Copyright and Piracy

[“Artist”, “creator”, and “writer” are interchangeable terms throughout this post.]

I would like to begin by saying simply that the copyright is here to stay. It will not change. We cannot even end daylight savings time, we will not end copyright law, which many artists support, not to mention many lawyers and politicians. This blog post is not in response to a fear that we may lose our copyrights, but to the illogical position of those who say we should.

This debate is too large to cover in its entirety here, so I will not attempt to do so. I'm open to change, but find most of the arguments lacking. I believe in a free and fair society, but don't feel copyright law will effect the outcome of that ideal.

My biggest argument against ending copyright is the issue of plagiarism. If there are no copyrights, are there going to be plagiarism laws? Why would there be? Under our current system, plagiarism is guarded against by our copyright laws. Would this issue be addressed? To listen to those arguing against copyright laws, it doesn't seem as if it would be.

I am also at odds with the idea that copyright harms creativity—the opposite of this is actually the case—and that if something can be easily duplicated, it should be free for anyone to use. This is a weak justification for theft, that because the original product is unharmed, it's okay to copy a song, a story, or movie.

I do not feel that copyright laws should be limited to seven or fourteen years, as some have suggested. As an artist, I would like to own my work for my lifetime, so that when I'm older I can continue to have exclusive rights to sell it.

Piracy concerns me. I feel that if someone creates an idea, they have the right to own it. Just as someone has the right to own something they buy. But I am firmly against SOPA/PIPA and ACTA. None of these bills would have addressed the real issue behind piracy, and would have smothered the internet, possibly destroying it as we know it today.

Something I've noticed, but am not sure if it's true “generally”, or only for those I have spoken with, is that most of the pirates I've met (some I call friends), are not usually artists. They do not write, paint, make music. They are consumers of art, of entertainment, and do not seem to empathize with the plight of the “starving” artist.


Pirates focus their arguments on corporations, on book publishers, the music industry, and Hollywood, as well as drug manufacturers and other technology sectors. These industries push the pirates, and the pirates push back.

Caught in the middle are people like me, and many artists far more successful than I am, yet aren't “rich” enough to not be personally effected by theft or the loss of their copyrights.

Writers write (and painters paint, and singers sing) for many reasons, but there are two reasons that stand out. It is fun, and there is always a sliver of hope that we can do this for a living.

Let's say an author spends two years writing a novel. She's invested hundreds of hours into this project. She's woken up early, stayed up late, missed dates with friends, spent less time with her children, sacrificed her health. She does this because she know it's her work, and will always be.

Introduce the seven year copyright. After seven years, anyone can steal use her story, which she's spent so much time on, and sell it for their own personal profit. The author would get nothing from them, and her own sales would have to compete against theirs.

If Simon and Schuster liked her story and published it without her, she would not be able to compete with their marketing department, or with the investment they could put behind her novel—their book.

Pirates make the argument that corporations are ruining the world, ruining creativity, stopping the free flow of ideas, and yet they don't realize they would give corporations the legal right to steal use a creator's work, be it art, writing, or music, and sell it.

The irony is that corporations will benefit the most from no or limited copyright laws, for they will have the most resources to take advantage of the situation.

Some see freedom in this. I see anarchy.

Apply this philosophy to physical objects. You would no longer be able to tell someone they cannot enter your home, drive your car, or sleep with your wife. Nice world we would live in without ownership, isn't it?

But what difference is there between physical objects and abstract ideas? In my opinion there is none in the context of copyright laws and piracy, because both objects and ideas have the same impact upon the world we live in. Both ought to be protected.

When a pirate argues against copyright laws, what I really hear is that artists don't have the right to be paid for what they create.

Apply this logic to the real world. What destroys creativity, hard work, and fulfillment more, the right to ownership or the freedom to take?

In this dystopia, an auto worker has the right to a job, and even the right to payment. But he has no exclusive right to his income. He can work 40 or 50 hours a week, but then anyone can sweet-talk the boss and take his paycheck.

If the auto worker lost most of his paycheck to people who didn't do the work, would he work as hard? No. He'd slack off. The auto industry would suffer, consumers would suffer.

Yet that's exactly what pirates are suggesting artists do. We creators should give up our work to people who aren't creative, but who have enough business savvy to come in, take our creations, and sell them for their own personal profit.


Those at the top want to keep what they have, and those at the bottom want what's at the top.

I believe those at the top have every right to keep what they've earned, and those at the bottom have every right to work to get what they want.

I don't believe people at the top should use their money and power to dictate to governments, to prohibit freedom of speech and expression for everyone just because a few are stealing something from them. Nor do I believe the people at the bottom should be lazy and take what is at the top instead of creating their own ideas, their own products, their own future.

I seek the Middle Way, and the system we have now is that way.

Copyright law is far from a black and white issue, and having freedom and having laws are not mutually exclusive in this context. Those who believe copyright laws limit us should take a look at Wikipedia and Linux, and remind themselves that people are opting out of their right to copyright what they create, benefiting society, and that those who do not choose to opt out, and instead sell their ideas, are also benefiting society.

Copyright is not saying that “Because I wrote a book, you cannot write a book.” It's saying “You cannot sell my book as your own.” There's a difference there, an important distinction. Copyright does not destroy creativity, collaboration, shared ideas, or freedom. It fosters and nurtures these ideals.

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13 Responses to Copyright and Piracy

  1. Without copyright laws we end up with China.

    1. Haven't seen it that way yet. There may be some truth to that. Copyright laws are ignored there, for sure. I wonder if that could be a test case for the rest of the world.

  2. JR, excellent post! You make great points. I also agree with the middle way. I like freedom of expression, and esp via internet. No one wants to be stifled, but you are absolutely correct about those who steal work from the artists; they don't even think of what they are doing to the artists but only what they are gaining for themselves. I agree with you about copyright being there to protect the writers. We do need it.

    1. Piracy, and its accompanying philosophers seem, to me, to be steeped in jealousy and greed. It's funny how those two emotions find their way into the extremes, feeding opposite ends of something that should be respected: creative art.

  3. The Middle Way is often the best way. I have been involved in the open source world for a long time now. At first I thought everything should be made available 'open,' but over time I have come to realize that many things are better left closed. If Facebook was 'open' there could be a dozen different versions of it out there and none of them would be a strong as the current 'closed' version. It needs to be the one place for people to connect on Facebook or it is all diluted and weak. If an author writes a book or an artist makes a painting and anyone/everyone copies it and can modify it and distribute it anyway they want, then the original work becomes diluted and looses some of its value to the owner and to the rest of us too. Part of the value of those creative works is in their originality and creativity - that can't be spread out to 50 different spin-off/rip-off versions without removing some value.

    I had never thought about the reality that would come if copyright were to disappear. Thank you for painting that picture - you just gave me another, better understanding of copyright. How wrong it would be to create something and have the big guys come along in 7 years and take it right out from under you. Ick! Thanks for the post

    1. You're welcome, and thank you for stopping by.

      I believe in freeware as well, but like you, not everything can be free and be successful. There are numerous examples of things that were made free and simply put, no one respected them enough to take care of them and they faltered. It really takes a solid and well-meaning community to pull something like that off.

      Wikipedia is totally free and open source, but I think it plays into what you say. If there were 100 Wikipedia knock-offs, they wouldn't be as good as what we have now. Linux may be a good example as well. There are "many" versions of Linux, but most people use the top few versions.

      The idea of an open source novel doesn't even make sense to

  4. u pointed out a great problem.. which is of great concern
    as u said that mid way is best... i agree..
    adversity and scarcity both r harmful
    too tough or too loose rules will do no good..

    Nice read !!!

  5. One time was more than I wanted to be plagiarized--but it happened. I kept my creativity under wraps for over 20 years because of that one horrible experience. Today people warn me and try to scare me all the time and though I can't put my head into the sand, I realize that pirates exist.
    Thanks for a wonderful and thoughtful post.

    1. I know there are many like you who don't venture out and reveal your work for fear of it being stolen. It's very troubling and very sad, to me, because I wonder how much great stuff isn't seen... It's something I'm fearless about, though. I can't worry about having someone steal something, or I'll never get published, on top of all the perfectionism problems I have :D

  6. I'm with you. Leave the copyright laws alone. It is the big companies (Google comes to mind) that want to do this. They will slap your work online for free.

  7. amazing post :)
    in the starting i was getting an idea that you were all for copyright, but you do understand the complexity of an issue such as copyright.
    of course, an artist has every right for copyright of his/her own work. this becomes all the more important for people like us, who aren't rich enough or famous enough to be assured that credit will come our way.
    however in a completely different domain, that of technological development, dissemination and NOT monopoly, is the way for true advancement. your take on it at the end was really pleasure to read :)
    keep writing.
    i came to your blog for the first time, loved your writing style. :)

    1. Thank you very much, Terence! I agree, there's a huge difference between technology and art, and if someone could work it out so the two would have different copyright laws, I think that could be beneficial. I know a lot of people who argue against copyright do it using technology as their example.


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