As a fledgling content creator and future ebook author, I think it’s appropriate to discuss my position on piracy.
I don’t think digital piracy is evil, but it’s not exactly right either. It’s true that if you pirate something, you’re taking something an artist has worked hard on for free, and there’s an element of theft in that, or at least unfairness. You’re not depriving anyone else of their copy though, as would be the case if a physical copy was stolen. So it’s not as bad.
More to the point, I don’t think piracy hurts most content creators. Piracy only hurts a creator’s bottom line if the pirate would have bought a copy otherwise, and most of the time I don’t think pirates would have ponied up the money no matter what.
There’s also the matter of marketing, or more specifically word-of-mouth, which is an area where pirates actually help a creator’s business. The more people reading/watching/playing their creation, the more word will spread, and the greater the chance they’ll be found by more paying customers.
But there’s another thing to keep in mind: in a capitalist system, you vote with your wallet. If something great is made but no one pays for it, its creator won’t make more of that great thing. That idea will effectively be voted out of its office. That’s fine if it was crap, but if it was great and you enjoyed it, that’s very sad indeed.
So here’s my official position on piracy:
- If you like a story, author, movie, video game, idea, or whatever, you ought to pay for it. That’s you voting for more things like that to exist in the world, and for those making them to keep doing so. That’s how you get more of what you like, and how people like me can quit our crappy 9-5 jobs and create all the time.
- However, if you can’t pay for a work – or for whatever reason, won’t – and you feel compelled to pirate it, I think it’s your duty to spread the word about it (assuming you end up enjoying it, of course). If you can’t become a customer, you should become part of the creator’s unofficial marketing team and help them find more paying customers to make up for the money you deprived them of. It’s not the same, and the first option is always preferable – or if you really enjoyed it, both – but it’s better than quietly stealing and never telling a soul.
If you want to see more of something in the world, vote with your money, but if for whatever reason you can’t, spend your time. I really don’t think piracy hurts most businesses though, so I won’t be spending any more time thinking about it for my own. I’ll just try to create great stories for all of you to read, and then I’ll trust you to take care of me from there.