Content Thief Turned Content Creator Rails Against Piracy

by | Dec 2, 2016 | Intellectual Property

Illegally downloading creative content online is all too easy. Unlike stealing a physical product from a store, there’s no need to stealthily conceal the merchandise, avoid security guards, or worry about magnetic security tags.

“Illegally downloading creative content online is all too easy. Unlike stealing a physical product from a store, there’s no need to stealthily conceal the merchandise, avoid security guards, or worry about magnetic security tags.”

Last month, YouTube celebrity (yes, that’s a thing now) Olajide “JJ” Olatunji posted an expletive-filled tirade aimed at those illegally downloading his new movie “Laid in America.” After fans of Olatunji (aka KSI), whose YouTube page has over 14 million subscribers, began notifying him of the film’s availability on a number of illicit torrent sites, he lashed out at the people pirating the film, listing the many legal services offering his work, and explaining – in not so subtle terms – how illegally downloading the film hurts all who contributed to its creation. Some commenters were quick to point out that Olatunji himself used pirated software to create the very videos that made him famous. But while Olatunji readily admitted his outburst was somewhat hypocritical, the dramatic rant speaks to an important aspect of the nature of piracy: The extensive damage caused by the illegal downloading of creative works often isn’t appreciated by those unfamiliar with all that goes into producing them.

Illegally downloading creative content online is all too easy. Unlike stealing a physical product from a store, there’s no need to stealthily conceal the merchandise, avoid security guards, or worry about magnetic security tags. A user can visit any number of torrent sites, simply click on a title, and wait for the work to download. The ease and perceived absence of repercussions for illegally downloading content has been perhaps one of the biggest impediments to quelling the massive amount of piracy that continues to saturate the Internet. Unfortunately, it’s a mindset that seems to be ingrained in a younger generation of Internet users: How could something so easy and consequence-free be bad?

Even if some users realize that sharing pirated copies of music, movies, TV shows, or software is wrong and illegal, they often don’t understand why. A common narrative among those distributing illicit copies of copyrighted works is that movie studios or record labels are corrupt and already making enough money, and that illegally downloading a film or album won’t affect the entertainment business in the long run. Then there’s the exposure myth. It goes something like this: If I share this album with all my friends, the band will gain more fans and the fans will go see them live and buy their t-shirts. It’s a cute idea, but artists can’t live on exposure. Take their word for it herehere, and here.

Others just don’t understand all that goes into making an album, show, or film. They believe that when they pay for a movie, the money goes to an already wealthy actor, musician, or big studio executive. While portions of the proceeds certainly do, the money is also paying the salaries of the hundreds and sometimes thousands of people behind the scenes, without whom the work could never be created. As Olatunji so eloquently clarifies:

I’m not the only one that made this movie. There were hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds of people that made this movie. Because it’s not just me you’re f*cking over. You’re f*cking over so many people. You’re f*cking over the producer, director, actors, people who did the music in the film, the cameramen, the lighting crew, the set crew. No, but seriously, it’s f*cking ridiculous.

A seasoned anti-piracy advocate couldn’t have said it any better.

The point is that the entertainment and copyright-based industry is larger and comprised of so many more components and workers than most realize. A 2014 report by the International Intellectual Property Alliance details the contribution copyright industries make to the United States GDP, quantifying the value at over 1.1 trillion dollars. The study found that copyright industries “make up an increasingly large percentage of value added to GDP; create more and better-paying jobs; grow faster than the rest of the U.S. economy; and contribute substantially to U.S. foreign sales and exports, outpacing many industry sectors.”

Illegal distribution of copyrighted works threatens much more than the pocketbooks of successful artists and executives. The fact that proponents of a “free” Internet and those engaged in piracy either don’t realize or refuse to acknowledge the far-reaching effects of stealing creative works is troublesome. The passion of Olatunji’s appeal to his fans and those stealing his movie speaks volumes about the misconceptions surrounding piracy and how a little insight into the creative process can make things so clear. Respect for creative processes shouldn’t be an abstract concept, and if more creators and celebrities lend their voice to educating the public, art and entertainment will flourish.

The above article from Kevin Madigan, Legal Fellow at the Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property, first appeared on the CPIP blog and Mistercopyright.org, and it is reposted here with permission.

4 Comments

  1. Haven’t you heard? Eating at home threatens much more than the pocketbooks of successful diner owners. You’re f*cking over the cook, the maid, the cook helper, the cleaning lady, the gas&heating company, the electricity company, and many others! Quit pirating cooking and eat out only!

  2. What a gross equivocation. Eating at home doesn’t involve stealing the food from said diners, etc.

    If you’re going to engage in rationalizations, at least be clever about it.

  3. Just an aside:

    This was an issue long before the Internet when people recorded songs off the radio onto reel-to-reel tape & used VCR’s to record TV programs, etc. However, in both those instances, the radio station or TV network had paid the artist for his work and people who did the recording didn’t distribute the songs & programs. It was for personal listening or viewing.

    The same applies to downloading those performances on youtube & Vevo when they’ve been uploaded by the copyright holder: listen or watch, don’t distribute.

    I suspect with the generations that followed, these nuances were either ignored or never considered. There is software and ways to code to prevent such downloading. So imo, the fault lies–at least partially–with Google, etc., for failing to do so.

  4. of course it does involve stealing. Stealing the formulas. Well, maybe not literally, but if you order a meal in a restaurant and see how it looks, inspect how it is made and dressed, what it tastes like – you can replicate similar meals at home – and, GOD FORBID, sell them yourself to consumers! You are pirating other people’s meals!!!

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Kevin Madigan is a Legal Fellow at the Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property.

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