I’ll admit it – I am a former pirate.
Back in high school and college, I traded MP3’s with friends. We burned each other copies of games. I was not a stranger to the occasional DVD copy. And I ran an illegal OS with illegal software for years.
Much has changed since those days, however. When I fire up my computer today, I’m pleased to see a completely legal copy of Windows XP appear on the screen. Every piece of software and every game I run on my machine has been paid for. And even though a few remnants of my freebooter past resurface now and then in my MP3 collection, the vast majority of the music I listen to was purchased from iTunes, Amazon, or ripped from a CD I bought.
It makes me feel good. But now, I seem to find myself on the opposite side of the fence from many of my fellow internet users.
Recently, the crew behind The Pirate Bay website was put on trial and subsequently convicted of “assisting in making copyright content available,” with a total of $3,620,000 in fines, and each member of the team facing a one year prison sentence. It’s hard to say whether or not the verdict was just. On the one hand, The Pirate Bay is brazenly obvious about the purpose of its site. The pirate theme has been taken on in name and symbol, it organizes torrent files by media type (music, movies, programs, etc.), and a cursory search of the site will reveal that the vast majority of the content being traded among users is not legal. But on the other hand, The Pirate Bay doesn’t explicitly host any of the files in question; they merely house the torrent files users download to find peers in their BitTorrent client. So it could be argued that it is the site’s users who are in performing the illegal activity, and not the site itself (dubbed the “King Kong defense“).
I happened to read this news on Digg, and many people there disagreed with the verdict. What disturbed me though, was that the majority of these people didn’t care about the legal intricacies or implications of the matter. They seemed only to think that piracy should be legal, and that it was in the best interest of everyone to continue pirating movies and music in protest.