable. Without the surge of piracy from school students to your random workers in a Jeffersonville roofing company, these large corporations would have never had to sit up and take notice. After all, you can scream and yell at conglomerates all you want, but the only time they’re going to pay attention is if you hit them in the wallet. Which is exactly what the pirate movement did. Which I believe actually played a large role in making things a little more progressively better for your average consumer.

Now I’m sure by this point you’re asking whether or not I still take part in any illegal downloading, and the answer is, sometimes. I still prefer to support things I enjoy financially, but at the same time, there’s a convenience to downloading an episode of a television show versus paying for the full channel even though I’m only interested in a fraction of their lineup. I don’t think I will ever get to the point of downloading primarily, but I can’t afford to indulge in everything I like, which is a very weak argument for stealing. That’s like saying I only steal part of my groceries because raisin bread is too costly. I hope there will come a point where everything we enjoy is reasonably affordable, but until then, the flags will wave high and our pirates will continue to operate in the high seas of the world wide web.

Man Overboard            

I understood the allure of getting what you wanted for free, though there was always a part in the back of my mind that thought about the reality of the situation. If we were all able to just download everything we wanted to watch, or play or use, and not pay any money for it, where would the money go to pay for that product being made? How could we continue to have new things if none of the old ones made money? Game making companies going out of business, studios going out of business, one after the other until none were left and downloading would become an impossibility. Of course, this isn’t something that could easily come to pass, but it was on my mind regardless.

When I went into college for a journalism program, one of the first stories I tackled was one that I actually knew something about, the effects of pirating on the market. And truth me told, even though downloading is a crime, it’s not one that’s going to collapse any industries any time soon. Even if something is downloaded millions of times, there are tens of millions of legit copies bought through traditional and legal means. This gave me a bit of pause when it came to my own personal downloading that I was doing simultaneous to this piece of how impactful it is on the industry.

This was all during a time where big bands were suing downloading sites for infringement, when the ads on DVD’s were becoming more prevalent, and when the internet was kind of in its infancy. No one knew about the impact of pirating, because most people in the higher up positions even knew much about downloading as a whole. This left a whole slew of sites just stealing material wherever they saw fit and ignoring the consequences. This was all up until the year that one of the biggest hosting sites for illegal torrents went under attack by federal governments. All of a sudden these sites were shutting down left and right as the full force of government enforcement came to bear upon these sources.

Pirates everywhere were seeing their favorite sits tumble one after the other, until only few brave souls were left. We had some sites trying to declare their own national sovereignty to try and bypass laws regarding copyright, and all means and manners of trying to subvert these laws. In the end, the government realized that where there’s a will, there’s a way, and for every site they dropped, two more sprung up in their place, until it became more cost effective to lose money than to battle. You still hear about your random pirate here and there going down, but for now the majority of stories that circulate the net are all about major sites being shut down. Who knows where this will all end up in the future, but for now, it’s anyone guess who will win out in the end.

Aye Matey            

I remember when I was younger, the first anti pirating DVD ads first came out, telling us that we wouldn’t steal a purse, or a car, or internal organs from toddlers, and equating free downloads of any type of copyrighted software on the same level. Hearing stories of twelve year old girls in Minnesota being charged to years behind bars for stealing a single song. It scared the daylights out of me when my friend first showed me a pirated copy of a movie that I was looking forward to seeing. Yet, as I waited day after day, the FBI didn’t come bashing the door down, we didn’t receive any threatening letters from movie studio heads, nothing happened at all really.

One movie led to another, and a piece of software to another, and soon enough, my friend became a digital swashbuckler. Whether it was an operating system, a movie, a game or otherwise, there was a binder full of pirated software sitting under his desk that he could reach to at any moments notice to pull out for friends and family to borrow. All throughout this pirating phase, I had never once seen repercussions of his efforts. I still heard about them across the internet, all these horrors stories that laid in the fringes of news outlets, but nothing so personally felt that it actually effected me at home.

Over the years I slowly lost track of that friend, and still to this day don’t think that any feds came barging into his home to bust him for copying the latest kids movies, but who knows really? It could have happened. Personally though, it led me to my own years as a digital pirate. I joined my first movie forums when I was around fifteen. Where each new stolen copy of movies was laid out categorically for us to be able to venture through and watch at our own leisure. And through this site, I wound up joining the conjoined message board, learning about others who were in my position, and the reasoning behind their own piracy.

I also got to know the owner of the site, and the reasons behind why he did it, why he had this passion for open copyright laws, and how he battled against the systems in place in his own skirting the law way. There wasn’t a sense of being an outlaw, but more of a notion that information should be free and shared equally. It was interesting to get to know the ideas behind why people did certain things, and to explore this very illegal side of the internet, all while ignoring that I was actively taking part in this illegal activity. I always had a sense of separation throughout it all. Thinking that this was something they were doing, I was just happening along it and not really saying anything else about it. Which of course is condoning the action, though I will have to get more into those details in another post.