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December 1, 2014

Avast! Musicians, Artists and Actors Hurt by Acts of Online Piracy

  Ogden Standard Examiner

By Georgia Pardon

We’ve all seen that FBI Anti-Piracy Warning notice on our screens before. The one that comes in a variety of colors and plays before any movie you watch; the one that you can’t even fast-forward through unless you’re watching it on videocassette.

We’ve seen the warning so many times, but do we take it into account?

Online piracy is now a very popular crime, which has a punishment (as stated in the FBI warning of up to 5 years in prison or a maximum of $250,000 fine) but is hardly, if ever, acted upon. Piracy is another word for copyright infringement, which sounds like a harsh criminal offense — but is it? It doesn’t seem to hurt anyone ... at least in the eyes of the consumer. But piracy does have harsh effects on the owners of the works being infringed upon.

Copyright infringement is using — reproducing, distributing, editing, etc. — works without the permission of the copyright holder. This means that the original creator gets no profit or recognition for the work he or she made. For example, if one were to download “Hunger Games” onto YouTube and let everyone on the Internet watch it for free, without any money (royalties) going toward the creators of “Hunger Games,” both the person who uploaded the video and all of those who watched it are committing copyright infringement.

There are many types of works that are popularly pirated: films/TV shows, music, software, games and art. The last one, funnily enough, has been pirated since the dawn of pirates. Films, software, music and games are usually pirated for money — illegally downloading is cheaper than buying the legal copy. Those who distribute it do it for the sake of being a good (or, in the eyes of the law, “bad”) Samaritan.

Art piracy is more for the personal glory of distributors; they take the work as their own, leaving the original creator without a hint of recognition for their own work. Many online artists have put ugly watermarks on their art or have stopped sharing their works completely for fear of them being stolen. This affects both the artists and their admirers for there is now no way for people to see, comment and critique their pieces, destroying both a way for the artist to get better and a form of entertainment for the onlookers.

Now it’s time to get to the difficult, moral questions. If you let a friend borrow your favorite band’s album, are you committing piracy?

The FBI warning states that one cannot “reproduce, exhibit, or distribute” works under copyright ... but does that only mean to the commercial masses? I personally see nothing wrong with having a friend or two listen to the same CD as yourself, even if they didn’t pay for it. They don’t own it, but it doesn’t mean you can’t share it with them. Some European countries feel the same way, making it legal to download your own purchased copy to the Internet if it is only for personal, noncommercial use.

Many people justify their act of piracy by saying the film companies in Hollywood already get enough money as it is. Be that as it may, if you really love Jennifer Lawrence as an actress, why should you short her on royalties from a movie she was good in? Not to mention the royalties that go to the other actors, directors, screenwriters and production companies, who will use that money to create more amazing films.

Also, according to the Institute for Policy Innovation, about $17 billion and 70,000 jobs are lost every year due to piracy, which is definitely a factor causing our poor economy.

How to stop this? You certainly can’t prevent the actions of others, but you can take measures against piracy yourself. Don’t download films, music or games from the Internet when you know they’re coming through an illegal medium. When sharing art on Facebook, make sure you get the artist’s permission and site the source. If you find a video or song on YouTube that you know is pirated, report or flag it.

Piracy can’t be stopped, but it can at least be stifled.

Georgia Pardon is a junior at Bonneville High School. She enjoys music, art and stories. Contact her at


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