Opinion » Maxed Out

Maxed out

Corporate piracy unearthed with buried treasure



"Yes I am a pirate,

Two hundred years too late."

- Jimmy Buffett


Arrrgh, matey, not necessarily. Depends on what it is ye wish to plunder. I have met the enemy on the high seas of digital piracy and he is me... and more than likely, you.

Pirates, it seems, are everywhere. Not the small boat, large gun, Somali kind of pirates, the ones with wet feet and salt crust. But the ones who plunder virtual loot. Music, movies, television shows, what have you.

Personally, I'm not comfortable with the epithet. I don't feel like a pirate. I've never invaded someone's space, never threatened them at sabre point, never swung my hook at them, made them walk the plank, keelhauled them or let my parrot bite their nose. It's the oily guys in the slick suits who work for multinational music and film companies who toss the word around with such, how shall I put this, familiarity. Brotherhood even.

They're the ones calling me a pirate because I've stumbled across websites where other people have posted files for me to download and I've occasionally obliged their kindness. I find it ironic the guys crying "Pirate!" are the ones who want to slap a new $75 tax on every digital music player anyone buys. Jeesh, why don't they just don an eyepatch and a pegleg.

I'm not proud of my piracy, but I came to it honestly. As a wee cabin boy, I stole music off the radio by crudely recording it onto a reel-to-reel tape recorder. When I learned a bit about electronics, I became a poster child for the cliché about a little knowledge being a dangerous thing by soldering wires onto the tonearm of my parents' hi-fi and patching them into the recorder. Now I could make copies of their records of Broadway musicals, Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand and sing alone in the privacy of my bedroom. I lost interest in that period of piracy when puberty hit and I discovered I wasn't gay.

The parrot was on my back again when eight-tracks came along. Scoff if you wish but that breakthrough technology meant we could, for the first time ever, listen to exactly what we wanted to hear in our cars while making out. If copying my own records made me a pirate, so be it. Because let's be honest, nothing spoils the moment like music ending and some irritating radio announcer telling you this is only a test. When you're 17, rounding third base and being waved home, that ain't no test; it's the real thing... and Led Zep was the appropriate soundtrack.