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In class this week we discussed the notions of piracy on the internet. To introduce the subject, we pondered the question of “What is a Pirate?” The term “pirate” holds two connotations: one good, and one bad. The “good pirate” refers to the romanticized idea of a Jack Sparrow, a Robin Hood — a hero, per se, who lives his life in leisure and good fun, and who steals from the excessively haughty rich to, so to say, even things up a bit. A “bad pirate,” however, is attributed to the Somalia pirates or terrorists of the modern era — entities who are so disdainful in society that they are not even given a name.

So in the modern digital media world, what pirates are we?

I use the personal pronoun “we” because very rarely do you find someone who has not pirated something from the internet: that is, someone who has not watched a tv show or movie illegally to avoid paying for movie tickets to watch it in the theatre. I and everyone I know have committed this seemingly trivial, seemingly commonplace crime of “piracy.” What difference does it make if I, just one individual, save a few bucks to watch something online instead? It hurts no one, right? Well, one individual has a very small effect, but when everyone does it, the actual film industry suffers and loses immense amounts of profit. I remember on my trips to China when I would see vendors on the street selling hundreds and hundreds of pirated movies, wrapped in cheap paper cases and ready to watch. These pirates have the potential to be detrimental to the movie industry — they are illegally mass producing and selling property that does not belong to them for a profit. In a way, these acts are very similar to those of the Somalia pirates — these street vendors are committing theft for the benefit of themselves, even if it means that others are harmed. Piracy, although we all love it and it is trivialized in society, has the potential to be detrimental, and thus should be kept an eye on.