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I didn’t really like Steal This Film. It was well-made — as a work of art, it’s impressive, and the jumpy, disconnected imagery in some shots is effective despite being a bit cliche for propaganda-themed video. However, the actual arguments were fairly weak. Most of all, the film failed to sufficiently capture my sympathy; much of it was premised on TPB’s fight for existence, which wasn’t very well established as being justified in the first place. It convincingly portrayed youth culture as increasingly OK with piracy and their elders as scared and out of touch, but this doesn’t itself make a good case for the ethics of pirating copyrighted media.

 

On the other hand, Liang’s essay was fascinating. I hadn’t considered the interaction between piracy and socioeconomic class. Indeed, I had previously been a pretty strong adherent to the model of piracy as being ethical if (and only if) it was done with no money involved. The for-profit piracy that Liang describes has always struck me as plainly wrong, but he muddies the waters quite a bit by detailing how India’s media economy is largely concerned with and even premised on forms of piracy. Liang’s comparison to illegal housing highlights the ways in which large-scale illegal activity can affect enough people and determine the bounds of enough lifestyles to make it entirely unclear whether increased obedience to the law in question would even be a net social good.