Pirating Really is Stealing

Graphic courtesy of openclipart.org.

I wish Facebook had a facepalm button.

Recently I was one of several people in a Facebook conversation with someone who said that while he understood copyright law, he nonetheless believed that intellectual property should never be copyrighted. Therefore, as far as he was concerned, there was nothing whatsoever wrong with pirating copyrighted work.

No matter how many times we tried to explain to this, “gentleman,” and I’m using the term loosely here, that pirating an artist’s work is actually stealing from the artist, he just didn’t care. As far as he was concerned, books, movies, and other creative works were merely ideas, and it was simply wrong to put a copyright on a idea.

Facebook seriously needs a bitch slap button as well.

So, while I’m not an attorney, and while my intention clearly isn’t to give anyone legal advice, I’m going to explain, in general terms, what pirating, and plagiarism really are, as the man was also unable to distinguish between the two.

Simply put, pirating means you are obtaining a copy of someone else’s creative work, such as a book, movie, or software program, in such a manner as to circumvent having to pay for it. Pirating isn’t limited to illegally downloading a book or a song off the Internet. Making hard copies of someone else’s creative work without their permission is also illegal. A good example might be a church photocopying songs from a single songbook so that each member of the choir has a copy, instead of purchasing enough books for the entire choir. Regardless of how the work is pirated, the end result is the artist who created the work it isn’t paid by the person using it. Would you expect your plumber, your doctor, or your dentist to work for free? Then why should an artist be expected to work for free?

Plagiarism, is another form of stealing. It means you are taking another artist’s work, putting your name on it, and then claiming the work as your own. This oftentimes applies to nonfiction, which is why most, if not all, scholarly works include footnotes and bibliographies. It’s also why our teachers and professors could give us a failing grade on a term paper if they determined that we did not properly credit the sources we used. There have also been some cases of plagiarism in music, when a riff used in a song may have sounded too much like a riff used in another published song.

Again, I’m speaking in generalities. For more specific information on copyrights, and fair use, you should consult a copyright attorney. The point is books, music, movies, photographs and other creative works must be either be purchased from the artist who created it, or from an authorized seller, such as Amazon or iTunes. Otherwise you risk paying a hefty fine, or even serving jail time if you get caught, and yes, people really do get caught. Pirating is stealing. Period.