Why I support piracy

I, Billco, am a strong supporter of piracy; I think it’s a great thing.  I say this, despite being a software developer, amateur musician and huge music/movie buff.  It doesn’t make any sense, right ?

My logic is quite simple: the music and movie industries have built their business model around physical distribution.  As we all know, the Internet has made such distribution obsolete.  Anyone with high-speed Internet access can download a CD or DVD in less time than it takes to walk to the nearest store, the selection is limitless, and a download never runs out of stock (as long as the servers are up).  Physicality no longer matters when you have a direct pipeline from the content providers to your playback device(s).  Me, I don’t even want the stupid plastic disc – the first thing I do is rip it to a computer, so I can load it onto my media player or sync it to my iPhone.  I want the content, not the medium.  The way I see it, the distributors are not selling what I want.

Bigger than Facebook

Another significant aspect litigators are just too biased to acknowledge is that pirates make up the oldest and largest social network.  Every time someone visits The Pirate Bay or ISOHunt, they’re collaborating with tens of millions of fellow bit swappers.  They comment on their acquisitions, spread the word when they discover something cool, give free tech support for their fellow netizens, and offer seasoned criticism without commercial bias.  You want to know how good your product is ?  Don’t bother reading a magazine, check the torrent comments and newsgroups.

The very simple fact is that everything content distributors do, pirates do better.  They assemble fast networks for distribution, roll out web sites at the drop of a hat, slice and dice the material into every format imaginable with a keen eye for quality, and strip out all the orwellian DRM.  They even create paid jobs for the people who run torrent trackers and FTP dumps, and they do it all more nimbly and efficiently than billion-dollar corporations.

Free advertising

What’s even more fascinating is that piracy helps me sell my own software.  Read that sentence again.  Since I started leaking my own products to torrent sites and Usenet groups, my sales have seen a noticeable increase.  I am not shitting you!  The counter-intuitive act of pirating my own stuff is like free advertising.  My product is in the hands of tens of thousands of people who would never have heard of it, and through word of mouth promotion and pirate praise, this has resulted in actual sales.  The whole “try before you buy” philosophy is stronger than ever, not because pirates are any more honest that they were 30 years ago, but because more and more honest people have been screwed raw by bad software and bad media, so piracy yields the pre-sales demo they so desperately need to make an informed purchase.

Piracy helps people acquire skills; I don’t know very many teenagers who could afford Cubase, Photoshop or Visual Studio.  Piracy helps me sell my own software; traditional advertising is ineffective and cost-prohibitive.  Piracy is one of the driving forces behind digital innovation; by ignoring the “rules” we hackers can think outside the box and come up with the best solution to modern problems.  Piracy helps balance the playing field; by putting power in consumer’s hands, we can keep the software and media industries in check and fight back against protectionism and hypercapitalism.  Piracy isn’t about money, it’s about control.

So yes, I support piracy.

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