Entertainment industry sours on term "pirate" -- too sexy

After years of trying to cloud the public mind by calling it "piracy" instead of "unauthorised downloading," key copyright industry reps are starting to realize that "piracy" actually sounds kind of cool. So now they're lobbying for the even less intellectually rigorous term "theft," which describes an entirely different offence, enumerated in an altogether different section of the lawbooks.

This has all the dishonesty of calling everything you don't like "terrorism" (or as my friend Ian Brown says, it's like rebranding jaywalking as "road rape").

"Piracy" sounds too sexy, say rightsholders

(Image: Pirate Cory, taken by Gordon Doctorow, Hallowe'en 1974)


  1. I imagine they wouldn’t care for ‘freebooters’ either, although it would be oddly appropriate on lots of levels.

  2. I would have thought that “Pirates of the Carribean: At World’s End” would have been enough to remove any residual coolness associated with that term.

    1. I loved the “piracy is just plain wrong” ad right before the “stand up for the rights of pirates” movie, though.

  3. If they’re really smart (yeah, right), they’ll try to associate paying for all “content” you consume with ninjas.

  4. Is the word “different” missing in that first paragraph?

    … an entirely DIFFERENT offence …

  5. If they really want to sway the public to their side, they should give up referring to downloaders as pirates or thieves… instead they should try fostering an association between downloading and hedge fund management.

    1. Regarding the Google Trend link for free movies and global warming… each one of the spikes and dips is right at Christmas time. People have free time so demand for entertainment goes up, demand declines for news and science stuff. The trend looks surprising at first but there is a mundane explanation after all.

  6. I have to say, I am shocked, shocked that recording/entertainment companies have taken so long to realize that their strategy was wrong, and that they should probably change it.

    Why, there’s so much at stake, you’d think they would rapidly correct course when something went wrong, instead of continuing on as if nothing had changed. You’re simply asking for trouble otherwise!

    1. “I have to say, I am shocked, shocked that recording/entertainment companies have taken so long to realize that their strategy was wrong, and that they should probably change it.”

      Really? You’re actually surprised?

      Their business tactics were certainly perplexing in 2002, but after a decade of this, their incompetence is kind of the status quo.

      1. Of course I was surprised! Why, look at the rapid changes to their business model to deal with the challenges of new media, and it’s hard to believe we once thought they were dinosaurs, struggling to maintain a dying breed of content management in the face of a changing environment.

        1. There have been rapid changes to their business model? Wow, they must have been so rapid that the fabric of spacetime was warped in a way that made the resulting model indistinguishable from what it used to be.

          1. I, too, have taken Chrs’ comment in the most literal possible sense. But you and I must part ways when it comes to the warping of said spacetime fabric. I don’t think a changed business model could have an effect like that, no matter how fast it happened.

        2. Just wanted to let you know that some of us aren’t so busy basking in glow of our own cleverness that we fail to recognize sarcasm when we trip over it.

          1. I thought for sure that “shocked, shocked” had become a strong, BB-wide code for sarcasm, but apparently it hasn’t.

            I suspect that this is all due to the business model changing at relativistic speeds, such that a year here is but a day or two for them.

          2. Code words only work when people actually read what you write. When they just skim over it while attempting to think up a witty response, the code gets lost.

  7. What about heist movies? I thought theft was adventurous and sexy too. Are media giants this ignorant of the images they themselves have promoted for the last hundred years?

  8. Jaywalking as “road rape”?

    That’s got a good ring to it!

    (in a jail cell)
    “What are you in here for?”

    “Road rape”

  9. Yes, nothing sexier than a bunch of drunkards who go around raping, stealing and murdering. I know that gets me going.

  10. There was a recent landmark case here in Australia where the “Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft” sued an ISP over piracy. They lost decisively, and the judge actually took them to task for using the word “theft” in the name.

    The industry’s misleading hyperbole is winning them no friends.

  11. My 1973 Websters New Collegiate dictionary (yes, I still use a paper copy) gives this as one of 3 definitions of “theft”: “an unlawful taking (as by embezzlement or burglary) of property”. If copyrighted material is “intellectual property”, as it’s often referred, then I don’t think it’s too big a stretch to call piracy “theft”.

    1. Yes, that seems to show that the introduction of the propaganda term “intellectual property” is working as intended. Thank you for illustrating this to us.

      Hint: nothing is “taken”, so it’s not theft. Also, it’s not (supposed to be) a crime. It’s copyright infringement.

  12. It ain’t just the word, it’s the marketing! So why don’t they run some ads showing how unsexy pirates can be.

    And if that doesn’t work and they’re up to the effort, they can always invent a NEW WORD ™ and try to make that spread.

    But ah, the eternal question rings true: is it theft if someone steals something yet you still have the original copy?

    1. How about ‘bitrape’? The perps rip the protection software off the defenseless ones and zeroes, shove in their dirty hard drives and mash them before sharing them with their friends. Finally, PC, have you no shame?

  13. There was a show (Panorama) on TV in the UK a few days ago about piracy on the Internet. In it they interviewed a member of the BPI (the UK’s RIAA) who said “People aren’t paying us enough money.” (those aren’t his exact words, but that’s what it essentially boils down to).

    The show also mentioned the survey that was done that shows people who illegally download music pay £77 each year on music, compared to £44 for people who don’t (due to the illegal downloaders discovering more music they want to buy).

    Clever of the record companies to go after the people paying them the most just because they’re trying to broaden their horizons (unlike the record industry).

  14. Maybe they should work on changing their publicly accepted moniker from “greedy industry fat-cat” before picking on the comparatively cool title bestowed upon pirates.

  15. I almost hate to bring this up, because it is a bit of a stretch, but one of the earliest scare tactic red herrings in history was the Illyrian Pirate scare, dreamed up by the Ur-spinmeisters of Pompey Magnus in the waining days of the Roman Republic. This ‘threat” of piracy was used to enact draconian laws and concentrate power in the hands of Pompey, who pretty much hung onto it until Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon. So, I’m thinking that Piracy is a pretty good word. If you want to rouse some rabble into giving away all their power in order to deal with “the emergency”.

  16. While we’re on about changing terminology, how about changing some definitions ourselves?

    For instance, I don’t find terms like “entertainment”, “media” or “intellectual property” very descriptive at all, any longer.

    These are more accurately described as conversation.

    No one expects to have to pay for a conversation. Certainly listening to someone monopolize a conversation is burdensome enough.

    One might pay for a consultation, but then it is the seeker knocking at the door who is expected to bear the costs of the consultant’s time. The “media” giants are constantly blaring for attention–should it not follow that its petitionees be recompensed for their time?

    Why should anyone else bear the expense if you wish to spend millions of dollars just to tell a story?

    Or have spent a fortune to sing a song?

    I myself am a “creative” and a “publisher”, and I understand that these issues are serious ones. But the time has come to apply Occam’s Razor. This is all a grand conversation, and aggreived “rightsholders” are going to have to answer this question:

    Why should anyone else have to pay
    to hear what you have to say?

    1. Thanks, that is so well put it nudged itself right into my mind. To stay.

      Gee, perhaps we should start paying for things that give a feeling of satisfaction. Even after leaving the theater, having read the book, etc. I guess for me its like paying for things with lasting value, things that make me comfortable identifying with.

      It looks like the industry is complaining to the same audience they made to go for instant satisfaction in the first place. To repair the situation why not:

      1) create works of lasting value for the ‘bildung’ of the audience.

      Oh wait, thats the only thing really. Your consumers will love you, identify and value you instead of feeling either spoiled, used or just ripped-off, trying to dieet away a shallow in a vicious circle of timeconsumption.

      disclaimer: just saw Alice in Wonderland…

  17. But if the Pirate Bay was called something like “The Theftporium”, I wouldn’t have a t-shirt with their logo on it.

    … Nah, I totally still would. Hurry, someone go start a torrent tracker at http:\\thetheftporium.org.

  18. So I take it that just like the queers and the nerds, the pirates have successfully remodeled language in their favor? Yarrr!

  19. The music industry is swimming against a swift tide, as “piracy” has been used to describe copyright infringement for at least 300 years, long before copyright was enshrined in law.

  20. It seems to me there was a time around that Renny Harlan pirate movie where the concept of ‘pirates’ was box office poison.

  21. What about the purveyors of these things that entice people into piracy? They need a name as well!


    Need something with a suitable villainy sounding title.

  22. They’ve been trying to equate it to theft for years. Not news. The idea is not that piracy is sexy: it’s that they want people to think it’s the same crime.

  23. Now that you mention it, one of my great grandmas DID have a Mynah bird. She lived near the coast, not far from where I was born.
    Truth is stranger than fiction, my friend.

  24. here in germany the industry managed to call it Raubkopie what means robbery-copy, so whats next? murdercopy, rapecopy? and if that doesnt work: holocaustcopy.

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