Before I begin this blog, please read up on this article.
Done? Good. Now let's clear up another thing. I do not now, nor have I ever, condoned the idea of a person not being compensated for their hard work. If an individual puts time and effort into creating something, they should be compensated for their creation should they chose to sell it. Clear? Ok, moving on.
Piracy. What is it? Well there is the traditional form of piracy, and then there is the kind I'm discussing in this blog, which is specifically software piracy. A software pirate is an individual who obtains access to a piece of software without paying for it through various means. The basic mechanics of software piracy is uploading software to the internet, either on a torrent site or some other form of file sharing site, for others to download.
Pause. Does the act of uploading software remove it completely from the original owner's possession? Answer: No, it does not. The original owner still has total access to their creation, and total right to sell it to whomever wishes to purchase it.
See, Piracy is copying. It isn't taking. This means that calling piracy "theft" is fallacious. Theft is defined as the following.
1. the act of stealing; the wrongful taking and carrying away of the personal goods or property of another; larceny.
As we can see, since the property is not taken, and is not "carried away," in the absolute strictest sense, piracy is NOT theft or stealing.
Piracy is not theft by any sense either. Some would make the claim that piracy is the theft of profits. That is also incorrect. To make that claim, one would have to prove that pirates would have bought the product if they had no other choice.
Example: Assume a game is released in retail and online stores, and leaked to a torrent site. Game sells 3 million copies through retail and online stores and 1 million copies are pirated. Developer/Publisher complains that 1 million people didn't pay for the game and thus cost them, we'll say, $60 million dollars in profits. This is false. This claim makes the assumption that that $60 million dollars in profit already existed when it didn't because there is no possible way that anyone could know if all of those million copies would have been legitimately bought in the first place.
Example 2: Same situation. Game is released, sells 3 million copies but is not leaked on any torrent or file sharing site and does not sell more than 3 million copies. Absolutely no complaints about a loss of $60 million in profit from 1 million copies not being sold.
What's the difference? In one situation the developers can see that people aren't buying their game but are angry that people are playing it for free. In the other there are 1 million people who weren't going to buy the game to begin with and simply didn't have the chance to play it anyway. The result? The exact same amount of money was made in both situations, and the developer/publisher still own the original product to sell anywhere and anyway they please.
So let's move on to another aspect of Piracy. That being that it is an infringement of some rights. What rights? Well to find that out we have to first understand what copyright is. Strictly speaking, copyright is the "right to copy" any idea or creation. A copyright holder is given exclusive rights to copy their original work in whatever form they chose. Copyright also grants the holder the right to be credited for the work, the right to determine who may adapt the work to other forms, the right to determine who may perform the work (if applicable), and the right to who may financially benefit from the work.
From that description we can see that piracy; as the act of taking an original work, copying it, and distributing it either freely or for a monetary sum, infringes on the rights of the copyright holder to do so themselves. Sounds terrible doesn't it.
Piracy is NOT theft. Although piracy does infringe on those rights, it does not in anyway prevent the original owner/creator from selling the product themselves, nor does it transfer the rights granted to the copyright hold from said holder to the pirate.
The only argument that can be made against piracy/pirates, and the reason why piracy/file sharing is a complex issue that will not be resolved any time soon, is that it has the POTENTIAL to prevent the copyright holder from making profits based on the number of people that pirate the work. Since potential is not the same as a guarantee, many smart pirates have found ways to use the law to their advantage and get away with pirating.
I saw someone attempt to make a connection between piracy and intellectual property/patent infringement and they are not the same. Claiming an original work as your own when you did not create that original work is not piracy, it's fraud and an infringement on the right to be credited for an original work. So long as a pirate doesn't claim that they own the original work, or created it, then they are not infringing on those particular rights.
So, to summarize a long blog filled with too much "law talk," software piracy is the act of uploading software to a file sharing site with intent of distributing said content without any profit going to the original owner/creator. Doing so does not remove the owners rights, but it does have the potential to affect their ability to be profitable with their own work. But just because it has this potential, doesn't mean that without it the original owner would necessarily make more money as it can't be established that the people who would pirate would buy the product to begin with.
Piracy is wrong, but let's not confuse feelings with fact. It isn't stealing as nothing has been taken away. Non-existent profit can't be considered as a tangible item that was taken away. It isn't the same as someone taking your idea and then claiming it as their own to make money off of. What is happening is that the original owner has the work, and someone who didn't pay for it has the work. Nothing was taken away, but nothing was given either.
I won't bother going into the reasons why people pirate, even if some of them seem more "legitimate" than others, but I just wanted to get some things clear because some people really don't understand what stealing/theft really is.