Assorted Contradictory Thoughts on Media Piracy

Otaku Journalist has been running a series on anime piracy lately, and it’s gotten me thinking.

I am fairly confident the following are all true:

  • People have a fundamental right to participate in their culture, which necessarily means they need access to cultural products.
  • Radio chased folk culture into an alley and murdered it a century ago, replacing it almost entirely with commercial mass media. The Internet has revived a zombie version of folk culture in the form of fandoms, but even fandoms have a commercial product at the core.
  • The relationship between industry (any industry) and consumers is a predator-prey relationship. The industry wants your money, and uses products as bait to get it. They will take as much as they can get away with, and care nothing about you or the products except as a source of money.
  • The previous point applies to an industry (or a corporation within that industry) as a gestalt entity. The motivations of the people working in the industry vary; many actually do care about their customers or creating quality products.
  • Generally speaking, people should be rewarded for their labor.
  • We as a culture undervalue creative work severely. We have come to expect that content will be free, and thus it is increasingly common that writers and artists are expected to work for the privilege of having their work published, as opposed to actually getting paid. (A growing number of news sites, for example, from fan-news sites like The Mary Sue to major general-audience national sites like Huffington Post and USA Today (web edition only), do not pay their writers.) This is unsustainable.
  • Physical media (books, tapes, DVDs, etc.) are rivalrous and excludable, i.e. private goods. Digital distribution is non-rivalrous and most non-excludable, i.e. a public good. Generally, governments are significantly better at managing public goods than private enterprises are.
  • The idea of handing management of the arts over to the government is fundamentally horrifying.
  • Most people who say they use piracy solely as a way to sample media, and buy the shows they enjoy once they become commercially available, are lying most of the time.

Conclusion: Piracy is a convoluted mess where everyone on all sides is both right and wrong, and there doesn’t really seem to be a solution.

6 thoughts on “Assorted Contradictory Thoughts on Media Piracy

  1. Most people who say they use piracy solely as a way to sample media, and buy the shows they enjoy once they become commercially available, are lying most of the time.

    This. So much this.

    If, hypothetically, I ever downloaded anything illegally, it would only be stuff that I've already bought and merely want to view on my own system setups. For instance, I'm subscribed to the MLP comic series on Comixology, but Comixology's interface sucks on a rusty fire hydrant AND it keeps refusing to load further pages AND you can't download them, so I (might hypothetically) download the PDFs just to have them in a readable format.

    (speaking of stupid DRM systems, this is why I only buy stuff on iTunes in SD rather than HD… I have an ancient TV, and iTunes starts whining when I hook up my laptop to it and try to play anything in HD)

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  2. I pirate Game of Thrones, because I don't have HBO, never plan to get HBO, and need my fix.

    And the day the Blu-Rays go on sale, I buy them. HBO seems aware that people like me exist, and go out of their way to make us happy. Which is why GoT sets both piracy AND sales records. That's a “true win-win” scenario.

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  3. Do you pirate anything else? Do you eventually buy everything you pirate?

    Because I might be persuadable that there's a few rare and saintly people who actually buy everything or almost everything they pirate. It would take quite a lot of solid data, however, to convince me that such people are common, let alone a majority of people who pirate. There's just too much economic incentive to “forget” to buy the shows when they come out, or make excuses, or just plain not have the money…

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  4. With the advent of streaming, the need for me to pirate anything sorta went away. Between Youtube, various streaming anime sites, and On Demand, everything I watch (which isn't a whole lot) is there for free. I only grab GoT because I don't have HBO.

    Oh, and I did download Kill la Kill so I could make video clips and screens for my panel, but that falls under the education clause of IP law.

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  5. When I download something, they fall into one of two categories:

    1) Something I've already bought. In the case of videos, it is for the convenience of being able to watch the things I've bought without having to go grab discs, it especially helps when traveling.

    2) It's something that you can't buy any more, if you could even buy it in the first place. This one is simple, If they're not selling it, I can't buy it now can I?

    On that note, does anyone know where I can buy the G1 MLP DVD set and not have it cost over 100 dollars?

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  6. “Most people who say they use piracy solely as a way to sample media, and buy the shows they enjoy once they become commercially available, are lying most of the time.”

    I generally agree, but there's a related idea that I do think is pretty accurate. It might be stated as: “If forced to choose, most people would just live without most of the things they pirate rather than pay the MSRP.”

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