How Piracy Can Change the World (For the Better)

“A piece of knowledge, unlike a piece of physical property, can be shared by groups of people without making anybody poorer” — Aaron Swartz, The Boy Who Could Change the World

If you grew up in the 90’s, you are probably familiar with this commercial.

Since the early days of the internet, there have been major concerns over file-sharing software that allows users to download music, movies, and books free of cost.

I remember using peer2peer software like LimeWire before I started middle school, and I have never really stopped. Piracy has been a huge part of my own, and many others, internet experience from the start.

Critics claim that pirating content is like theft, and that piracy has detrimental effects including loss of jobs and loss of profits. The findings surrounding the job and profit losses attributed to piracy are often highly exaggerated, but that is just one small factor in the plethora of issues in the way modern society talks about piracy.

There seems to be a widespread agreement that piracy is the same thing as stealing. If you wouldn’t steal a car, you shouldn’t download a pirated copy of the new James Bond movie. I mean, they’re the same thing, right?

Wrong. SoOoOoOo wrong.

Stealing and piracy are far from the same thing.

Stealing involves the removal of someone else’s property, taking away that persons ability to use and benefit from it. That is not how piracy works. Pirate websites allow users to share content with others, without losing access to that content themselves.

This is not just a matter of sharing Justin Bieber’s new album with other Belieber’s, piracy creates the opportunity to spread knowledge and information, and educate the masses globally.

We’ve all heard the saying that knowledge is power.

Piracy makes sharing this knowledge free, and easier than ever before. A more educated society is a more prosperous one, and books being free ensures that those living below the poverty line have just as much of an opportunity to educate themselves as the top 1%. Piracy has the potential to lessen the increasing gap between the rich and the poor.

Piracy is especially useful for developing countries. Not surprisingly, poor countries pirate more content than we do in the first world.

Why is this?

It’s simple. These things are too expensive. Buying educational books and software is simply not an option for families that can hardly afford to eat. Accepting piracy as a legitimate and acceptable form of knowledge dissemination gives opportunities to the world’s most disadvantaged groups.

My point is clear: piracy has the potential to do a lot more good than harm. It’s time that regulators take advantage of the opportunities that piracy software has created, and start spreading knowledge, education, and power to all.

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