- 1 [mass noun] the practice of attacking and robbing ships at sea.
- a practice similar to piracy but in other contexts, especially hijacking:air piracy
- 2 the unauthorized use or reproduction of another’s work:software piracy
Depending on which end of the spectrum one is sitting at, piracy is either viewed as a malicious act of intellectual property theft, or as simply ‘making a copy’ of something that will still exist regardless – fundamentally different from ‘theft.’
“To download is not to use or take someone else’s song file, but to copy it.”(Katz, 2004:163) One of the main arguments pro-piracy is that there is a stark difference between ‘stealing’ and ‘downloading.’ When one downloads something, they are not removing it finitely or stopping anyone else from accessing it, which would be the situation if someone were to steal a car, like the multinational media propaganda claims. To steal someone’s car or handbag would be leaving them without their possessions, as there is no ‘copy’ of ones personal items- this is significantly different from downloading a music or movie file, as regardless of the amount of copies, the original file still remains.
Downloading music files can often lead to the expansion of ones music taste, and the genres which they listen to, which will then result in a wider variety of musicians and bands being accessed and recognised – obviously beneficial to them in the long run. Searching through file sharing websites will often mean users come across bands they have never heard of before, but due to the lack of cost are willing to try. If the user was paying for every song they wanted to listen to, the desire to spend money on a band they had never heard of before would be low, which in turn means the user sticks to the type of music they know and trust. It is not uncommon for music downloaders or P2P file sharers to come across a band accidentally, “a number of downloaders noted that they ventured or stumbled into new musical territory”(Katz, 2004: 167), and to be satisfied with the result.
Downloading and file sharing is frowned upon by those in the industry as they claim it is aiding its decline. While it is no secret that the industry is loosing money as a result of the rise in P2P and downloading culture, the only way to reduce this is to accept the change to the industry and to restore copyright with more of a balance between both worlds, where it would be seen as “defacto fair”(Katz, 2004: 182)
As Medosch outlined in his article, piracy “fulfils culturally important functions” (Medosch, 2008:81) and gives people access to certain types of media that they would otherwise not have access to. A prominent example of this is the boom that piracy bought to the Chinese public, hitting “China like an atomic bomb”(Danwei, 2002-11). The mid 1990’s saw China become inundated with foreign entertainment from kids movies to workout videos and Hollywood blockbusters, the bootleg versions were suddenly cropping up in Chinese markets, meaning the public now had access to Western culture in a way that they had never been able to access prior to this. The expensive price of non-bootlegged Western works meant that many Chinese people did not have the means to access them, therefore “many argued that the bootleggers were merely enabling China enjoy the benefits of the modern information age” (Danwei 2002-11)
Modern artists such as ‘Girl Talk’ and ‘Radiohead’ have also taken a more relaxed approach to CD sales, allowing their albums to be either downloaded for free, or downloaded for a price of the downloaders choosing. Radiohead released their 2007 album ‘In Rainbows’ online, selling three million copies by September 2008, which included downloads from the website, physical CDs, iTunes sales and vinyl/box sets (CCC, 2011). This is an impressive amount of sales, considering the album was originally released for a ‘pay-as-you-want’ price. Their newest album, (Feb 2011) has been released under the same model, a free album with incentives to pay for the physical edition.
The way in which the music industry seems to be headed shows the need for copyright laws to be reviewed as piracy fulfils the needs of many who wish to access creative works but are limited, either through financial or cultural boundaries.
Girl Talk’s free download of ‘All Day’:
Radiohead’s Thom Yorke.
Copyright, commerce and culture (CCC), (2011), Can pirating be stopped?
Accessed: 30th May, 2011
Danwei (2002-11), Media Schizophrenia in China
Accessed: 30th May, 2011
Katz, M. (2004) Capturing Sound: How technology has changed music. Berkeley: UC Press
Medosch, A. (2008) Deptforth TV diaries II: Pirate strategies. London: Deptforth TV