Why the ‘War on Piracy’ is just so much Bullshit.

“There are unjust laws as there are unjust men…”  – Mahatma Gandhi.

I pirate music, all the time.  And I don’t think this is wrong.  At ALL. (Buh buh BUH!!!)  How can I say this?  Well, let’s start by clearing up a prevalent misconception.

That whole ‘Piracy is stealing’ thing is bullshit.

Remember the old advert on the front of movies? (You know, this one).  “You wouldn’t steal a car…You wouldn’t steal a handbag…you wouldn’t steal a television….Downloading is stealing…etc.”

This is what is known in the game, kids, as a reframe.  It is a cunning trick designed to change the meaning that you attach to a certain action. But, if you look at it closely, the argument doesn’t quite hold up, does it?

Of course, in one way the advert is dead right.  I wouldn’t steal a car, I wouldn’t steal a handbag, or a television.  BUT, if I owned a magic raygun that could make a perfect copy of whatever I pointed it at, AND if a friend gave me a book and said he didn’t mind me copying it, and I made a copy (with my raygun) then read the book, (while he kept his copy) then what is that?

It’s SHARING, kids.  And we were all taught that sharing is good, weren’t we?

‘Stealing’ by definition is: when you take something that isn’t yours from somebody else and therefore (and here is the important part) deprive them of it.  Do you deprive someone of their property when you create a copy?  No.  So, at best, it is inaccurate to equate piracy with stealing, (at worst it’s just plain wrong); it’s actually closer to sharing.

Now, for all of you lovely, law abiding folk out there in internet land, reading this and being like: ‘I would NEVER steal music, for that is WRONG’, I would ask you…Have you ever lent anyone a book?  Or a DVD?  Have you ever burnt a CD for someone?  Or (if you are old enough to remember) made a mixtape? (image of mixtape for those puzzled by this archaic term)

Then you have already broken this law.  It is exactly the same copyright infringement law that applies to downloading music, but it’s not really discussed in these forms because that would highlight the fact that:

A) this law is stupid and unenforceable, and

B) everyone is breaking it anyway (even my Granny, who used to lend out books like a motherfucking library on fire).

Can you imagine a SWAT team kicking your door in and being all like:  “Sir, did you lend someone this copy of Harry Potter?  GET ON YOUR KNEES!  You have the right to remain silent..etc.”

Of course not, because that would be ludicrous, and stupid…. ;-)

I believe that there is something very vital and natural in the sharing of music and art.  There is something in us that, when we hear or experience something amazing, instantly wants to share that with someone, and this is a good thing.  Sharing things that we find of worth is an urge that comes from deep within us.  Enforcing outdated, outmoded laws is not.

‘But you are an independent musician!’ I hear you cry.  (In my mind).  ‘How can you espouse sharing music and still expect to make a living?’.  ‘Will your music not be covered by the same copyright laws?  And will you not enforce them?’  ‘Will you not, in fact, be a big fat hypocrite when it comes to protecting your own Fat Stacks of Cash? How on earth do you plan to make a living doing what you are doing when you are talking up this brand of crazy?!’.

Good questions, one and all.  And my answers are as follows:  I espouse free sharing of music because I believe it’s vital and good, and I believe that it allows the permeation of good music and art into our culture, which ultimately benefits everyone.  No, my music will not be covered under the same copyright laws, I will be releasing it under a seperate copyright (most likely, an Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives license) which means that you can share the music as much as you want, but if you want to use it for a commercial purpose you should ask me, and if you are making money off it then I should have some too ;-)

I’ll answer the last question (how can you possibly hope to make a living, etc…) with a story.

About two years ago, I came across a lady called Zoe Keating.  Zoe is a cellist, who makes beautiful, layered cello music using her instrument, a laptop and a footpedal.  It is beyond beautiful, as is she.  So, I ripped all of her albums off the net to listen to, and listened to them over, and over, and over again.  I looked her up, and discovered that she is a fully independent musician, supported solely by her record sales and her touring income.

So, I did a little research about where she made the most money (physical CD sales thru her own site) and I went there and bought every album she had made.  Then I bought extras to give to my friends.  I have also talked her up to anyone who would listen, and now I am writing a blog about how awesome she is, and linking to her site (at the end of this article).

Now, why did I do this?  Well, not to make a point.  I did it for 2 reasons.

#1  Her music is amazing.  It is kickass, beautiful, badass sexy and fantastic, I love it and it adds tremendous value to my life.  And

#2:  Her story.  The fact that she is an independent musician and really receives the money I spend on her music.  It is an exchange I feel good about being part of.  Everybody wins.

I believe that, when music is good enough, when it really adds value to peoples lives, then those people will support it in some way.  Reciprocity is a fundamental human impulse.

As is the need to share.

Sleep well, LawBreakers.  (That means you too, Granny, I love you;-).

[If you are interested in checking out the awesome that is Zoe Keating, you can find her site, here.]


My name is James Radcliffe and I am a 100% audience supported independent artist.  If you like what I do (and can afford it) then please consider buying some of my music.  Each purchase really makes a big difference to me and 10% of every sale goes to a charity which: houses, feeds, clothes, and educates orphaned children in Nepal.

Also, every month I send out a newsletter packed with Interesting and Exclusive Things.  If you sign up today you’ll also get 3 FREE tracks of my music as a welcome gift.

Get 3 Free Tracks Now.

And lastly, if you’d like to find out what I’m up to on a more day-to-day basis then here is my brain on Twitter:

95 Replies to “Why the ‘War on Piracy’ is just so much Bullshit.”

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  2. Thanks for dropping by http://www.WritingWellDesignAndPhotography.wordpress.com. You make an interesting point about stealing vs sharing. This post brought two questions to mind: (1) Are those who fight piracy most vigorously primarily concerned about losing out on megamillions, depriving them of mansions and lavish lifestyles or are do they fear losing the basic needs of living, i.e. food, shelter, clothing and medical attention and the sustainability of their ability to create art? and (2) Can independent artists make the necessary money required to support their basic needs and in turn fuel their continued artistic endeavors?

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    1. Those are two very important and well thought out questions. Thankyou very much for raising them. ;-)
      To my knowledge, most of the work being done to convince the public that sharing is stealing, is an attempt to use morality as a lever to enforce copyright and therefore for monetary gain. For the most part, the people speaking out loudly are the companies that hold copyright, not the artists themselves.
      As for the second question, my answer would be yes ;-) I humbly offer myself as an example, in that, I support myself solely thru music and I am doing fine ;-) (For other larger examples I would probably cite Zoe Keating again, who has never been signed to a major label and has bought a house and supports her whole family thru her music even tho it is freely available for illegal download).
      A good article is ‘1000 true fans’ which shows that, in the present time, an independent artist really only needs around 1000 true fans to create a good, stable, sustainable living for themselves.
      I have really enjoyed writing back to you. I hope you are well, and that I hear from you again.
      – J

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