Internet piracy: constructive or destructive to consumers and the music industry?


graphic: Dorothy Weiss

graphic: Dorothy Weiss

Pirates: we all know who those seafaring scoundrels are, as well as their profound influence on earlier times and modern culture. Indeed, much like their ancient counterparts, today’s Internet and bootlegging pirates steal and plunder modern day treasures. The similarities end there, however. Unlike traditional thieving pirates, Internet pirates provide remarkable benefits for both the consumer and the producer, spreading the works of various artists for the world to sample and providing media for all Internet users from all corners of the world and life to enjoy. After decades, it seems that piracy has risen again. This time, however, it is all online, and the world must look at piracy under a new lens, or perhaps a new screen.

Copyright laws, the supposed “bane” of all Internet pirates, are far in the distance, for they are filled with loopholes due to out of date policies and sloppily enforced laws. In fact, according to Nick Bilton of The New York Times, piracy on the web only strengthens in numbers as governments and large corporations try to disperse it, with new and more innovative methods of pirating being created. Companies in truth cannot fully stop piracy, especially when nearly 50 percent of all software in the world is either pirated or illegally downloaded and when file sharing is a technique popular among family and friends. With little-to-no deterrent for such downloads, consumers can freely sample the works of countless artists, famous or obscure.

With such freedom and affordability, it is no surprise that several success stories have emerged from pirating websites. In recent years, many several bands, such as the Fleet Foxes and Mr. Jonathan Akwue, have credited their success in the music field to pirating, according to BBC News. Both bands describe being small artists who are originally “ripped off” by bootlegging software only to gain higher sales and fame from their products having been inadvertently displayed. Using pirating to gain a larger audience for their music, pirates encourage audiences to go on to purchase merchandise and concert tickets supporting the bands—helping the bands make more revenue overall. Pirating takes on the role of advertising to a larger amount of people, using unconventional ways to reach people who might not have been able to hear the music otherwise.

In the end, Internet piracy will remain a controversial issue. Many people claim that pirates and those who reap the free downloads are going to destroy the music industry and make legitimate copies obsolete, and no one can deny that as a possible repercussion. Yet, in the midst of that, there are real-world benefits to such actions, most of which can outweigh such risks. So, will piracy prevail? Only time will tell.



Simply put, piracy is fraudulent—it occurs through illegal actions and by criminal intent. The act of pirating is deceptive, demeaning, and deluding. There are many levels of piracy, and although it may not seem like harmlessly watching a TV show on a website for free could be considered pirating, it is. This example falls under the category of using, or in this case watching, others’ work without their authorization. And there are even more extensive ways to pirate, such as uploading the merchandise for the public or downloading it for personal use.

People spent time and money producing the merchandise that is unfortunately being downloaded for free. Sure, “free” sounds like a great thing, and pirating may seem like the easiest solution to save a bit of money, but other people have use their own resources in order for it to be produced. When those workers are not getting reimbursed through the purchasing of their products, they are being deprived of sufficient payment and cannot receive the full appreciation that people have for the work they do.

Since piracy is illegal, there are severe repercussions for people who are caught in the process. The penalties for both downloading and uploading pirated material are undeniably expensive. Time in a detention home, community service, and fines are all possible repercussions. For example, in 2009, a former PhD student from Boston University had to pay $675,000 for downloading and sharing 30 songs, and many others experience heavy fines and jail time each year. These punishments are enough impetus to not illegally download under any circumstances. It would be cheaper to pay for movies and songs rather than to get caught and reported to the authorities. Knowing that piracy is illegal should be a strong enough influence to prevent piracy. Although the odds that you would actually get caught are low, the fact that it is illegal should be incentive enough not to do it. And if you do end up getting caught, the penalties can be severe and can have serious effects on your life.

There are plenty of other reasons not to pirate—primarily, pirating websites for shows and movies can lag your computer, and the abundance of ads disturbs the ambience of movie watching. Another unfortunate result of piracy is the unwitting downloading of computer viruses that corrupt and delete information stored on the computer and access and reveal personal information.

Going to the movies with a few friends is a fun activity that anybody can participate in, even if it costs a bit of money occasionally. Eating theater food and reacting to the movie along with the audience are two irreplaceable aspects of the experience that make the splurge worth while. So rather than sitting at home downloading pirated materials, it’s time to get off the computer, leave the house, and go to the movies with a friend.



Leave a Reply

Please use your real name and email. Your email address will not be published.

Any comments containing the following material will be removed:
  • Hostility or insulting language directed towards other users, authors, Tower staff, or a specific group of people
  • Any type of harassment
  • Profanity, crude language, or slurs
  • Personal information about yourself or anyone else
  • Discussion unrelated to the article