Piracy Myths Debunked: “Copyright Infringement is not Theft”


There are oh so many myths repeated endlessly by pirates and freeloaders to justify their poor behaviour. I would like to offer a robust deconstruction of all of them in the course of a series of posts. let’s start with the oft repeated canard, “piracy is copyright infringement, not theft”. Read this: Why Copyright Infringement is Theft | Copyhype. If you’re too lazy to read this article, written by someone who actually knows the law, here is an extremely abbreviated summary:

Under the common law, larceny required that the thing taken be tangible property. This is presumably why the skeptics think it’s wrong to refer to copyright infringement as theft. While copyright is personal property, it’s intangible property that, by its very nature, is nonrivalrous. Thus, if somebody infringes a copyright, they haven’t dispossessed the copyright owner of any tangible property, a necessary element for larceny under the common law. To the uninitiated, the confusion about why copyright infringement is theft is understandable. But the line of reasoning that focuses on the old, common law definition of larceny neglects to take account of the fact that the modern definition of property for purposes of theft statutes has been broadened to include both tangible and intangible property.”

That’s putting it in simple legal terms. In moral terms, the act of copyright infringement is unadulterated theft. You are taking something that doesn’t belong to you, without permission, without compensation, and in the process you are also wrecking the value of that stolen product by flooding the market with unsanctioned copies.

Whenever an author is deprived of the right to approve and to be paid for the use of their work, the author’s property interest is diminished.

Ergo, legally, and morally, when you download and view files derived from illegally ripped sources, it’s theft.

Online file sharing is easy, and you’ll probably get away with it; but don’t conflate that into a conclusion it’s okay. Know and understand the nature of your actions, and their consequences. Online file sharing is a crime, and it has many victims.

Not just the creators, who will never see a fair return for their genius, but the entire constellation of workers who toil to make every recording, book, and film, and who rely on sales of these products to keep the businesses that employ them viable.

Now if you want to have a more reasonable and constructive discussion, let’s talk about reforming the period that copyright can apply. It used to be 50 years, or the average life expectancy of a copyright holder. Commercial interests have pushed it out to 75 years, and even beyond in some countries. This has led to some unreasonable and socially inequitable outcomes, no question. But Disney isn’t holding a gun to anyone’s head forcing them to buy their products, and Disney entertainment isn’t a basic human right.

So, cheating, stealing, trafficking in stolen goods, hurting all kinds of creative people, damaging or ruining their capacity to sell their work and make a living … this is not a fair, reasonable, or indeed effective way to challenge the ownership rights of large media companies. Hollywood is actually making more money than ever, but everyone else is seriously hurting.

About Costa Botes

I'm a freelance film maker based in Wellington, New Zealand. I make mainly long form independent documentaries about characters I find interesting.
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43 Responses to Piracy Myths Debunked: “Copyright Infringement is not Theft”

  1. Nille Johansson says:

    Here in Sweden, every HDD, SDD, Flashdrive and all other storage media are already taxed from Copyswede, on the off chance they might be used to store movies and music. Now they are also implanting this tax on Playstations, Xboxes, smartphones and all other machines which have some kind of data storage capabilities. In other words: we are forced to pay for something that is illegal, which is the definition of extortion. This is theft.

    At the same time, many governments are also banning countrywide access to several internet sites, after pressure from organizations like MPAA and RIAA, who are threatening to cut funding to political campaigns. In other words: the extorting party are on a mission to take away people’s right to information and free speech. This is theft.

    If you are not a pirate, you are a victim, as you are already paying for a crime you din’t commit.

    • Costa Botes says:

      Utter rubbish. Misinformation, and conflation of half baked misunderstandings. You actually believe this crap?

      I’m very glad your country has the good sense to extract a tiny tax from the makers of flash drives. It goes nowhere towards compensating the losses of creative people, but it’s a step in the right direction.

      Freedom of speech is your right. It’s in your constitution, as it is in most democratic countries. No film maker has ever threatened your freedom of speech. We are merely defending our property and our jobs from opportunist burglars and freeloading file sharers.

      Freedom of speech does not entitle you to treat other people’s movies as your personal property. You have the right to pay, or go away. That’s it. If you don’t like the prices, nobody’s holding a gun to your head. Walk away. Maybe the price will come down. That is called supply and demand.

      Freedom of information? Yes. Free entertainment, no. Sorry. Free movies and music have never been a basic human right.

      We are all free to give away anything we like, as long it is ours to give away.

      When you take my work without permission or compensation, that is theft. Apparently this very simple truth is impossible to understand by the sort of person who believes that copyright infringement is victimless.

      And then again, we hear how awful those USA studios and record labels are. Imagine that, they actually object to smart ass pirates ripping them off. How unreasonable and old fashioned of them.

      Instead of whining and crying about how terrible the MPAA and RIAA are, here’s a hint … ignore all the stuff that their members make. Boycott their movies and their music. Just say no.

      Simple. Walk the walk, buddy. That will put them out of business quicker. Isn’t that what you want?

      But you don’t really want to live without all those big dumb movies do you? You just don’t want to pay for them.

      Self delusion, hypocrisy, flagrant illogical stupidity. You guys have really got something going on. Have a nice day.

      • Nille Johansson says:

        You can’t both insist that people should stop copying media, and be taxed for copying media, at the same time. You’ve got to pick one, or else you’re talking against yourself.

        And the definition of boycotting, as defined by wikipedia:

        “A boycott is an act of voluntarily abstaining from using, buying, or dealing with a person, organization, or country as an expression of protest.”

        Which is exactly what I’m doing.

      • Costa Botes says:

        Taxing media is a very blunt instrument, but it’s one way to redress a wrong that many selfish consumers show no interest in stopping.
        Of course it would be much better if people stopped illegal copying voluntarily, but that is like wishing for Santa Claus.

        You might eventually come to understand that nothing in life is free. Someone, somewhere, has to pay for everything we enjoy.

        For the record, I personally have no problem with people who buy my DVDs if they want to make digital copies for their own use. Even if they want to lend them to a few friends. I draw the line when people make copies and then share them indiscriminately online with potentially millions of people. That is a disaster for any professional film maker, large or small, but it particularly hurts small companies like mine, who act as their own distributor.

        We make, you take … That is not a fair deal. Everything else you are talking about is irrelevant to this simple point.

        If you are already boycotting Hollwood films, then … good.

  2. Henry Avery says:

    Try to stop us.

    • Costa Botes says:

      Stop you? They say any addiction is hard to break. Piracy is an addiction, and a sickness. A masturbatory disease. Gratification is illusory. It’s up to you to stop, as and when you decide you want to. Meantime, know that you are craven and despised.

      • Costa Botes says:

        “From the earliest days at Apple, I realised that we thrived when we created intellectual property. If people copied or stole our software we’d be out of business. If it weren’t protected there’d be no incentive for us to make new software or product designs. If protection of intellectual property begins to dissipate creative companies will disappear or never get started. But there’s a simpler reason. It’s wrong to steal. It hurts other people. And it hurts your own character.” STEVE JOBS

  3. Alex says:

    And that is why Open Source failed Mr Jobs ? And why no new open source systems are developed or improved daily? What a lot of horse manure! If you want to argue against Piracy there are much better things that that load of rubbish.

  4. ggg says:

    About your quote from steve jobs, well apple stole from linux, and many other software programmes

    • Costa Botes says:

      I have no proof of that. We could litigate who did what to whom all the way back to the ark, but the principle remains, theft is wrong. Jobs may have been a hypocrite, but two wrongs don’t make a right.

    • Costa Botes says:

      So I should let you spread propaganda from a pirate who even wears an eye patch? Why not? I’m happy to let interested readers see exactly how hysterical and incorrect piracy advocates are. Is it something in the water in Scandinavia that ferments such frothing stupidity? None of the statements made in this ‘article’ can be trusted at face value. Copyright infringement alienates an owner/creator’s right to control who makes copies. Contrary to Flakvinge’s whinges, it most definitely is recognised as a form of theft in US and international law. The issue of physical copies is irrelevant. Aside from what the law says, it is repugnant to any civilised notion of moral or ethical decency to claim that taking an artists work without compensating them isn’t wrong, let alone selling ads around that work. So go ahead and be a thieving parasite, but don’t try and kid people it’s okay. You’re only fooling yourself.

    • Costa Botes says:

      This link takes you to a page full of fallacious tripe. It’s basically all pirate propaganda. All highly dubious or flat out incorrect assertions, resting on a slippery bed of watery semantics. Pathetic. But there is some interesting debate in the comments section.

    • Costa Botes says:

      Leaving aside semantic bullshit, this is what ‘theft’ looks like: http://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/sonys-new-movies-leak-online-following-hack-attack-n258511. Freeloaders who help themselves to stolen entertainment are morally culpable.

      • So says:

        Why would anyone in right mind even want that stuff for free, it’s beyond me, movies are one of worst things that happened to mankind, talking about lack of moral straight from the source, artistic freedom of expression, yeah right, it’s no moral land without borders…

  5. Costa Botes says:

    This is certainly a novel argument. So … You are saying in effect that video piracy is a good thing because it will help destroy the immoral movie industry? Well … you’re welcome to your opinions about movies, however preposterous. Such beliefs do not, and never will justify stealing. I’m satisfied that most pirates and freeloaders aren’t helping themselves to other peoples property out of any moral conviction. It’s merely piggery.

    • So says:

      Do you notice you are only one here talking for both, I never said any of those things, but you keep putting words in my mouth and making debate out of it….Tell me more about me, how I’m wrong for using Linux and not carrying about what masses do and consume, you really think you know me all that well, jokes on you, keep thinking and debating with yourself, you clearly enjoy doing that….

      • So says:

        But it’s copyright infringement in eyes of law, why are you making it to be stealing, I never said I approve copyright infringement or breaking EULA, but if someone did, he will not be judged on court of law as thief or for theft, you can debate for days, next guy in eyes of law is not thief, so again, jokes on you….

      • Costa Botes says:

        From where I sit, that joke isn’t very funny. You are arguing semantics. Theft or copyright infringement? It’s the same thing in the end. Copyright is vested in creators. They – and only they- have the right to make copies, or license that right to an authorised third party. Any action that takes away that right is stealing, and recognised as such in international law.

      • Costa Botes says:

        Enjoy? No, not particularly. I thought your point was or is that copyright infringement is not theft? I find that argument repugnant, and have been quite consistent in saying so. But theft or infringement, it’s semantics. The net result is still the same – creators lose control of their work, and the income which might otherwise be earned from it. Immoral consumers (aka freeloaders) benefit from ‘free entertainment’, immoral pirate websites and cyber lockers benefit by selling ads and subscriptions around access to “free” links. ISPs make money handling all the traffic, and Google make out like bandits directing the traffic. The losers in all this wanton raping and looting are artists, who not only have to suffer material losses, but then are victimised all over again by argumentative assholes who cannot accept the fact their behaviour is shitty and wrong. Well you might have noticed that many creatives are no longer keeping quiet. So, if you dislike my views, or feel uncomfortable having your own criticised, then I suggest you look elsewhere.

  6. So says:

    No, it’s copyright infringement, how would you feel if someone filed a case against on you for rape in public place and called you rapist, instead of sex in public place, same thing in the end following your logic, right, there was sex involved and place was public, right, rape/rapist is just silly naive word, like thief/theft, you love to say thief out loud, don’t you, but would you like to be called&judged as rapist for having public sex, I bet you wouldn’t and it would be from vital importance for you to clear that out….

    • Costa Botes says:

      Oh, very intelligent. Semantics aside, I think we can all agree on what rape is. It is sex forced on an unwilling victim. Copyright infringement is most definitely a form of theft – the alienation of private property, the taking of something without permission or consent – and recognised as such in law. Read the original post. Or persist in your ignorance and moral turpitude. I don’t care, frankly. This discussion is for the benefit of open minds.

      • So says:

        You are as closed minded as people you attack, you found someone who shares your opinion and you don’t even care what actual court&law that punishes people thinks about instead, you can judge how much you want, but if someone goes to court, he is there for copyright infringement, not theft, you can find dozens of people that support your views, ones that can even try to change the law, but until they do, next person is not thief because of it, just copyright violator.

        Guy that is reading newspapers on newsstand, instead of buying them, he is freeloader, but not thief or guy that don’t want to pay his hairdresser, he didn’t stole anything, he just refused to pay what he own for something that was provided to him, he isn’t thief, but not best person either, nobody justifies doing anything wrong, but if something is done, call it like it is and what is most important, like law and court that deals with punishment and judgments does, but hey….you are free to go out and call people names, just don’t be surprised on reactions….

      • Mr Bill says:

        I’m sorry, but you need to look up the definition of ‘taking’.

        This is the exact same problem with the ‘theft’ argument. It’s just not true.

        Yes, if no one pays for anything, creators don’t get paid and yes that does not seem fair.

        If I buy a game second hand, the creator/s still get no money from me. If someone lends or gives me their game, they creator/s get no money from me.

        At no point have I ‘taken’ the game.

        I agree that in an ideal society, the creators get paid, and encouraged to keep creating – but the argument is not as simple as ‘theft’.

        It just isn’t. And in a debate in which I think it’s good to convince people they should reward the creator…I think simply calling piracy ‘theft’ makes the argument look weak, and for anyone who pirates most of their content, it’s not going to convince them.

        And don’t pretend you’ve bought every single thing created that you’ve watched/listened to in your life – many a time you would have bought something second hand, or borrowed from a friend, or been given etc, all those times the creators didn’t get anything from you. And they didn’t ‘lose’ anything at the same time.

      • Costa Botes says:

        No, I’m sorry Mr Bill, YOU need to look up some legal definitions of “theft”. Did you actually read my post? Perhaps you missed the arguments and citations contained in this link – http://www.copyhype.com/2013/09/why-copyright-infringement-is-theft/ – which tend to strongly support my argument; that wanton, deliberate copyright infringement can indeed be regarded as theft, not just morally, and ethically, but legally as well.

        IN a nutshell: “[P]roperty . . . is applied with many different meanings. Sometimes it is taken in the loose and vulgar acceptance to denote not the right of property or dominium, but the subject of such a right; as where a horse or piece of land is called my property. A little reflection, however, will suffice to convince any one that property is not the corporeal thing itself of which it is predicated, but certain rights in or over the thing. . . . These rights are the right of use, the right of exclusion and the right of disposition. . . . The dullest individual among the people knows and understands that his property in anything is a bundle of rights.”

        That’s a 1942 statement from the Supreme Court in Iowa. It underpins the modern understanding of “theft”.

        “… property is a very broad term that refers not just to the thing itself, as laymen seem to think, but also to the rights, benefits, and interests that accompany ownership of the thing. Anyone who exercises dominion over the property of another, interfering with these rights, benefits, or interests, is depriving the property owner of his property. It matters not if the wrongdoer doesn’t prevent the property owner from also exercising dominion over the property. It is the act of doing something with the property that is inconsistent with the property owner’s rights, benefits, or interests that matters.” Devlin Hartline

        I’m glad you agree that, “in an ideal society, the creators get paid, and encouraged to keep creating”. That is the basis and intent of copyright law. To contribute to an ideal society, with a healthy economy ruled by civil behaviour. We should draw a distinction here, by the way, between “pirates”, i.e those who seek to benefit financially from their plunder, and common or garden “freeloaders”, i.e those who just want to get stuff without paying. But either way, the act of copyright infringement is “doing something with property that is inconsistent with the property owner’s rights, benefits, or interests”. By your own logic, this is not an act that contributes to an “ideal society”.

        It’s simple, really, You either choose to do the right thing or you don’t. You either recognise and respect the rights of others, or you don’t. I know that many habitual freeloaders do not respect anything or anyone. They are locked into a masturbatory cycle of self gratification, and cling to any number of mythical justifications for their poor behaviour. But just because you can do something easily, and there are lots of other people doing it, doesn’t make it right.

        I do not have to pretend I have bought every single thing I’ve ever enjoyed in this life. That is a specious argument that utterly ignores the very real issue of scale. BTW, I don’t care if someone buys a DVD from me and then lends it to a friend. I welcome that kind of sharing. Its an entirely different thing if someone procures a file of one of my movies and then uploads it to YouTube, or some explicitly piratical web site where the file can be accessed and further shared by millions of people. What do you think that does to my ability to earn income from my film? And to control how my film or elements from my film might be used or misused? IN both cases my rights as a creator are annihilated. That is most definitely not a friendly act, even if one puts aside the term ‘theft’. It’s a destructive act, corrosive to any notion of productive economy and civil society.

  7. Costa Botes says:

    I am closed minded? Yes, I guess I am. I hold certain principles as being important enough not to violate. I think the critical difference between my form of closed mindedness and that of the average pirate or freeloader is very simple. I AM NOT HURTING ANYONE. I AM NOT TAKING ANYTHING THAT IS NOT MINE, OR THAT I HAVE NOT PAID FOR. I RESPECT THE RIGHTS OF ARTISTS TO CHOOSE WHAT THEY DO WITH THE PRODUCTS OF THEIR CREATIVITY.

    Is that clear enough for you?

    I am not surprised at all that assholes who like to steal and rip off other people hide behind ridiculous semantic arguments to excuse their actions. Call it theft or copyright infringement. The net result is the same. It is morally wrong, AND proscribed by international law.

    • Costa Botes says:

      ” … guy that don’t want to pay his hairdresser, he didn’t stole anything, he just refused to pay …”

      Uh huh? So, when you go to pick up your pay cheque at the end of a hard week, and your employer says, “I don’t think I feel like paying you this week, I’ll just have your services for nothing, thanks”, this is acceptable to you because it’s not “theft”? is that your argument? You might want to check up on the implications of that.

  8. So says:

    There are content creators that like to exaggerate and shout “thief’s” to ones that need justify themselves fully for freely consuming that content and thinking they are entitled to it, but there is 3rd party too, one that isn’t biased and personal about it, one that don’t have a side in it, just middle where we can see everything clearly, where you both exaggerate your case to make your personal point right, which is wrong in both cases and you are failing miserably at it, but who cares about Linux guys in Windows vs OS X debate, right, we are just small percentage of people you can’t apply your usual debate BS, so small it’s better to ignore we exist and focus on trashing other side, but it’s funny and complete fail when that one-sided debate BS is thrown at us, it just proves you both don’t have open mind at all, just one sided personal blindness and usual dose of same BS.

    • Costa Botes says:

      “but there is 3rd party too, one that isn’t biased and personal about it …”

      I really don;t know what on earth you’re talking about. But if you are referring to freeloading … taking something without paying for it, or asking permission first, then sorry. I don’t care what you call it, or whether you disrespect my position … in my world, that’s theft, plain and simple. There is no moral defence, justification, or argument that excuses it. No, I don’t have an open mind about the rights and wrongs of murder either. What’s mine is not yours – even if you can make a perfect digital copy of it. The right to make copies is vested in the creator of a work alone. Anyone who wishes to consume or enjoy the work has a moral obligation to compensate the creator of a work. If they don’t, then – deep breath, and once again for the deaf – that is certainly a form of theft.

  9. So says:

    Braking a law is wrong and it’s wrong calling people names just because you both think you are entitled to it, there, simple enough?

    • Costa Botes says:

      Well then, we both agree that breaking the laws of copyright infringement are wrong. My views are formed as a creative person struggling to continue making a viable living in an age of rampant piracy. I call a spade a spade. To me, the taking of things without permission or compensation is a form of theft. That’s a pragmatic view, as the frequent victim of assholes indulging in asshole behaviour. I can’t think of a more appropriate epithet for bad ‘asshole’ behaviour. This isn’t an abstract debate over a polite cup of coffee for me, sorry. The stakes are quite real.

      I’m afraid I have no idea what on earth you are talking about re the Linux/Windows/OS X ‘debate’. And really I don’t care, so please don’t labour over an explanation. That is a complete irrelevance to the issue I’m addressing. Which is whether or not it is correct in law and common usage to refer to piracy and freeloading as theft. I’m obviously saying it IS. And at the top of this post is an opinion from an experienced jurist (i.e someone who knows what they’re talking about) agreeing with me. You’re saying freeloading is not theft – for semantic reasons I cannot fully understand. Fine. Go in peace. I’ve given you space to air your view. readers can make up their own mind, OK?

  10. Bobby says:

    I’ve spent thousands on recording software. I’ve also downloaded thousands more. Did they lose? No, I would not have given them money anyways. They have ended up in a folder collecting dust.

    I think people who value something pay for it. Those who do not, never will. Not in a million years.

    Put your laws in. Fine, now they won’t have it. But will it monitize? Has it improved your software company? I argue the same number or very close will buy your software and many more will never have seen or heard it.

    • Costa Botes says:

      Bobby, thanks for your comment.

      I understand your argument. But your reasoning is flawed. It’s based on the same selfish point of view that got us into this mess.

      Whether you individually value something enough to pay for it is not the issue. The problem is that nobody has to pay for anything when unconstrained digital copying and distribution make a nonsense of supply and demand.

      Some might argue that we have entered a new age and a new paradigm, leaving behind old fashioned economics, and creators need to get used to it. I’d suggest that what we are getting used to is the fact that where we used to make a living, now we don’t, because we can’t.

      History unambiguously tells us that when creators lose the right to control and sell their work – when they lose the ability to control who makes copies – then they lose the benefit of their work, and no professional activity is possible.

      We are already turning into a world of amateurs, exploited by digital gatekeepers.

      The vision you paint … Of someone downloading thousands of things they don’t even want … That’s sad. Why do it then? Try before you buy? That’s pathetic. Free previews are endemic. There’s simply no need to steal.

      Whatever. Again, on an individual level, it makes no difference what you choose to value or not. It only takes one asshole to rip and release a piece of music or a film to a torrent site, to ruin the market value of that work.

  11. Costa Botes says:

    By the way Bobby, I don’t make software. I make films. And I’m still shaking my head at your weird reasoning. You download thousands of things you don’t actually want, or need. But you still bothered to do it, and by your own admission you have kept them. The thing is, mate, you should pay for the privilege of deciding what your opinion is about a piece of music or a film. Morally, and legally, it’s not up to you to decide whether you want to pay for experiencing something after you’ve already stolen that experience. Your opinion or assessment is your own. But you have no rights of ownership, and certainly no right to make or distribute copies. That is a harmful act, objectively speaking. Just think about it, and apply the golden rule. Would you like your work to be taken without compensation? Would you appreciate your boss deciding not to pay you because he didn’t think you were worth it? The principle is the same.

  12. Pingback: Conversations with Copyright Infringing File Sharers | Costa Botes

  13. zikey says:

    I wonder what you think about copyright infringement that has little impact on the amount of lost revenue (for example out of print media or emulation).

    Computer software and hardware become obsolete extremely quickly. During their lifespan, piracy of course occurred, and had an impact from lost sales. However, when these systems became obsolete, their media went out of print, and their rights-holders moved on to new avenues.

    Many archivists have then attempted to collect and preserve the material on those aging floppies, CD-Rs and ROM chips. The thought goes, that because no one knew of any official preservation efforts, there must not be any. Thus they take the task upon themselves to preserve obsolete data files for future generations. As a side effect, distribution of copies of the obsolete data files often occur.

    This includes not just popular software and games that were pirated, but even extremely obscure firmware or BIOS files that are difficult to extract, but still very much copyrighted.

    There are also efforts of reverse-engineering and DRM-removal to create emulations of hardware or software systems. These efforts are not copyright infringing, but the act of analyzing those systems to the point of being able to recreate it, could be considered infringing rights by stealing trade secrets. This is common in countless emulation and virtualization software. Many programs attempt to imitate another protocol or algorithm, in order to be compatible with it.

    Anyway, as a musician, I understand the creator’s point of view. If I wish to charge for a CD, I’d rather not see it posted somewhere and get more hits on Google than my page. But we live in a digital society that needs to learn to adapt. Computer data is virtual information that can be copied infinitely – it has a lot of potential for allowing us to make the sum of human knowledge available to all, and very little toward protection and strict control of data files.

    As a consumer, I believe copyright needs to adapt to digital goods and take into account obsoleteness. I believe that ‘piracy’, or digital copyright infringement, is a tool that must be used with extreme care not to hurt creators. It is a double-edged sword. On one end, it allows information to be free, without restriction (besides the possibility of malware), but on the other, it could be used to undermine the revenue generated by the creator.

    So what are your thoughts on the preservation aspect of copyright infringement, when the original creator has moved on, died, or essentially not making revenue. Should the creation be lost if the creator has abandoned it, or should those preservation efforts be encouraged, within reason (not supporting piracy of ‘current’ products).

    • Costa Botes says:

      I think you raise a valid point. Archiving work for the benefit of future generation can be a hard and often thankless task. But it’s a tiny problem compared to the scourge of endemic copyright infringement that is degrading and even destroying the livelihoods of professional creators. In either case, solutions must involve the same thing. A basic acknowledgement that creators deserve respect. It is, in fact, a basic human right, as set out in the universal declaration of human rights, that artists, and all creators, should have the right to benefit from their creations. Not distant third parties, who exploit available tech to steal and market goods to millions of unscrupulous consumers. Because they can. And because it profits them to do so. As always in matters of gross unfairness, sooner or later the conscience of a civil society will synchronise with rules of law that can be enforced. We are some way from that, but slowly getting there. Meantime, yes, of course I acknowledge your point. I know there are orphan works out there, abandoned, or lost to the control of their creators. I’d submit that most of these works may have got into that state for valid reasons, and may not be worth the trouble of salvaging. In most cases I’d be very surprised if there is no verifiable link that can be made back to an authorised copyright holder. If not, well, I guess I can understand if one really loves the lost or abandoned obscurity enough, one might risk the sin of copyright infringement in order to save and preserve the work. In the majority of cases, if a copyright holder did come out of the woodwork, then again, the element of respect might lead to a simple and equitable resolution. Just appropriating something, without due diligence or respect is never morally acceptable. Unless the legal term of copyright has expired. In which case, knock yourself out.

  14. James Armstrong says:

    “Ergo, legally, and morally, when you download and view files derived from illegally ripped sources, it’s theft.”
    Bullshit. Theft is removing the original and taking it with you, piracy is making a copy and taking it with you.
    Downloading “illegally ripped” files doesn’t remove the original files.

    • Costa Botes says:

      Here we go again. James, you actually need to crack open some law books. Your definition of theft is very 16th century. In this century, depriving a legitimate author of their property rights is regarded as a crime. Morally, ethically, pragmatically. Let me offer a popular analogy. If I procured a stolen key to your car, then used it to go joy-riding in the night, I would be enjoying your property, and if you knew about it, you wouldn’t be terribly pleased, right? But, if I were to drive your car back to its parking place at your home, then go on my way, this would not be theft? Because ultimately I didn’t remove your car?

      Freeloading is a different kind of sin to outright conversion of property, granted, but the net result is the same. You get something for nothing, at someone else’s expense. IN the case of music and motion pictures, and other digital arts, the more people freeload, and the less people who pay for things, well, that does rather affect the professional viability of practitioners, and ultimately, the art. This motivates my position. I understand yours, though I cannot respect it. Try a little empathy.

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