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When Piracy isn’t Pirating

I want to talk about a topic that might be controversial for some people: the concept and legality of piracy even if you have bought the original product. What do I mean by piracy? Well, according to the dictionary, piracy is “the unauthorized use or reproduction of another’s work”. This can include copying a book, a movie, a song, a software, or any other creative product without permission from the owner or paying a fee.

Piracy can also refer to hijacking or robbing ships at sea, but that’s not what I’m interested in here. Though, that is a fun life to be had!

man in brown jacket and red cap sitting on brown horse during daytime

Why Use Piracy At All

So, why would someone pirate something if they already own it? There are many possible reasons, but some of the most common ones are:

  • Convenience: Sometimes it’s easier to download a digital copy of something than to use a physical one. For example, if you have a DVD of a movie, but you want to watch it on your laptop or phone, you might prefer to pirate it instead of ripping it yourself or buying another copy online.
  • Backup: Some people like to have a backup copy of their products in case they lose or damage the original one. For example, if you have a book that you love, but you’re afraid of spilling coffee on it or tearing a page, you might want to pirate an e-book version of it for safekeeping.
  • Availability: Sometimes the original product is not available in your region or format. For example, if you have a game that you bought in another country, but it’s not compatible with your console or PC, you might want to pirate a version that works for you. Or if you have a song that you bought on CD, but it’s not on Spotify or iTunes, you might want to pirate an MP3 file of it.
  • Modification: Some people like to modify or customize their products to suit their preferences. For example, if you have a software that you bought, but you want to change some features or add some plugins, you might want to pirate a cracked version of it that allows you to do that.

Legality Concerns

Now, the question is: is piracy legal or ethical if you have bought the original product? The answer is not so simple. It depends on many factors, such as:

  • The terms and conditions of the product: Some products explicitly allow or prohibit copying or modifying them for personal use. For example, some books have a notice that says “You may not copy this book in any form without permission from the publisher”. Or some software have a license agreement that says “You may not reverse engineer, decompile, or disassemble this software”. You should always read and follow these terms and conditions before pirating anything.
  • The laws of your country: Different countries have different laws and regulations regarding piracy and intellectual property rights. For example, some countries have fair use or fair dealing laws that allow copying or modifying products for certain purposes, such as education, research, criticism, parody, etc. Other countries have strict anti-piracy laws that punish any unauthorized use or reproduction of products with fines or imprisonment. You should always check and respect the laws of your country before pirating anything.
  • The impact on the creator: Piracy can have positive or negative effects on the creator of the product. On one hand, piracy can increase the exposure and popularity. It might generate more sales and revenue for the creator. Some authors or musicians encourage their fans to share their books or songs with others as a way of promotion. On the other hand, piracy can reduce the income and incentive of the creator and harm their reputation and quality. For example, some developers or filmmakers lose money and motivation when they see their products being pirated and distributed for free online.

Personal View

I want to be clear in saying this, I used to pirate everything growing up.  I grew up in the Napster/Kazaa/Etc days of piracy and continued through college with mIRC and other means.  Why I did that back then was because I had no money, barely had a working computer. Probably because of the pirated software.

Since those times, I turned around and buy everything now.  I have subscriptions to every streaming service, spend ungodly money every year to keep Adobe’s Creative Suite going, and even buy movies to stream from time to time.

Lately, I have been on the fence about the release of The Legend of Zelda, Tears of the Kingdom.  The lastest of Link’s adventures from Nintendo.  It was cracked and working on emulators at 60 Frames a Second at a 4k resolution. Just 24 hours after it was released retail.

I was stunned, but then I thought about it.  If I buy the game, then use this emulated version, is it really a problem? Am I doing a bad thing? The switch can barely handle the 30fps and resolution it has, but my top of the line workstation can do it all and thensome.  What if I do it for ALL the games I have already purchased?  Is it immoral to do so?

So, what do I think about piracy? Well, I think it’s a complex and nuanced issue that has no clear-cut answer. I think piracy can be justified in some cases, but not in others. It can be beneficial in some ways, but harmful in others. Piracy is legal in some places, but illegal in others. I think piracy can be ethical in some situations, but unethical in others. It’s so grey.

What do you think about piracy? Do you pirate anything? If so, why? If not, why not? Let me know in the comments below! And don’t forget to like and subscribe for more content like this! Thanks for reading!

Also, be sure to check out my online course for Pet Photography!

Stefan Glazer
Stefan Glazer

Author, Photographer, Artist, Pug Dad, Podcast Host, Teacher, Friend

Articles: 210

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