This week? Piracy is making me happy. Now am I pirating anything? No way! Piracy is stealing! You wouldn’t steal a car! You wouldn’t swipe a handbag! You wouldn’t shoot Archduke Franz Ferdinand, plunging our world into a war that no one could have dreamed of! (At least I hope you wouldn’t 😰)
In the streaming era piracy is largely considered a thing of the past. Why download something and waste your digital space when you can just go to Netflix, Hulu, or any of the other 20 million streaming services? But, rather than just being a nefarious tool for evil doers to make off with the hard work of others, I see piracy, at times, as a devoted act of media preservation.
Ever since I was a kid I was a huge fan of anime, manga, art, and animation as a whole. I have fond memories of my class mates and I passing around printed scans of the latest Naruto and One Piece chapters, directly translated from Weekly Shonen Jump by the dedicated scanlation team. As a kid I never thought of this as piracy, it was just a chance for my friends and I to read the comic we loved without having to wait for the monthly Shonen Jump to come out.
A property like Naruto is highly unlikely to ever end up becoming lost to time with over 250 million copies sold, it’s unthinkable for all of them to disappear from circulation anytime soon. But any kind of media can easily become lost to time, especially now that we find ourselves fully in the Era of licensing. If you’ve ever “bought” a song or a movie online then you’ve likely just purchased a license, which allows you access to a digital product under a few different terms of service. If the company goes under, your account is banned, or TOS changes in any way, you’re out of luck!
Today with the vast array of streaming platforms, all rich with content, we have become comfortable relying on them to see our favorites year after year. But now shows are quietly disappearing from streaming with no physical copies available. Recent favorites less than a decade old are at risk of becoming lost media in a way that must be maddening for viewers and creators alike.
Now let me be clear: you, me, your mom, and kpop sensation Kim Nam-joon should all be paying for our media. We should be supporting out artists in anyway that we possibly can, but we have to face the facts that media isn’t as safe and protected as we’ve come to think it is. We need to take a more nuanced view on things.
For right now I’m very happy to know that media might be preserved and protected, even inadvertently, so that it can be shared with future generations. It’s impossible to save everything we love or want to see more of but we can do our best to protect our investments, both for our wallets sake and our cultures sake. What will you want to share with your kids or grandkids one day?