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"Fifteen years of utter bollocks": how a generation’s freeloading has starved creativity

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Arguments for digital piracy are drivel – it's high time we steered away from this cultural cliff, argues author Chris Ruen.

Driving down civilisation road, it takes effort to grapple with the ramifications of our choices along the way. Out of basic self-interest, we often ignore our own effects upon the world. You throw your rubbish out the window as you drive on by, thinking “I’m just one person, so why worry?"

Such was my mentality as a college student during what we might call the Napster Boom, where suddenly recorded music was digitised and transformed into free content via one “file-sharing” service after another. And yes, those are ironic quotation marks. Because describing exploitative digital piracy sites as though they are benign swap-shops where one can ‘share’ ‘files’ is just one of the many kinds of bollocks that pepper this debate.

But I’ll admit that back then, I willingly took part in this free-for-all, as I’m sure many of you did and probably still do, for films, software, games and ebooks. Things changed for me when I got a job in a Brooklyn café in the late 2000s. Many of the most respected and critically-praised bands of the day were customers there, but my excitement at getting to know them was dimmed when I realised that rather than enjoying the fruits of their success, they were, well, just as broke as I was - a lowly part-time barista living in a shoddy NY rental.

I was troubled by the knowledge that millions of music fans were freeloading music from these artists without a second thought, and more so that I was one of them, hypocritically claiming to “love” music all the while. Once I realised that the great majority of artists and musicians actually needed their legal rights enforced under copyright just to have the chance to break even, the usual excuses for digital piracy started to look like sophomoric drivel.

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