Otaku Journalist has been running a series on anime piracy lately, and it’s gotten me thinking.
I am fairly confident the following are all true:
- People have a fundamental right to participate in their culture, which necessarily means they need access to cultural products.
- Radio chased folk culture into an alley and murdered it a century ago, replacing it almost entirely with commercial mass media. The Internet has revived a zombie version of folk culture in the form of fandoms, but even fandoms have a commercial product at the core.
- The relationship between industry (any industry) and consumers is a predator-prey relationship. The industry wants your money, and uses products as bait to get it. They will take as much as they can get away with, and care nothing about you or the products except as a source of money.
- The previous point applies to an industry (or a corporation within that industry) as a gestalt entity. The motivations of the people working in the industry vary; many actually do care about their customers or creating quality products.
- Generally speaking, people should be rewarded for their labor.
- We as a culture undervalue creative work severely. We have come to expect that content will be free, and thus it is increasingly common that writers and artists are expected to work for the privilege of having their work published, as opposed to actually getting paid. (A growing number of news sites, for example, from fan-news sites like The Mary Sue to major general-audience national sites like Huffington Post and USA Today (web edition only), do not pay their writers.) This is unsustainable.
- Physical media (books, tapes, DVDs, etc.) are rivalrous and excludable, i.e. private goods. Digital distribution is non-rivalrous and most non-excludable, i.e. a public good. Generally, governments are significantly better at managing public goods than private enterprises are.
- The idea of handing management of the arts over to the government is fundamentally horrifying.
- Most people who say they use piracy solely as a way to sample media, and buy the shows they enjoy once they become commercially available, are lying most of the time.
Conclusion: Piracy is a convoluted mess where everyone on all sides is both right and wrong, and there doesn’t really seem to be a solution.