Yesterday, K.Mandla blogged about the abysmal, dastardly (my words) pirating of the Humble Indie Bundle, stating to pirates everywhere,
Any legitimacy or rationalization or sense of nobility you might claim by illegally downloading software or movies or music completely evaporated with the Humble Indie Bundle.
Because in spite of the price, which was conceivably as low as one U.S. cent, and in spite of the option to donate all of that one cent to charity and leave the developers with nothing, some people still stole it. . . .
You’re not Robin Hood, you’re not a closet-dwelling anarchist or a technophiliac revolutionary any more. You’re a thief.
You can give me any sob story you like: I have five kids to feed. I am homeless and vagrant. I am saving my money for college. I’m saving the developer’s bandwidth by using an illegitimate torrent. The sun was in my eyes.
Nonsense. All you’ve done is prove that your motive isn’t revolutionary, that you aren’t a technophiliac anarchist, and there’s no nobility or sense of insurgency involved in your pirating. And if you would stoop to steal a penny from a charity, then your motives in every other case are equally clear.
You’re just a thief.
While I completely agree that those who pirated this software are total fools and are in desperate need of a karmic backlash (again, my words) for helping steal something just so CHARITIES wouldn’t get A CENT (literally), I must throw an exception at the idea of all piracy being inherently evil. Okay, so several exceptions, and that was a horrible bit of wordplay. Sorry.
WARNING: Many of the things I discuss below may not be legal to do in your jurisdiction. Not that I care. Consider this a philosophical rant only, and consult a lawyer before doing anything below.
I can never agree with lumping everyone who performs an illegal act into the same category and not take their motives and the material copied into account. “Piracy” — and that’s a bad name for it, by the way — has its good side as well. Let’s take an example that is SO not copied straight from my real-world identity’s life, shall we?
For example, Downloader A will occasionally torrent a movie — usually because they’ve never seen it, someone recommended it, and they want to see if it’s any good before they decide to purchase it or not. Once they did it simply because it was an Italian-made B-movie that was available *nowhere* other than the torrents and that-which-talking-about-by-name-violates-its-#1-rule.
Why is this okay? Because they fully intend to PAY for it if they like it and it isn’t junk like most movies. They don’t redistribute the pirated copy, and I recommend the movie — word-of-mouth advertising, that at LEAST pays for the bandwidth. (Which isn’t even their bandwidth, unlike the pirating done to the Humble Indie Bundle.)
Is it legal? No. Is it ethical? In my opinion, it’s far more ethical than being forced to pay US$20 or more up front to discover I hate it, or won’t watch it very often.
Downloader A won’t pirate software, however — there are far too many open-source programs for such things to even be necessary. Seriously, look up GIMP, OpenOffice, Thunderbird, F-Spot, and VLC for just the tiniest fraction of what’s available.
A doesn’t pirate music either. None of this “I delete it within a day” myth either. Really, A hardly *ever* downloads music, except from sites like Jamendo where the artists freely release their music. They just stream it from Last.fm. Why? So they don’t have to worry about the legality of it.
One day, Downloader A is looking for cheap games, and discovers the Humble Indie Bundle (or something similar). They like it, they see SOME OF THE MONEY GOES FOR CHARITY and it’s actually legal, and THEY PAY FOR IT. Developers are paid, children made happy, and online civil rights protected. And no Digital Rights Manglement involved.
Downloader B, on the other hand, has less or no morals. They don’t just download the movie, they KEEP it and NEVER buy it legally. Maybe they even give/sell a few copies to their friends, who then have no need to pay for it either. Perhaps THEY share it too. Multiply by a few thousand or ten, and we’re starting to actually hurt the companies.
B similarly has no qualms about downloading music and software either — and gets the viruses to show for it, because as cheap as they are they STILL don’t run an Unix-like operating system.
But even Downloader B won’t steal from charity — they pay the minimum US$0.01 to get the games. They’re happy, developers and children not so much. But then he/she shares the download link with everyone they know…
Their shipmate-in-piracy, Downloader C is more like Downloader A, and downloads stuff illegally as a “try-before-you-buy” measure. Including the Humble Indie Bundle, thanks to Downloader B leaving the proverbial barn door open for them. NO money goes to the developers OR charities.
You decide who the evil one really is.
Anyway, my real main point in this rambling is best summarized by a Star Wars quote:
“Only the Sith deal in absolutes.”
I respect K. Mandla’s opinion and believe he/she has a good point, but as a commenter on the blog entry wrote, “You’re painting a sheet of paper with one of those rolling paint brushes.” Pirating to avoid paying for something you’ll continue to use is wrong, but so is generalizing without respect to motive.
In other words, there is a HUGE difference between stealing and window shopping. Assuming you don’t steal the windows. Because, then, matey, ye be doin’ it wrong!