Hold on a sec. According to those excerpts, Pirates have better selection, more content, less red tape, faster more efficient downloads, and provide this all for free.
So you buy a ticket for a cruise ship, and instead of being fun you are flogged twice daily and forced to scrub the decks the rest of the time.
Suddenly a "pirate" ship sails by, everyone on it is singing and dancing having a blast, you yell down
"Hey! What does a ticket cost for a ride on your ship?!" only to hear the reply of
"Ticket? whats that? Just hop on board!"
So you jump on board and join the party. You're having a great time, and then you ask someone, "Hey, where'd you all get this bitchin' boat? How can you afford it?"
And then a guy laughs, turns to you and says, "Aw, hell, we just all climbed on board and took it from the owners. Family of four. Slit their throats and threw 'em overboard. PARTY ON, DUDE!"
And you have a wonderful party, which was financed by others, against their will. And you don't care if they're still flogging some unfortunate captives below deck, no matter which ship you're on - just so long as YOU aren't getting flogged, who gives a crap?
Congratulations, you'll fit right in.
I have a better story.
Jeff Fictional takes his guitar out one day, selects a reasonably busy sidewalk, and begins to play. He's put a can nearby with a sign asking for spare change. Many people just walk on by. They're not moved by the music. That's okay.
Some, however, stay for a song or two. Some of these people drop a few coins in, some don't, before they decide to move on. Maybe that's okay, too.
Others stick it out for the entire show. One guy hangs around capturing the performance on his cell phone's camera. As soon as the last note fades, he'll upload it to YouTube. Sadly for Jeff, the only notation he'll leave for the video will be "gittar dude XD"
Now the show ends. Surely the ones still standing around really liked his music. He taps the jar and makes a genial grin at the audience. "Greedy," snorts one person, and stalks off. Another sort of shrugs. "Don't you have like... a thing I can buy, like a CD?"
"Well, I tried putting one out," Jeff says, "but they cost a lot to make. If I made one, you think you could spare, oh, six bucks, maybe?"
"Man, you're not that good," and he walks away, too.
Jeff remembers his past try at advertising revenue, when he wore a shirt with a company's logo and slogan printed on it in return for a modest fee. He wasn't sure it was enough to compensate for the "corporate hack!" shouts he got. Or the people who stood with backs to him to avoid looking at the shirt.
But now there's one guy left, an animated, friendly-seeming fellow. "Awesome! Awesome! I am such a huge fan," he gushes.
"Thanks," Jeff starts. "You think you could see your way to--"
The guy holds up his little digital recorder. "This is goin' on my iPhone forever, dude. Gonna post it on my favorite music forum, everyone's gonna love it. I am so your biggest ever fan."
"That's great, I mean it," Jeff says, "but seriously, I could use a few bucks for a hamburger and maybe a bus ride home..."
"God, I'm givin' you all this great advertising and publicity, what else d'ya want? You really oughtta learn how to engage with your fans!"
"...What fans?" Jeff murmurs, looking around.
This, if you believe some people, is the future of art and intellectual property in the age where everything can be copied and distributed on the Internet, without the owners' permission. This is not only the alarmists' worst fear, but the fondest desire of those who see the Internet as the quickest path to breaking corporations' stranglehold on popular media.
Content is no longer the point, you see. Time was, you'd buy a CD, and though you came home with some shiny metallic plastic and a few leaves of paper, what you were really buying was the sound encoded within. Paper costs drove only a part of comic prices - without the story carried on the paper, it wasn't worth anything to anyone.
Well, when you can get the content for free - and not only free of personal cost, but nominally free of physical space as well - who wouldn't prefer that?
As it turns out, many creators. If they're not being paid for the content they create, how can they make a living? And the answer comes rolling in: any way except for selling content. A webcomic artist can afford to let their comic be seen for free because they aren't selling the comic - the content is just a lure, bait to get the audience to pay for other crap.
Some ask for donations. Some sell advertising space. Some have related merchandise, like t-shirts. But the idea of a webcomic creator actually getting paid directly in exchange for making their webcomic seems almost laughable these days. And this is for people who voluntarily offer their work free on the Web - how much more at a disadvantage are those whose work is spread without permission?
Anecdote: Steve Lieber has his comic book posted for free on 4chan.org - not by him - but once he posts on the message board himself and talks to the forum, without getting angry or defensive, sales on the book spike.
Many see this as a sign of the new digital economy. Some see this as a vindication of those who engage in illegal filesharing. Only time will tell if this is a fluke, or something that can actually sustain an artist in the long run.
Anecdote: Colleen Doran, in response to those celebrating this apparent sign that copyright violation is both good and morally correct, speaks out against that attitude, citing her own comic and its lackluster performance as evidence that the illegal sharing of her own work hasn't really helped her out much.
In response, some - like Tim Geigner of Techdirt - criticize her for the scorn she shows and then proceed to heap their own scorn all over her for daring to be miffed that people are taking her comic without permission or compensation.
Reading the comments section of that last link is... well... embarrassing.
Let me talk about me for a while.
I have long felt that copyright, used badly, is a barrier to creativity. One of my favorite bands, Negativland, was nearly sued out of existence for sampling - ironically, it was a case they could probably have won if the sheer corporate weight of Island Records' legal department hadn't spooked Negativland's label - but that's a long story. This and other incidents have shown the stifling power of copyright in the hands of big business.
In addition, corporate interests have been lobbying for longer and longer extensions of the copyright law. What once took twenty-eight years to enter the Public Domain now lasts for the life of the creator plus seventy years, or 120 years for corporate entities. You'd think that ought to be enough - but it's likely that as more classic works reach the end of their copyright term, wealthy organizations will desperately attempt to extend copyright even further, to wring every last dollar out of their oldest treasures.
I have grown up in the era of the mixtape, where copyright infringement, though still illegal, was often done on a personal, one-to-one basis. You shared things with those you thought might appreciate them. So it's not like I have been copyright's most staunchest, unflinching ally - far from it. I've even (shh don't tell) engaged in some illegal copying of my own from time to time, in the impersonal, not-just-your-friends-but-THE-ENTIRE-BIOSPHERE online world as well, both giving and receiving.
Still, when I do engage in some form of copyright violation, I acknowledge (to myself, at least), that it IS copyright violation, and that I am actually breaking the law. I don't pretend to myself that I'm doing it for the greater good of society or fighting the RIAA. I don't make-believe that it benefits the creators in any way if I download or upload their material for free.
Reading the Techdirt comments makes me cringe, nearly makes me regret my anti-copyright stances. Because the sense of entitlement that flops off the screen, creeping and gelatinous, is repulsive, and made even more repulsive when I recognize ideas I hold being perverted and twisted into a justification for freeloading.
There seems to be a moral stance developing where some people assume that since you can get something for free, you should get something for free. A disconnect has formed between enjoying content and then rewarding the one who made the content. Part of this can be laid at the feet of the corporations who have bought up great swaths of media - it's easier to act with less ethics when your victim is a soulless business entity. But as the reaction to Ms. Doran shows, people often have no problem stiffing the independent creator as well.
Here's a couple quotes from Mr. Geigner:
Hold on, let me get this straight. You offered it for free, the "pirate" sites offered it for free... and you STILL lost traffic to those sites? Methinks perhaps that if you, the creator of the comic, can't differentiate yourself from filesharing sites that offer fans no connection with you, no insight into the work, no expertise in the offering, and no personal involvement with the creator, then that is YOUR problem, not the "pirates."
Oh, and that last part, about there being no connection between fans and creators? That's YOUR job, not the fans'. You have to make that connection. We're not mindless moths, fluttering about the heat of your light, desperate to slam our bodies against the fixture. You connect with us, since you're doing the selling, not the other way around....
I think we need to clarify something, here.
Like the word "fan". An enthusiastic devotee. Short for "fanatic".
Too many people are using the word "fans" as another word for "the general public audience".
Elvis had fans. The Beatles had fans. Michael Jackson had fans. They had people who would lose their minds and physically endanger themselves to attend concerts and get closer to their objects of worship. By contrast, someone who gets offended that Colleen Doran would like to be paid for making a comic is not by any stretch of the imagination even approaching the neighborhood of "being a fan". Someone who takes her work and widely redistributes it without compensating her for that use might be a fan of something, but it's hard to say how they're HER fan.
Geigner says fans aren't "mindless moths", ignoring past history when that's exactly how you could describe real fans. The supposed "fans" he implies with his screed are watered-down, weak, the last faint trace of sweetness in the straw when you're pulling on the final meltwater dregs at the bottom of your Big Gulp.
But let's say they aren't fans of some specific creator, but of comics themselves. Still the level of devotion seems kind of flaccid, or at the very least badly informed, if the "fans" are willing to freeload off of the work of the artists making the very comics that drive the "fandom". If Colleen Doran loses traffic to a pirate comics site, is that really her fault for not tap-dancing furiously enough to attract and flatter the "fans", or is it that the fans aren't actually fans at all, or don't know how to be fans, or somehow lack the strength of character to think that maybe if they actually like something, it would be better for them to support the artist directly instead of browsing some pirate site?
What sort of fandom demands so much from creators without being willing to meet them halfway, or in fact, to even so much as click a link or type a URL? Whatever Colleen Doran's failings may be as an Internet entrepreneur, how much more the failings of the fans who let their own apathy and greed prevent them from supporting things they say they supposedly like?
Even the alternative methods of payment adopted by webcomic creators often get defeated: Advertising is blocked by browser plug-ins, donation links can easily be ignored, and even t-shirts can be bootlegged, just do a Google search for "Hot Topic" and "copyright infringement" sometime. This is a "fandom"?
Geigner links to another Techdirt article that goes on about "value added content" as the method by which companies compete when everyone has slashed their prices to the margins of profitability. That's fine as far as it goes, but the problem with that little dismissal of a creator's concerns is that while large companies selling multiple units often can easily fold in extra content for minimal cost, for any creator who operates on an individual basis, this "extra value" usually comes with some stiff additional cost, whether that's in actual dollars or the consumption of the creator's time and energy.
Another of Geigner's Techdirt links (and it's nice how these links are simply accepted as gospel truth) expresses the sentiment that being worried about what ought to be is pointless, since this is how the Internet is. Granted, business models have arisen to fit in with the way the Internet is, out of necessity. I'm sure plenty of creators would prefer to limit distribution of their work so as to keep those who read it limited to those who pay for it, and only operate differently because they have to.
But what kind of twisted sentiment is it to not be concerned with how things ought to be? You know, an army is marching across its neighbor's borders somewhere, but hey, that's how the world is, forget how things should be. Racial profiling, just the way things are. Give up on the issue of global warming, because it's here, get used to it. Powerful corporations lobbying to extend copyright, well, that's the system we've got, so why bother trying to make it better? The patent absurdity of this kind of sentiment suggests an avoidance of personal responsibility over any real endorsement of new business models. We may be entering an age of completely amoral attitudes regarding creators and their works, and creators may well be forced to deal with things on those terms, becoming glorified buskers trying to beg spare change out of indifferent "fans". But that in itself can't make it right, and should not prevent anyone from calling bad behavior exactly what it is.
[Links originally learned about
including this one
which I rather like.]