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.