Piracy was originally defined as an act of robbery or criminal violence at sea and in many cases it still is as we see prevalent acts of Piracy in places like Somalia today. However, Piracy has somewhat of a dual meaning in that it can be transposed across a range of mediums. For instance Piracy is also a highly prevalent factor in Copyright Infringement laws and as this is a media studies course this is what I will focus on in this post. Wikipedia defines Copyright Infringement as;
“the unauthorized use of works under copyright, infringing the copyright holder’s “exclusive rights” such as the right to reproduce or perform the copyrighted work, spread the information contained within copyrighted works, or to make derivative works. It often refers to copying “intellectual property” without written permission from the copyright holder, which is typically a publisher or other business representing or assigned by the work’s creator.”
This quotation above would be considered copyright infringement if I had not acknowledged the source Wikipedia. Essentially that is was Copyright Infringement laws protect; the intellectual property of the original source of material or data. Piracy, as the original meaning suggest is the robbing of this intellectual property and basically ignoring the true source of the information. Without Copyright laws there would be no incentive for people to create new ideas, products and technologies because someone else could come along and say they had done it first. There would be a lack of initiative and creativity in the world. Copyright laws give origin and prevalence to a source of information.
Piracy travels across all media from print to digital and it is in the digital realm of media that we see the most common acts of piracy today. Do you download music for free? Or videos or other online content? We all do and that classifies us as pirates. Why? Because we are gaining access to information whether it be a song, a movie or text without giving recognition to the original source either economically or in the case of text, by citing it in a paper for example. Music producers make music to earn a living (some focus on this more seriously then others) and by downloading their song for free, you are virtually cyber-robbing them.
So why does Piracy still exist and should there not be strict laws in place to combat Pirates? The fact of the matter is everyone does it and if everyone thinks everyone is doing it, then everyone will keep doing it. It has become somewhat of a social norm. Economics also plays a large factor. People at home download music “illegally” for their own personal benefit, because they want to listen to that track. At this individual level Piracy is extremely difficult to regulate, and although immoral there is no real harm being done. If your a good enough music producer then there will always be die hard fans willing to buy your album or pay excessive prices to see you live in concert. Where regulation does come in is when someone ‘steals’ content for the purpose of economic gain. A perfect example is those dodgey $5 DVDs you buy from your corner shop then take it home and realise why the picture is so shaky and unfocused. It is for a commercial purpose and thats why companies such as LimeWire and Napster were shut down.
Copyright laws, at the moment, I think are a fairly accurate representation of societies view towards Piracy. After all that is the laws sole purpose, to reflect the values of society. Although it poses ethical questions, no one really minds if a person downloads a couple of songs to listen to on their iPod, the real issue lies when companies steal content for economic gain.
Copyright infringement: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piracy_%28media%29#.22Piracy.22