Piracy: A Moral Imperative?

It feels truly odd and jarring to write that title. Frankly, I have always felt that an artist’s choices and rights should supersede the desires and interest of the audience. It takes a tremendous amount of time and effort and work to create a piece of art in any medium. Usually unpaid labor as well, so it only made sense and right for an artist to be compensated for their work in term. The moaning and cries of the ravenous swarms crying out how “information should be free” and “art is only relevant in consumption” always felt hollow and utterly self serving. To be honest, I still mostly believe that, but recent events have shown that piracy is a moral good and necessary for artistic preservation.

Just yesterday, WB announced another series would be removed from the HBOMax service to act as a tax write off. Netflix joined them in outright cancelling a, basically, finished property out of nowhere. Even worse, all streaming services will randomly cancel series after one season with no recourse of any kind since the shows cannot be shopped around, won’t potentially go into syndication on other channels, and will have no other viewing option outside of that streaming service and even that is not guaranteed. Every major streaming service, with rare exception, from Netflix to DisneyPlus to Amazon have stated that there are no plans for any kind of physical release of any of their original works. In short, we have hundreds of television series and films that have no ability or chance of being seen unless someone pirated it.

Obviously, media piracy, in some form, has always existed but was seen as a failing or crime in the past. A large part of that belief was that for most media there was a method of preserving or accessing it. Yes, it costs money, but once we had the DVDs, Blu-rays, CDs, etc. in hand, it was ours. We could put it on our shelves and know that at anytime, for quite some time, we could go and watch or listen to that thing. It was not perfect, and not everything was preserved, but options existed. Now, we no longer have those options even when we “buy” a digital version of media because even after paying full price, that purchase is legally a rental at the discretion of the streaming service.

So, yes, media piracy has gone from a crime to morally neutral hobby to inherent and necessity for the preservation, and potential future, of media in all forms. The solution is simple but unfortunately unlikely simply because corporations cannot stand to make a cent or two less profit. In that regard, let us make sure they lose far more. It is now the righteous choice and action.

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