Fight Against A Pirate Day

October 2nd, 2004 · 2 Comments
by Booksquare

In our previous life, we kept a secret file. Every few months, our boss would race into our office and ask to borrow “the file”. We’d hand it over, slip the pencil she’d accidentally stolen off our desk from her hand, and follow her as she carried our special collection of articles back to her office. Experience had taught us that letting the file out of our sight was dangerous.

No, we weren’t spying on our peers. Much, much sadder than that: we collected articles on anti-piracy. Yes, you read it right. While others pored over Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter looking for gossip (note: if it’s in the trades, it ain’t news), we diligently made copies of articles about piracy raids. Hmm, it didn’t sound so crazy when we started writing this.

Our job, at the time, was handling outside audits for a motion picture studio, and, inevitably, the amounts studios spent on anti-piracy was an issue — actors, producers, and directors loved the results, but didn’t want to actually pay for the effort. Our secret file documented the raids and money saved by stopping pirates in their tracks. We also frequently invoked the hilarious episode of Seinfeld, the one where Jerry becomes a pirate artiste, as an example of how the whole piracy thing went down (when you’re dealing with auditors, you can say things like “went down” without seeming like you’re embarrassingly uncool). Oh yeah, a pirate can be sexy as hell, but not when he’s stealing from you. And something told us the pirates we were fighting were no Johnny Depps, if you know what we mean (and we think you do).

Our position, which we still maintain is valid, is that piracy costs artists. It’s really quite simple. If your product (book, record, movie, game) is copied and sold outside normal distribution streams, you’re not getting paid. Worse, there’s no quality control (Jerry Seinfeld aside). Who knows how your work is being sold or represented (continuity errors? misspellings? entire scenes lost?). If you buy one of these products, you are, truly, stealing from artists.

Still, these pirated products sell. Take a walk in certain city neighborhoods. People don’t invest in piracy operations because they’re feeling charitable. Humans love cheap. It’s easy to justify your actions — the publishers, they make big money. Nobody’s gonna miss my little contribution.

And sure, maybe a nickel here, a nickel there won’t matter to the author who doesn’t make enough from her efforts to justify the hours spent on the effort (tongue is now so firmly glued to the cheek, we may need surgery). But the next time you buy a book (or DVD or CD) from a pirate, think about how you’d feel if you were the artist. Worldwide piracy is a huge deal. We know it’s easier and cheaper to get things for free. We believe there’s free, and then there’s free. Artists who steal from other artists are surely going to get paid back in kind.

Changing our species’ mind about piracy won’t be easy, but we operate on the exponential paradigm-shift theory. If one of our readers accepts our argument, they’ll tell someone. Who will tell someone. And then a lot of someones will get the message.

File Under: Square Pegs

2 responses so far ↓

  • Kate Rothwell // Oct 4, 2004 at 1:59 pm

    Forget global, I want personal — I want to know more about the job. Sounds fascinating. And did your boss steal pens too?

  • booksquare // Oct 4, 2004 at 7:08 pm

    Well, last time I was out there for a lunch meeting, she popped into my friend’s office and helped herself to half of my salad. And his tomatoes. I was the only manager with the guts to do a daily sweep of her office, reacquiring that which had wandered from my desk to hers.

    The job was, honestly, incredible. If you’re into knowing every aspect of the motion picture business (production, marketing, distribution) — from a business perspective. And royalty accounting — any wonder why I find it so endearing…reminds me of the good old days! I was lucky that my klepto boss was really generous with knowledge. Particpations reporting requires more of an ability to read and comprehend than an ability to add, so I really did luck into the right job.

    But now I’m happily “retired”. Which explains why I’ve been working almost full-time for them for the past few months. My tomato-less friend said, “It’ll be easy.” And I fell for it. So far I’ve resisted all suggestions that I get a “temporary” employee ID card. That would be like admitting defeat….