Tuesday, 26 November 2013

the ethics of piracy


One of the subjects I study in college is ethics. I tend to apply my somewhat hazy moral understanding to that place in which I live a good 80% of my life: the internet. 

For those of us who are more intensely immersed in the internet, we seem to have a certain sense of entitlement. We'll lazily drawl that it's okay to get a cracked version of Photoshop because Adobe don't really mind students doing so as when (if) we get into a career that requires Photoshop, we'll be paying for it then. 

The ethics of torrenting and piracy is a messy, messy thing in my mind. As someone quite competent with technology, it's all to easy for me to acquire whatever it is I want. And it's usually quite justifiable. For example, I study film. Although what's said in the lecture hall remains in the lecture hall, I can say with certainty that the faculty would be quite surprised if any of us paid to watch any of the prescribed viewing. It's quite easy to justify most things on the basis of education, after all. As a broke student, I don't exactly have the funds to fork out thirty quid plus on a hard to track down book on vampirism from the eighteenth century to modern times. So do I do without or gain my educational tools through illicit means? After all, either way, I won't be paying money, but in one scenario my degree doesn't suffer.

Going down the academic route certainly makes things muddled. After all, there is the argument that academic writing is funded so the proceeds from selling these writings to students is just extra money. When you're struggling for cash dollah dollah, this is what you're going to jump on. Let's say hypothetically that piracy is A-OK when it comes to academic purposes; at what point does it stop being academic? I'm doing horror in film at the moment, does this mean I'm entitled to access to all horror films for my education?

Now let's leave aside academia. Let's talk about music. Torrenting music is equally murky, as it's more about the actual possession. We have the ability to stream music via Spotify, Youtube etc, so why do we feel the need to actually own the music? I rarely pay for music these days, whether it be through legal streaming means or, ahem, other methods. One of the justifications I've used to myself is that in the toss-up between forking out twenty quid for an album, or forking out twenty quid for a concert ticket, I'll always choose the concert ticket. Even this has become murkier for me now, however, as while doing an unpaid internship, I get paid in concert tickets. There is also the element of being in a working environment where you are surrounded by music, you feel it's your obligation to constantly discover new music. 

These days, we're a lot more discerning about what we'll actually spend money. I love rap, but I refuse to pay for it because I dislike the idea the idea of funding Odd Future's somewhat misogynistic lyrics---but I bought The Heist from iTunes because I admire Macklemore's ability to rap about issues in a thoughtful and provocative manner. A lot of us these days are choosing to spend our money to fund particular artists, whether it be through buying vinyls, T-Shirts or concert tickets. 

As per usual, when I come to the end of typing this, I'm no closer to formulating a stance then I was before.