Digital Piracy – The Other Side

I say the other side because having stayed and explored the issue of digital piracy in the US, I have come to find there is a definite dichotomy in the way it is perceived and hence handled there and internationally.

Learning about cases such a Zach McCune’s, is definitely a step forward for the thousands of teenagers out on the Internet who are unknowingly downloading music or sharing files – as they can truly come to realize the implications of their actions. But in truth where does piracy truly begin? Can we classify the first time an 8 year old make a slide show and adds music of a known pop star without referencing them as piracy? Or is the first time that 8 year old downloads a music file without having to pay for it? For many teenagers, the line is simply too hazy to see through.

And so the question arises, why aren’t they taught the differences and definitions from an early age?

Evidently, it seems only recently have educators come to realize the intense implications of the Internet in digital natives’ lives – for the first time in my school’s annual anti-bullying campaign this year cyber-bullying was tackled as a separate and important segment of bullying – and so it is only now that issues like piracy can truly be explored.

On returning from my internship at Berkman, I have a definite understanding of the do’s and don’ts of online file sharing, but sadly it is not the same for many of my friends and associates; many of whom carry 8GB of iPods all filled with music obtained from sites like Limewire. And while many of them simply do not care about whether the recording industry is losing out on money, they do take a step back when I relate some of the incidents I heard of first hand and where many have had to face the wrath of the RIAA. And this is where the international aspect plays in – while downloading music is to a large extent gone unnoticed where they live, it is a major issue in countries like the US. And so results in incidents where many international students find themselves being sued for doing something in college which they had been doing freely for a majority of their life.

Piracy, like many other issues related to the lives of Digital Natives, has no easy solution. Especially because different parts of the world tend to be viewing the issue in varying degrees of importance. However, not all hope is lost – every time one digital native is able to relate this information to another is a step forward. And so the evidence is clearly in favour of implementing a system of education, which can inform them of the issue in a direct way.

I could not help but smile when last week I heard a friend shouting at her brother (currently a freshman in a US college) over the phone to stop downloading music for free as he previously used to.

Yesterday, she told me that he had listened to her and so stopped.

-Kanupriya Tewari