The Piracy Question

The a couple of weeks ago, I wrote on app.net:

When I find out people I know and respect pirate media, my respect for them is tarnished. Forever.

I’m not sure what brought it on. I guess it was the fact that I was on my way to the movies, the first time in a while, and my mind drifted to the preview of someone’s Statusboard widget that showed their Transmission progress. The window showed movies, recently released, in their download state. The person who posted it was someone who I respected his thoughts, followed his blog and his postings on various services. But knowing that he is pirating movies has left a bad taste in my mouth.

Did I download music during college? Yes (Napster and Gnutella). Did I download movies after college ? Yes (BitTorrent). Did I pirate software? Yes.

When I was in college I was all for taking down “the man”, get the content without paying for it.

Do I feel bad about all of this? Yes.

I am not a fan of the megaliths that produce most of our movies and music, I think they are backward looking and protectionist. They do not understand how I want to consume my content, they want to monetize every listen of music and every view of their show or movie. They want to wrap their content in poorly designed, horribly crippling rights management cryptography. They screw up at every turn.

But now, even with as bad as media companies bungle delivering their content, I can’t stand people who pirate. This is going to put me at odds with some people that I consider good friends.

I am not sure when I changed my mind on piracy.

Part of this shift in my thinking has to do with the fact that I pay for all my content since ditching cable and broadcast TV. Having to pick and choose what I watch has made me more discerning in what I consume. If I think a movie is going to be crap, I won’t even waste the time trying to download it.

I guess turning 30 made me more generous. I support more independent writers, and just donated to This American Life. None of this is bad, there is so much great content to support.

(adn: 4902448)

Another part is being closer to the creators of content. I have been following Patrick Rhone, Shawn Blanc, Marco Arment and other small, independent business owners and while the media corporations aren’t these people, I would never think about pirating content from these people. I am willing to pay for a quality product, so why should I pirate from the big corporations?

The last angle that has changed my thoughts on piracy is me having kids. This is a twofer. I am trying hard to raise kids who are upstanding members of society and as part of that I know eventually there will come a hard conversation about stealing. I remember an incident involving me and my sister destroying a fence attached to an abandoned house. While not stealing, I felt ashamed of what I did and learned hard that my actions cost someone else money, when my parents wisely forced me to repay the property owner to get the fence repaired. How can I tell my kids it is wrong to steal, if I am getting content without paying for it?

The other part of the kids issue is that I work hard to provide for them. While the movie industry attempted to convey this by showing preroll ads in theaters showing sound engineers, set designers and other people involved in the moves talking about piracy and their pay, having kids makes that ad so much more real. I work hard. I would hate to have someone cutting into my income because they didn’t think that my work was valuable enough to pay for.

Like I said, this might put me at odds with some people that I consider friends, but this is how I feel, I can’t change it, so I guess this is what my grandfather would refer to as a conviction.