Media piracy

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Media piracy, more frequently referred to by more specific terms such as software piracy, music piracy, and movie piracy, refers both to:

  • The practice of illegally copying a source work (software, music, movie, or other)
  • The idea that such copying is morally equivalent to (traditional) piracy, which is presumed to refer both mass theft of valuables and tangible harm to the copyright holder

There seems to be a rising tide of opinion that calling such copying "piracy" or even "theft" is a serious overstatement of the situation, as media "pirates" do not typically brandish cutlasses, board oceangoing vessels without permission, or deprive owners of the use of their belongings (much less their lives) – although some of them do own parrots.

It should be noted that although such copying is often illegal, this fact should be considered in the context of some additional facts:

  • The media industry often played a major part in both the wording of the laws in question and in ensuring that those laws were passed by (no-doubt perfectly legal but most un-democratic) financial persuasion of the appropriate officials.
  • Certain types of copying are legal, at least within the United States, under the doctrine of Fair Use.
  • The media industry often makes no distinction between legal and illegal copying in its efforts to prevent so-called piracy.
  • At least one law has been passed in the United States which was supposed to adequately compensate music companies for "illegal copying" of their works, i.e. the tax on all blank burnable CDs labeled for "music" use; the industry continues to fight against copying, and yet this law is still in place. (Can't find the law in question, but see private copying levy [W] and Chapter 10 "No action may be brought under this title alleging infringement of copyright ... based on the noncommercial use by a consumer ... for making digital musical recordings or analog musical recordings." of US Code Title 17 for possible leads.)

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  • 2000-09 $$ The Heavenly Jukebox: "Recent coverage of the spread of "contraband" music on the Internet has missed some basic points. Chief among them: the fight against Internet piracy is being led by a peculiar and grasping business -- the recording industry -- that should not be allowed to set the rules." (subscription required for access)