Psst … hey, you. Yeah, you, with all of the illegally downloaded comics, movies, TV shows, books and games on your computer.
You’re kind of a dick.
I mean that with kindness. I’m sugarcoating this, so you’ll read all the way to the end, but I also wanted to grab your attention. Now that I have it, put this in your pipe and smoke it: The geeks have won, and they’re finally making all the movies and stories we’ve always dreamed of seeing. But it’s all going to stop if no one pays for it.
I have no idea how it is that so many people haven’t learned that lesson, or even need to be told more than once. It’s not some small act of rebellion to download a whole bunch of comics and songs because you think they’re too expensive. The true act of heroism is to pay for the things you like. Things we love as geeks aren’t created in a vacuum, and the people making them still have to eat. And if we want to continue riding this geeky gravy train, we’re going to have to buy a ticket.
“But, Bryan,” I hear you saying, “HBO wants me to pirate Game of Thrones when they don’t give me an easy way to watch it when and where I want.”
But you’re wrong. You think Game of Thrones is something that’s cheap to produce? The whole point of how our monetary system works is that they create something you want with their money (episodes of the show), they set a price for it (an HBO subscription) and you use your money to compensate them at a price you’re willing to pay. If you’re not willing to pay the price they set, the sacrifice is that you don’t get their product. End of story.
Somewhere in the past 20 years, we seem to have forgotten that entire process. I don’t just want the next episode of Game of Thrones. I want a TV series based on Batman: No Man’s Land, and a new Flash Gordon movie. And a sequel to John Carter (of Mars). But piracy is putting all of that in jeopardy. If we steal Game of Thrones, why would they bother adapting the Shannara series?
It’s an easy rule of thumb to follow: If you can’t afford to support the stories you like to see, that means you can’t afford to consume them, ethically or morally. If you like them, want to see them continue and see what comes after that, you pay for it.
I’m aware that multiple studies have shown that piracy doesn’t hurt movie studios that badly on an opening weekend—yet. But as illegal downloading becomes easier, the system becomes less sustainable. Just think of how some of our favorite TV shows might not have been canceled due to low viewership if we hadn’t been pirating episodes. And we could prevent comics from turning into nothing but Deadpool and Batman all the time by buying more of the smaller books we love to see, too.
Not only is our geek culture as a whole degraded by piracy, the demographic suffering the most from the damage pirates do are the artists brave (or stupid) enough to try to make a living selling their art. Ultimately, the corporations won’t make less of a profit. They’ll just pay the creative people less. The artists are no less important to us as a society than the guy who changes the oil in your car, plants and picks your food or takes away your garbage.
I don’t care what cowardly, hollow excuse one might give to justify piracy. Pirates are hurting artists by not supporting them financially, but still enjoying the fruits of their labor. If we want our culture of geekdom to continue, we need to have the courage to match that bravery we see in artists, and make sure they’re paid for it.
Bryan Young is editor-in-chief of BigShinyRobot.com.