The history of copyright is fraught with special interests and intellectual dishonesty. Even the use of the word 'piracy' is loaded. Etymologically, 'pirate' comes from 'sea traveler' (Harper, 2010). It changed to include brigands and thieves of the sea, and then to encompass bandits in general. It is now additionally used to describe anyone who disobeys the copyright regime.
It can be a little hard to understand the 'life+X' durations the regime espouses. It is no easier to comprehend some of the strange language and statistics bandied about. Fairly early in the history of sea travelers they were classified as criminals. Perhaps, a bit like gypsies, this was somewhat accurate and somewhat prejudice against transients that became self-fulfilling prophecy. Regardless, the word evolved to include 'attack' and 'steal'. And these were behaviors for which pirates became notorious. Yet privateers (Websters, 2010) engaged in the same behavior weren't considered criminals by the states that employed them. But all of that is rather a far cry from copying media.
Illegally copying some commercial software may be a genuine problem and it needs to be analyzed pragmatically with accurate language. Some of the people and companies involved in writing it might not be able to continue doing so if they receive inadequate recompense. Some Intellectual Property should be licensed to encourage further development (Fraunhofer, 2010) or else alternatives found (Vorbis.com, 2008). This argument doesn't stand up quite as well for media (Dorell, 2010).
I tend to single out America when I'm criticizing degraded discourse. Sloppy language, incoherent thought processes, unprovable assumptions and incorrect policies are spewing out as fast as cultural imperialism can carry them. CEOs make hundreds of times the amount of money as productive employees and the people waste their time arguing about stem-cells. This corporate/advertising/media malfeasance certainly includes publishing. If we look at the history of copyright it's pretty clear that it has generally been strengthened at the behest of publishers (Wikipedia, 2010). Artists who claim to need 'life+70' protection must know something about their mortality that the rest of us don't. Or they buy whatever line the RIAA, MPAA or other lobby of publishing CEOs is selling. Fortunately as American hegemony fades it appears common sense may be spreading (Doctorow, 2010).
The non-exclusivity of digital content has created a conundrum. It is often difficult to tell if media has been stolen. So the entertainment industry might indulge in some rather egregious guesswork. But I also believe the paradigm has shifted. The segment of the market that values a creation at less than retail but greater than zero does need to be accounted for. The copyright tax might be a way to do it. But decriminalizing 'piracy' is necessary anyway so that those of us in that segment can stop traveling the sea.
Doctorow, C. (2010) India's copyright bill gets it right [Online]. Available from: http://www.boingboing.net/2010/04/22/indias-copyright-bil.html (Accessed: 25 April, 2010)
Dorell, J. (2005) Copyright Levies [Online]. Available from: http://www.1729.com/ip/CopyrightLevies.html (Accessed: 24 April, 2010)
Fraunhofer (2010) Search results of “mp3” [Online]. Available from: http://web2009-suche.bi.fraunhofer.de/web2009searchapp/search?lang=en (Accessed: 24 April, 2010)
Harper, D (2010) Online Etymology Dictionary [Online]. Available from: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=pirate (Accessed: 24 April, 2010)
Vorbis.com (2008) [Online]. Available from: http://www.vorbis.com/ (Accessed: 24 April, 2010)
Websters Online Dictionary (2010) Privateer [Online]. Available from: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/privateer (Accessed: 24 April, 2010)
Wikipedia (2010) History of Copyright Law [Online]. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_copyright (Accessed: 24 April, 2010)