For my part, I try to avoid or at least quotate “piracy” when discussing it simply because I feel getting into an argument over terminology muddles the real issue—the unauthorized distribution of other peoples’ intellectual property itself. But in a way it is unavoidable: there just isn’t another suitably pithy name that we can use to describe it.
Now it turns out that some in the content industry are starting to agree that “piracy” is an inappropriate term, but for an unexpected reason: they think it makes illicit content sharing “too sexy.”
Agnete Haaland, the president of the International Actors’ Federation, believes consumers need to be made more aware of the damaging economic and social impact of their illegal activity.
"We should change the word piracy," she told reporters at the unveiling of the report on Wednesday.
"To me, piracy is something adventurous, it makes you think about Johnny Depp. We all want to be a bit like Johnny Depp. But we’re talking about a criminal act. We’re talking about making it impossible to make a living from what you do," she said.
Mike Masnick at TechDirt, where I first noticed this report, has some pointed words for that description, including that in most cases of “piracy”, the copyright violation in question is actually a civil offense. (Of course, she was likely using “criminal” in the looser, “morally reprehensible” sense rather than the strict justice system sense, but even so.)
However, Ms. Haaland is at least a few decades too late to stop the use of that term. I don’t know its exact history (though I did download Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates when the University of Chicago Press offered it free and look forward to reading it), but I know it has been used to refer to unauthorized commercial copying of content for decades. And it is unlikely any suitable replacement term can be found.
I guess the piracy wars will continue.
It’s worth remembering that the content industry has taken issue with “piracy” for decades…but back when it was limited to strictly commercial operations, there was a time when they could still laugh about it…Google+