January 18, 2010

To Be or Not To Be (a Pirate)?

I've always been kind of obsessed with pirates, before Pirates of the Caribbean made them cool once more. The old school kind who (theoretically) wore bright tights and who (actually) chopped people's fingers off and fed them to the sharks. I've done a lot of pirate recreating in my time, making comments about said tights that will see me mocked until the end of time. Old-school pirates are a fun idea- as long as you don't think about their methods too hard...

... which brings me to the real subject of this post. PiratING. That hot-button, unlawful act that nobody condones, but that almost everybody does at some point. Well, not everybody, but definitely my Manfriend (shh, don't tell the Pirate Police). My male companion has taken pirating to near-professional levels, a state of affairs that has led to several heated discussions about property rights and artistic integrity.

The last of these discussions revolved around Trueblood. I have a deep, abiding love for this series. I dutifully paid full price for the first season and was patiently waiting for the second to come out in Australia. Of course, it wasn't going to come out here until it was done airing in the U.S. (and honestly, of COURSE people are going to pirate when they make us wait... but that's a rant for another post). So I was surprised- even tantalized- when Manfriend told me that we could HAVE the second season at the same time America did. All it would take was the click of his mouse, and there they would be, all in a sexy little row. So of course, I let him do it, vowing to him that I would buy the second season when it came out on DVD.

"Why?" he asked, looking puzzled and slightly exasperated. "We'll already have all the episodes in HD. Why waste money on a series you already have?"

"Because," I said, arms akimbo (GOD I love that word), "Time and money and artistic effort and love went into the making of this program, and because I love the end product so, I want to support it by paying for it."

"You know," he said, in his I'm-humoring-your-absurdity-because-I-love-you tone, "it doesn't cost them nearly as much to produce those DVD's as they charge. It's a rip-off. Besides, they make enough money without your patronage."

"Oh yeah? How do you know?"

He knew because, halfway through this conversation, he'd Googled it and found out exactly how many millions those DVDs had garnered. It was a lot of millions.

This information did soften my resolve. Even so, the whole thing made me feel... icky. This was an artistic product I loved, one that I got ample amounts of enjoyment from. Wasn't it wrong not to pay for it? I imagined selling my first novel ('fantasized' is probably a more accurate descriptor) only to have my profits dwindle because people didn't feel like paying for it. It's hard to compare: I mean, you can't burn a copy of a book (I mean, physically you can, but not over a computer... unless it's an electronic copy. Wait... this is getting confusing). I put tears and sweat and lots of time not eating/exercising/having a social life into that beloved book. Those stolen sales would severely diminish my capacity to write for anything like a living. It isn't fair not to pay for something that someone has worked hard to produce.

I get what Manfriend is saying- CD/DVD prices in Australia are out of this WORLD expensive. Trueblood doesn't need our money: they have enough to keep making the show and to pay all involved a very healthy wage. Still, does it matter how much money they have, or how much you save? It is a piece of art, and art should always be valued.

So, I've put my foot down when it comes to small and emerging artists, people who I want to support so that they can do more, like Alan Boyle and Sarah Blasko. I also draw the line when it comes to artists I'm truly obsessed with, such as Ray Lamontagne and Ani DiFranco. I try to stay strong on TV shows, too, but... I'll admit that there are several easy-to-locate cracks in that resolve. When it comes to big-time movies and albums, sometimes I just can't see the point... I know, I know, try not to judge me. Resolving this issue is a little bit harrrrd (You must have seen that one coming).

My Manfriend has done lots of 'research' on pirating, and generally, he feels no guilt whatsoever about ripping all and sundry. The jury is still out for me, as it makes me feel all slimy inside. So... to be or not to be: what are your thoughts on this question?


  1. Here I am listening to the CD you just sent me and reading your blog that I now officially follow and I have to tell you, you do make an excellent pirate. ;) Love u the mostest!

  2. Oh man, I was totally hoping this post would be all about . . . pirates. But then you had to go off and make all . . . thoughtful.

    If it's any consolation, know that the people we'd *really* like to get our dollaz to (the fabulous *writers* for these programs we love so much), receive approximately nada from DVD sales. (Or, maybe they get slightly-more-than-nada now that they had that strike?)

    Perhaps the best way to clear your conscience would be to start sending checks to the writers whenever you illegally download. That'd be all sorts of subversive!

  3. P.S.: I really, really wanted to link to some silly picture of us at the pirate bar. But I've sworn off facebook for a week, so that shall have to wait :-).