I remember the day I gained the ability to use the internet independently. The first thing I did was a yahoo! search for fan fiction about Digimon, the anime I was enchanted with at the time. I had just turned twelve, and was on the younger spectrum of those writing fanfic for the show, though that’s a story for another post.
For the last thirteen years, I have been putting my thoughts on the internet for free, whether in the form of stories, or discussion posts for TV shows. I loved that I had an instant community of people who loved made up worlds as much as I did, and I loved sharing my views of the characters. As bandwidth increased, it made sense for me to seek out ways of downloading these shows. I bought DVDs, but they would get passed around to family and friends, and inevitably end up scratched or lost. I reasoned that, if I kept them on a computer, no one could hurt the files.
There was also the issue of obtaining the books I wanted to read. Until very recently, it was incredibly difficult for a blind person to have the same access as everyone else to a book on release day. I remember begging people to read me Animorphs or The Baby-sitters Club. Long series books were like television shows, I got to spend pages and pages with characters. I just couldn’t enjoy them on my own.
For me, piracy has never been entirely about convenience, as much as access. Suddenly, there was a way for me to enjoy things independently, and on my terms, without having to memorize the number of buttons in a DVD menu, or convincing someone to read me a series they were both unfamiliar with, and had little interest in. This is by no means a justification, as much as an explanation. It is easy to assume that everyone who pirates content are lazy, or cheap, or even thoughtless. But it’s not always as black and white as all that. Even now, with netflix and e-readers, there are things like copyright to consider. What is immediately available in the united states can still take a minimum of months to reach other countries, and vice versa.
As I have started taking writing more seriously over the last few months, I’ve been considering the amount of time that goes into it. When I was younger, I would pound out a 1500 word story in notepad, give it a cursory spellcheck, and throw it up on the internet. Sometimes, the whole process would be done in 90 minutes. Now, I spend upwards of five hours revising single chapters. This is a fraction of time that authors spend on novels, without beginning to factor in the work that occurs after feedback from editors and agents.
It is incredibly degrading to have your work not be acknowledged. No one can truly appreciate the time it takes a person to create. So, while I understand the complexities of piracy, I also have a newfound understanding for what a betrayal it is for artists.