The Semantics of Piracy

An article is popping up over the web today: Is Downloading Really Stealing?

It's an interesting question which has been debated all over the web and after careful deliberation I've decided that, my God, but that's a waste of time.

There is a lot to debate about the new world of digital content, intellectual property and illegal downloads. There are genuine concerns about the rights of creators (indeed, the livelihood of creators), the availability of content, pricing, morality and legality. However, whenever those debates start to happen, say on Reddit, someone always uses the approximate shortcut of calling it "stealing" or "theft" and the debate gets dragged down into arguments over semantics.

It doesn't matter. The semantics of legal definitions are only relevant in court. If we all collectively decided tomorrow that copyright infringement wasn't theft, none of the problems with it or issues around it would be gone.

There are better things to discuss here. More productive, more interesting things than the same tired old ground on which no one is giving an inch and into which people with good points get dragged purely because a turn of phrase.

For the record: Legally, it's not theft. I looked it up. However, from a practical viewpoint, "theft" is a close approximation which gets the general idea across and is much shorter to type than "copyright infringement".

Alas, I feel I must warn against doing so.