I just read a fascinating article about torrenting and the various cliches surrounding it. The article is here, if you’d like to read it. I recommend that you do.
Like most people who are reasonably active on the internet, I download things from time-to-time. Yes, I used The Pirate Bay, and currently use a couple of other sites. I don’t download a lot of content, and I have a very specific set of rules.
1. I only download things that are either not legally available for purchase in the United States/region 1 (ie: the newest episodes of Top Gear), or that are broadcast TV shows that I missed watching that week (ie: The Simpsons, Family Guy).
2. As soon as those items that aren’t available for purchase in the USA become available, I buy them. I either pick up the DVD or blu ray (as in the case of Doctor Who, where I torrent in order to see it a few hours before it airs on BBC America), or I buy it on Amazon Instant Video (as is the case with Top Gear and Downton Abbey).
3. The only other items I torrent are things that are out of print. If the copyright holder can’t be bothered to put out a copy for purchase, well…
Now there is still no getting around the fact that even with this set of ethical standards, I’m still stealing. None of these shows are things that I actually need, and I could easily live without them in my life. It wouldn’t kill me to wait a few weeks for the new Top Gear episodes to pop up on Amazon Instant, or to wait a few months for the new Downton Abbey episodes to do the same. But, hey, at least I buy almost everything that I torrent, and I’m willing to bet that’s more than most people do.
Yes, I know there’s all those “studies” that say people who torrent the most also buy the most, but we all know that’s bullshit, especially as it relied on self-reporting and, as the article above points out, was done some time ago. It’s also important to think about this mathematically. If someone torrents $1,000 worth of stuff, and buys $500, then that’s great! That is way better than torrenting $1,000 worth of stuff and buying none. But unless you buy $1,000 worth of stuff, you’ve stolen whatever you haven’t paid for.
I know the moral argument won’t hold much sway with many people, so let me put it this way: If you continue to steal things, and don’t pay for them, companies and people that make those things won’t be able to continue to do so. Next thing you know, your favorite books or TV series or whatever, will be gone, and you’ll have only yourself to blame.