I have a Google alert set up on my computer so I get a daily e-mail with links to any blog posts or web sites that mention “MAD Magazine“. Usually this results in several links a day where someone mentions MAD either in passing as part of some other subject, uses it as an example of satire or parody or says something to the effect of “I used to read MAD as a kid and loved it. Do they still publish MAD?”
More and more these days, though, I get links to sites that are hosting illegally scanned copies of MAD, available for equally illegal downloading. The name of the offending uploader is usually some stupid internet nom de plume like “doppleganger666” or “iRocker”, and the offending posts are usually followed by several replies saying “Thanks for uploading this, I love MAD!”
I don’t know which is worse, the asshole who uploaded the pirate copy in the first place or the asshole who claims to love MAD but steals the issue instead of paying for it to support the magazine. Actually I think it’s definitely the latter… at least the original thief has the poor excuse that he likely knows what he is doing is wrong, whereas the person downloading it is part of the increasingly prevalent “iMe” generation who believes all things are free for the taking and literally sees nothing wrong with what he or she is doing since it’s “on the internet” and therefore “free”. Would these same people think it’s okay to tuck a copy under their coat at the local news stand and walk away with it? Probably not, but the scary thing is that these people don’t see these as equivalent acts.
Or, is the real culprit those creators who accept this kind of theft as “the future” and we other creators who expect to earn a living from our work should get with the 21st century?
Cartoonist and illustrator Colleen Doran wrote an excellent article about this subject for The Hill. Go and read it, as it makes many excellent points.
The internet is the equivalent of a world wide, 24 hour guy in a trenchcoat on the street corner selling pirated copies of DVD movies… and everything else. The difference is that guy in the trenchcoat had to schelp himself out to the corner, could only sell a handful of pirated stuff a day, and had to scamper off when the squad car drove by. Internet pirates upload their illegal wares in between “Gears of War” sessions and only get stopped when mommy yells at them to go to bed. Worse yet, they don’t even have the poor excuse of selling it… they are just giving it away. There is a developing culture of internet thievery where the thieves and those who download their stuff somehow feel entitled to it… and that is only slightly less disturbing than the resignation far too many creators seem to be resorting to.
Can internet piracy be stopped? Probably not entirely, but as the global world continues to shrink eventually a cyber-version of the Berne convention should crop up, with civilized nations agreeing to prosecute the people that HOST these illegal uploads. After all, wouldn’t the owners of some mall be held accountable if they allowed someone to set up a store fencing stolen goods? Going after the hosts is really the only way to slow piracy down, and it will take a true international effort to do it.
The other way to combat piracy is to simply offer consumers a legitimate and relatively inexpensive way to buy what they want legally. Despite the prevalence of music “sharing’ sites and bit torrent downloads of movies, legitimate digital downloads of music reached well over $4 billion in 2009. That means that consumers were still willing to spend $4 billion dollars on stuff they could have probably gotten for free if they wanted to go that route. I guess that means there are still some honest people in the world who understand that real people create these works and in order to keep them creating they need to earn a living from it.
While I don’t think there is any excuse for copying the creative works of others and then giving it away for free, I do not believe that internet piracy will kill the ability for creative professionals to make a living from their work. Good work will still sell in some form or fashion to those who understand what good work is and want to continue to support its creation… that form may be changing from the printed page to digital, but the creation of original and outstanding content is still something valuable enough that a way will be figured out to support those who do the creating.
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