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America becoming a nation of pirates

Jacksonville Journal Courier

By Dan Lewis

Entertainment. This country is enthralled with it to the point of breaking the law.

Whether it’s viewing the Super Bowl live on TV, purchasing the latest Call of Duty video game, listening to the most popular music or going to see “Frozen” in theaters for the third time, Americans just can’t seem to quench their unyielding thirst for more entertainment.

According to YouTube, over 6 billion hours of video are viewed each month on their website, a feat they claim is almost enough to equal an hour for every person on the planet.

This obsession has led many Americans to obtain media by any means possible, even if the means aren’t strictly legal.

Before Pirate Bay, the infamous BitTorrent (file-sharing) website used mostly for music, was shut down by an injunction made by officials from several countries, it had about 25 million active users.

The Recording Industry Association of America estimates that in 2009 alone, less than 40 percent of music acquired was actually paid for. They support a report put out by the Institute for Policy Innovation that claims that this piracy “causes $12.5 billion of economic losses every year, 71,060 U.S. jobs lost, a loss of $2.7 billion in workers’ earnings, and a loss of $422 million in tax revenues, $291 million in personal income tax and $131 million in lost corporate income and production taxes.”

That’s certainly a lot for a couple of clicks of the mouse.

However, it seems like whenever an article such as this one is written and published, an outsider’s stance is taken up by the writer. In fact, this writer might be considered by some to be a pirate.

Not the swashbuckling kind, more of the lazy, broke, and bored kind.

I may or may not have converted a few YouTube videos, and streamed videos and downloaded music from somewhat sketchy websites in my time. And I’m not the only one who is guilty of some light piracy.

Here at Illinois College, there are a great many students who watch videos and download music illegally. We don’t have the time, money, or drive to purchase things legally. It is much easier for us far-from-wealthy and way-too-lazy students to Google “Game of Thrones season 3 free online” and click the first link rather than driving to Walmart and finding out that to get it on Blu-Ray would cost around $55.

The choice is obvious for some people.

On multiple occasions, a “Game of Thrones” episode has been viewed on air by millions of people only to be seen by just as many, if not more viewers illegally in the following weeks. This phenomenon is due to the fact that “Game of Thrones” is one of the most popular shows right now and it’s shown on HBO, for which a subscription could cost $20 a month.

Many hoped that with the rise of sites such as Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon, where you can stream TV shows and movies for a more reasonable monthly fee, that there would be a drop in online piracy. This appears to have been the case in Canada, where BitTorrent sites saw their download numbers cut in half after Netflix launched in 2010. Now Forbes claims that Netflix is even looking into piracy statistics to decide what to add to their site so as to draw in those viewers who only pirate videos because they are not offered legally.

However, the number of illegal downloads increases every year as more and more songs, movies, games, and TV shows are created, put online, and pirated by an increasing number of people. David Price, director of piracy analysis at NetNames, said that “over 300 million people [have] infringed copyright at least once.”

That number accounts for roughly 94 percent of the U.S. population.

Politicians and businessmen have started to notice these significant numbers. The Motion Picture Association of America and other businesses sponsored the bills SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act). An extremely large and vocal opposition campaign led by websites such as Google and Wikipedia brought about the deaths of these bills in 2012 in Congress. While many businesses, politicians, and people don’t support Internet piracy, they do not want to prevent it by taking away the freedom that the Internet gives to the people.

In this nation of pirates and small-time criminals, this seemingly insignificant illegal act which nearly all of us have performed could perhaps have farther-reaching implications than we thought. As BitTorrent websites and video-streaming sites continue to gain more traction on the web, the music, movie, gaming, and TV industries continue to lose vast amounts of money.

According to the Director’s Guild of America, about one third of the videos on YouTube are clips of movies or TV shows and are in violation of copyright laws. Although any one of us, myself included, might be at fault for the continued illegal downloads and views, it is our duty to protect the products of the artists and actors that we love by paying for this media, allowing the industries to continue to develop their great products that we enjoy.

It’s time for this pirate to hang up his sword and eye patch, and instead pony up the eight bucks for a movie ticket. It’s worth it.