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Digital Piracy

Page history last edited by rince@iwc.edu 9 years, 4 months ago


"Burning CD's is like an arranged marriage and the artists are the shotgun brides. When nobody asks your permission things tend to go bad." --- Stephan Jenkins, Lead Singer of Third Eye Blind


Digital Piracy Defined


Webster's dictionary defines piracy as "the unauthorized use of another's production, invention, or conception esp. in infringement of a copyright." [1]. Digital piracy can be illegal downloading of music from the Internet, copying software or movies for personal use, selling downloaded or copied movies, music, or software to another, or using these items without express written consent from the author.  Although digital piracy has been around for some time, the rise of the Internet and file-swapping via Peer-To-Peer Networks on personal computer's has turned the idea in a global phenomenon.  There are two groups involved in the battle over digital piracy~the consumer and the artist.  The consumer tends to make the argument that because the costs to purchase music are so high, he should have a right to pirate music for his personal use.  The artist will argue that making music constitues his job, and just like the average person, he wants to be compensated for his time and effort.  There are groups who combine elements of the two groups, such as ITunes, which attempts to make music instantly accessible in the format the consumer desires, while still keeping costs low.  The battle continue to rage today as the various groups square off and develop new ways to continue to state their point.


Key Terms


Intellectual Property-An idea or invention that the government has decided is the property of an individual or company[2]. Intellectual property refers to creations of the mind.  This includes things like music and gives the producer of the music sole rights to the creation.  Because music that is found electronically on the internet is not something that can be physically touched, the issue of downloading and stealing comes in to play. Because the intellectual property is found in the form of electronic files transmission from one hand to another occurs without anything physical being touched.  Many people see intellectual property as "free game" and feel as though just because they are not literally picking up an iten and removing it from an area they are not stealing when they share copyrighted material over the internet. 

Copyright-Priviledge given by a person or company by the government to be the only producer of a certain good[2].  This priviledge is sometimes found in the form of a patent and gives a group or an individual sole rights to an item.

Copyright Infringement-The violation of a copyright by means of unauthorized use[2].  Copyright can take the form of photocopying and distributing without the author's consent or it can be sharing copyrighted files over the internet.  This is often done with Peer-To-Peer Networks.  Copyright infringment in punishible by law with fine, jail time, or both.


The Roots of Digital Piracy


In order to understand piracy, we must first understand some of the terms go with a digital nation.  The term digital native, coined by Nicholas Negroponte, refers to those who grew up with technology from birth. [3]  The term digital immigrant, also coined by Negroponte, refers to someone who was not born into a digital world, but have, at some point later in life, become fascinated by and adopted many or most aspects of new technology. [3] The connection to digital piracy comes in when the digital native, who is so in tune with technology, understands that he no longer has to wait for the latest music or movies.  These things are now available at the touch of the keyboard.  The digital immigrant, however, has been part of a time when music, movies, etc.  had to be waited on and then purchased at a local store.  Digital immigrants may find satisfaction in being able to eliminate the wait and have information now or they may choose to stick to their immigrant ways and continue to purchase their digital items like always.  Understanding digital natives and digital immigrants is important in understanding how digital piracy began and continues to thrive today.


Forms of Piracy and the Beginning of the Digital Age

One of the first forms of piracy began in the 1980's when the cassette tape recorder came to be.  People were able to "dub" music by using a dual cassette recorder and playing the music on one side and taping it on the other side. This system also allowed people to record content from the radio and then play it back with a tape recorder.  Although these actions were not digital, these kinds of activities were already occuring when the digital CD came to be.  However, the emergence of the CD seemed to quell the copyright infringement for a while, however, as computers began to boast CD Burners, the problem once again surfaced [3].  In addition to burning technology, file-sharing programs online provide ample opportunity for people to obtain music through illegal downloads.  Now digial piracy has spawned the illegal reproduction of eveything from software, and video games to movies and music videos.

Combating Digital Piracy-While this may seem like a daunting task there are many organizations that have formed to combat digital piracy.  The following organizations have made it their ultimate goal to end piracy and devote much time, effort, and money trying to combat digital piracy.

  •      Software

     The BSA (Business Software Alliance) includes members such as Adobe, Apple, Microsoft, McAfee, Intel, and Dell (www.bsa.org).  This organization is committed to stopping the ilegal installation of software and the bootlegging of software.  They conduct massive research projects in which they analyze the trends in digital piracy in many countries of the world.  One of their major arguments for eliminating digital piracy is the economic benefits that would arise if digital piracy was eliminated [4] .

  •     Music

     The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) is a group that represents the U.S. recording industry.  Its members include virtually every major record label and works to "protect artists intellectual property rights and the First Amendment rights of artists" (www.riaa.com).  The RIAA plays a large part in the monitoring of state and federal laws regarding copyright infringement and conducts research projects dedicated to monitoring the trends in digital piracy [5].

  •    Motion pictures

     The MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) is committed to raising awareness about digital piracy and campaigns for anti-copyright theft through an educational campaign targeted at school and universities around theworld (www.mpaa.org) [6].


Why is Digital Piracy so Popular?

The rise of digital piracy is the result of many factors.

1. People have access to a media form(movie, song, CD, etc.) for free.

2. People feel "safer" obtaining a digital work online versus stealing it from a store.

3. Technology has allowed us to have high quality copies of digital trinkets. 

4. People are outraged at the costs of movies, CD's, and other digital works.

5. People are simply unaware that the files they download and the content they put on their computer is illegal.

Implications of digital piracy

The Business Software Alliance claims that over the years the loss to the software industry is over $48 billion dollars. [7] This loss includes software companies profits, tax revenue, and the creation of new jobs.  A 2008 study done by the Business Software Alliance claims that by reducing piracy by 10% in the United States alone over the next four years would generate more than 32,000 new jobs, $41 billion in ecomonic growth, and $7 billion dollars in tax revenues.  In addition the consumer of pirated software may be at risk. [7] Bootlegged copies of software are often purchased from non-reputable sellers.  When the purchase is made with a credit card, that information is then passed on to the untrustworthy seller.  This can lead to a financial loss through stolen credit card information.  Some bootlegged software even contains the capability to transmit stored personal information through the Internet to the person who created the bootlegged software.  This can also lead to a financial loss for the consumer.

A study by the Institute of Policy Rennovation concludes that music piracy causes $12.5 billion dollars in losses each year in the music industry.  This includes lost earnings, tax revenues and jobs.  The RIAA insists however, that the outlawing of certain tools such as CD burners is not the answer, it is educating the people who own them to be responsible users of technology.


Digital piracy can also be considered end- user piracy. In regards to digital piracy end- user piracy is the idea that consumers can purchase music for personal use without any material transactions. The most popular and well pirated form of entertainment is the music industry. With piracy becoming such a dominate factor in the entertainment world today, there have been reports from video games as well as movie corporations that have reported financial losses due to piracy.  According to an article on digital piracy, these entertainment industries account for a small, but valuable, percentage of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and play a large role in fulfilling the entertainment needs of individuals [9]. The average American is said to spend $50.17 annually on forms of entertainment that consumes three hours of daily life. Due to the positive trade balance within the music industry, the American economy profits a great deal from these corporations. According to the department of commerce, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) claims that the "copyright industries" account for six percent of the nation's GDP [9]. Companies such as retail, consumer electronics, and advertising all strive off of the success of the entertainment industry. With this being said it is easy to see how financial losses and a decline in sales can affect the economy of America just by affecting the economic stability of these dependent companies.

Implications for Media Ecology


Media ecologists will have to look long and hard at the developments that have come about with digital piracy.  Digital piracy is something that continues to grow given the advancement of our computer capabilities today.  Media ecologists will have to continue the debate over whether this practice is affecting the media industries ability to make money. The message that is being sent by networks designing the technology and software that makes digital piracy possible is that they have no intentions of stopping the programs from continuing to flourish.  Because of this media ecologists will need to track and compile research as to how this industry is helping or hurting society.  At present, digital piracy appears to be here to stay.



Works Cited

[1]  Digital Piracy. (2003). In Merriam-Websters Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.). 

          Springfield, MA:Merriam Webster, Incorporated.


[2]  Sam, Roosz. "Digital Piracy." Harvard Model Congress Asia. 2008. HMCASIA.18  Nov. 2008



[3]  Prensky, Marc. On The Horizon. Vol. 9. 2001. 18 Nov. 2008   



[4]  "About BSA." Business Software Alliance. 2008. BSA. 18 Nov. 2008



[5]  "For Students Doing Reports." Recording Industry Association of America. 2008.  RIAA. 18 Nov. 2008



[6] "Educational Outreach." Motion Picture Association of America. 2005. MPAA. 18 Nov. 2008



[7]  "Internet Piracy Report." Business Software Alliance. Oct. 2008. BSA. 18 Nov. 2008     



[8]  "The Cost of Movie Piracy." Motion Picture Association of America. 2005. MPAA. 18 Nov. 2008


[9] Bender, M. T., & Wang, Y. (2009). THE IMPACT OF DIGITAL PIRACY ON MUSIC SALES: A CROSS-COUNTRY ANALYSIS. International Social Science Review, 84(3/4), 157-170




Comments (1)

Kate M. Fisher said

at 4:33 pm on Nov 18, 2008

I messed around with the WIKI and figured out how to copy/paste in your sources. I'll send you the information on how to do it via e-mail if you would like or just e-mail them to me, and I will put them in for you. Either way is fine with me.

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