Sunday, December 11, 2011

Piracy Is Not Theft

Before we get started let me just say that I am not consciously taking any sides in this debate.

I would just like to highlight an oft quoted misconception that piracy is theft/stealing. Piracy is not theft. Period. In the same way an orange is not a pomelo. Piracy is piracy. Im not saying it's right or wrong, but it is definitely not theft.

So what exactly is piracy? Well, the image below is pirated. I did not create that image. I copied it off google images that in turn sourced it from a blog that in turn sourced it from a website that in turn relied on users uploading to imgur (a photo hosting site). I have no idea who the author/creator of the image was despite trying pretty hard to find the source. And in reality the person who made the demotivational poster is unlikely to be the one who drew the illustrations anyway. So many levels deep...inception!

(full article w video and links after the jump)
Is piracy ok? By definition, no. Because it still decreases the value of the original work. So someone copied your car. Imagine if everyone does that. Your car becomes worthless after awhile as the market is flooded with copies.

That said, music piracy is another issue all together. Artists (musicians, singers) have always wanted consumers to listen to their music. Heck, radio gets paid to broadcast songs. Artists have also embraced having their works disseminated over the internet via sites like youtube. VEVO streams HD videos of many popular songs. We're talking completely legitimate 152kbps AAC audio for free. People who spend under $AU1000 for their audio setup generally cant distinguish 152kbps AAC with the original CD recording. It's that good.

Artists make money from their songs being popular. While it's true that some profits come from record sales (which are dwindling due to the explosion in online sales eg iTunes), most artists make the bulk of their revenue from live performances, licensing (eg. songs for commercials), and product endorsements (beats by Dre anyone?). Artists do not make much from CD's sold at music stores! They only get $0.30 to $0.70 for each ~$20 CD you purchase! If you are buying a CD, you are supporting large corporations and music labels... not the artists themselves! Want to support your favourite artist? Buy CD's/downloads direct from them online if possible... or go for their concerts/gigs.


So why is the RIAA shitting bricks over songs shared online? Well it's simple. They get their profits from record/CD sales. Which for all intents and purposes is a dying medium for music in the 21st century.

What do I mean? Well, go to and search for whatever song or artist you like. That is what the RIAA is up against. Ironically, most music you will find from there are inferior (128-192kbps mp3) in quality to the perfectly legitimate youtube videos carrying high quality 152kbps AAC sound. 

It's good to see artists embracing technology as another medium and moving on. The future is going to involve the lowering of prices, with a much higher cut going directly to the artist. For a great example of how this works, check out Lakefield, an indie band from Canada. They literally let you pay as much as you think their music is worth to download directly from them. Most people will pay more than $1... which is more than they could ever hope to get from a music label selling their album.

Imagine paying $5 for an album directly purchased from an artist. That's pure profit in the hands of the artist, as opposed to the $0.50 that goes to the artist when you spend up $30 at the music store.

Recording music used to be terribly expensive and necessitated financial assistance from music labels... but not anymore. With a minimal budget, you could record top quality sound from your mum's basement. Audacity is free. Production quality sound recording equipment is not cheap, but not nearly as expensive as it used to be. A capable setup can be had for under $5000. Here's an example:

Stay tuned =)
In the future we will talk about piracy in games.


  1. While you're at it, we can start calling it copyright infringement instead.

  2. i'll address that in another post.

    Where do you draw the line with so called "copyright infringement"?

    If a song is freely available over youtube (legal, licensed via VEVO), is it then alright to play it on your phone? Or cache it in local memory so you dont have to waste bandwidth everytime you listen to it? Or why not just download it to your desktop and watch whenever you like (it's easy to do). Is that copyright infringement? It technically is. Will you ever get caught for it? Probably never. It's going to be difficult to impossible to prove that your doing so for personal use (not sale) caused loss to the owner of copyright. Even if it did, it would be minimal and they are not going to hire lawyers and pursue charges... Just like if you had recorded a mix-tape of FM radio and given it to your girlfriend who happened to be the daughter of some executive from the RIAA :p

    There was a time when the music industry was up in arms against the bootlegging of songs played over radio.

    They now pay radio stations to broadcast their songs.