The Stupidity Of The 'Just Go Without' Argument
from the do-you-even-listen-to-yourself-talk? dept
Whenever this pro-piracy argument is broached, usually in the form of "This is why I pirate," or "Pirated x doesn't have this problem," it is responded to with shocked gasps of "I can't believe you feel entitled to just take something if it's not available/at the right price point/otherwise nonexistent." The person pushing this take generally starts telling those talking up piracy that they could "just go without." To do otherwise means the commenter (or post author) is nothing more than a child with an outsized sense of entitlement.
Here's a stellar example, as provided by TD resident sideshow, bob:
Let me get this straight. I can write an open letter asking the food companies to do better on calories/taste/freshness/whatever and until they do, I'll feel free to just shoplift whatever I want. They need to earn my money.Well, of course they could "go without." Everyone has that option. Do without. That's the "honorable" way.
Maybe the editors of Maxim or Playboy could write an open letter asking the women to "do better" at satisfying them and until then, they'll act like rakes or cads.
Or maybe I can just write an open letter to cancer and ask cancer to do better or else I'll refuse to die. Yeah. That will work.
So I can just write my own open letter and ask Bobbi Smith to "do better" and cough up more cash for my work. After all, that's the mechanism that's supposed to work. It's like a magic wand, only with text.
What is fascinating is that there's little acknowledgement that there are living, breathing humans on the other side of the transaction. There's no acknowledgement that the creators need to eat, pay the rent, and purchase health insurance. Nope. It's all a focus on the consumer who is supposedly allowed to simply stamp his/her feet and if the hard working creators don't snap to it, the consumer will feel free to simply take it. Wow, that's a model of one spoiled brat.
But let's look at this in a more realistic way. What exactly does "doing without" do for the content creator? How does "not purchasing" (or not having the option to purchase) the disputed content do anything for the creators? Because the bottom line in both scenarios is that $0 has made its way from the potential customers to the people desiring the income.
If everyone just "does without," how does this improve the situation for either the content creator or the customers? Once you've taken the piracy out of it, all you've got left is a set of lousy options that do nothing for everyone involved. If rights holders are happier merely saddling up their high horse and riding to the nearest moral peak, so be it. Riding that horse won't make you any richer, though. All it does is further separate you from your potential income.
A bit of the old infringement, on the other hand, gets your work into the eyes, ears, brains, etc. of potential customers. Sure, not all of them would buy if they had the chance, but at least in this scenario, you're building a bit of a fanbase that may decide to reward you whenever the distributor finally pulls their head out of their legacy and starts meeting customers, at minimum, halfway.
Then there's the infringement itself. It takes many forms. Some of it is just watching uploads on YouTube. I've caught some BBC series I can't purchase here in the US via the 'Tube. Or there are shadier streaming sites that serve a ton of ads along with even rarer uploaded video or stuff YouTube has content-matched right off its servers.
Streaming video is infringement? (Or was, pre-Posner.) Or somehow morally wrong? That's a position I can't even fathom. I realize that ad revenue or DVD sales are "lost" when this happens but I have a hard time believing a temporary video stream represents a true loss to the creators. It's not as though it's residing on my hard drive and being transported to and fro by portable devices. It's not a replacement for an actual product I can use in a more versatile fashion.
To me, streaming video is about as "infringing" as going over to a friend's house to watch their TV. True, the internet gives me a bigger selection of "friends" and a bottomless DVD selection. Other than that, when I'm done with the stream I "leave my friend's house" and the "DVD" stays with "him." If I want to watch it again, I can't do it from my TV. I have to visit him again.
Even if it does somehow do "irreparable damage" to the rights holders, what's stopping them from just erecting a streaming site of their own? Or at least something much better than what exists now in various crippled forms? The attempts to shut these sites down seem to indicate that massive amounts of potential earnings are being siphoned away. If so, why put up with it? Build your own and collect the ad revenue, just like the operators of these sites do.
Oh, now you say ad revenue is minimal and unsustainable? If the content industries do it, it has to be gated and pre-paid because no one can make a living on ad revenue. If the helpful pirates do it, they need to be shut down because they're profiting off the backs of the creative industry. Which is it? No money or plenty of money? My guess is: not enough money. Ad-supported streaming sites can't match the licensing fees these companies can extract from other services. So we're right back where we started: money being left on the table.
How about all these file lockers that are such a threat to the American Way of Life™ that we need to send the combined forces of the local SWAT team and FBI in order to show that We Are Indeed Serious About Pirates? Aren't they making a killing? Christ, look at Dotcom. Virtually swimming in opulence and personal tanks. He's a multi-millionaire. Do what he does. Throw all your stuff onto some servers, get the links passed around the internet, sell faster access for monthly rates and start re-living the life you always thought you'd be living.
Can't figure out how to do any of the above without dealing with a nightmarish tangle of royalties, licensing and release windows? Don't look at me. I never thought any of those things were good ideas. Here's a suggestion: create a blanket licensing group for this new venture a la ASCAP. Dump it all into a big pool and trickle the monies down on the usual suspects. Or, you know, go one better and use all this precise info you'll be gathering to actually pay the creators appropriately.
I don't know what's more annoying: the moral ground cowboys who would rather the creators made no money than fix their broken delivery systems or the industry "titans" who are constantly being outdone by any techie who can set up a decent file locker.
Bottom line: the real entitlement belongs to industries that feel the public should be grateful for whatever half-assed digital "services" they throw our way. Honestly, if you'd rather get piracy shut down completely (will never happen) just so the only other option is "do without," you'll have accomplished nothing more than swapping out your high horseshoes for platform boots. $0 is still $0, no matter how "honestly" this big pile of nothing is "acquired."
P.S. This argument also bugs me: "X is an asshole so I'm going to pirate the shit out him." Really? I don't know how someone can argue "piracy's effect is overstated" or "piracy is a convenient scapegoat for the content industries" and then make a grand statement that you're going to punish someone by doing something ineffectual, only ANGRIER. Vindictive piracy makes absolutely no sense.