Monday, June 4, 2018


I didn’t see The Last Jedi until four months after the film came out, which I guess is a crime on my part because how can you be a geek and not see THE NEW STARS WARS NIKKI. LIKE FRICK MATE, WHAT’S NEXT? YOU GOING TO TELL ME YOU DIDN’T READ THE HARRY POTTER BOOKS, ONLY WATCHED THE MOVIES? FAKE. FRICKIN. FAN.

Calm down there hoss, let me speak.

So, I didn’t see The Last Jedi when it came out because, well, a lot of reasons. Biggest one was that I got a concussion on the day it premiered, preventing me from doing anything fun for a week. Then there was graduating college, leaving a job, starting a job, being swallowed up in existential terror of reality past present and future. Normal growing up stuff. By time I settled, the movie was out of theaters, and I didn’t have the money to get the blu-ray, and all copies were on hold at the library. Some say the copies on still on hold, to this very day.

A couple of times, my mom suggested we download a torrent of it on her Amazon Firestick. Every time I refused because I am “No Fun”. But, more importantly, piracy is wrong. Which is why I’ve gathered you all here today.

Guys. We need to stop pirating stuff. Seriously. It’s an unpopular stance, I know. Usually I’m the only one in the room that thinks it’s as big of a deal as it is. So know that I’m not saying this to condemn anyone. There are a lot of arguments out justifying piracy, some valid and some not. And I want to talk about it, because it’s better we all come out with solid reasoning behind what we choose to do outside of “it’s the right thing” or “it’s the convenient thing”.

Here, I present my side of the argument. And, ultimately, that argument boils down to this. Piracy harms everything. It harms the creator that made the piece being pirated. It harms the person pirating it. It harms the industry and the culture of creating media. It promotes the idea that entertainment, media, and culture is something we are entitled too, which cheapens its value. But here I am, getting ahead of myself.

Let’s break it down.

How to Pirate - Pro Tips from the Genius Telling You Not to Do It
In the most general sense, pirating is procuring a copy of media (whether it be music, movies, games, books, or anything else you can think of) without paying the price set by the owner of said intellectual property. This includes ripping the media from discs and selling it to others, torrenting it, downloading it from XxXSephy4evurXxX’s youtube channel, so on and so forth. Obviously there’s more to it then that, but this is not the place to get into the specifics of copyright law. (See the P.S. section for more if you’re so inclined.) If we’re looking at it for the purposes of this discussion, think of it as whenever the creator or team of creators that made the media aren’t being compensated for the work they’ve done as a result of illegal distribution. Having all that said…

Piracy is stealing, and stealing is wrong. 
Let’s start with the good old fashion truth. If you decide to procure a copy of any form of media through illegitimate means, that is stealing. It is not compensating anyone who had a hand in creating that work. Now, most say that money doesn’t matter that much when it comes to the bigger productions (this reason is given most often in regards to big-budget movies and pop stars). What’s the $7 ticket fee going to hurt Disney, after all?
For starters, I don’t care how much of the cash moneys they have. They still are entitled to their cut of that ticket fee. Let’s say you work at Denny’s for a sec. Do you want people to stiff you the check because Denny’s “have enough money as it is?” No. You waited their table. You change their order so many times that the cooks started throwing spatulas at you ever time you walked in the kitchen. You earned that money.
But let’s take it at a different angle and say that, sure, the A-Listers don’t need that pocket change. Let me tell you who’s actually being cheated in this situation.
Adrian Blake-Thomas, the star of that new sitcom you like (20 Somethings Living in the City, Tuesday nights on NBC), isn’t feeling that sting. He’s hopping in his vintage batmobile and taking a road trip with his A-List pals for funsies. But Stew Somebody, who worked on the lighting, will not be getting his Hanukkah bonus. He was planning to use that bonus for his daughter’s birthday party, now he can’t. SUE SOMEBODY IS GOING TO BE A VERY SAD BIRTHDAY GIRL BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T WANT TO PAY.
Or, to put it in a way that effects you, 20 Somethings Living in the City isn’t getting renewed for a third season because ratings show that exactly 5 people are watching it.
“But how can this be?” You ask. “This site I’m downloading #20SomLivCit has, like, a billion downloads, and that’s just from the portal where half of the show clips. Does NBC not know that that the world is watching? They make me so frickin’ mad. NBC is DUMB. BOYCOTT NBC. DON’T SUPPORT THEM, THEY’RE FASCISTS. #NBCFACIST”
Here’s the thing. you can’t boycott them if you never gave them ratings to begin with. Also, your hashtag game is weak. But, hey, thanks for giving me a lead into my next point.

Priacy is not a form of civil protest. Boycotting is a form of civil protest. 
The biggest argument I hear in favor of piracy is some variation of The creator(s) and/or beneficiaries of [insert media] do not need and/or do not deserve my monetary compensation, so I will not give it. Or, in a more condensed format They do not deserve my support.
Cool. Then don’t give them your support. That’s how you actually hit them hard. By continuing to consume their content, you are still supporting them by perpetuating their reputation. Just because you withdraw your monetary support, doesn’t mean you’re not still helping them out. After all, all press is good press. Want to really hit them? Forget them. Let them fade into oblivion. Nothing will hurt them more.
So, that takes care of the problem of sticking it to those rich 1% Sons of Guns. We’re done here, right?

”Hang on now, things aren’t that simple,” I hear the gaming community cry. “Well,” I respond, “Maybe they are.”
Listen, I get that things aren’t as black and white as I’m making them out to be. There’s a surprisingly big gray area regarding piracy (looking at you, gaming community). Sometimes, there’s media that you cannot get your hands on even if you have the money. If you want to experience that media, pirating is the only option. Still, you understand that piracy hurts the industry and you want to support the people that worked on it, so you at least try to find some sort of middle ground. However, if you do that, even through honest intentions, you end up doing more harm than good.
For instance, take Mother 3, a Gameboy Advance game only released in Japan. It was the sequel to Earthbound, a Super Nintendo game with sales that tanked upon it’s initial release in the west but eventually gained a cult following that would throw themselves upon their own swords to get an official English Translation of Mother 3. A group of fans where so desperate that they translated the game themselves and sent that translation to Nintendo, saying they’d give it to them free of charge if they’d just port the game to the US. Nintendo refused, and they ended up putting the translation up on their site, allowing anyone with a torrent to download it.
Guys, I think that’s ultimately what killed it’s official release. Nintendo might have reconsidered in years to come, especially with the game’s rise in popularity. But now that there’s a way to get the game for free (one well known to the demographic that Nintendo would market the game too) why on earth would they put in all the work to port it and cross their fingers hoping that everyone will just up and pay for it now. I have no doubt that the people in the Earthbound fandom would throw their money at Nintendo if they gave Mother 3 an official release, but I’m not Nintendo, and they’ve got to do what’s best for their company.
With all technical semantics out of the way, let’s dive into the heart of things. Why do we think it’s okay to pirate? Because we feel like entertainment wants to be shared. In the information age, media isn’t just easily accessible, it’s viewed as a basic human right. However…

We are not entitled to be entertained freely-(although I can see how you’d think that.) 
I’m not kidding, I really do empathize with the notion that entertainment should be free because a lot of entertainment is free. There are many ways in which we are entertained at no monetary cost to ourselves. Storytelling, for one, makes up the majority of our common conversations. When you see your friends or your family for the first time in any stretch of absence, typically the first thing you want to do is catch up. You tell stories. When you witness or experience something out of the ordinary, you’re first inclination is to share that experience. And you do so without demanding any compensation, the simple joy of telling a good story being all you need.
There is a difference between you telling your buddy about that time you were on the train and a man in a dragon costume suddenly boarded and started dancing in front of an older gentleman wearing a fedora and Catcher on the Rye.
As cynical as it sounds, good art of any kind is a commodity. It takes effort to produce and to pass on. Sometimes, it’s not an expensive commodity. Sometimes, it is. Either way, it’s the right of the the creator to decide whether they want to give it or sell it.
Think of it this way. Let’s say you cook a dish. Making that dish cost you, no matter which way you look at it. You paid for the ingredients. You expended effort to prepare the dish. You used your plates and utensils to serve it. Now it’s your right to decide whether or not you want to give it away or sell it for profit, not the right of the person you’re serving. Maybe you want to share it feel like you can afford to give it away freely. Maybe you’re a sous chef and you need the payment that meal will provide to continue cooking more dishes. Maybe you’re the worst host ever and are charging your house guest for the taco that was, let’s be honest, sub-par at best.
No matter how you put it, we are entitled to art as much as we’re entitled to anything else. Art is a gift, we ought to treat it as such.

Piracy promotes greed, exploitation, and all other things icky. 
You see what I’m getting at by this point, right? If you get nothing else from this post, take away the fact that Piracy undercuts the value of art. When you pirate, you are operating under the notion that the piece of media that you are taking is worth nothing.
Those actions have consequences. This lack of value and commitment to art will ultimately cause it to rot. You’ll see studios take less chances on new ideas, creators you love won’t be able to continue their work, more advertisements and product placements and all things commercial will worm their way into our favorite past times.
At the end of the day, our unwillingness to properly value art and provide the means for it to be made gives opportunities for cooperations to hijack these works and re-appropriate it for their purposes. If we want to change the quality of the works our generation puts out, if we want genuinely new and exciting concepts instead of tired formulaic blockbusters, this is where it starts.

And now, A word from an independent creator.
I want to share my work freely. I want to have all the resources in the world to provide distribution, pay for materials, and start throwing my books at random passersby on the street. That’s my fantasy. But that’s just it, it’s a fantasy. I’ve got to eat. The agent, editor, marketing team, printer, and everyone else on future team #Nikki4Overlord has gotta eat too. So when I see people so casually stealing from other creators, it terrifies me.
If I’m being honest, it hurts too. Books take a lot. Sometimes I come home from a nine hour shift and force myself to sit at my computer, read that reference, research that market, write that chapter. I bleed for these things. And the fact that all of that is worth so little to the public that they’ll just take it without a second thought, frick mate. Try sitting in my seat and see if you still feel the same way.

That’s it. That’s what I’ve got.

P.S. Here are some links. Click them. Do it. Go on. DO IT. 
Here I covered the barest of the basics. Piracy, Copyright, and all things having to do with intellectual property are slippery slopes. There’s a lot I didn’t explore here. What about modding? Memes? Remixing? What happens when a creator is using their copyright for evil (trying to sue a critic for quoting their work, over charging, etc.)? What if the media I like benefits a cooperate entity that has been mean to my favorite creator? Is there still a way to support them while not benefiting The Man, man?
Well, this here is just an itty bitty blog that I do in my spare time. I’d love to sit here and talk for ages about all that stuff, but it’s getting late and I’m opening the coffee shop tomorrow, so…
*pats the table, looking around
*sees a napkin
*pulls pen out of pocket and starts scribbling notes
Here…is a bonefide rabbit hole of places where you can learn more about exactly what copyright (and, in turn, piracy) is. If all this wasn’t enough, anyway. Seriously, look into this stuff. It’s kinda neat, actually.

Learning About Copyright
Crash Course Intellectual Property
U.S. Copyright Office Fair Use Index
Center for Media and Social Impact 

Stories about Copyright (And how they’ve affected their creators)
Young Adult Author Maggie Stiefvator Proves that Piracy Affects Sales of Book Series “The Raven Cycle” 
Youtube Channel Mother’s Basement Gets Plagiarized (Warning: Language)
This Story About Piracy and Shovel Knight is Surprisingly Heart-Warming 

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