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The meaning of the word pirate has changed from those “Argh!” yelling sea-rats, who go out looking for treasure on the high seas, to mean those who acquire digital goods illegally via their desktop. Today, when we picture pirates, we imagine an average-looking person wearing everyday clothes in front of their PC downloading various lines of code. You can pirate, everything from movies and television shows to video games and books. Almost any kind of entertainment can be found on the internet.
With piracy, files are copied and uploaded to the internet on a site or two. Then, you download the copy while whispering, “Argh,” under your breath and now you’re a pirate. The original file is still there, you just absconded with a copy of the file. No harm done.
An old advertisement that came on before the movie on a DVD would always say, “You wouldn’t steal a car, would you?” If I could clone a car and take the clone while the original car remained, I would totally “steal” that car.
Current anti-piracy laws harm the wrong people. They target average people who download media and keep it for their own personal use with no intention of making a profit from it. I believe those who download and use content they find online for profitable gain should be the only ones who receive punishment. Pirating copies of files should not be illegal. Instead, piracy should be legalized for those who do not distribute their “booty” for profitable gain. It is a convenient way to watch shows and movies without going bankrupt.
Congress has tried to pass laws that would combat piracy both by asking search engines not to provide links to websites with illegal content and by attacking the advertisers that sponsor those websites. One recent bill, called SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act), was put into Congress but was put on hold because of a protest by Google and many other large websites.
Corporations should take a similar stance and use piracy as a form of distribution to get their products out there for mass public consumption, not to punish people for obtaining their content by different means. Penalize the criminals, not the average person on a budget.