Letter from a pirate

Dear the makers of music, film and software that I’ve pirated.

I and so many of us regularly visit websites that allow us to share your content, free of charge.

I have no illusions of entitlement, because from the small point of view- the creator’s and to a certain extent the publisher’s, every copy pirated is a bit of profit lost. If you create good content, you deserve to be compensated, that is certain. You do it for a living, and you deserve to live.

But what about the poor sap who worked minimum wage, living cheap and saving up cash for months on end, finally able to afford a low end computer and an internet connection only to find that he couldn’t do a thing on it and the only alternative was buggy alpha open source crap developed by enthusiasts?

You might look at me, and say I have no excuse for piracy. After all, I’m middle class, I have decent tech gear, roof over my head, air-con in the summer and airline tickets when I want to go places, I should be able to afford a little digital content. But I can’t, since I don’t have to. I have so many better places to spend that money. Besides, even if I tried, I would only be able to afford some digital content, certainly not all of it. Without giving away much, I would say that $10000 is a rough but conservative estimate of my piracy content consumption over the past year (at retail pricing). I can’t afford that, not on my allowance.

Do I feel guilty for piracy? A little. But only a little, because I rest my conscience on the fact that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, and that while piracy for you is $5 less income, for me – and the tons of pirates like me – it is that and so much more.

And I like that unlike TV, I can watch shows without wasting cumulative hours of my life on long drawn out advertisements. I like that without DRM, I can listen, watch and do software whenever and on whatever, without the artificial restrictions accompanying it. I like that with the (illegal) reverse engineering, I can make the most out of software. I like that with “free” music, I can inconsequentially but fully explore different genres and artists whom I would otherwise had never got the chance to hear. I like that I can judge software without the cost in mind interfering and causing me to choose an inferior product because it is cheaper. I hate that piracy is even a thing. I hate that piracy is called piracy when its really copying – copying is not a euphemism, rather piracy is a dysphemism, and an inaccurate one at that.

The world is changing. You used to work for your books because you had to, and now you don’t have to and it’s a good thing, it’s progression in society. The devaluing of knowledge is a good thing, you can only not afford knowledge when knowledge costs something (yikes to my $80 textbooks).

What the RIAA’s estimates of the billions of dollars of debt pirates owe is not an estimate of how much music lost, but how much music the people of the world gained through piracy. Because of piracy, there is equality in cyberspace as rich and poor alike can listen to the same music, enjoy the same films, do the same work, and play the same games – through piracy, billions of dollars of education, of knowledge, of tools, of entertainment and happiness, and even truth is created. Each copy is meaningfulness and enlightenment that comes into existence out of sheer nothing. Sure you lose some profit – maybe not even a small sum of it, but that’s a small price to pay for a big benefit to humanity, to everyone that is gaining through your content.

And although they lack the resources to pay for your content in cash, they could repay you in other ways – through publicity, through criticism and feedback, through loyalty and gratitude that you made such a wonderful content to enrich their lives that cost neither you nor them a damned thing.

Dear the makers of music, film and software. Please be assured that the copying will continue. Please also be assured that we will adapt to this new ecosystem, someone will come up with better alternatives to the many existing ways in which the users can get software free while the producers get paid.

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