Photo by Thomas Quaritsch

The Risks and Losses of Piracy

Piracy is a problem in the abstract, one that occurs to others and not to us, until of course it happens to us. It’s easy to think ourselves immune to these widespread scourges as long as we exist within the mass of humanity in the world and on the internet, in the same way that we rationalize that victims of other crimes must have somehow stepped out of a normal pattern of behavior in order to draw crime and the criminals who commit these acts to them. But we are as vulnerable as any other person or internet user, and while the harm isn’t bodily or tangible in that something we once possessed is taken from us, we are losing something in what is often excused as a victim-less crime.

Given our collective feelings towards multi-billion dollar corporations as a whole, none of us shed a tear for studios dealing with the effects of digital piracy, even as the costs climb into the tens of billions. But the problem isn’t contained to just the major studios or the executives who run them. The costs and the price for piracy is borne by employees losing pay or even their jobs, and by smaller independent artists who rely on every dollar of licensing revenue in order to turn a profit on their work.

The effects of piracy can be felt even on the individual level. Stealing from others online is so easy and so prevalent as to be accepted as a part of putting your life and your work online. For those looking to combat it, it is a challenge to find anything like the accountability that we hope for and demand with the justice system. Many sites allow pseudonymous users, so the notion of guilt and accountability for theft is already institutionally diminished. And the tools that the aggrieved can avail themselves of offer little relief; a ban just means a different email to create a new account. In addition, sites like Facebook that attach real identities to accounts are so large and subject to so many issues that their tools to combat bad behavior are ultimately ineffectual. After all, in an economy that demands both users and engagement, asking any of these sites to ban or suspend users is asking them to act against their own self-interest.

Stopping the problem of piracy and theft requires changing how we look at the issue and how we consider what we put online. Our work has value as digital assets, and like any other asset that we own, we need to protect it against theft or misuse by others. RightsLedger is helping users protect their assets by uploading their work to create a record of ownership on the blockchain. From there you can do what you like with your content — share it, license it, whatever you choose. But you can do so knowing that your digital assets are protected against someone taking away your ownership and control.

We’ve been working hard to create partnerships to bring RightsLedger to new markets — read more about those here.

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