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Media Piracy Cannot Be Rationalized

Is pirating a pirate movie really pirating? Is pirating a pirate movie really pirating?

Every kid wants to be a pirate at some point. While sailing tall ships around the Caribbean on a quest for buried treasure remains an elusive fantasy, modern pirates take a less romantic form.

Based on reaction to a recent piece by PJ Media's Susan L.M. Goldberg, it seems many of you – our dear readers -- sail the digital seas looting movies, television, and music. To many, the suggestion by Goldberg that such activity might have economic consequences proved deeply offensive. One of the top-rated comments reads:

Quoting the RIAA [Record Industry Association of America] about piracy is like quoting the Mexican Cartel on the dangers of drug legalization. The dubious study RIAA cites assumes that all piracy are lost sales, for which there is simply no evidence.

And there is a lot to the concept that pirated copies lead to sales of legitimate copies and related merchandize. Certainly, there are studies that show that free downloads and DRM free products lead to more sales such as this one.

But mostly I don't think you understand fully understand the tradeoffs, excessive zeal to stop piracy can annoy one's legitimate customers.

Considering such arguments reminded me of a guy I know who spent years amassing piles of pirated DVDs by making copies of discs rented from Netflix. We’ll call him “Guy” for the sake of discussion. He obtained the requisite software with ease, available free on the internet, and set off to build a library of titles he wanted to watch but didn’t want to pay for.

Guy knew that what he was doing was illegal, briefly deterred as he was by those menacing FBI warnings displayed before each feature presentation. He felt pangs of conscience, but consoled himself with a number of convenient rationalizations.