Digital piracy is something we’ve all heard about, but the actual digital piracy definition is something that isn’t always clear. That’s why this post is about explaining exactly what digital piracy is, and what it means for you.
What is the digital piracy definition?
At its core, the simplest digital piracy definition comes from this dictionary entry:
“The practice of illegally copying and selling digital music, video, computer software, etc.”
Reasonable enough. Like the infamous “you wouldn’t steal a car” commercial, digital piracy is no different than theft–getting access to a product without paying for it.
Why do we have digital piracy laws?
Digital piracy laws are an adaptation of U.S. Copyright Laws for the digital age. The main acts to be aware of are the No Electronic Theft Act (NET), which was passed in 1997, and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), signed into law in 1998.
Creators wanted these laws. The NET Act was passed after strong lobbying from the software and entertainment industries, and the DMCA had strong support from everyone listed below:
- Telecommunications companies and online service providers
- Consumer-electronics manufacturers
- Library, museum, and university groups
- The publishing, recording, film, and software industries.
Why? They were losing money. They wanted their intellectual property protected, so they had some incentive to keep creating.
Imagine, for a moment, that you’ve spent the last three years writing a novel. You get it published, you make a little bit of money from the sales–and then you find out that someone has been distributing thousands of copies of your book for free online.
Even if it’s flattering (after all, people are reading your book!), you’re not making money off the book–which, logistically, means that it’ll be much longer before you can afford to write a second one. In this way, it harms the creative process.
Worse still is if you were to find someone not only distributing your book for free, but selling it under their name. Without copyright and digital piracy laws, there would be no legal repercussions, which means all your hard work could be detached from you at any time.
Copyright laws are supposed to encourage creative expression–that’s why there’s an entire section of copyright law devoted to fair use. Digital piracy laws are the digital extension of this.
What does the digital piracy definition mean for you?
If you’re reading this as a creator, digital piracy laws are here for your protection! These laws mean your work can’t be redistributed, copied, or displayed without your permission–and if it is, and your copyright is properly registered, you can file for damages.
If you’re reading as a consumer, the digital piracy definition invites you to recognize all the piles of work that go into making any kind of creative content. Instead of stealing work, and making it harder for your favorite creators to make work in the future, fund their efforts. Buy their work. Donate to their Patreon pages.
Pay for the work you want to see in the world, and you just might get to see more of it.