So, I’m a gamer and a programmer, so this topic hits a little close to home for me. And while I’ll be arguing in support for the moral permissibility of software piracy, it’s not something I do myself (admittedly, that’s mostly because I’ve never really owned a powerful enough setup where I could run current-gen games at what I considered an acceptable rate & the game still look nice).
Anyhow, my case is short and relatively easy to grasp. What exactly is being done when one pirates software and other various files? Basically, you’re downloading stuff that’s been replicated by someone who bought and uploaded that item online (I think it’s fairly safe to assume most people uploading these would-be pirated materials didn’t manage steal some physical copy of it). So, generally the producer of these items do in fact get paid for the item they produced. But do they have some further, morally significant claim to what the buyer does personally with their product? I think the water gets murky here for those claiming piracy is theft, pure and simple.
Let’s draw a comparison with what we do with other goods. I have friends who own cars, and friends do not. On various occasions, we carpool together or share our cars with each other. Now, each of us who owns a car legitimately purchased them. So, are our friends whom we share our cars with stealing from us? I think it’s clear enough that they aren’t. Now, are they stealing from car manufacturers? After all, as is often trumpted against digital pirates, these manufacturers are loosing potential revenue from those who share cars/carpool, as they’re getting usage of a product they didn’t pay for.
But this seems odd. Both cases seem essentially equal, in that they each involve the sharing of a purchased product with those whom did not purchase said product, yet it is only with the car (and equivalent instances) where we categorically deny calling it theft. Yet with piracy, whom is being stolen from? Claims of “potential revenue” being lost seem spurious and presumptuous for reasons ranging from how it is you know that those whom use the product actually intended to buy it, to the aforementioned example being situationally equivalent. And pirated material are merely copies of the material produced, so no actual, physical property has been poached whatsoever, by which one could actually make some legitimate claim. Claiming this to be theft seems akin to claiming that, if I had a magical wand that could replicate anything I wanted and I replicated my neighbor’s car so that I had one myself, that I’m stealing from my neighbor. What is my neighbor (or anyone else) actually loosing here?
I suppose that’s really most of what I have to say on the matter. While I think piracy is morally permissible (because no harm is really being done by that act in and of itself), I would myself recommend generally supporting the producers of these products. This is mostly because in the economic system we’re in, we must unfortunately have money to sustain ourselves (and I think piracy is an example of why our economic system needs a radical change /tangent/ ). And if we don’t show them support with our money, they go bye-bye, so it’s in our interests as gamers, audiophiles, etc. to maintain said support for producers if we wish to continue to enjoy them. 😦 A comparable comparison would be that you should probably give your friends gas money sometimes if you plan on borrowing/carpooling with them often.
If you disagree with me or find fault with some part of my case, be sure to leave a comment below.