Piracy: A Pressing Matter

Ok, I must admit. I was not keen to do this blog. I find copyright incredibly boring and I dreaded starting this post. Every time I hear the words “copyright” and “plagiarism” I tend to tune out. However, during my research, I actually found out some pretty interesting information about plagiarism.

Image Source: http://do512blog.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/pirate_tweet.jpg

What grabbed my attention was the history of piracy. Not the peg-legged, booty stealin’, sword brandishin’ kind (sorry, I know that would have been awesome), but the same thing we come across today, stealing intellectual property. It turns out; piracy has been going on for years, way before T.V. and cinema.

The idea of plagiarism has been around as long as literature. In 1450, it was Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press that made reproducing mass copies of the same text extremely easy and inexpensive. According to Asa Briggs and Peter Burke in the book “Social History of the Media: From Gutenberg to the internet” the new concept of an author writing literature as well as “the idea of a correct or authorized version of a ‘text’” was what sparked the concept of ‘intellectual property’. Before this, stories were told orally, which Briggs and Burke describe as “fluid, and… a cooperative enterprise.” Printed text invoked ideas of ownership as opposed to before when a story was shared.

I found this article on the history of piracy, which explains that in London during the Victorian era piracy had become quite common, not only in books but in music as well. What I loved about this article was this following quote:

“…the pirate publishers were rarely despised by the general public but rather were appreciated for spreading music to the people at a reasonable cost.”

What I love about this is how similar the 19th Century’s response to piracy was to the 21st Century’s. Just like then, I find most people don’t have strong feelings of hate towards media pirates. In fact, people seem to appreciate receiving cheap and easily accessible copies of intellectual property like music and movies. It’s because of this that music companies are grasping to find solutions to please the owner and the audience. Something that seems promising is the idea of a subscription music service such as Spotify and Rdio. These services allow audiences to listen to a wide range of music while still paying the owner of the music. Users pay a small monthly fee to be subscribed, which is much cheaper than buying each individual song, and allows them to access a huge variety of music. The services not only earn profits from the subscriptions, but from advertising as well. Although this seems like a good compromise, these services have in no way completely resolved the media piracy issue. I, for one, haven’t stopped illegally downloading music (please don’t call the cops).

What can I say? It’s a pirate’s life for me.


Briggs, A & Burke P, 2009, Social History of the Media: From Gutenberg to the Internet, Polity Press, Cambridge.

Fredriksson, M, 2012, ‘Piracy, globalisation and the colonisation of the Commons’, Global Media Journal, vol. 6, no. 1, viewed 20 September 2013, <http://www.commarts.uws.edu.au/gmjau/v6_2012_1/martin_fredriksson_RA.html&gt;




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