Is It Piracy If You Own The Source Material?

Is-it-piracy -If-you-own-the-source-material

I’ve been thinking about this for some time now and I’m going to throw this out there for the sake of argument.

With quickly progressing technology and the ever widening availability of high speed internet access, the means with which a person can become a media pirate is becoming easier. Just about anyone who is familiar with torrents can easily find and download pirated media. The question quickly changes from “Can I?” to “Should I?”

There’s no argument that downloading materials that you have not paid for and are not offered for free is illegal. Many would argue that it’s also immoral because you’re stealing from people who put in a lot of work and deserve to be compensated for it. Would you take money out of someone’s pocket or food off their table?

There are those who would also say that people who download a good portion of pirated works would have never bought those works to begin with if they weren’t readily available for free. People with low and limited incomes and high bills would fit squarely into that model. There’s also a prevailing thought that piracy helps promote works since it allows them to be viewed/heard before they are bought and that people exposed to good product will buy that product.

I’m not going to argue those points here as I’m sure many thousands of articles have been written on piracy. I’m going to cover just a small niche aspect relating to piracy.


Is it piracy if you own the source materials?

I’ll be specific. If you bought a comic book, let’s say The Walking Dead #93 for example, and you download a copy of that file illegally for ease of reading in the future, is it piracy?

Now it’s easy to say that the person who scanned it and uploaded it was clearly breaking the law and pirating the comic; the matter of financial gain is irrelevant. If you’re torrenting or P2P-ing the file, you’re also breaking the law since you’re sharing the comic with those who may not already own it. but let’s say you download the file from Usenet or a direct download where there is no sharing on YOUR part. You are just receiving the file. A file that you already own in hard print and the parties responsible for creating, distributing, and selling it have already been compensated by your purchase. The method from which you gained your copy offers no financial reward to those who pirated the copy and won’t increase the demand for future piracy. Is that stealing?

You just have a digital copy for your collection so you can have easy access to it from several devices once you put your physical book away. This would be the equivalent of scanning your own comic for a digital copy for personal use or converting a CD to MP3 or Flac for personal use. Should you have to BUY an extra copy of the CD in digital form if you want to put it on your mp3 player even though you just bought the physical medium?

The same argument would apply to comics, but the scans are already there – someone just did the work YOU would have done by scanning it yourself. Should you be required to buy a copy from, say ComiXology, if you want a personal digital copy of what you already have? Also, those digital copies are stored permanently on their servers, not on your PC or device.

The files are out there, no one is suffering financially, the item has been bought and paid for, and the process is saving you scanning time. Are you a pirate for downloading the file without sharing it with others?

Personally, I think there is nothing wrong with that and I’m not advocating or condoning piracy, I just think there are some grey areas.

So what do you think? There’s a poll on our sidebar.

I’d be very interested in hearing from both sides.


– The Comic Book Critic

3 thoughts on “Is It Piracy If You Own The Source Material?”

  1. That’s actually called format shifting or data shifting. Unless it’s specifically mentioned in law, no, it’s not illegal. Especially if you take your own copy and make another format of it – like taking a VHS and putting it on DVD or copying a CD to your iTunes.
    Now, in certain countries Peer to Peer is illegal. In other countries it’s not. In some, downloading for personal use isn’t illegal either. Legally, it depends on where you live.
    Ethically, I personally think that it’s not piracy. It’s just bad business on the part of the content providers to not offer you digital services with your purchase. You are buying content, not copies, but that distinction is really the crux of the argument right now.

  2. Reposting from my G+ page:

    It’s always hard for a company to justify giving something away for free even though the product was already paid for. I always hear about the costs involved in “formatting” the work for digital release. Well, there are people scanning books for free and making them available illegally, I’m sure they’re not putting up huge sums of money to do it.

    I firmly believe that if you have a good product, make it easy to purchase, and make it affordable, people will flock to you with money. Louis C.K. recently did this with his self-shot and produced comedy special. He made over $1 Million in less than 2 weeks by selling direct from his website. The video was DRM free and $5.00! I bought it myself.

    If comics publishers sold their digital copies (w/ some kind of proof of hardcopy purchase) for 10 to 25 cents each. I’m sure MANY people who would otherwise not even consider a digital copy, would buy them. There would be another revenue stream. It wouldn’t be huge, but it would justify the costs involved in scanning and distributing. That would go a long way towards building good will and possibly a switch over to digital for some people.

  3. I would have to agree with this article. If you have purchased the item, there’s no reason to be denied another way of consuming it. If the people providing the copy were demanding compensation for their page scans of a particular comic book, then I feel that would be illegal.

    Marvel comics has been providing FREE digital downloads for some of their more expensive comics. Naturally they aren’t really FREE as you are paying a dollar more for them, but the convenience of knowing you are getting it in one shot rather than buying it separately from their online store is nice.

    The Louis C.K. model is something that all publishers should consider. If every digital copy released was $.99 people would buy them more often. Let’s face it, the digital copy provided by the publisher is much more intuitive and cleaner than a page scan. Currently DC’s same day/same price model punishes people who don’t want boxes of hard copies, yet still want to keep up with the stories on the day they are released. Make them $.99 for same day digital and free for those who buy the hard copy.

    Until this happens, I’m happy to find the file online and get copies of the books I’ve already paid for to read on my tablet wherever I go.


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