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Is Pirating Immoral?
Each year, millions of movies, books, and songs are illegally downloaded from the internet using peer-to-peer and other avenues of file-sharing. Such practices have had, understandably, a significant effect on the profits of artists and recording/distribution companies. The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) campaigned in the form of lawsuits against supposed law-breakers, to much criticism. Though they officially ended their efforts on that front, as someone must have figured out that people aren't intimidated, other methods are utilized in order to prevent violations of artists' "intellectual property rights."
In this Hub, I'd like to address and discuss the morality, not legality, of file-sharing. Specifically the kind that illegally transfers files that would otherwise need to be purchased. Do illegal downloads significantly hurt all artists, or does it hurt small, struggling artists the most? Does it matter if a multimillionaire loses thousands of dollars by these practices, or is theft, theft, plain and simple?
An Interesting Perspective
In the above video, the overly-sarcastic young man brings up an interesting fact; could piracy be called "stealing" if the original is still in existence and in possession of the original holder? This is worthwhile distinction to make, that piracy is copying, in that there are now more than one copies of whatever is being copied. While that might not be an excuse concerning the morality and affect that piracy has, it is a factor to acknowledge.
Undeniably, artists lose some measurable amount of money from piracy. As the above video clarifies, not all people who download illegally would have bought the product they are receiving, but does that justify their actions? Many think not. When searching for the exact numbers of lost profit, lost jobs, lost this-and-that and everything else, I couldn't find anything definitive. This article at Freakonomics states the numbers given by supporters of the ill-fated SOPA and PIPA are blatantly false (they claimed $250 billion and 750,000 jobs lost!). So that's not surprising (who doesn't expect these movie and music businessmen to be pushing highly-exaggerated numbers?), but what are the real figures?
Directly from the RIAA FAQ section:
In the decade since peer-to-peer (p2p) file-sharing site Napster emerged in 1999, music sales in the U.S. have dropped 47 percent, from $14.6 billion to $7.7 billion.
From 2004 through 2009 alone, approximately 30 billion songs were illegally downloaded on file-sharing networks.
NPD reports that only 37 percent of music acquired by U.S. consumers in 2009 was paid for.
Frontier Economics recently estimated that U.S. Internet users annually consume between $7 and $20 billion worth of digitally pirated recorded music.
One credible analysis by the Institute for Policy Innovation concludes that global music piracy causes $12.5 billion of economic losses every year, 71,060 U.S. jobs lost, a loss of $2.7 billion in workers' earnings, and a loss of $422 million in tax revenues, $291 million in personal income tax and $131 million in lost corporate income and production taxes.
So, with these presumably-pumped up figures, we know what anti-piracy people think, and we know that there is some sort of economic loss attributed to online piracy. We also know that the numbers are largely up for debate, and that piracy with always exist, no matter the measures taken.
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