Online Piracy: What do you think?

In my last post I talked about the ‘winners’ and the ‘losers’ of online piracy. Since actual figures, at least of the losses, are so hard to pin down, this distinction may be too narrow. So I decided to rather try to determine several categories of opinions about illegal streaming and postpone the post about the reasons for online piracy.

So here are the characters I could distinguish:

The Protectionist

The protectionist wants to preserve the status quo and protect her country’s economy from foreign online piracy. She argues with bloated numbers, is usually politically active and demands a state intervention. Examples are supporters of SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, such as Lamar Smith who says ” The growing number of foreign websites that offer counterfeit or stolen goods continues to threaten American technology, products and jobs. Illegal counterfeiting and piracy costs the U.S. economy $100 billion and thousands of jobs every year. Congress cannot stand by and do nothing while some of America’s most profitable and productive industries are under attack.”

The Realist

She agrees that stealing is morally wrong and that she would never participate in illegal streaming. However, she makes a distinction between physical stealing and online sharing and that there is a reason for the high demand for media offered online. Matthew Yglesias, whom I quoted in my last post fits in this category.

The Opportunist

Her drive is of strictly economic nature: She sees a potential market in online piracy and tries to offer the products demanded at low prices because she knows that most people prefer acting within legal boundaries. Successful business people, such as Angry Birds’ CEO Mikael Hed as well as Rebbit co-founder Alexis Ohanion see ” piracy as a great opportunity for some savvy entrepreneurs to offer a better service and make a lot of money in the process.”

The Idealist

She is the opposite of the protectionist. Her moral obligation is to make information and culture available to everyone and to share intellectual property rather than protect it. Although their opinions clash, the idealist’s home is also politics. The Pirate Party in Germany for example wants to move society towards this model. (For English-speaking readers, here’s the website of the Swedish Pirate Party, which has very similar views).

If you want to know more about the concept of sharing products, check out HAS’ posts about collaborative consumption.

The Progressive

The progressive sees the potential in online streaming and uses it for her own use. Often an artist herself, she turns it into an opportunity to advertise her work.

Louis CK

Author Neil Gaiman made some of his work available for piracy and saw an increase in    sales of this work by 300 %. Louis CK, an American comedian, on the other hand    offered his program for $5 online – not only to Americans though, but to everybody and with a payment system that is internationally available. With this smart move, he made $1million in 12 days.

I don’t think it’ll be easy to settle on this issue, as it is hard to point out how online piracy REALLY effects the economy, but I think that being offensive and creative in solving a problem is usually better than being defensive.