Exploring piracy: the bourgeois frontier against major corporations

Violet Van Fleet ‘21, Feature Editor


DISCLAIMER: This article does not condone the use of piracy in any way, shape, or form. 

Since the beginning of the silent film era in 1895, people have been illegally reproducing and distributing movies, cartoons, and everything in between. The technical term for this is piracy. No, it does not entail sailing the seven seas with only a crew, ship, and screeching parrot to your name. It means copyright infringement that can be punishable by up to five years of prison and $250,000 in fines. While pillaging enemy ships and creating a reputation as a cut-throat sailor is much more exciting, regular old internet piracy is extremely common, especially because Disney’s CEO announced that the company considers password sharing on accounts as an act of piracy. Piracy does not stop at movies, though. Today, piracy has evolved into music, books, software, and games. 

While piracy has always been a consistent way for the public to consume media for free, it has met its match in the past few decades. In the early 2000s, before streaming services were mainstream, piracy was on the rise. As the internet expanded and technological advancements were being made, the general public got better equipped to slip under the radar and watch their favorite movies or shows for free. When asked about her opinion on piracy, junior Haley McGregor said, “It’s awesome; it’s the best. If you don’t pirate stuff, you’re either rich, stupid, or both.” 

However, with the sudden emergence of Netflix nearly 20 years ago, the trials and tribulations of navigating the internet’s dark underworld were obsolete. Finally, there was a streaming service that rivaled cable to the extreme. Instead of paying a tremendous bill every month, the price was reasonably low. Being the first of its kind, Netflix became popular among the middle and lower class, and cable faded into the background. The service had a vast array of films and television shows that were all the rage in America, and all without ads. It was a monumental change in how the public consumed media. Piracy’s previous popularity plummeted as more and more people jumped aboard the Netflix train that was chugging towards their next stop: entertainment. 

Yet, it seems that American corporations did not learn their lesson the first time. As the 2010s went on, more streaming services began to pop up including Hulu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, and most recently, Disney+. Shows that are produced by these platforms are split up, causing the average consumer to jump between the services in order to watch what they want, paying oodles of cash in order to do so. The multiple platforms are commonly referred to as the newer version of cable, and as it grows, it is causing more people to once again log onto questionable websites. DataProt.com said, “There were 106.9 billion visits to pirate websites in 2017.” It seems that those anti-piracy propaganda commercials of the early 2000s (“You wouldn’t download a car” and “Piracy. It’s a crime”) clearly did not stick with the youth of today. 

Yet, what are the effects of piracy? Many use piracy as a way to stick it to major corporations who make millions off of their workers that are paid minimum wage; however, those who do piracy right refrain from pirating books and software from independent creators as it is extremely harmful to the authors and developers who rely on the number of sales in order to make a personal profit. These two groups are already under the horrible stereotype that they are sitting on piles of money immediately following the release of their game or book. This is largely untrue, and piracy against them is just another nail in their coffin. 

In order to use piracy as a form of exploring the media without feeding into large-scale companies, many pirates have chosen to only pirate products from corporations such as Disney—which at this point represents 38 percent of the U.S. film market, and is thus giving the American public quite a few ‘monopoly vibes’. This is considered the ethical side of piracy.

While the fierce Elizabeth Swann from Pirates of the Caribbean is often the first thing we think of when we first hear piracy, it turns out that piracy does not only prosper on the Atlantic or Pacific, but on YouTube, on our computers, and in our homes. Some pirates have speculated that the use of piracy will force companies to reform their products or ways in order to accommodate those who do not have nearly enough money or patience to satisfy their need for movies, music, and more. Perhaps this is the case, but nonetheless: rebellion against capitalism has never been so easy. 


Photo courtesy of  a.moneyversed.com

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