From a reformed pirate
Firstly, a big thank you to @chuck_gopal for inspiring me to write about a subject I strongly feel about.
Do you remember the days of Audiogalaxy? I was in school and positively giddy with joy that I’d be able to listen to Celine Dion and Sting and Iron Maiden (questionable choice in music, eh?) without wishing on fairies for the songs to play on TV (that too when I visited India on vacation) or on the radio.
Where I lived, the catalogue of audio cassettes (and eventually, CDs) were reflective of the demographics of the country. This meant a disproportionate amount of Malayalam, Hindi and Arabic music (yes in that order) was on offer. So I went through much of my teenage years listening to pirated music because YouTube was still being invented.
Then I discovered the beautiful world of online radio: Yahoo Launchcast. I even purchased a subscription with my first debit card. If I liked the songs, I diligently made a list and went on to buy music CDs from Planet M. When they weren’t available, I relied on my pirate buddies for a little help. By 2004, I already owned an iPod and my piracy had decreased drastically and eventually, I started buying my music from the iTunes store.
I am not a musician. I don’t understand the finer points of how the music distribution industry works and how much of the money we pay to buy music goes to the artist. But it just feels wrong to enjoy something someone put a lot of effort into making, for no money at all, just because it is out there for free. This isn’t just about music, it applies to books, TV shows, films, software… all of it. People who create art need money to sustain themselves. Maybe 50CENT doesn’t anymore, but smaller independent artists do.
Piracy needs to end and there’s no way to justify stealing/borrowing content. And much of the responsibility for ending it lies with the artists. Make your music available online at a very low price point. It’s much better than people having to steal the music, isn’t it? And some responsibility rests with the users as well. I remember being told that making content available in a certain country/region is linked to the piracy laws in the area and how well it is enforced. United States and UK have stringent laws which has allowed services like Pandora and Hulu to thrive. This is also the reason why much of the content on iTunes is only available to users in the US. I don’t live in the US, so I must use annoying work-arounds to access legal content. While this may not be entirely legal either, it feels right to buy the content than relying on torrents.
As Deepak says, piracy exists for a reason. But that isn’t to promote artists. There are surely better ways to promote artists now. Piracy still thrives because there isn’t a cheap, easily accessible alternative. Imagine if the Indian iTunes had all the Indian music, films and TV shows (although much of it is junk, in my opinion) catalogued for your buying pleasure. You’d never have to reliquish the remote control to your mother ever again. No buffering cricinfo streams, anymore. Just good ol’ live television. Now that’s worth giving up piracy for, isn’t it?