Can the availability of movies, tv shows, music, books, and countless other downloads help to make us more/less honest?
This is the question swirling around my head as I read the various articles relating to SOPA and PIPA.
While reading an article about the Piracy Debate in today's NYTIMES I started to re-ask myself the question of "what is right, or wrong?" in this field. And by policing myself am I choosing my own level of honesty?
By and large, I'm a pretty "honest" guy when it comes to online material. The standard I've set for myself is pretty simple, albeit flawed: If I have previously purchased an item, be it a DVD, album, or book, I have no issue downloading it for free on the internet, or getting a copy from someone else. Furthermore, if I missed a show on television, like The Wire, when it first come on TV, I have no problem "illegally" downloading the show because I then, and currently, pay for HBO. Therefore, I could have watched it. And it's not like I'm putting someone out of work by not buying a physical copy of The Wire, etc.
Truth is, when I first purchased a CD, or record, I gave money to the artist, and all the other companies involved in getting that CD into my CD player. Even the oil company profited as I likely drove over to a store like CD World, and bought the CD. There's no reason I should buy it again.
EXCEPT...one could argue that overtime things do break, and if the CD or record was scratched, or broke, I would have to buy another. Yeah, that's true, but I answer that simply by saying: I don't give a shit. You got my money. I supported you. The same way I supported HBO, and still do.
Another criteria I try to stick to is whether, or not, I would ever buy a particular album, or watch a certain movie in the first place, if I couldn't get it for free. Truth is, if I'm going to watch a movie, or TV Show, then the answer is already implied. Take the show "Breaking Bad." I have AMC, and I missed the first 5 episodes of Season 1, so I downloaded them. I'm not going to buy them. That's insane. I'm just making viewing it easier for me. I wouldn't give the show away to others on CD, for if they care to watch it, they can make the effort.
I have a friend who gives me albums I would NEVER buy, like Thievery Corporation, MGMT, or Phoenix. "Dude, you gotta hear this album..." And then I do. If it's REALLY that good, I will go buy it. It's never that good. I've purchased every album Ghostface has recorded for the last 8 years. Every Malkmus album, I've bought. Every Radiohead album, I own it. Even after I've heard them all, I buy them.
BUT...if you're dead, like say, Johnny Cash, do I feel the need to give money to the Cash estate? I'm not so sure I do. And this is where the question of my own internet-morality comes into play. There's a great chance I'm not going to give someone who's dead any money because I don't know his/her family. Maybe if I've heard some heart-wrenching story about the family, or the money goes to a cause, MAYBE. Short of that, not likely.
Finally, there's the one thing I do steal pretty consistently: UFC Pay-Per-View events. Yep, I do that. Why do you ask? Well, probably because I feel a sense of entitlement.
For one thing, I work in the field, and really do need to see most of the fights. People are willing to send me copies of the events, but not until the following week. I don't want to wait. I can usually find the event for free at a local bar as well, but I often don't want to go out. AND THE REALLY BIG PART OF IT ALL, I DON'T WANT TO PAY $60 FOR A DICE ROLL! The events cost waaaaay too much, for the number of events that are run, regardless of how many are free. The best ones are often pay events. So, I steal them, or watch them the next day on various websites.
How do I justify this? No different from anything else. If I wasn't able to get it for free then I wouldn't watch it at all. That's a fact. I know this because this is what happens every time I can't watch it.
Is it honest? Not sure. I do know that in handling things this way, at the very least I'm maintaining and interest, which in turn has a value, so I'm cool with it.
In other words, and after a lot of words, sometimes there's no harm in "stealing." Contrary to what the Motion Picture Association of America, or any other group wants to label these practices, it's not the same as "shoplifting." It just isn't.