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Victimless crime : Why is Piracy a crime?

BY – Dhananjay Bhattacharya

Piracy as a word came into popular use in the early era of colonisation when the European powers would ship valuables back from their colonial holdings back to their home country and a bunch of people would steal this loot. This act was known as piracy and the people were called pirates. Modern day piracy is very similar and thus we use this label to define it as well.

A Modern day pirate is an individual who through illicit means downloads information mostly in the form of audio visual/visual entertainment, although there exists a large group of people who pirate academic content, something which we shall talk about later.

There is a popular political movement that calls piracy of the entertainment produced by big publishing houses as a victimless crime as the people who pirate aren’t those who can afford such entertainment anyway. The prohibitive cost of access to the content by the media houses disallows people in third world countries with lower income to enjoy such content and piracy offers a way they can enjoy the same. The movement goes as far as to push the narrative that this piracy actually is a marketing tool that builds fan bases that’ll buy their content when they are able to afford to do so. Piracy is a crime of desperation and not of malice and thus has no victims.

Now, let’s talk about Academia. Many research articles are behind a paywall and thus remain out of reach of poor scholars. Medical and engineering books are so expensive that multiple students have to share books to be able to afford an entire series on just one subject. Out of desperation and Convenience a lot of students tend to get these books in soft formats i.e PDF,EPUB etc. this is violating copyright law and takes away from the income the publisher would be able to accrue had piracy been not possible. But is exploitation of poor students fair, should education be so cost prohibitive that there are millions of people worldwide that support piracy for reasons of fairness in their minds.

Already established principles of Copyrights and Patents push for limited period of Monopoly on deriving economic benefit of such IPR but it is unable to keep pace with the fast moving world of the modern era.

Thus,What we  need is a new way to think about Intellectual Property Rights so there is equity in the industry and not unbridled Capitalism. Otherwise, piracy as a tool will alway remain popular and it’ll only grow as more of the world comes online and gets access to information for free.

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