19th September 2012

Is piracy really all that bad?

Students have been blamed for Manchester being put on the map as the UK’s piracy capital, but is it really a crime?


Rachel Rigg

In February 2012, an American file-sharing site -“Megaupload” – was shut down, and the site’s owner, Kim Dotcom was arrested. The offence the federal prosecutors were pursuing was a failure to prevent the sharing of pirated material, which was estimated to have cost the relevant companies around $500 million in damages. Similarly, the UK has the relatively recent Digital Economy Act 2010 (ineffective until 2013), which is purely to prevent these kinds of losses being caused to companies worldwide. But what about the cost closer to home – to our national economies?

This is a very different argument for anti-piracy. Allow me to establish, I’m not arguing for the small change for the huge corporations here, but the reinvestment in our society. You could claim that the cost to the digital economy is to such a serious extent that it could affect the overall health of the British economy. The British film industry in 2009 was seen to be directly contributing around £1.6 billion to the UK’s GDP alone. So what is the real cost of the illegal downloads to our nation? Bearing in mind we currently stand in over £1,032.4 billion in debt as a country, we could use that spare cash that seems to be floating around in cyber space. Allow me to re-establish though, I’m not arguing for the huge corporations here, but the reinvestment in our society.

You may argue that the appeal in illegal downloads is purely in the fact that it is free – and that if there was not an option to have it for nothing, many wouldn’t have it at all. But how many times have you passed up on a DVD, or a trip to the cinema for the lure of a free download?

Aside from the moral obligations of individually costing the economy every time you click that little ‘download’ button, there are so many more arguments against the use of illegal downloads. Awful quality, hunting down links for a good connection; and for me, more than a little fear that I’ll end up corrupting my laptop with some god-awful virus.

But hey, if you don’t mind recession, a tinny sound and a fuzzy film quality, illegal downloads seem to be right up your street. I’ll stick to my legitimate film though, thanks.



Lisa Murgatroyd

If Ed Sheeran says it’s okay, then we’re good, right?

When it was announced that UK internet service providers were ruled by the High Court to block The Pirate Bay, I’m sure we all wept a little inside. I know I did. Where else am I going to get those handy, and completely legal, free copies of pdfs for my Kindle?

Illegal downloading is always hyped to be this awful crime. But, let’s be honest, it’s pretty hard not to be tempted. It’s not just about music, but movies and even video games. Albums retail on average at around £12, DVDs around £13 (let’s not even talk about blu-rays!), and if you could get a brand new game for less than £40 you’re on to a winner.

Right now, I can’t afford that. So, I don’t buy anything. Unless I’ve saved up for a special occasion (like a special edition of The Avengers).

The founder of video game company Mojang, and creator of Minecraft, replied to a twitter user who said he couldn’t afford the game that he should pirate it. “If you like it,” he said, “pay for it when you can.”

I don’t think anyone could say that they pirate because it’s better than buying. The quality is never as good as the original, and unless you’re a real pro, it can be more effort than it’s worth at times.  But, there are a lot of people without the disposable income to buy all these great products every week.  For piracy to have such a huge impact as is claimed, surely it needs to have cost the maker a sale. If you couldn’t have bought the product in the first place, then I’d argue that this logic can’t apply. There’s also a handy “try before you buy” element built in.

Sites like Bandcamp, which lets users download for free or pay what they think a song/album is worth, should be given more support (and make sure they’re not as greedy as the big corporate machines!).

Maybe it’s naïve of me to think that if you download an album from an artist, you’re more likely to go and see them, or buy the DVD collection when the prices come down a little. I definitely don’t think that you deserve to be locked up in prison for doing it though!

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