The Ninety-Nine Cent Pirate

I know a few people who, for the most part, are good people. They pay their taxes, do benevolent work, give to charity, return the tools they borrow, and teach their children to be responsible citizens, and not to lie or cheat, because it is wrong. You get the idea.

But the thing that irks me, is that they think nothing of stealing music, books and videos online. I have tried to reason with them, but they just don’t understand. They have no problem buying a coffee and paying five dollars for it, but they won’t pay ninety-nine cents for a song. “It’s stealing,” I plead. “If you keep doing that, the musician won’t be able to continue to create music. At best they’ll have to go back to washing dishes or whatever it was they were doing before they created their music. At worst, they’ll starve.”

I get laughs as a response, and a condescending head wag. “It’s only ninety-nine cents.” And then the excuse for everything if you are twelve . . . “Everybody does it.”

“I don’t do it.”

“Then you are a mug.” More laughs.

How can I continue to be friendly with people who advocate that someone else should steal my work?

It is one thing to have the ability to create something, but it is so hard for that artist to try to generate an audience for that art. I am not a musician, I am a writer, so digital copies of my work are not ninety-nine cents, but the point is the same. An artist will work for a year or more on a project, and the most they can dream of, is that someone will read it, listen to it or watch it, and enjoy it. Publishers are helpless to guard against this piracy. Even as the local pirates are closed up, the off-shore websites are popping up weekly. So, it is up to the streaming public to do the right thing . . . yeah right.

It doesn’t seem to be the cost. It is all about getting something for free, feeling like you deserve it, and “Sticking it to the man.” Unfortunately “the man” is some poor, talented idealist with bills to pay, kids to put through school, and food to put on the table, just like you.

“How would you like it if someone took that money away from you,” I ask.

“it’s only ninety-nine cents.”

“it’s their ninety-nine cents.”

More head-wagging from them, but it has turned from condescension to annoyance.

“I have to go,” I say. “I’m going home to buy a Jann Arden song. It’s only ninety-nine cents.”

“A dollar twenty nine.” There is a smirk attached to that last remark.

I feel defeated.

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