Why People Don’t Talk About Pirate Consumers

I engaged in a long debate on Twitter yesterday with popular blogger, Karthik Srinivasan (entire conversation at the end of his post). To boil things down, I was asking why illegal downloaders don’t get called out for doing the wrong thing and his point was that it was not really going to make a difference. That argument didn’t sit well with me because ever since social media gave all of us a microphone, we haven’t really held back on anything just because nobody was listening. People rant about plagiarism (Heck, Karthik runs a blog dedicated to it!), traffic, politicians, air travel and noisy neighbours. Why are they wishy-washy about illegal downloading?

Yesterday’s Twitter debate didn’t answer that question for me, so I decided to write about the potential reasons for the deafening silence on this subject.

Publishers are not doing enough to solve service and content availability issues. I have written earlier about how difficult it is sometimes to get hold of content legally. It is hard to not empathize with people who depend on illegal sources when they can’t get it legally.

Piracy is seen as a victimless crime. People don’t see piracy as impacting individuals directly. In fact, some people feel that piracy works as a marketing tool and helps artists increase their fan-base. As for the content publishers, they’re not really losing any money and if they are, the greedy corporations deserve it.

Pirates have managed to spin themselves as being hip and anti-establishment. They have managed to project themselves as people who are helping solve the service and availability issues that exist in the market today. It’s another matter that they also distribute content that is available legally and easily. Nobody wants to call out the pirates unless it’s someone like Kim Dotcom who does not manage his PR as well as his peers have.

People don’t want to say things that others don’t want to listen to. If a large number of your followers, readers, etc. are illegal downloaders (which I believe is the case in India today), calling them out is not really going to help you win the social media popularity contest. In fact, being soft on piracy is probably going to win you brownie points. My guess is that I am not winning any with this and yesterday’s post.

People with a voice (bloggers, influencers, journalists, etc.) are engaging in piracy themselves. Not only are they not in a position to speak out against piracy, they, in fact, have to find justifications for their actions so they can retain their high moral ground. Nobody likes to feel guilty.

Why are you not calling out illegal downloaders?

beastoftraal
You Will Never Kill Piracy, and Piracy Will Never Kill You http://t.co/SGy622uE “Realize piracy is a service problem”
2/20/12 10:40 AM
taparam
@beastoftraal Intellectual, theoretical & flawed. Most people I know who download stuff do it because they don’t want to pay for stuff.
2/20/12 10:51 AM
beastoftraal
@taparam Yes, I’m aware of that. Service is an issue that has not been tried adequately. Difference in timing of availability, in specific.
2/20/12 10:59 AM
taparam
@beastoftraal My problem is that the valid argument of service/availability gives a clean chit to a lot of freeloaders.
2/20/12 11:02 AM
beastoftraal
@taparam Unless we try, how do we know that freeloaders are freeloaders just for the heck of it? They will exist anyway, no?
2/20/12 11:03 AM
taparam
@beastoftraal People freeload even when there are no service/avl issues. Too many people taking easy/cool route of railing against “system”.
2/20/12 11:19 AM
beastoftraal
@taparam Have we given people enough paid options that are convenient to opt for?
2/20/12 11:22 AM
taparam
@beastoftraal Last week you got a recco to buy a cheaper, DOS based laptop because you can get a Windows CD “anywhere”. What was that about?
2/20/12 11:23 AM
beastoftraal
@taparam Buying Windows CD separately. I can order it along with the DOS-based laptop and can choose a cheaper version.
2/20/12 11:25 AM
taparam
@beastoftraal That’s you. Am positive the guy making the recco didn’t have a purchase in mind.
2/20/12 11:26 AM
beastoftraal
@taparam The only other option in that model was the same config with Win premium something. Base home version would do for me.
2/20/12 11:26 AM
beastoftraal
@taparam Why should that be a problem? If there was a Win-based cheaper option, assumption is, he’d have chosen that.
2/20/12 11:27 AM
beastoftraal
[email protected] Don’t you think we/RIAA/everybody is talking ONLY about freeloading pirates right now? 🙂 And not about service *at all*?
2/20/12 12:02 PM
taparam
@beastoftraal Can you point me to discussions on moral/ethical issues around piracy? Not focussing on Kim Dotcoms but on consumers.Genuine q
2/20/12 12:58 PM
beastoftraal
@taparam Haven’t come across any on moral/ethics of it – best dealt with churches, IMO. Pointless to go in that direction. If that be the…
2/20/12 1:26 PM
beastoftraal
@taparam …case, we should also have periodic articles on rape and theft, and how both are ethically wrong, leave alone legally.
2/20/12 1:27 PM
beastoftraal
@taparam This Techdirt piece tries to be more sane – dissecting numbers quoted by RIAA/industry http://t.co/QGgeIAhO
2/20/12 1:29 PM
taparam
@beastoftraal Disagree that morality should be left to religion. Society must decide. Solid examples of religion messing up morality.
2/20/12 2:11 PM
beastoftraal
@taparam Didn’t mean it that way; just meant that there’s nothing solid to put forward, as an argument, in the moral debate. That it’s 1/2
2/20/12 2:12 PM
beastoftraal
@taparam 2/2 obvious, but given the endless supply, people don;t see it as wrong. Question then is, if moral argument has any point at all.
2/20/12 2:13 PM
taparam
@beastoftraal Think the discussion is important. Problem in India is widespread. Many of my friends/relatives download. Feel bad.
2/20/12 2:27 PM
beastoftraal
@taparam When people buy pirated CDs on the roadside, of films that released the previous day, why should this be any badder?
2/20/12 2:29 PM
beastoftraal
@taparam There is no point in the ‘It is wrong, morally/legally. You could go to jail’ argument. Only Burma Bazaar pirates are arrested…
2/20/12 2:29 PM
beastoftraal
@taparam …’cos they do it in large scale. Individual downloaders may never feel anything wrong whatever media writes about morals here.
2/20/12 2:30 PM