How Udemy Is Profiting From Piracy
Rob Conery
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The first wave of hardest hit by piracy businesses can see the exponential curve of “piracy” point towards an evolution in their history. Tower records shut down, iTunes opened. Sharing/piracy, whatever you call it at your end these days, has become a culture. It’s almost the status quo for some things, so common many people don’t even discuss it, but not entirely yet. There are a few holdouts — still writing articles like this and not seeing the bigger picture. Perhaps — just capitalizing on the existing law for their pay — nothing unethical or weird about being present and gettin’ what is due.

The author is a developer. Developers are a culture of people who rely on concepts like sharing through open source to make a living — but that is different, right? MIT license agreements that permit developers to use framework code like that of AngularJS for example vs IP infringement are worlds apart in a lawyer’s office, but the results and exponential fruit they bring is not.

On the surface what Udemy is doing today is considered like cancer to many that learn about it — they profit from stolen goods. They don’t mug anyone to pawn a product that is sold on the open web and not off the back of a truck — they are not afraid to get caught because getting caught is not that simple and they are protected by the very reasonable legal levers of the DMCA. They make money on someone else’s work. Those appear as facts.

What is the result of Udemy though? People are benefitting from stolen educational materials. The skills learned from Udemy courses can open six-figure job openings up and act as groundwork for very profitable startups.

This is the nature of humanity in a nutshell. One person has what many cannot attain and want. They find another way to get it and the world moves forward. Startups are built on that. Our species evolution is defined by it. It’s the story of man makes fire. It’s the soon-to-be story of space travel.

Udemy is in competition with free options like EdX or Code Academy. If you don’t need the certificate and just want the education, it is pretty easy to learn any technical skill today for free.

In the case of Udemy, we are witnessing the gray area. Not the legal part where they are hawking stolen goods — and they are very good at it. I’m referring to the evolution part. Humans don’t live long enough to witness both the black and white of many things. But this theft is not like a stolen fur because it offers something which can make an exponential change — like that which education offers. Being that is is a tech company stealing from developers, it’s also likely to spur a disruptive reaction that unhinges itself or it’s practice or both.

On the surface, it’s heist. Under the skin, it could be evolution.

I don’t support Udemy, but I see another story happening too, and it’s not all bad.

Capitalism hasn’t exactly been kind to the environment so far and based on the 6th mass extinction event we find ourselves present in, it’s not really great for our species survival either. The rate at which we move the world forward will increase through making education more accessible. To me this story is a stepping stone. Education should probably be free I believe. It’s almost cruel to charge for it. When robots, AI, 3D printing in combination with distributed manufacturing and sharing disrupt the majority of labour on the planet in a few years it’s going to force us to evaluate whether many things, including learning, can have a price tag.

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