I’ve been thinking about this for some time now and I’m going to throw this out there for the sake of argument.
With quickly progressing technology and the ever widening availability of high speed internet access, the means with which a person can become a media pirate is becoming easier. Just about anyone who is familiar with torrents can easily find and download pirated media. The question quickly changes from “Can I?” to “Should I?”
There’s no argument that downloading materials that you have not paid for and are not offered for free is illegal. Many would argue that it’s also immoral because you’re stealing from people who put in a lot of work and deserve to be compensated for it. Would you take money out of someone’s pocket or food off their table?
There are those who would also say that people who download a good portion of pirated works would have never bought those works to begin with if they weren’t readily available for free. People with low and limited incomes and high bills would fit squarely into that model. There’s also a prevailing thought that piracy helps promote works since it allows them to be viewed/heard before they are bought and that people exposed to good product will buy that product.
I’m not going to argue those points here as I’m sure many thousands of articles have been written on piracy. I’m going to cover just a small niche aspect relating to piracy.
Is it piracy if you own the source materials?
I’ll be specific. If you bought a comic book, let’s say The Walking Dead #93 for example, and you download a copy of that file illegally for ease of reading in the future, is it piracy?
Now it’s easy to say that the person who scanned it and uploaded it was clearly breaking the law and pirating the comic; the matter of financial gain is irrelevant. If you’re torrenting or P2P-ing the file, you’re also breaking the law since you’re sharing the comic with those who may not already own it. but let’s say you download the file from Usenet or a direct download where there is no sharing on YOUR part. You are just receiving the file. A file that you already own in hard print and the parties responsible for creating, distributing, and selling it have already been compensated by your purchase. The method from which you gained your copy offers no financial reward to those who pirated the copy and won’t increase the demand for future piracy. Is that stealing?
You just have a digital copy for your collection so you can have easy access to it from several devices once you put your physical book away. This would be the equivalent of scanning your own comic for a digital copy for personal use or converting a CD to MP3 or Flac for personal use. Should you have to BUY an extra copy of the CD in digital form if you want to put it on your mp3 player even though you just bought the physical medium?
The same argument would apply to comics, but the scans are already there – someone just did the work YOU would have done by scanning it yourself. Should you be required to buy a copy from, say ComiXology, if you want a personal digital copy of what you already have? Also, those digital copies are stored permanently on their servers, not on your PC or device.
The files are out there, no one is suffering financially, the item has been bought and paid for, and the process is saving you scanning time. Are you a pirate for downloading the file without sharing it with others?
Personally, I think there is nothing wrong with that and I’m not advocating or condoning piracy, I just think there are some grey areas.
So what do you think? There’s a poll on our sidebar.
I’d be very interested in hearing from both sides.
– The Comic Book Critic