No, this is not about your Somalian variety of piracy. This is about digital piracy- the pirates of the new age. No doubt, you have downloaded a song without paying, and I'm sure you've searched youtube for clips of your favorite show, only to find they have been removed at the request of the producing studio. Piracy is rampant on the Internet, that much is clear. But, is it all bad?
I will gladly admit that I have downloaded music, movies, and TV shows illegally. At one point, my sole source of music was Napster, then Kazaa, and then some admittedly shady and underground sources. Any time I heard a new song, I could be sure someone on the Internet was sharing it for free. If I missed an episode of my favorite sitcom, I was assured that someone had put it online for the taking. And these days this sort of thing is only more common, with the prevalence and ease of use of file sharing applications.
Since then, I have changed my ways drastically. I no longer scour the internet for content. I no longer have the need. Now I have a TiVO, and Amazon's MP3 service. If I need a movie, I have Netflix. Didn't record an old episode of a show? Not to worry, Hulu will have it. Since the days when I would steal content with reckless abandon, the industry has changed. They didn't want to at first. In fact, content creators fought the internet with all their might. And when your industry makes billions in revenue every year, there's quite a bit of might to go around.
Piracy, the RIAA and MPAA would have you believe, cuts directly into sales. And sales are what keeps chart-topping albums in production. Without money, no artist could afford to create an album, go on tour, get TV and radio time to promote themselves, and least of all, get actual play time. Stealing music or movies means less money for the artists, too. And what hard working artist doesn't deserve to be compensated for their work? But piracy doesn't cut into sales. In fact, many independent studies seem to show that piracy is creating sales opportunities where they didn't exist previously.
The content creation industry typically creates certain types of content for certain regions. Here in America, we have a popular TV series "Law & Order". But, "Law & Order" may not be very popular with Swedish citizens. So, "Law & Order" would never be aired in Sweden. But, what if you were a Swedish citizen, and you did enjoy "Law & Order"? You have no way of watching it! So, your only option is to steal it online. But, if the creators make the TV series available to you at a price, the consensus seems to be that the vast majority of the people surveyed would gladly pay up. Most people realize that if they pay, they get the benefits of high quality content from the studio, released on a reliable schedule, and usually through an easy-to-use service. The fact that the authorities aren't going to pound down your door and cart you off the jail is simply an added bonus.
So, when you hear horror stories about piracy, think of your own experiences. Did you recently listen to a "leaked" song? Perhaps you downloaded a screener version of the latest movie? You could even be watching TV shows that aren't available in your region. But, once that content was made available legally, did you buy it? I can honestly say that in all cases, I have. If I enjoy a new song, I will sample the album and buy if it's good. If I like a movie that I wasn't able to see in theaters, I will gladly rent or buy it. And if Top Gear were ever brought to American television sets, I would be glued to it every Sunday night.