Piracy: Not Always on the High Seas

Posted: February 9, 2013 in Uncategorized
pirate flag

Image courtesy RAWKU5. Retrieved from http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1053085

Another week where the readings have stimulated new thinking, discussing and analyzing. We were charged with reading and viewing discourse surrounding the issue of online file sharing and intellectual copyright infringement and then discussing our stance. We have also been charged with new learning in the form of a podcast using a citation from one of our weekly readings. I chose Under the Pixelated J0lly Roger: A Study of On-Line Pirates. (2012). Deviant Behaviour 34 (1), 53-67. doi.org/10.1080/01639625.2012.707536

As I explained in the podcast, this quote resonated because of its approach to sharing of online files contrasted to the sale of other types of commodities. Is there a correlation and should there be going forward?

Excerpt passage: para 3, p. 57


For those of you so inclined, here is a PDF version of this week’s blog. Blog Post 6 – Podcast

  1. raymondsg says:

    Great podcast. You bring up an interesting point with the Nirvana Theory. I have heard of that theory before and I think it is very appropriate for the topic this week. I agree that not everyone wins in certain exchanges over the internet. When individuals torrent a program such as Microsoft Office, that transaction is completely one sided. The individual who downloaded will reap all the benefits but what does Microsoft get from that? Well, nothing significant I would say. Greater exposure? I don’t know. Importantly, there is no money in return for that company, which is fairly important, if not the most important. If you add that up, it does become a problem for Microsoft and they must do something about it. Moreover, it is crucial to show appreciation for the property and work of another. I am fairly ethical as well and I believe that work with the intention of making a profit should be compensated appropriately. Now, this brings up the question of how we can effectively compensate for the work of these artists. You referenced Mr. Lessig’s blog and I think these suggestions are appropriate methods. However, this issue is similar to the topic middlemen you brought up. Someone has to be facilitating these operations. In addition, these facilitators have to be compensated somehow for what they are doing. This might come as a salary or even a cut in the sale, which is adding more costs to the process. The amount that the artist will ultimately receive might not be substantial to make an impact. However, it is something and its definitely better than nothing.

    • afcallaghan says:

      Thanks very much for the feedback! I think that your point regarding software applications like Microsoft is very well taken. I was considering my perspectives mostly as they relate to music and literature. I completely agree that everyone in the distribution channel needs to make money. I am just unsure of the amount of time that this should include. As I stated, I have purchased some of my music – 4-5 times over the course of my life. At this point, should the middleman have been adequately compensated already?

      It is a difficult question for sure!

  2. ruty224 says:

    I guess where this leaves me is I love how you brought up the Nirvana Theory, I found that very interesting. I also give you praise that you pay for your music on Itunes, I know that many people do not. I will say though, I disagree in some sense that downloading illegally takes money away from people. If we look at McCourt’s article it explains how the Big 5 are the ones who profit over copyright and not the artists. These Big 5 are often paying its workers a decent wage but I am sure they are not giving their workers all the big profits from copyright and rights to music. This again keeps money to the big guys and takes money away from the artists and the workers who work for the big music companies. But I assume its just like selling other goods isn’t it? The big people profit while the workers do not…This topic definitely frustrates me because its not even artists that sue their fans but the people who “own” the artist.

    • afcallaghan says:

      Thanks for your comments! Interesting point regarding the lawsuits against those who download. I would guess that the organizations suing are doing so on behalf of their artists, but I am not sure if that is in fact correct. The case that we saw regarding the indie band who took on the distribution of their work within their own geographic area was good (Okinawa, I think), in that it showed that people will pay for what they value – not every artist though, will have the time or the ability to try the same process.

  3. I really appreciate hearing what you have to say on this issue, because it is impossible to look at the issue through the eyes (and ears!) of someone who grew up in a different time. I know from talking to my parents that buying vinyl albums was a very special occasion and students used their part-time job money to purchase beloved tunes. They expressed exasperation when the VCR became outdated, and all our home-movies were no longer playable until my brother made it a project to convert everything to DVD. And all of us know that DVD technology will be obsolete any day now for the digital file sharing technologies that have been forced into education systems and the workplace. I admit I feel a bit safer as someone who downloads music in Canada as opposed to the USA. I grew up feeling that anything I did as a Canadian had no impact on the vast country south of the border. I agree about Lessig’s suggestion for compensation based upon usage frequency. As an artist, I would feel like covers of my music would be a big compliment. As I mentioned in my podcast too, we must think about music itself and why we care so much about it. Though numbers and statistics tell us otherwise- that the industry is rich and cold- we can at least guide our own actions based upon our respect for the creative artists.

    • afcallaghan says:

      Thanks for your comments – I am with your parents and their frustration with technological obsolescence! At least when we were younger there was a longer shelf life for most things. Now, on the day that you purchase something, there is already a newer and more technologically advanced model in the pipeline.

      I am not sure that there is an easy answer to this issue. I agree with Lessig though, that criminalizing everyone who engages in these kinds of activities is not going to work over the long term.

  4. sarajnewman says:

    I have really enjoyed this blog, it looks at many aspects of the global market and how in essence many artists are now making double or quadruple what the would’ve made if technology did not keep advancing. This was an issue I had not thought of until reading this blog. Due to the advancements in technology an individual like this blogger has had to pay for the same song three times! When does compensation for the same piece of work end? I too believe that the artists need to be remunerated for their work and with better legislation and stricter rules it may allow other upcoming artists to turn a profit from their work. Another valid point in her discussion was many books and music may not make it to the big conglomerates websites leaving us with no other options but to buy the hard copy or download it illegally. As a younger individual we like to have the most up to date media and the only way to have the latest things is to download it illegally because most of the media will be leaked before it is even available to buy, leaving individuals to believe that once it is available for purchase it has now become old content. I believe if digital information did not get leaked out, people in society would be more willing to pay for the media because it would be the latest content.

    • afcallaghan says:

      Thanks for your comments! How do you think that we can manage this in the long run? It seems to be an almost impossible task as many of us have noted – even if we do not download everything, we are all downloading some – so where to we attempt the stop and start?

  5. sperrier686 says:

    I found your podcast quite interesting, especially considering you utilized the same passage from “Under the Pixelated Jolly Roger: A Study of On-Line Pirates” as I did. Although my sense of morality may be slightly different than yours, as I will admit the vast majority of my music collection is pirated and I really have no intention of changing this anytime soon, I share the majority of the viewpoints you have outlined in your podcast. While this may be very hypocritical of me, I appreciate the logic and ethics of paying for music, I just can’t justify it when my money could be spent elsewhere. I completely agree that people should be able to make a fair living based on their work product. I also agree with your views on the Internet Nirvana Theory, in that it’s just a theory. It is inherently obvious that not everybody is a winner, especially when it comes to downloading music.

    • afcallaghan says:

      I appreciate your honesty! How would you see this could work to be mutually beneficial though? If artists can’t get paid reasonably well, do you see that creative efforts might ultimately be limited as their will be no real incentive to continue to create original product? (I also find the quality of some of the downloaded music suspect).

      It is a definitely a difficult issue.

  6. Hey Ann – first off, there is a cultured air of professionalism to this post that I sincerely appreciate. Well done.

    Your sentiments toward the artistic creators in society seemingly should be met with high praise; however, in today’s world, the idea of producers being appropriately remunerated for their efforts under all circumstances is not tenable.

    I agree that, yes, the nirvana theory is incorrect, and that those who produce and are not compensated suffer relative to consumers who net all of the surplus. Yet, this is an absolute truth of these (music, movies, etc.) industries, and because of that, we must maximize total gain in society.

    In order to do this, the current practices of piracy and illegal downloading must continue.

    P.S. I cannot recall if you addressed it in your podcast, but purchasing one, two, or even three forms of the same product and then illegally downloading a fourth means that you are one of us – sorry ;).

    • afcallaghan says:

      Hi Mike – oh yes, I am one of you for sure, but I have a hard time reconciling myself to downloading everything, so I pay for a lot (more in books than music now). And because of the cloud it is easier for us to share music in the house – if one has a track that I like (which interestingly enough happens sometimes!). I fear though that concert sales will not be enough for some acts to make money – so how does creativity get rewarded? I agree with Lessig in that the current aim to slap copyright on everything is not working – doesn’t make sense and has the potential to choke SOME creative avenues – remix, mashups etc. but what about original new work?

      It is ironic – vinyl is back – so we got a turntable (that converts music to MP3’s) and in order to try it we had to buy vinyl records again (that once wehad given or thrown away).

  7. Interesting perspective on the issue of piracy, and quite refreshing since most of the other podcasts I have listened too seem to address the beneficial aspects of file sharing. The question that you raised regarding if there is a time when producers of cultural content should cease to reap the benefits of their creation really appealed to me. It made me think of the Copyright Term Extension Act, or the way I was taught about it the Mickey Mouse Protection Act, and how large corporations, such as Disney, have significant influence on the legislation begin copyright laws and acts. Although the character was created in 1928 and was subject to losing its copyright, the Copyright Term Extension Act ensured it remains under copyright for longer than it should have initially been. As a result, Disney continues to make a considerable amount of money off of the character. Although the case for music and the recording industry is a bit different, the same logic could still be applied and the music industry’s producers could significantly influence copyright acts and legislation to ensure they continue to reap the benefits of their creative property, which, depending on what lens you perceive it through, good be beneficial or detrimental.

    • afcallaghan says:

      Thanks for replying to my podcast! Your comments are very interesting – and the Disney case is the one that is revisited over and over. I think that the intent of copyright protection was to ensure that a product’s creator could reap the initial benefit of the invention/cultural product etc. However, I do think that this cannot be in perpetuity – there needs to be a point at which works enter the public domain and are fair game for others to use as a creative platform. I have found it interesting how many believe that downloading OK under any and all circumstances – and I totally appreciate the sentiment and the reasons why – haven’t we all downloaded all manner of stuff?

      It is quite a contentious topic and one on which even legal and cultural experts cannot agree. What are your thoughts around copyright renewal?

  8. ak09dr says:

    Great Podcast! I found it very interesting to listen to your thoughts on the ever-changing behaviour of technology. I share the same opinion with you, when you speak to your behaviour and justification when it comes to downloading material (music and ebooks). You have purchased multiple formats of your favourite pieces of music/ ebooks, multiple times in order to retain the ability to utilize the material in today’s current devices. I share the same behaviour. When a movie on VHS has become unreadable by my VHS player, I look for avenues to replace it. When replacing some of these videos, I turn to downloading them illegally as they are not available in DVD format to be bought legitimately. You state that in the category of Denial of Injury that you are not hurting anyone and the small amount you take is not noticeable. I felt the exact same way however through this module I have learned to understand that if I download one song illegally that originally costs $1.25 in iTunes, and I become one of a million who download just one song, the artists, producers and carriers of that song loose, $1,250,000. How do you feel about this? After downloading only a few items illegally to replace the items you have previously purchased, in turn saving money that you would have originally spent on replacing these items, are you tempted to purchase new music illegally to save the money for other uses?

    • afcallaghan says:

      Thanks for your comments! I appreciate them. Well you have asked a great question. Where does my temptation stop and start – and is it a convenience thing where I can turn my “morality” on and off? (probably a bit).

      I have asked a number of others this question this week as I have been reading and listening to our classmates. I would say that quite honestly, I buy all of my books (in part since I find the quality of many of the downloads quite poor), but also to ensure that I continue to get quality books for a long time to come. I really think that we need a balance – if we do not compensate artists, we will not get a continual stream of good quality product.

      If the music is new then I normally buy on iTunes (sometimes older tunes too, but these are not always available). If you look at the comment below, I referenced the time frame. There is a piece of me that feels that the Beatles tunes that I bought 40 years ago should perhaps now be MUCH cheaper, or indeed, free.

  9. carlyemoore says:

    I have had the same experience when you say that you used to download music when you were younger and now use iTunes to purchase music. My reason for the change was mostly due to the amount of viruses my computer received from downloading music. You also make an interesting comment on how the prices of eBooks are higher than they should be compared to purchasing at Indigo. One reason may be for convenience purposes. For example, Esso gas stations price their gas higher than competitors because they offer a one-stop shop experience; so that consumers can buy items they need as well as gas. I also like your comparison on the music industry versus selling your home, and the fact that people should not be compensated years after their work has come out. I have to both agree and disagree on this statement, as I feel ownership rights can depend on the type of industry you are in. Even though I enjoy remixes of songs, I also appreciate originality and hearing a new song and beat. Both can create great songs which brings me to a cross roads as it takes creativity for both!

    • afcallaghan says:

      Hi – thanks for your comments! I think that you have hit the nail on the head when you mention the crossroads where the industry and consumers currently find themselves. That seemed to be the thrust of all of our readings this module, and if expert industry watchers cannot come to some sort of consensus as to what can/should/needs to be done, then we all need quite a bit more dialogue to move this forward.

  10. Ayo says:

    I enjoyed listening to your podcast, I especially liked your honesty as to how you have p2p file sharing tools. Although I must say it seems to me that the degree at which you have used such tools is far more mindful than some of us. I on the other hand have been far less mindful to the way use p2p file-sharing. It is interesting how little I thought about the impact of such tools, they seem to have become part of the internet culture; to such an extent that some individuals think you to be crazy to purchase certain software’s or media (music and movies). I must say though that I am not so naive to believe that stealing isn’t wrong and like you said Internet piracy is not ok. On the other hand I don’t believe there is anything wrong with sharing. Unfortunately though the internet gives individuals the capability to take sharing beyond those that one may know to those one may never know.

    • afcallaghan says:

      Hi there – thanks for commenting on my podcast. I agree that most of us justify to ourselves that some level of sharing is OK – most either do it or have done it to a greater or lesser extent.

      Do you think that we run the risk of stopping new, original and creative work if artists/producers no longer have any incentive to create? That is the extreme view I am sure, but I think that this is why we are feeling the effects of so many copyright restrictions.

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