Two takes on the online piracy debate
// Christina Blakeborough and Victoria Fawkes


By Christina Blakeborough

Have you ever actually looked up “piracy” in the dictionary? The first definition that comes up is, “the practice of attacking and robbing ships at sea.” Obviously, this definition isn’t exactly what we think of as online piracy, but the intentions are basically the same. The intention of piracy is to steal or rob someone of his or her property.

“The unauthorized use or reproduction of another’s work” is the definition we’re looking for. It’s essentially stealing from another individual. Stealing is a crime whether it’s money, jewelry, or an idea. If anyone wants to take that risk then they should suffer the consequences, such as heavy fines and possible jail time.

Unfortunately, the people who pirate don’t think of it that way, and technological innovations such as Napster and the iPod haven’t helped with the fight against piracy. Whether we like it or not, with today’s technology piracy has become a pandemic. Doctors, professors, lawyers, and young business owners share files or own unauthorized material, but that doesn’t make it right.

Back in 2009, the founders of The Pirate Bay were sentenced to a year in prison and ordered to pay millions of dollars to major media companies. The Pirate Bay is one of the most notorious file-sharing websites.

With the founders of the Pirate Bay behind bars, industry leaders were hoping that would send a clear message to the public that piracy is wrong and you will pay the price. Now, three years after that “lesson learned”, the youth still haven’t caught on to the message, not even when Napster was shut down in 2001, or when the Recording Industry Association of America started suing file swappers, which eventually lead to a single mother being fined a whopping $222,000.

If the public is still thinking piracy is merely a law to be ignored or broken, maybe this will change things: recently the Copyright Modernization Act was introduced, and passed. What does this mean? Here’s an example; copying a movie DVD for personal use would make Canadians liable for legal damages up to $5,000. It seems much cheaper just to buy the DVD in a store for $20. This newly passed law is part of a “clampdown” to prevent piracy from DVDs, videogames, and e-books. It’ll now be illegal to break digital locks on these goods, which will ultimately prevent duplication.

Piracy is taking an individual’s property without their consent. The problem is that today, people want to have a product immediately without costing anything, which has led to illegally downloaded music, movies, and other entertainment. The bottom line is that piracy is illegal; there is nothing positive regarding that crime.

By Victoria Fawkes

Music piracy is like peeing in the shower: almost everyone does it, yet it is condemned in society. Although online piracy is not completely outlawed in Canada, its legality has always fallen in the grey area of the law. In Canada, although the personal download of music and other online goods is not illegal, the act of manufacturing and profiting off of downloaded music is. If you’re ever caught in the act of selling unauthorized online goods, you better believe the penalty will be harsh.

Recently, SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act) were proposed but eventually shelved in the United States. SOPA and PIPA were controversial acts regarding copyright infringement over illegal downloads in the US. The American music industry, cable and satellite providers, and online publishing companies heavily supported the acts, which aimed to curb the rampant counterfeiting and copyright infringement by introducing harsher punishments for offenders. They argued that piracy was stealing and should be treated as such.

Those who were opposed to the act were human rights organizations, online service providers, and non-profit organizations, who argue that music is an important part of our culture that should be enjoyed by all, not just those who can afford it. In fact, with the US just recovering from the harsh economic times it has experienced over the past half-decade, music is more important than ever - a welcome distraction from the maxed-out credit cards and used-up cheque-books many Americans possess.

Bill C-11, Canada’s version of SOPA, may change things for Canadian media pirates. Bill C-11 will be proposed to the House of Commons in the near future, and would prevent Canadians from downloading and pirating music, movies, and other forms of online media. If Bill C-11 was passed, even YouTube would be off-limits to Canadians, a prospect that had many Canadians outraged by the very thought of it.

First off, information (movies, music, anything really) simply cannot be owned by a person. In the past, Donald Trump has tried to copyright the phrase “You’re Fired!” and Gene Simmons has tried to copyright the term “O.J.”. Both were criticized for their attempts to monopolize parts of the English language, something no one has the right to do. Online piracy is just the same. Information is information; it’s part of our culture; and it’s everyone’s, no matter how you try and spin it.

Secondly, it has been said that Internet piracy hurts artists. This may be true, but it may be untrue; the only thing that’s for sure is that it’s completely unproven, and therefore an unfair claim to make. While free online media may take some money out of the pockets of artists, producers, or anyone else trying to line their pockets with the funds of music-lovers, it may add to it. Think of all the music that people are exposed to when they get it for free; things they never would have known about before. In turn, they may spend more time and money on these newly discovered artists, purchasing concert tickets, merchandise, and other things that will go towards the music industry.

Though the recent actions of oppressive forces have tried to tell us that music downloading is an offence and must carry a serious punishment, Canadians must remember that they have the right to cultural exposure, no matter what the fat cats of the entertainment world have to say. And while it seems like every time we turn around there is another rule that may threaten the way we experience media, it’s important to remember that our anthem claims we are, in fact, the true north, strong and free.

//Christina Blakeborough and Victoria Fawkes, writers
//Graphics by Faye Alexander

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© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: editor@capilanocourier.com