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Piracy laws don’t work

Posted on 02.21.2018

Many millennials have been pirating their whole lives, according to Torrent Freak, a site specializing in reportage of piracy.

I knew pretty early on society frowned upon this behavior. In 2005, the Motion Picture Association launched a series of public service announcements that, instead of being taken seriously, swiftly became a meme. The PSAs featured gritty text and overly-dramatic cinematography that loudly proclaimed, “You wouldn’t steal a car, you wouldn’t steal a handbag… Downloading pirated films is stealing.”

For years afterwards, I dealt with these PSAs playing during the opening sequences of  DVDs my family had purchased. There was always something off-putting about them, and revisiting the subject now, I understand why: the over dramatization of unequal forms of theft make the PSA pretty laughable.

There are clear differences between stealing a car and stealing a movie. In common theft, the owner of the property loses all use of the stolen good. If I were to up and steal a car, I would gain a car, and that person would lose their ride home entirely.

Conversely, if I were to steal a digital file of a copyrighted property, things would be a bit different. In downloading a video game, I would not have excluded the creator from its use, and I most certainly haven’t deprived them of the ability to profit from it.

The movie, music and video games industries rake in billions of dollars every single year, even though people decide to pirate the content that gets published. A $10 album, $20 movie or $60 video game is just a small drop in the ocean of these industries’ gross sales each year.

The Supreme Court of Sweden tried Pirate Bay, a piracy website,  in 2009 for copyright infringement. However,  Pirate Bay is still up and running, which goes to show that piracy laws do not seem to have much of an affect.

Furthermore, according to Nick Bilton of the New York Times, attempting to end piracy is like playing the world’s largest game of  “Whac-a-Mole.” For every push against it, it shifts position and evolves.

This is because of YouTube’s Content ID tool. When a movie studio uploads footage of its film, the Google tool automatically blocks any other copies of the product on the platform.

To get around this, uploaders have started placing films within a photo of a cat watching television. While annoying for the viewer, it gets around the Content ID tool. It’s a loophole, and it works, which honestly seems  kind of clever.

There are many more examples like this. According to Torrent Freak, unauthorized content is consumed via piracy sites millions of times a day. While many believe new laws will help fix this, still more believe that any more laws will just push people in new ways get the content they crave.

Having evolved alongside piracy, I cannot say I disagree at the current generation has not been deterred by anti-piracy campaigns in the past.

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