Updated on 05.18.10

Convenience and Piracy

Trent Hamm

I’m going to go a little bit off of the beaten path here and talk about something not directly related to personal finance, but something that has a strong indirect relationship: piracy of intellectual property.

A week barely goes by when a person writes to me asking for some sort of justification for their piracy of music, computer software, or other electronic materials. I usually don’t give it to them because I feel pretty strongly that piracy is wrong and that content creators (and all of the people that help that process along) deserve to be paid for that work.

However, I also believe that the biggest reason piracy thrives online is that most of the time it’s easier to just pirate a song or a piece of software than it is to pay for it.

Case in point: recently, the “Humble Indie Bundle,” a wonderful collection of computer games, was made available for a stunningly low price online. You could simply pay whatever you wished for it with the minimum price of one cent. You could also direct any portion of that price to charity.

What happened? There were people actively pirating the “Humble Indie Bundle.” Rather than giving a single cent to a charity to download it legitimately, they chose to simply steal the software.

Why? It’s easier.

That’s my explanation anyway.

In order to download the software legitimately, you had to fill out forms. You had to decide how much you wanted to pay the developers. You had to decide how much you wanted to give to the charity. You also had to have some sort of method for actually paying for it, whether it be a credit card number or a PayPal account or something else.

And that’s the problem. Some people aren’t comfortable sharing their credit card information with a random website or with Paypal, and I don’t blame them. I have much more concern with giving a dollar to a website for something that I do with giving a dollar bill to a street vendor. That dollar bill doesn’t have my personal information attached to it and it doesn’t make it possible for that vendor to swipe my identity. I also don’t have to put forth the effort to take out a credit card, type in the sixteen digit number, the expiration date, the code on the back, or any of that other stuff.

That’s a lot of effort for making a purchase. It makes me reconsider purchases all the time, both from an effort standpoint and from a personal information standpoint.

Piracy is a real problem. Software piracy alone cost $51 billion last year, and that doesn’t include a dime of the piracy of music or movies or books.

From my perspective, a lot of that loss would vanish if downloading a song or a movie or a piece of software was as easy as pirating it. If one could simply purchase such things with just a few mouse clicks without sharing personal information (beyond perhaps a single place), much of the reason for piracy would go away.

Most pirates don’t believe that the content creators deserve nothing for their efforts. Instead, they believe that content sellers often make it difficult and privacy-invading to purchase such content. I agree with that sentiment strongly, even if I don’t agree with their action in response to it. Instead, I usually just don’t buy, which also hurts the content creators.

Online piracy will always have supporters until buying electronic items becomes as easy as giving a $5 bill to a hot dog vendor. It’s not there yet.

How can we get there? A standardization of online currency would be a big first step. Since no one trusts a corporation to do it, I think the best operator of this would be a non-profit that keeps the costs as low as possible instead of trying to turn a buck on it. A U.S. Online Mint, perhaps, where you could convert real currency to virtual currency and back, perhaps at your local bank, and then spend it as easily as cash.

This type of thing would be a revolution in how we use money.

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  1. Robert says:

    I understand about not wanting to use a credit card, but Pay-pal is pretty safe. pay-pal doesn’t give any of your financial personal info that could be used for anything. I think it is mostly, people just don’t care.


  2. Calvin says:

    “From my perspective, a lot of that loss would vanish if downloading a song or a movie or a piece of software was as easy as pirating it. If one could simply purchase such things with just a few mouse clicks without sharing personal information (beyond perhaps a single place), much of the reason for piracy would go away.”

    The closest thing to this online currently would be the Apple iTunes store. It’s the only online marketplace I know both pirates and parents use to purchase content. However, I would much prefer some sort of non-profit U.S. online Mint, great idea; but you are correct, it would take a revolution.

  3. Mary says:

    Uh, you said you wish you could have your info in one place & not worry about them stealing it. That’s Paypal. The person or company receiving the money don’t see your info. You even mentioned Paypal.

  4. Nik says:

    I think this is a slippery conversation to get involved in because many people have different opinions based on the content type. I agree with you that the individuals that pirated the Humble Bundle are in the wrong. That bundle was possible because a group of small independent developers just wanted to distribute content without any concern for profit (obviously since the proceeds went to charities). I also think its wrong to pirate most other forms of software because it took so many man hours to produce and they provide continued support after purchase.

    Where I see piracy as a tool is with content such as music, tv, and film. While I understand the amount of time and effort put into these mediums, we all too often see that the profits go to the production houses rather than the artists themselves. Since we do not have the money or the resources of the RIAA or MPAA, we use piracy as a market force to make the system more fair.

    I am not and never will be an advocate of stealing, and I agree that there are a small subset of pirates that are simply lazy, but the majority of pirates are unhappy with the current distribution system and use this as their voice.

    Back to your article, I think a standardized online currency is an amazing idea and would be the first step towards a fully digital lifestyle.

  5. greg says:

    You’re raising some pretty difficult issues here. E-cash was hot ten, twelve years ago, but I guess it failed because they could not figure out a good way how you could keep your cash when you changed comupters or a disk crashed. I had some free e-cash in an early trial and lost it all when I changed comupters. It is a hard problem to keep it anonymous, and make it easy to transfer from one device to another while making it impossible to duplicate.
    Registering with a site from which you buy software gives you a way to download it again if you deleted or lost it somehow. If I had not registered with Mobipocket, I might lose all my ebooks if my PDA breaks one day.
    And as far a PayPal is concerned, I find it a pretty effortless way to make payments: just give your email address and password and click OK. I don’t see how they could make it any easier and still keep it secure.
    By the way, cash has problems of its own, like getting lost, stolen or robbed.

  6. Valerie K says:

    Online currency… what a great idea! I’d love to be able to convert cash to online currency at my bank. That would be awesome! Keeps personal information private and keeps the spending off of a credit card. That’s such a BRILLIANT idea!!!

  7. Joe says:

    Just wanted to mention two things.

    1) I try everything before I buy it. If its a car, I drive it. If its a new gadget, I put my hands on it. If its music, I want to hear it. I own a massive collection of music and movies, and I’ve downloaded plenty to try out before I buy them.

    2) Quoting piracy numbers, estimating losses, is bad. Estimating loss based on downloads is inaccurate, as many would have chosen to simply not purchase. A recent US gov study found that there were ancillary economic benefits, and putting real numbers to piracy is a game that just can’t be played – loss in one place is a gain in the other.

    3) Look at Type O. They gave away their stuff, it was shared left and right, and they had an INCREDIBLY successful tour as a result. If you think artists profit from CD/audio file purchases, you’re wrong (for the overwhelming majority of major label artists).

    4) DRM is a pain in the ass. It makes it hard for me to use what I’ve paid for.

    5) No need for an online currency. The US dollar is accepted all over the world, why create a new currency and muck it all up all over again?

  8. Joe says:

    A few things not two things I guess :)

  9. Eric says:

    While I basically agree with you, it’s important to note that piracy losses, including the $51 billion you quoted, are almost always severely overreported. That’s the retail cost of all pirated copies of all software, and it’s only accurate as a measure of losses if everyone who pirated a copy would have paid full price if piracy wasn’t an option.

    Certainly, some of those people would have bought the software (or movie, music, or book). It’s almost as certain that not all of them would have. So, the software industry lost somewhere between $0 and $51 billion of revenue due to pirace, but nobody really knows what the number is. Some people will even try to argue that piracy increases overall sales, as it acts like advertisement.

  10. Allie says:

    I would also point out that some people merely don’t feel like paying real world, tangible, limited money for something that is intangible and isn’t scarce. This is especially true for items that are distributed digitally. In many cases where prices should come down because of the inexpensive nature of digital distribution, the prices stay the same as the real-world counterparts, yet tend to have all manner of limitations, DRM, etc., attached. It’s just not worth the money.

    I don’t at all consider it stealing, though. Copying content and using it for your own use isn’t the same as stealing something from a brick and mortar store that has a limited supply. I mean, when organizations like the BSA try to estimate the “cost” of “piracy”, they have to make all manner of assumptions like how those who pirated software were going to actually be customers. Maybe someone who couldn’t pirate an application would’ve used a free software alternative instead, or maybe they would’ve gone without altogether. I don’t think that pirating can translate directly into a lost sale, especially since some people who pirate DO end up buying legitimate copies later.

    Anyway, big topic, lots of philosophical discussions about it all over the intarwebs.

  11. Jon says:

    Great. You linked to an article based on a report by the software industry. Real unbiased there.

    And software piracy didn’t cost $51 billion last year. There was a perceived unrealized gain of $51 billion in retail sales. That is not a cost. It is an unrealized estimation in sales. Many people who pirate do so because they don’t beleive the product in question is worth the sticker price. Thus, if piracy didn’t exist, these people still would not buy the product at the retail price. In these cases, the gain is still unrealized, thus, no actual loss. It’s only actually a loss if the person getting the software for free was actually willing to pay the retail price for the software. If not, then there is not any actual loss that occured.

  12. Todd says:

    I am not sure why it makes a difference whether it is a movie or software? How is any of it right? As for fear of using a credit card it seems that this is very small minority of those who pirate property. Most people that download the stuff are doing it because it is free. Usually, it is more difficult to find a pirate version than to just download a digital version from Amazon.

    It does seem that most people who try to justify piracy have no stake in anything. What I mean is that probably 97% of the people who feel justified in pirating material create nothing. Sure an artist can make their work public domain but why should they not get paid if they so desire?

    The only time I can see piracy is an instance where something is simply not available to buy. Some TV shows are never going to be on DVD but if you want to watch them, a pirate version may be the only way (and you are not depriving anyone of money as your piracy is not a negative purchase).

  13. Johanna says:

    Number of comments it takes for someone to argue that stealing’s not so bad if you’re doing it to somebody rich that you don’t like: 1.


  14. Andrew says:

    Allie’s first paragraph is exactly right. The prices are still the same, and so many DRM limitations. I WANT to purchase digital content(music, movies), and I do, but it’s just frustrating when something I buy from itunes doesn’t want to play well with other software. My conscience makes me reluctantly pay for this stuff even though I believe the system is garbage. If they could make it simpler on the DRM side, I’m certain more people would jump on board.

  15. Mike C says:

    To me the question about copying copyrighted material (software, music, or whatever) is not whether it is right or wrong, legal or illegal. The thing is that it is just unavoidable. You may forbid it, or establish protection mechanisms, or do whatever you want, but somebody will always come with a solution around it.

    So before you create any content you should know (and this is a fact) that it WILL be copied. And you should adapt your business model to it: make it easier to get from the legal source than from a P2P network, create some sort of subscription service (example, for updates), provice added value to the people that make a purchase…

    And you should definitely not make the user experience any harder. ¿Remember the protection systems that the media industry have been trying? Like making CDs that would not play on computers, or the DVD encrypting that prevented them from being read on open source software, or the itunes music that will only play on apple devices… confronted with those options the user always goes with the easier way, which happens to be P2P…

  16. Gumnos says:

    First, Piracy is wrong, but Piracy is an act of robbery or violence at high sea. What you’re discussing is *infringement* of an artificial right granted by the government expressly for the promotion of the art. The “$51 Billion” is an exceptionally inflated figure — it assumes that every copy could have been sold at full price. More on the BSA’s methodology:


    Searching techdirt.com will turn up plenty of articles on the sketchy calculations used by the BSA, RIAA, and MPAA when determining infringement damages.

  17. Keith says:

    Remember Flooz?


    It didn’t work.

    I’d like the concept of an online wallet – like purchasing something from the Playstation Network – that you could refill at your leisure and pay on a one click basis.

    Strangely, PayPal is kind of a pain in spite of being the closest thing we have to universally accepted internet money.

    There’s always going to be fraud to contend with too, so for now I’m content to buy what I like and keep the transactions between my bank and the website.

  18. Mike C says:

    @Jon, 4: yes, I also do not agree with all those estimations of losses that assume that you would have paid for everything that you got for free on P2P…

  19. DAN says:

    As someone who USE TO pirate a lot of games and software, I can only say that from personal experience, 95% of what I downloaded was used a few times and then discarded. This would imply that the producers of those games and software lost ZERO dollars from me.

    I can also say that from experience, that most of the games or software I purchased (thousands of dollars worth over the last 15 years) were ones that I had pirated first and saw value in owning them. For the few that I had “demoed” via limited trial or shareware and went on to purchase, these quickly turned into games/software that I quickly lost interest in.

    Same thing for movies. I’ve purchased many movies and CD’s AFTER downloading them.

    These days I rely on freeware or subscription based software and watch legally available movies and shows.

    Overall, I would say that piracy has helped me to benefit many industries and there was a recent study that I read that agreed that the true (paying) customers for these companies end up being the ones that have pirated their content.

    I don’t condone theft, but theft often doesn’t benefit the person or company from which the item was taken from.

  20. Keith says:

    Sorry for the double post.

    I think that this broad debate of intangible products being “shared” vs. tangible products from brick and mortars being “stolen” relates to the relative scarcity of tangible, physical items.

    This in turn leads to content publishers of all kinds (music, software, movies) incentivizing the physical version. Buy the game, get the concept art. Buy it on vinyl, get a green LP with a fold out poster and lyrics. Buy the move, get the 3D glasses.

    If I liked an artist (the painty kind), I could find a hi-resolution copy of their art out there somewhere, print it out and stick it on my wall. But it wouldn’t be the same as a nice lithograph or a $400 original piece.

    So, I guess it depends on how much intrinsic value someone places on something. If that value is zero, then they’re more than willing to steal (download, share) it. That throws into question peoples’ notions of value but I guess that’s a different discussion.

    There’s very little out there worth zero dollars.

  21. Anon Coward says:

    Yeah, don’t put any stock in those BSA numbers. That 51 billion from the BSA is basically BS.

    Here he admits it in 2004: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20040719/034230_F.shtml

    Speaking to convenience, yes, that’s probably a huge factor in why people pirate instead of buy. Here’s a visual aid showing the difference between a pirated DVD and a purchased DVD: http://boingboing.net/2010/02/18/infographic-buying-d.html

    Also, in my opinion, even when it’s as easy to buy digital goods as it is to buy physical goods, there will still be piracy. Physical things that are copiable (a book, a machine, a sandwich) are priced based on demand of the item and the cost to make said item. If it costs a dollar to make a sandwich, then that sandwich has a base cost of a dollar. AKA, the marginal cost of the sandwich is a dollar. No one is paying the Earl of Sandwich for creating the idea of the sandwich. If that sandwich is taken and not paid for, then the creator of that sandwich is out the cost of that sandwich, a dollar.

    An MP3 has no marginal cost. If a copy of the MP3 is made and the creator is not paid, then the creator is not out a cost. The creator did not pay anything to make that second copy. This is another justification of piracy.

    The real problem this leads to is why would anyone create any digital-only good? This is a hugely complex issue for society.

  22. Matt says:

    I think the ease in which songs or other media can be pirated definately is a factor in why people pirate. However, even if it were easier to legally obtain media instead of pirate it, I don’t believe there would be a substantial drop in pirating.

    With a marketplace such as ITunes, your credit card is stored, and from then on, it’s a couple of clicks to purchase songs. I realize your point is that people do not want to share their credit card number with a company, but if there is an online mint, how else would you keep track of the money? You would still need a login and password and maybe a pin to get at that money(and if that is compromised, then what? You’re money is just gone(but likely not your personal info), I’m sure the liability protection will not be the same as with a credit card). I’m not to familiar with PayPal, but I believe it is a layer between you and the seller, where you only share your information with Paypal. A non-profit would still be subject to the same risks that paypal is, that is, hacking or accidentally making private information public among other things. Furthermore, each online retailer would have to support it, which won’t always be the case.

    I think another factor is that pirating feels like a victimless crime. I’m not saying it is victimless, but no one is physically hurt, there is no immediate negative impact on the person performing the illegal act. Industry groups and the media would have you believe everyone is pirating all the time, so how is the one or two or thousand songs one person pirates going to make a difference?

    Lastly, pirating is free minus the risk of arrest or being sued. I can’t recall the last time I heard about someone being arrested for pirating or even being sued.

    I should throw in a caveat, I’m not trying to justify pirating, just throw some more light on why it happens and the obstacles to getting people to fly right.

  23. Alexander says:

    “Software piracy alone cost $51 billion last year”

    But how much progress did that pirated software enable? Or pirated music, movies, games? Would that young inspireing software engineer, artist, mucisian, director make the same amount of progress and give the same amount back to the society, if he haven’t had all the necesarry resources? Free source is the neccessary evil, it is the way of the future. Sure it has its down sides (like lack of focus), but the increasing amount of the information is being exchanged at the ever progressing rate – there is no stopping that. Trying to regulate that via online banking will only enforce the monetary system, which is already heading towards its doom (at least the way we know it now). It will do absolutelly nothing for the authors.

    In other words, piracy fuels the progress and evolution, the interconectivity, the oneness. The authors are well payed and stimulated for further developement and creativity either way. The only ones who take the hit are those blood sucking managers contributing nothing to the society, not creating anything new for the world, only perpetuating the system in which they play games, rule and control.

  24. Jason says:

    Number of comments it takes Johanna to come up with a negative comment about Trent’s post or something else: 1.


  25. Eric says:


    Is what she said incorrect? That’s essentially the premise of what many of those posters said.

  26. chacha1 says:

    I would bet that all who say “illegally downloading copyrighted content is not stealing” have never created anything they were trying to sell copies of.

    It is theft, pure and simple, to take something that someone else has created, without paying for it. Whether it’s taking a cinnamon bun off the bakery counter and making a run for it, or taking a digital recording of a song. It is theft.

    Many who do the latter would not do the former. Why? Because nobody can see them do the latter. That’s the real reason they feel they can justify themselves: nobody saw them do it.

    Completely disagree that “most” pirates are pirates to make a statement. I think most pirates just want to get something for nothing.

  27. Maggie says:

    If pirating is all about showing disdain for the current distribution system or because the people don’t think the item is worth the price, couldn’t they send the same message by just not downloading it at all instead of stealing it? Clearly they think the item has some worth if they want it bad enough to steal it.

  28. Keri says:

    Just thought I’d share this related article I read a few days ago to anyone interested:


    Another View of Game Piracy:
    “When Reflexive games performed a series of experiments with anti-piracy measures, they found that they only made one extra sale for every 1000 pirated copies they blocked. This implies that their 90% piracy statistic caused them to lose less than 1% of their sales.”

  29. Mike C says:

    @10, Maggie: people do not do it to send a message, they do it because they find it more convenient or because they do not find that the price is justified, or because they do not see the value. Corolary: if you want people to pay for your product, make it easier, more convenient, more valuable… to pay for it than to get it from P2P. Telling your users and fans that they are criminals (like the MPAA and RIAA do) does not help to create a good image of your product.

  30. Adam says:

    Its not that simple. Why on earth would I pay for an inferior product when a superior version is readily available for free? Especially with the current model where buying a CD, a DVD, or an MP3 through a store gives you ‘licensing’ rights, but not control over what you purchased. Its ridiculous that I would have to commit a federal crime to back up my DVDs to an external HD. If I’m committing a crime anyway, why not just get it for free? I think its really big media’s attack against their customers that drive people away.

    Personally, I don’t see the point in buying content anymore. I can listen to music for free on Pandora and watch anything I want through Netflix/Watch Instantly. No risk, just content available when and how I want it…that’s business innovation and worthy of my subscription or listening to a few advertisements now and again.

  31. Dave R. says:

    I can’t believe you quoted that $51bn figure. As if everyone who downloaded illicit content would have paid full price had it not been available for free. We’re talking about games and music, not oxygen.

    Also, convenience is only a small part of it.

    Pirated software and media are also generally more desirable than the legitimate stuff, because it doesn’t have DRM. You don’t need to have the disc in the drive to play a game, you can play music and video on any device you want. You *own* it.

    Anyone providing DRM-protected whatever is shooting themselves in the foot, because it’s inherently less attractive. I’d happily sign up for Audible if I could use the content on my Linux machine. But I can’t, so they’ll never get a penny from me.

    As soon as Apple removed DRM from their iTunes Store music, I started buying it.

  32. Kevin W says:

    A great example proving the original author’s point:

    I can buy AND sell a music CD. When I am tired of the CD, I sell it. While I can buy an mp3, can I sell it once I am tired of it? This is somewhat of a deterrent for increasing my mp3 collection. Also, I can often buy a CD for $5 used.

  33. chacha1 says:

    I would bet that all who say illegally downloading copyrighted content is not stealing have never created anything they were trying to sell copies of.

    It is theft, pure and simple, to take something that someone else has created, without paying for it. It is theft whether it’s taking a cinnamon bun off the bakery counter and making a run for it, or taking a digital recording of a song.

    Many who do the latter would not do the former. Why? Because nobody can see them do the latter. That’s the real reason they feel they can justify themselves: nobody saw them do it.

    Completely disagree that a majority of pirates are pirates to make a statement. I think most pirates just want to get something for nothing.

    If this ends up doubled I apologize, I just realized that Trent’s moderator seems to flag comments with quotation marks.

  34. Leah says:

    I like what the people that used to run the Pirate Bay have come up with – flattr. It’s basically an easy way to give props in form of money to internet content you appreciate. You put a sum of money into your flattr account each month and “flattr” blogs and such that you like by clicking on their flattr button. The money you have set forth then gets divided among all the people you have flattrd that month and they receive it. This is also a good way to ensure that not only government approved content can earn revenue online – anybody that finds an audience can. I strongly agree that if there is an easy way to pay for content, people will do it.

  35. Kate says:

    I’m not trying to apply a modern-day version of godwin’s law, but I work with security all day long and therefore are it everywhere.

    What you’re suggesting in terms of a new online currency would be a definite security challenge.

    We like money to be traceable.whether it’s to track the guy who is buying the batreusl to build a bomb or track down the money that a corrupt dictator has stashed outside the country or to track terrorism financing going from one country to the rebel movement in another or to be able to freeze the assets for a particular international troublemaker (say, Osama or Charles Taylor). Certain international processes have even been set up to be able to track other goods, like diamonds, for many of the same reasons.

    Incidentally, a system similar to the one you suggest is currently in use in the middle East and eastern Africa. Owing in large part to the comparative lack of banking infrastructure, a huge system has been set up to transfer money by cell phone. Not access your bak byg cell phone, but actually transferring it from cell phone to cellphone until it gets cashed or traded at its final destination.

  36. Brittany says:

    “If one could simply purchase such things with just a few mouse clicks without sharing personal information (beyond perhaps a single place)”

    Congradulations, Trent. You just invented… Paypal. That’s exactly waht Paypal is and does. Yes, their security isn’t 100% foolproof early, but it does mean only ONE location has your info, instead of many, reducing your risk. Also, their policies and protections are pretty throughly.

    You can’t request “a single place” that has your infom where you can buy things with a single click (after typing in a password and your e-mail)and state your dislike/distrust of Paypal in the same post.

  37. Gumnos says:

    First, Piracy is wrong, but Piracy is an act of robbery or violence at high sea. What you’re discussing under the misnomer “piracy” is *infringement* of an artificial right granted by the government expressly for the promotion of the art. Let’s not conflate the terms.

    The “$51 Billion” is an exceptionally inflated figure — it assumes that every copy could have been sold at full price. More on the BSA’s methodology:


    Searching techdirt.com will turn up plenty of articles on the sketchy calculations used by the BSA, RIAA, and MPAA when determining infringement damages.

  38. Matt says:

    Even if you don’t agree with the price, it’s still stealing.

  39. Matt says:

    I think thats why itunes is so successful, it is really easy to purchase media with a couple of clicks.

  40. Beth says:

    Read Walter Benjamin’s “The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction”. Funny how his argument that the more easily you can reproduce something, the less we value it applies even though the paper was written long before the digital age.

    Oh, and I have a good solution for purchasing music online: gift cards (which I purchase in the store using whatever payment method I feel like).

  41. Julia says:

    I agree to the need for standardized online currency. Here’s an idea:
    If PayPal starts selling gift cards in grocery stores the same way that Itunes does. You can then redeem the gift card at PayPal’s website and use it at any site where PayPal is accepted.
    I’ve said in comment to another article that I avoid giving personal information to Itunes (and control my music budget) by buying gift cards at the grocery store. If I could do the same with PayPal, I would do all my online shopping using PayPal cards and keep my credit card out of it.

  42. Tizzle says:

    Right now, I get all of my media from the library. In doing so, I am reading someone’s work, or listening to their music, etc. without paying them a cent. How is this different from pirating?

    I hope, one day when I have a real job, to go back and purchase many of the books I have enjoyed over the years. But I may go to a second-hand store, which would not net the author any money. Is this more or less ethical than piracy?

    I don’t download music, legally or illegally. I may never. I don’t like iTunes DRM stuff. I don’t watch many movies, and won’t be buying any products I can’t use to the full extent. I am one of those that does without — I get my entertainment from blogs, mostly. :)

    There are a few who are committed to not paying for our entertainment. I sort of qualify. I want convenience, and ease of use. I want to own the book (think 1984 fiasco) if I purchase it on a Kindle. The answer to this is definitely not more restrictions on the product. The answer is to convince people like me that we should pay. Appeal to our better nature, kinda thing. I do have one and there’s only a few who don’t. They were probably the old-fashioned shop-lifters anyway.

    I think this is a very interesting convo to have on a frugality blog. Some people think one should try to get as much as humanly possible for free. But ethics comes in somewhere.

  43. chacha1 says:

    Tizzle, a lending library is just that – it lends. You can take a book or CD or movie out, but you have to take it back, or they WILL charge you for it. The library buys the media, so the author gets paid.

    As to second-hand stores – that’s a long ongoing debate. Generally most artists have seemed to agree that it is better to have their backlist in circulation. Before music downloads and Amazon, CDs and movies routinely went out of print just like books. Now everything has a second life, but at least in a second-hand store somebody paid for the media the first time out – so the author got paid then.

  44. Des says:

    Trent is right that people pirate because it is easy, not because they’re trying to send a message, or even that they necessarily disagree with the asking price.

    Think about it this way: What if you couldn’t download these items online. Instead, you went into a physical store with kiosks where you load the digital item onto your flash drive, then pay at the counter. The content is the same. The price is the same. The ease of reproduction is the same. The MPAA and RIAA are the same. The only difference is you are in a store rather than in your home. How many people will walk out without paying? Some, surely. But will all the former pirates still steal now? Doubtful. In fact, I’d wager most people will now pay for their download, or not download at all.

    Just because stealing is easy doesn’t make it ok.

  45. jim says:

    I bet the guy that stole my car stereo has some reasons why he thinks it was OK. He is probably lazy, he might think car stereo’s are expensive and he might be bitter that I have more money than him. A creative thief might point out the stereo was made in China so he’s really just fighting for USA jobs.

    If you want to be a holy anarchist crusader fighting for cheap DVD prices and not letting Bill Gates get richer or whatever reason you think downloading stuff is justified based on your principles then thats great. But you should own up to the fact that you’re knowingly breaking the law and be prepared (and honored) to pay the legal consequences.

  46. Becky says:

    I live in China right now and piracy is not only rampant, but encouraged. I teach at a university and on my first day I was told I was teaching a movie class. “Great, where are the DVD’s?” I asked. “Oh, you just download the movies,” was the answer!

    On all the school computers is Windows ‘ghost’ (the pirated version of XP). And I go to a public school so it is gov’t funded. There are also gov’t bookstores here with Avatar selling for less than $2 so I can only assume they are pirated as well.

    I want to be honest here while living in China, but the whole culture makes it so difficult!

  47. Brent says:

    For me it is much more of a philosophical reason than convenience or apathy. I don’t believe in copyright. I don’t believe in intellectual property. Should artists, programmers etc get paid… absolutely, but they should be payed to create it, not to sell it. The government has manufactured a restriction on the participation in our own culture. I reject that restriction constantly. I don’t feel that copyright infringement is wrong. I feel that it is a duty.

  48. mshell says:


    what legal consequences? Legal backlash against piracy totally and utterly failed.

    also, I don’t believe musicians necessarily deserve to be paid for their musical recordings. How else are you going to know if you like an artist’s album? guess? pay for it and hope it doesn’t suck? Sorry, but as someone with a limited income, I’ll steal it first and support the artist in the future if I like it. Artists make precious little from CD sales to begin with and much more from shows and merch sales. Makes more sense to support the artist that way than by buying a CD over which you have no control of quality.

  49. marta says:

    “Should artists, programmers etc get paid… absolutely, but they should be payed to create it, not to sell it.”

    Oh, really? And where would you get the money to pay artists, programmers, etc, to create it?

  50. gerry says:

    Piracy is wrong. Even music. The recording industry is nothing more than a banking industry. When an artist gets “signed” by a record label, they are getting fronted millions of dollars, and they sign a binding contract to pay that money back plus interest. Much of the money does go to the record label, but that is the deal the artists made. Plain and simple it’s stealing and it is illegal end of story, no justification.


  51. Mike C says:

    Music artists get paid when they perform. A lot of programmers get paid to develop open source software, and many do consulting. Writers like Trent get paid for their blog through advertising. There are other ways of making money on creation that do not require a pay per copy fee.

    Should an architect be paid somebody enters in a building? Should a sculptor be paid every time somebody sees his artwork? Should a painter be paid somebody sees her art on a museum?

    Regardless on whether you think copyright is right or wrong, the fact is that it is impossible to prevent people from making copies, so deal with it…

  52. Tessa says:

    Trent, Kate & Brittany:
    What your looking for is ZashPay it’s coming soon…. You will be able to pay anyone with an email address or mobile phone number through your existing banking relationship. Like online billpay does now. No muss, no fuss, no giving out your CC numbers to 3rd party vendors etc. Check it out on twitter and facebook.

    BTW.. have mixed feelings about the copyright issue. I personally try to avoid it if at all possible but I agree with Mike C it is impossible to stop online. You can only hope people are mostly honest and would pay for the content or at the very least give some credit where credit is due.

  53. J says:

    This horse was beaten to death and made into glue ten years over at Slashdot …. and it still is going on. It seems that it’s always a slippery slope when people will give up file sharing / stealing / whatever. First it was when DRM went away …. well, DRM free has been available now at Amazon and iTunes. Then it was griping about high quality codecs or some other BS. Now it’s too hard to type in a credit card. Or you can buy a gift card for amazon or iTunes in any supermarket with cash so The Man can’t find you.

    People are going to make up elaborate reasons for why they do file sharing … none of which will hold up on court or save you the fine. I’ll pay my .89 and think of it as insurance.

  54. Ryan says:

    Piracy isn’t stealing.

    It’s copyright infringement.

    Stealing implies that once you’ve taken the product, it’s gone and the creator is out the cost of production.

    With file sharing, that’s not the case.

  55. kristine says:

    That idea does not seem revolutionary, it is simply a no-fee/interest credit card with a less long number. What would be the incentive to start up such a time and money consuming endeavor- good will? PayPal comes close. At some level the buyer needs an identifier, even if IP, for receipt of goods.

  56. Carrie says:

    @Brent – So who is going to pony up the cash for people to create music? My husband has written and recorded a couple albums worth of songs, and he struggles with the idea of putting them up online, because people might “steal” it. Then how would he be paid?

    Who is going to pay artists, programmers, etc. who are self-employed or just starting out, if not the fans/followers who enjoy their work? How does one determine how much a person should get paid for their work, if they aren’t getting a per reproduction payment? Clearly not all creators are equal, so it makes sense that payment should be based on merit. But in what way do you judge a given creation’s merit if not through tracking how many copies of something have been sold?

    Would you suggest that all creators of “intellectual property” need to find a patron or employer to pay them for creating something?

    Clearly some of what you said gets a little under my skin. As a person who has created things that fall into the category of intellectual property, I value the protection (such as it is) in copyright law.

  57. Adam says:

    Whatever it is, its wrong in my books. I don’t pirate, I actively disparage any friends of mine from doing it, and wonder how people who wantonly steal songs, games, movies, etc. sleep a night. Its like going to those Chinese stores where they have pirated still in theatre movies to DVDs and selling them for $5 to people. Ugh. Makes my skin crawl. Justify it to yourselves however you want, I’m happy to pay for a product I enjoy. The lost revenue causes people to lose their jobs, governments can’t get their tax revenues, and artists may be stifled because they aren’t being justly rewarded for their efforts…why produce a masterpiece if everyone will take it for free and you get nothing for your efforts?

    I don’t usually agree with Trent but I do on this point.

  58. Ben says:


    Carrie, you need to have your husband read techdirt.com. Mike over there speaks quite often about the many many ways that artists are making money (and a lot of it) by just giving away their music. If your husband is obscure, the best thing that could happen would be for people to “steal” his music. Once it starts getting traded around, more people hear it, more people become interested, more people want to come and see him perform live. Live performances are where an artist really makes their money. Trent Reznor has all kinds of give-aways and so do a lot of other artists. They make their money on concerts and speaking and merchandising. The music is just a tool to get people to pay money for other things. To attract people to money generating opportunities.

    There are going to be people who say that this only works for big artists. Some will say that it only works for the small ones. The truth is though, if you connect with your fans, give them a reason to buy, and build momentum, there is a lot that can be done.

    All over the place, companies are trying to stop everything that doesn’t directly hand them money. They want to stop used video games being sold because they don’t get the money directly. But, if someone can’t easily get rid of their $50+ game, how many people do you think will buy another. If they can trade off their game and use some of the money towards another, that is motivation and all parties are happy. I got a new game, someone else got my old one, and the creator of the game got their money. Now, the video game companies want to put in 1 time use serial numbers. Every time the game is sold, it has to be re-activated for a fee. They make it so that the game can’t be played without some highly restricting DRM like constant connection to the internet. Who wouldn’t pirate some of these games. Video game developers have even been caught using hacked copies of their games because of the trouble of playing them otherwise.

    Ebooks. Do you really own them? No. You can’t pick them up and hand them to a friend. You can’t swap an ebook for another ebook. Once you are finished, you can’t sell your ebook or give it away. You can’t do a lot with them. If they come in a pdf format, you can do some of these things but that is not how most are sold/distributed. What if I own the hard cover and want to read the book on my eReader? I’ve already paid for the words, what does it matter the format I choose to read it in. Should I have to buy my movies every single time the format changes?

    Remember this. Every single innovation that has come at the entertainment industry, they have rejected as stealing or a threat to their business. VHS, Cassette, DVD, CD, DVR, etc. They fight tooth and nail to get these devices banned and each and every time, they generate MORE money for the industry.

    Copying/Downloading/Piracy ISN’T stealing. It is copyright infringement. If I stole your apple pie, you would no longer have an apple pie. If I copy your CD/MP3/Movie, you still have your movie with no harm done and both of us can enjoy it. The cost of distribution for these things is approaching 0. Shouldn’t the costs come down too?

    Finally, the problem isn’t with some notion of theft. It is a problem with the way the industries are trying to monetize their products. With the invention of the internet, the ball game has changed. They are still trying to play baseball while the rest of us have moved on to football. The newspapers, magazines, movies, music, books, and games all need to come up with new plans. What worked before is about over. Adapt or die like the horse and buggy.

  59. Kai says:

    I think you are right about convenience in many cases.
    But there are also a lot of people who pirate music because they don’t want to pay for it.
    Your idea would probably lower the numbers, but would definitely not eliminate the problem.

  60. Anno Nymminen says:

    This alone would be a reason to become a pirate:


  61. Thomas says:

    Those images explain it all – you pay for the content and they still screw you. Pirated versions “just works”, while official movies requires you to watch unskipable adds, promotions,… Software requires you to register, activate,…

    Also, another issue is (thought not in HIB case – there was only so bad marketing, that info about action never reached me, altought I bought their Penumbra some time ago), that most money are eated by overpaid parasites unnecesary for production – delivery process.

    1) http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash1/hs280.ash1/20771_1338103247106_1066885790_31024187_5865045_n.jpg
    2) http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc3/hs519.snc3/27219_1357636855434_1066885790_31074504_2391834_n.jpg

    About eMoney – thats problem with different legislatives amongst countries and many-washing-protection acts, all of those effectively block that.
    Also, you’re suggesting, that dinosaurs want to addapt to modern world. Well, they dont – they like the old way and will pay just anything to stick with it.

  62. Thomas says:

    pls. change “many-washing-protection” to “money laundering protection” in #31 and delete this one.

  63. Ser says:

    there’s a lack of options as well. itunes and most sites sell music at lower quality than what can be pirated. if you want to buy a song in a lossless format (cd quality, flac file) there is no store online that sell such songs.

  64. djong says:

    Let’s see… I can either download a movie and just watch it…

    Or I can buy. Then see some fbi-warnings, then the product I BOUGHT gives me an unskippable warning that piracy is stealing (nice irony in that one), then I have to skim through a bunch of trailers about movies that were possibly released a good while a ago and which I have either already seen or not interested in. Then I get to the menu, which maybe is well done, maybe not. Some movies actually won’t let me turn off the subtitles. And then I finally get to watch the movie.

    And then there is this dvd-standard the companies like to broke with their drm crap. I have actually bought a movie which I had to rip because it wouldn’t play on my computer. And I sure as hell will not buy a tv plus a dvd-player just to watch a movie when I already have an equipment that has a dvd capability.

    I’m not really familiar with blue-rays, but from what I’ve heard, they would really like an internet connection to download some content to provide “additional value” for the customer. Or at least they have planned something like that at some point. No thanks, I’m not comfortable with players spreading information about what I watch and when to the companies.

    Now how hard can this be made? I just want buy a goddamn movie that plays when I insert a disc to the machine. But no, I get pretty much anything but.

    And as for buying a digital version… I don’t want a version that stops working when the company decides so or a version that I would have to buy a again if my harddrive decided to break.

    And no, I don’t want to stream the movie either because then I would be dependent on a working internet and fast connection and probably also some b-quality third-party software which reduces my choise of operating system, is kludged together with Flash or similar crap and which may or may not contain spyware and provide additional holes in security.

    Bought movies are also not any guarantee of quality, menus can be almost unusable and some the subtitles in the movies have been pretty damn poor.

    So yeah, pirated versions actually manage to provide a better quality than the bought ones. And yes, I still buy movies.

  65. Mel says:

    My boyfriend and I have a slightly different problem. We like to watch a couple of US & UK TV series, and we live in a non-English speaking country. Short of buying these series on physical DVDs from Amazon or similar, the *only* way to watch these series (non-dubbed) is online. Because all the legal sites I’ve found are restricted to US or UK, we’re not able to use them. I would love to get these series legally, I don’t mind paying, but it’s just not possible. (If anyone knows of legal, unrestricted sites, I’d love to hear about them!)

    We don’t mind paying for stuff: any software we get is legal and paid-for (usually even when that’s only an ‘option’), I can’t remember the last time either of us acquired music, but it would’ve been paid-for. It’s just things that we actually cannot reasonably get legally.

    (We don’t do the Amazon thing because we have a small flat and can’t afford the space for something we’ll probably watch only once, postage is ridiculously expensive, and not all our packages actually get delivered)

  66. gerry says:

    #24 Artists do indeed get paid for performing, but with rising production costs, lower ticket sales, a majority of artists are lucky to break even on tours. Some of the upper level artists do make money on tour, but it is rare. Artists make money through record sales, and merchandise. Both are copywritten and trademarked. These are legal protection from theft. I know how the industry works, I have been in the audio touring industry for 15 years. Stealing is wrong, and the artist should get paid. End of story.

    #27-copyright infringement is still illegal, and yes it is a form of theft or stealing. I don’t know where you get your view of it not being theft, but its very cloudy.

  67. Alexandra says:

    Me too, Mel, me too. We buy everything else – and I buy a lot of books, CDs and a few DVDs. But as for TV shows I either watch them streming or download them.
    After all, they ARE free on TV here and I pay my dues for TV in my country. But they are dubbed so I prefer to download.
    If I really like a show and think I’ll watch it again, I buy the DVD when it comes out.
    TV shows are a more neutral moral question I think.

  68. Allie-I strongly disagree. If you think something is too expensive or is unfairly priced, the solution is not to find an illegal way of obtaining the item for free. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

    Nik-how is piracy making the system more fair? At least when you buy a product, the artist gets a little bit of money. When you pirate a product, the artists gets NO money.

  69. Joe says:

    I’ll be interested to see how the payment system being created by the founder of Twitter impacts this issue. I think it’s called Square. It sounds very simple.

  70. Teresa says:


    While I truly admire your trusting and positive view of the human race, I do not believe people pirate (or steal) because it is easier. They do it because they can. Your “Humble Indie Bundle” example prooves this.

    People pirate music, games, etc. because most people (not all) will steal if given the opportunity, especially if there is little to no likelyhood of being caught or of there being any kind of recourse. I am also willing to bet that half of the people here who say they wouldn’t….do, or have, but have justified it in someway (it was just this one small thing…etc.)

    Sorry…I usually wear rose colored glasses too….but not this time.

  71. Henry says:

    @ #28 Carrie, you’re expecting that a person starting out is going to be able to play in the world by the same rules the major labels have set down and be able to play in their sandbox.

    Lets take a step back and see what contracting with a major label will get you, marketing. Lots and lots of marketing dollars to get you started and established as an artist, airtime on the radio, etc. Most people in the world don’t want a completely new type of detergent when washing clothes, they just want the New Tide. So this adds value to artists and helps consumers feel comfortable with paying for something new but not quite so new.

    The internet and easy distribution changes the whole equation. All of the sudden you too can enter a market share your music/art for free, get brand recognition so people feel comfortable purchasing your product and eventually the second part of the equation, the amount in which people are willing to pay for your product, goes up. The best part is, everyone else is paying your distribution costs in bandwidth and storage. The entire internet is working for you to advertise and help you create a brand! And this is what has the big distribution labels scared (if they’ve even realized whats happening yet), you have completely cut them out of the equation.

    One last point, when the labels first started chastising and suing their customer base, I don’t think they realized that there was a direct correlation between the people who downloaded the most content and those who bought the most content. This turned a lot of people off to the whole industry. What people in the content creation business need to realize is that everyone has a different opinion about how much content is worth. By giving people an option to define that themselves, you have increased your product base and the next step is simply adding value to your brand so the individual’s opinion of worth goes up.

  72. RC says:

    I don’t think convenience is the only reason for piracy but I agree a lot with what the article says. However, I think there have been some great strides in making downloadable media easier to buy. iTunes and Amazon have gotten music buying down to a couple clicks. Netflix instant and Hulu are easier for watching TV shows and movies than downloading. And I think the best example is Steam for PC games. It’s way easier to buy a game on Steam than try to pirate it and then install cracks to circumvent the DRM. Plus Steam has sales all the time so you can pick up games for cheap if you wait long enough.

    I think the future is more subscription based services. Do I really want to pay $10-15 to own a Lady Gaga album forever? No. I’d rather pay a monthly fee to listen to whatever I want, knowing that I am not really “keeping” everything. I’m not some kind of digital hoarder that needs to have a copy of every piece of media that exists on my hard drive. Just give me access to what I want when I want it and I won’t pirate.

  73. Jason says:

    I agree that piracy is not always money related. I buy a lot of books for my library but also have an ebook reader for traveling. I have not problem pirating the ebook version of a book I have sitting on my shelf at home. IMO all books should come with a free download link for the ebook.

  74. John S says:

    Does a way truly exist (not pirating, but a legitimate, effective way) to correct the injustices inherent in the current multimedia distribution system? Is there a way we could change the industry so that the creators do get paid, while cutting out price-gouging distributors who add no value? I can’t think of a way to create this change. I’m not justifying piracy here; just brainstorming.

  75. Peggy says:

    I do NOT pirate and have encouraged my children to not as well. They are all artists, musicians and creators of works of art. They understand stealing and the impact it has on the artist and the community at large. But I have still caught occasional pirated music in their possession and this baffles me.

    As for convenience, since Amazon instituted their one-click purchasing, I haven’t stepped foot in a bookstore or even looked at buying books anywhere else. I’ll buy things that I wouldn’t think of buying if I were in the store in person. (Yeah, gotta watch that.) So there is something to be said for the convenience factor.

  76. Jason says:

    Where are these so called “price gouging distributors”? The artist gets a cut which is important, but the studio is putting up all the risk on backing an artist. Yes they make a lot of money, but they provide a valuable service. BP execs make a lot of money; maybe we should cut out the middle man and just buy crude petroleum…

  77. RE Ramcharan says:

    I dunno. Making online purchases as easy as giving five bucks to a hot dog vendor?
    When it got too easy for people to actually give five bucks to a hot dog vendor in our town, the municipal Solons decided to impose a bunch of new fees, licensing requirements, inspections and permits. Apparently, they were tortured by the vision of all that revenue slipping under the radar without the city getting their cut. The result was that now, if you want a hot dog, you have to go inside.
    Look for something similar to happen in the digital world.

  78. Dan says:

    The fact is that piracy has become such a big problem because content producers have tried to take the same business models that have worked historically and apply them to the internet, and are shocked when they don’t work.

    Their solution to that problem was to implement DRM to create artificial limitations on what could be done with something you’ve purchased. They tried to patchwork their old models into the modern age, and those have either failed or have pissed off their customers.

    In my mind, there are three reasons why people pirate things. The first is because, in many cases, the pirated version of something is superior to the legitimately purchased product. The second is because of convenience, and the third is price.

    All three reasons are entirely controllable by content producers. But in many cases, they choose not to address any of them, and instead make things as difficult as possible for their legitimate customers. I don’t think this applies to cases like the Indie Bundle, but that generally seems to be the exception rather than the rule.

    The only issue I have with the article is the parroting of the BSA’s bogus $51 billion, when it has been established that the BSA’s methodology for coming up with their “losses” due to piracy is highly suspect.

  79. Matt says:

    There are some people who will always find some excuse as to why they pirate instead of buy. Those people are not worth discussing. It’s the ones who honestly would pay, but don’t, where things are interesting.

    So, they would buy, but don’t… why? Usually, it’s because the legally offered product/download/service is in some way inferior to the pirated version.

    Sounds weird, but case in point: Ubisoft has recently instituted a new DRM scheme in their games that *requires* an active internet connection in order to play the game *at all*. If you try to play the game and it can’t talk to their servers, it shuts down. If you’re in the middle of playing and it stops being able to talk to their servers, it kicks you out (without saving). And these aren’t online games, they’re single player, local content. Why should that require an internet connection? When one of these games was recently released, they had a multi-day server outage resulting in you being unable to play the game you bought. The pirated version? Works without an internet connection, flawlessly.

    As a consumer, I can easily see deciding that the legal method to aquire the game will result in giving me a significantly inferior product. The honest are punished, and the dishonest get the better goods… THAT is why a lot of people decide to pirate when they otherwise wouldn’t.

    I buy numerous games from Steam because it’s easy, fast, and “just works”… but no way in hell would I buy an intentionally crippled game that tries to dictate terms for when & where I can play it.

  80. Sam says:

    I agree with #4 – I don’t think I’ve officially pirated but the value to the product determines whether I go buy it bran spanking new or if I keep eye out for it at garage sales/thrift stores/ Criags List… ect. Even then, most of the time I don’t feel it’s worth driving across town to get it from a Criags list person.
    For example:
    If my Star Wars movie’s got destroyed I’d be willing to drive across town to replace them since we enjoy them regularly. As it is, I drove 20 miles to get the ones we own from a Criagslist person who was upgrading to DVD (Yes, we still have a functioning VCR – we only replace a VHS with a DVD when the VHS breaks). I don’t know if the way I got Star Wars tapes was pirating since Lucas didn’t make any money off of me – I’d be glad to send him some money given how much I value my copies. But other movies we own, I’d never pay retail for. I don’t want to name them lest I seem to be trashing them but if they bust they won’t be replaced except second hand.

    Same goes for music.

    That all said I do think Trent had a good point – I’ve had an Itunes gift car since December that I still haven’t used because I don’t have time to go through the hassle of figuring out how to associate it with my account and so on. If it was a 5 minute process then, yep it’d be done. But since I don’t use that software often, it will take a moment to figure it out & I don’t have time with kids sports, etc.
    If I could go somewhere & be able to buy a song in zip time of good sound quality then I’d have a lot more music. Because of priorities with my time, the only new music I get is used CDs from the above mentioned outlets while looking for kid’s clothes & such. In 30 seconds I can insert the “new” CD into my laptop & have the automated process start to back it up on my hard drive (in case the kids scratch my copy, which happens often – been trying for the last year to burn copies off all my CDs for “daily family use”. 10 done & 100 to go!). We use CD’s versus MP3 player because it’s easier for us and also allows me a good degree of control over the content of what my kiddos hear at home.
    A good artist deserves to be paid and I’d have no problem paying full price for an artist I love. There are local artists whose CDs I buy & I’ll tel the person at the table to keep the change because I feel the art is worth more then what they are charging.

    I agree with Kate on #12 our govt (among others) is way too interested in being able to see what we buy. They don’t want transactions to be invisible – even for media content. I thin Paypal is probably the closest we’re gonna get & I am more likely to use a Paypal website since i know I can dispute it easier with them then my credit card if there’s a problem and the process it’s too long.
    Also, as a one time credit card company employee – there’s a lot of mistake that can be made on the back end. & they are a real bugger to get straightened out if the issuer is a big bank. I know people who work for PayPal’s IT and I know their security is up to snuff so it’;s all good. If something better comes along then yeah, I’ll flip over to that. Just my 2 cents.

    PS – the library buys most movies as “public viewing” so the issuer of the media does get adequately compensated. My current desk is right next to someone who buys media for an entire school district so that’s how I know. That said, I do wonder if my own town’s library is violating some obscure RIAA thing by checking out donated movies (that are licensed for private viewing) but I’m sooo not gonna open that can of worms for them because of their limited budget.

  81. Kathryn says:

    I’m a professional software developer, and therefore make my living via intellectual property, so I’m finding this conversation all sorts of interesting.

    Is piracy wrong? Hell, yes. It’s not about scarcity, it’s about value. Is a product I spent my time and energy creating going to add enough value to your life to justify the price tag I chose to affix? If so, pay up; if not, walk away. If you deliberately skirt the protection mechanisms so you don’t have to pay, are you a thief? Absolutely. If my product isn’t worth your time or dime, fine! I’m OK with that. I don’t expect everyone on the Internet to consume my work. However, I expect fair compensation from those that do. It’s how I make my living. It’s people who think they’re somehow entitled to consume everything they find on the Internet at no charge who dissuade good developers from ever publishing their work in the first place, or drive would-be entrepreneurs into corporate servitude. When innovators – be they programmers, musicians, actors, writers, whomever – are afraid to spend time innovating because they’re afraid they won’t be able to feed themselves if they do, we all lose out.

    I agree with Trent’s post. Most of the time, paying for something online involves giving the seller my personal information as well as my cash. Is this an unnecessary invasion of privacy? Absolutely. When I buy online, I want someone’s product. I’m not trying to be their BFF, and I certainly don’t want their spam.

  82. almost there says:

    Piracy is a slippery slope. I roll my eyes at the poster that said it wasn’t stealing but copyright infringement. One doesn’t have to take a physical object to be stealing. If one steals the work of another in any format it is stealing. Next thing the pirates will be littering and then busted to oneday end up on the group “W” bench with the father rapers.

  83. John says:

    I agree with the one poster who said this has been beat to death numerous times over. I pirate for one reason which is to preview it. If I like it I find a way to give the creator money directly. If I don’t like it I delete it. There’s a lot of sub-par stuff produced that I have been burned on after purchasing it retail. If I download an album and like it I’ll go to the artist’s site and they usually have a way to contribute money to them. I’ve even gone to a concert and handed the artist money directly (he was a small indie rapper).

    For software, I use only open source products which are free to download and install. If I like the product the developer always has a way to contribute money.

    While it won’t eliminate piracy I think the world should move to a “pay what you think it’s worth” model, similar to what Radiohead and a couple other artists have done recently. They make their album free to download from their site but give you the opportunity to pay what you think it’s worth. This puts the money directly in the artists hands instead of giving the music labels money, of which the artist gets very little.

  84. Jonathan says:

    Media Piracy is a very complex issue. I suspect that Trent is right regarding the reasons a lot of people choose pirated files over legitimate copies. As the comments show, however, there are also a lot of people who either feel that pirated media is a way of making a statement against a system they disagree with or who disagree with copyright laws and the idea of intellectual property.

    Personally, I believe that media piracy is stealing, and that the ‘reasons’ given for doing it are just excuses for illegal behavior. Having said that, there are some serious issues with the way media companies have reacted to piracy. Media piracy is a symptom or larger issues, which the industry seems to mostly be avoiding. Rather than threatening and filing lawsuits against their customer base and developing technology to prevent piracy they should instead be focusing their resources on addressing the reasons that people pirate media.

    In addition to the issue of convenience that Trent talks about, I think there is also an issue of people not wanting to pay for a product they don’t even know they will enjoy. There are several movies that I have watched in the past using pirated copies because I wasn’t sure if I’d like them or not. The ones I did like, I purchased a legit copy of. In fact, I’m currently in the process of going through a bunch of music I copied from a former co-worker a couple of years ago. I’m just now getting around to listening to any of it. If I like the music, I’ll buy a legitimate copy. If I do not, I’ll delete it. So far I’m found one artist I like enough to buy (I’ve bought one of their other albums as well) and one that is a maybe. Everything else has been deleted. Yes, this is piracy, and yes, my ‘reasons’ are just excuses to justify doing it. I don’t think I’m the only one, however, who would like to see a better method of sampling digital media before buying it. It is getting much easier to do with music, especially with sites like Amazon, but with other media (such as software) it isn’t quite so easy.

    I think there are a lot of situations where it would be a big help to completely remove the publishers/distributors from the process. If more artists were able to sell directly to their consumers they would net more of the profit, while still charging the customer less. Unfortunately, the advertising and marketing is primarily done from the publishers/distributors, and until that changes it is often very difficult for artists to become known to the general public without the middle men.

  85. Mike C says:

    Piracy is what goes on on the coasts of Somalia; it involves people being killed and kidnapped for ransom. Stealing is what a guy with a knife does when he takes your wallet on a dark alley. Copyright infringement is a different thing. It is so different that many countries do not consider private copies illegal. But the copy industry wants to make it look scary so they give it scary names. Soon they will start calling it digital terrorism, or content rape :-)

    But regardless of whether you think it is right or wrong, it is fact. There is no money to be made selling copies. You might as well try to sell air…

    BTW, I am not against copyright or intellectual property, or against content producers getting paid for their job. I do not feel it is right to copy something without the author’s permission. Personally, I do not use P2P because I find Amazon good enough for my needs. But I just find that the rules regarding private copies are arbitrary, and they cannot be enforced.

  86. Des says:

    @ Mike C – Many countries also don’t consider slavery or child prostitution illegal, either. And many people in those countries don’t think there is anything wrong with those acts, just like some people here don’t think stealing content is wrong. Should I go ahead and do those things under the table, too, if I disagree with the laws?

  87. DiscoApu says:

    Just add a 5 sec commercial in front of the song and give it away for free. Change a few words so you have product placement(already being done). Do small venue shows for a low cost and get part of the alcohol sales profit.

  88. imelda says:

    @ Des #44: In what countries are slavery and child prostitution considered okay?

    Also, to play devil’s advocate to Johanna, #5: Not a fan of Robin Hood, are you?

  89. Crystal says:

    Since I don’t know where to find pirated stuff very easily, it’s actually more convenient to just pay for me…yep, I’m that not techy…

  90. Anne says:

    The creation of CCLI was to address the issue of copying of sheet music in churches. Many, if not most, churches purchased some legitimate copies of sheet music and then utilized photocopying for the rest. It was a serious problem particularly with contemporary/new music. Churches don’t have the budgets to allow for purchasing 10 or 20 copies of entire books of music, and individual copies are very spendy. Now there is another choice. We purchase a blanket copyright agreement from CCLI. CCLI in turn pays the artists a fee for their music. I don’t know whether artists get paid based on the popularity of their music or how it is tracked. What I do know is that my church can legitimately and in good conscience use all music that is covered by CCLI. If it’s not covered, the chances are good that we won’t use it because we don’t want to pay for another license fee.

    This is a great model for other industries.

  91. Mike C says:

    #44, Des: In many places in Europe (where, BTW, slavery and child prostitution is illegal; people do not children alive either) it is not illegal to copy music for private use (private use means that you are not making a profit from it).

  92. Brent says:

    For those who referenced how to compensate creators I will present some options that don’t require a copyright.
    Patronage: Collect enough contributors or wealthy enough contributors and it will happen.
    Business Cooperatives: For things that make money. Software, Documents, Designs. Once its made we can all enjoy this new stuff.

    The world of copyright is inherently inefficient. If I designed an algorithm that was proven to be optimal and then patented this algorithm I’m left either charging a price that will net me the most income. But Everyone that cannot afford my algorithm will have to purchase a worse one duplicating effort. We can do better, you just have to think about it differently. I can’t steal an idea only share it. Lets do more sharing so we all can benefit.
    For the record I’m a software engineer who’s talents are contracted to the government to create novel tools.

  93. Stella says:

    Hmm–I tend to think that attributing piracy to laziness is a pretty generous assessment. I think many of them do it because they can. As for laziness–well, it often takes MORE time and effort to pirate something (seeking out a version that’s at least equal in quality to the for sale version, using IP blockers so your piracy can’t be traced, etc.) than it does to just pay for it.

  94. Tom says:

    Ugh… do you people not see what all the ‘scare tactics’ are all about? Big content is trying to lobby your American government into believing that due to ‘piracy’, they lose millions of dollars in revenue. This scare tactic is used because they have lost their ‘grip’ on their precious outdated distribution model, as we all know (in this day and age at least) the internet is far better at reaching more people. However, big content cannot control it, like the way they used to control the sales and distribution of CD’s for example. Remember that? Paying $25 for a CD that cost them less then $3 to make for only one or two songs? They just pilfered you out of money and loved it and there was nothing you could do. Artists for that matter had to go through them to create because back then, there was no other way. But see they can’t do that the way they used to and this bothers them because people now see that they are in fact outdated and no longer needed. Most artists can achieve promotions and music creation themselves. Being able to purchase all this equipment or rent the space very cheaply and thanks to the big FREE distribution model (the internet), they can reach far more people then the record companies could with their ‘radio gigs’ or global concert tours. To big content, this has never been about the artists but about them, and saving their empires. They want to tug on your heart strings to make you think your actually hurting the artist’s bottom line.

    Piracy is what Captain Jack Sparrow does. Copyright infringement is what is ACTUALLY going on and it is certainly not theft. If it was we are all guilty thanks to library’s and photocopy machines. Now, your OPINIONS or how you FEEL about copyright infringement is an entirely different argument. But the fact is, theft is the act if stealing something “physical” that has value, that would give the owner a sense of loss like his car being stolen, or his cell phone. Copyright infringement is the act of taking a COPY… a PERFECT DIGITAL COPY of a piece of work and distributing it usually without artist/author consent. It has no value, it is just a copy. Like me hitting the print button on this article 100 times and giving it out to 100 people. Its two TOTALLY different things. The scare tactics big content uses on people that don’t know any better is appalling, disgusting and should be (in my opinion) illegal. I can’t wait until they finally crash and burn so we can all get real music for a change.

  95. SLCCOM says:

    Does anyone besides me notice that “Mike C” and “Henry” seem to have the same rip-everyone-off philosophy?

  96. Teresa says:

    While I truly admire your trust and faith in the human race, I do not believe people pirate (or steal) because it is easier. They do it because they can. Your “Humble Indie Bundle” example prooves this.

    People pirate music, games, etc. because most people (not all) will steal(or take things, if you like that better) if given the opportunity, especially if there is little to no likelyhood of being caught or of there being any kind of repercussion. I am also willing to bet that half of the people here who say they wouldn’t…do, or have, but have justified it in someway (it was just this one small thing…etc.)

    Sorry…I usually wear rose colored glasses too….but not this time.

  97. Bill says:

    #26 said it, this is not piracy or stealing it is copy right infringement and it is not illegal. You can not be arrested or put in jail. You can only get in trouble for uploading and even that is a civil offense.

    That indie game pack cleared over $1 million recently and was a considered a great success.

  98. Amar says:


    The following website gives out free Microsoft software to students and Teacher. https://www.dreamspark.com/default.aspx There is no need to support piracy. It is the hard work of many people who create software. Please respect their hardwork.

  99. Mike C says:

    #53, what do you mean “rip-everyone-off”? And who is Henry? I am not ripping anybody…

  100. Bill in NC says:

    The cheaper and easier you make it to get your content legitimately, the more will be willing to buy.

    I buy a lot more TV shows via Amazon Unbox, downloaded to my Tivo, than I ever did on DVDs.
    (I can buy a few shows instead of being forced to buy a whole season)

    I rent a lot more DVDs via Redbox for $1 than I ever would from Blockbuster (the latter is more expensive with fewer locations)

  101. Laura says:

    I feel pretty strongly about this issue when it comes to textbooks – I absolutely hate carrying heavy paper textbooks around to study. It’s hard on my back, it pinches my shoulders, etc – even with a very good backpack. I prefer to use electronic books. The problem is, publishers of medical textbooks have made it very difficult if not impossible to buy e-books of their texts – you can pay for a temporary membership to use the book online (for the price of buying the actual book and having it forever) or you can download the book illegally. I would be more than happy to pay to have a permanent electronic copy of these textbooks – it’s not the money, it’s the pain in the ass of having to carry real books. Unfortunately I haven’t yet found a way to get this resource legitimately, and so I often end up getting it from torrent download sites. How foolish is it of the publishers to ignore this market?

  102. RE Ramcharan says:

    Slavery is still legal in Mauretania, as it is in most of the Muslim world. And one reason many countries are lax about enforcing international copyright conventions is that their local elites are making a ton of money from pirated copies of entertainment content being made by their citizens and smuggled into the developed world where they can be bought be people who don’t care about the legality of what they’re doing.

  103. RE Ramcharan says:

    Incidentally, has anyone noticed how many of the artists who complain about copyright infringement like to lecture people on inequality of wealth, social justice and so on? Obviously, when it comes to somebody taking their money, it’s suddenly a different story, but what puzzles me is the disconnect between what they say in their songs and how surprised and upset they get when their fans actually do what they say.

  104. Tyler Fulton says:

    Folks, I apologize if someone has already posted this information. Currently there is a way to fund paypal without giving any personal information out other than the basic name and address stuff. That is greendot moneypacks available at a number of retailers. I have not done a cost analysis so I cant give any more information than it is possible. Hope this helps.

  105. I remember years ago, having to pay $20+ for a CD of an artists music, and one or two songs were good. the rest stunk. Anyone ever do that? You could not return it. Basically, you bought a product that was bad. No one complained about that, speaking up for the consumer I mean. That is why I love the itunes store. I can buy just the songs I want and know I like. .99 cents. No more wasting money. I like knowing when I pay the .99 cents, someone is getting paid for their hard work. I don’t work for free, no one else should either. Piracy means you are stealing money from someones pocket.

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