Long-term effect of Online Piracy
Indeed, the long-term effect of online piracy is probably more difficult to quantify than the short-term effect. On the other hand, the farther out into the future the problem exists, the more likely it is to become mainstream and more prevalent. That is not to say that it is any less distasteful or harmful, but that society changes its views on the matter. In fact, society itself is actually changed by the continual barrage of methods to obtain movies, software and music illegally. Thus, the first long-term effect is that children are taught that piracy is okay.
Now, more than ever, children are using computers. Even from as young as kindergarten age, they are learning how to use keyboards and how to search the internet for their school projects. Schools have large computer labs and the curriculum includes computer training much like it did trips to the public library. But when children live in an environment where certain behaviors are acceptable and even encouraged, they internalize the behaviors, and eventually believe them to be acceptable. This is what happens with online piracy. Young adults and role models are teaching whole generations that is okay to use software or download music without paying. Where parents used to teach children that it was abhorrent to steal from a store, the children are not getting the same message from pirated acts.
Another long-term effect of online piracy is the degrading of industries. For example if movie production companies find that enough of their movies are not meeting projected budgets, then they will reduce the number of movies they make and/or limit the effects to mediocre. The quality of movies will be lost because directors will not have the budgets to spend on fancy effects, high priced actors, and exotic locations. Basically, movies will be classified as low budget. Of course, this puts a lot of people out of work in the long run. And not only the actors who would have won the roles, but also make-up artists, wardrobe designers, janitors, and ancillary providers that the film company would have used for various tasks. And as time progresses, and years pass, how does anyone measure exactly how many jobs were lost to online piracy?
The next long-term effect of online piracy deals with the legal issue of enforcement, and who has the right to deny others their rights. For example, if ISPs are tasked with the job of finding offenders and disconnecting their subscribers' services, really what right do they have to deny anyone else their rights? Even if governments tell ISPs to do this, can they legitimately cut people off from the outside world through emails? Do telephone companies shut down phone service for illegal activities? In fact, the enforcement encroaches on civil liberties.
Finally, bands have taken the stance that if people are going to take their stuff and they lose royalties anyway, why not use the “freemium business model”. Long ago, Grateful Dead decided that it was too difficult to police concert goers and stop them from taking pictures and videos of the concerts. Yes, they were losing royalties, but they found if they let them do it, the band made up the money in merchandise purchases. Further, The Smashing Pumpkins have done a great job with the fremium business model. Their website lists endless songs that can be downloaded for free, and they recommend other sites where small donations can be made to charitable or non-profit groups. So actually in these two examples, business was changed for the better because the bands decided to make something good out of negatives.
To conclude, I am going to quote a line David Bowie said eight years ago to a New York Times reporter about the long-term effect of online piracy... “I'm fully confident that copyright, for instance, will no longer exist in 10 years, and authorship and intellectual property is in for such a bashing."
I have to ask myself. Is it even legal for me to quote this? Who knows, but it does go to show how society changes in a short period of time. Many of the things Bowie discussed seemed ridiculous, yet they have happened. Since publishers still expect proper credit, though, and out of courtesy, here is the link to the original 2002 New York Times article.