We often hear excuses justifying piracy. The fact is that there is no reason that someone should steal the creative work of another person – whether online or in the real world. Here are a few of the justifications that have become conventional wisdom:
“It is okay for me to pirate because I am stealing from big corporations – they make a ton of money and are charging too much for their content.”
The truth is that all companies that create content – regardless of size – provide jobs for many people. The more that these companies are impacted by piracy, the fewer jobs they can provide. This means fewer opportunities for young people in creative fields – and fewer jobs in the creative communities available to the next generation. Piracy hurts aspiring and emerging creatives most of all.
“Piracy is a victimless crime and my one download or torrent will hardly matter.”
It is difficult to see how our individual actions can have large-scale effects, but the aggregate of millions of individuals visiting pirate websites undermines the entire creative economy. When you buy a book, movie ticket, concert ticket, album, or television show, you are supporting all of the people who created it. You are helping to ensure that those artists can create other works for your enjoyment.
On low-budget films, the lost revenues caused by piracy can be the difference between breaking even and losing money. Any profits directly benefit the people who made these films. For many crew members, they rely on income that they receive after the film is released to audiences – from “downstream revenues” such as sales to cable television networks, video on demand, and streaming services like Disney+. These secondary sources of income, or residuals, are the lifeblood for crews and actors everywhere. And for most actors, residuals often account for a significant percentage of their yearly earnings. For actors and crew members alike, residuals serve as an important buffer from the project-based nature of creative work. Residuals also fund their unions’ health, welfare, and pension benefits.
Similarly, musicians often rely on regular compensation from streaming services such as Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, and others. Without audiences listening or watching content legitimately, this compensation disappears.
We want to encourage the next Ava Duvernay, J.K. Rowling, or Questlove to dream and innovate without the fear of living in poverty.
“Piracy actually helps drive sales by getting the word out.”
Piracy only helps spread the word that the film, television show, song, or book is available for free. What is word of mouth worth if audiences are not legitimately purchasing content so that the people who created the work can be fairly compensated?
Even if a filmmaker or singer were able to leverage a highly popular pirated movie or song to get funding for their next project that does nothing for all of the people who worked behind the scenes for little or no compensation on the original.
The bottom line is: We need to make the right choices in consuming entertainment so that we support creative people. That means using legitimate platforms where you pay for content. For companies who fund the creation of a film or song, payments from legitimate platforms allows them to market and promote the work, fairly compensate everyone who created it, and continue to compensate individual creatives. And, then invest in making more entertainment.
“People pirate because the content is not available legally.”
The film and television industry has made tremendous strides in providing audiences with content where, when, and how they want it. Currently, there are 480 legitimate sources for film and TV content globally, with 120 in the United States alone.
In fact, the largest increase in pirate activity actually occurs when a movie, television show, or book is first made available for legal digital rental or purchase. And while millions and millions of songs are available on services like Spotify and Pandora and Apple Music, music piracy persists.
Most importantly, just because something isn’t available to purchase does not mean it is okay to steal it! We should follow the same rules online as we do in the real world.