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Shakinah Montgomery
English 101
Professor Alicia Bolton
October 22, 2014
Piracy: A Positive or A Negative
Lawrence Lessigs essay Some like It Hot affirms how not all piracy is completely bad, but good
for the population. Most, if not all, media that we watch or hear was made by some kind of piracy (88).
The Hollywood Film Industry was built by fleeing pirates (88). Pirates were persons who used other
artists creations and claimed them as their own. Producers would relocate from the East Coast to the
West Coast, usually ending up to California. The producers were not practicing piracy to do any bad, only
to make their own music and movies to become wealthy. If its the only hope we have to support our
family and ourselves, then use it. California was remote enough from Edisons reach that film makers
like Fox and Paramount could move there and without fear of the law pirate his inventions (88).
Thomas Edison was given film patents which gave him complete control over his invention of the
phonograph which was used to make movies. While Hollywoods population grew so did the
prosecution of the federal law on film patents. Patents gave whoever created the movie, a confined
monopoly of only seventeen years. Lessig is right about how piracy can be used to better society: but
some of the ways piracy was practiced was immoral.
In 1900, the law gave composures the exclusive right to control copies and public performances
of their music (89). Before this law anyone could use another persons work and claim it as theirs and
not have to pay a fee of any kind. If we wanted to sing a professional artists song in our home and
record into in a phonograph, which was used to record music, it would not be illegal and no fee would
be required to pay the composer of the song. If we wanted to make copies of our recording, the law did
not clarify if we would owe the composer anything for using their song. Some would argue that using

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someone elses work is unethical. The composers and recording artists were not happy about their
music being reproduced by others and not getting paid for it, so -- In 1909,Congress closed the gap in
favor of the composer and the recording artist, amending copyright law to make sure that composers
would be paid for mechanical reproductions of their music (89). After this case was disputed instead
of giving full management over their songs being reproduced, Congress gave recording artists a right to
record the music, at a price set by Congress, after the composer allowed it to be recorded once (89). In
a way having Congress determine how much each recording allows for people not to be overcharged for
just one copied piece.
In addition to a single person getting a copy of music, the radio stations that we listen to on a
daily basis even have to pay the creator of the music for sharing the music over the airwaves. Lessig
states, When a station plays a composers work on the air that constitutes a public performance.
Copyright law gives the composer (or copyright holder) an exclusive right to public performances of their
work (89). By the recording artists song being played on the radio station raises the composition of the
song and the radio station. However the law only allows for the composer to get paid for the music
being played not the recording artistbut permission is required from the artist, though. Say we make a
song, we have the exclusive right to enable public performances of the song. If a recording artist wanted
to use the song they would need our O.K. to use it. Every time the radio plays the song the recording
artist sang, the radio station is required by law to pay us for using our song; but the artist get no money
in return. If the recording artist performed the song publicly, the radio station could pirate the value of
their performance. Once again, supporting Lessigs thoughts on how piracy could be positive sometimes.
Lastly, according to Lessig, P2P sharing seeks to escape an overly controlling industry (91).
Peer-to-peer file sharing, according to Lessigs essay, allows for people to access music and distribute
music that has some type of patent on it, but users of the P2P software do not pay for the music they
download and listen to. The more people use P2P to get music the CD sells of the same music goes

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down, which means the composers are getting cheated out of their money. Lessig explains, no one is
selling the content that gets shared on P2P services. We should find a way to protect artists while
permitting this sharing to survive (91). Contralateral to that statement he also asserts, Much of the
piracy that file sharing enables is plainly legal and good. It provides access to content that is technically
still under copyright but is no longer commercially available (91-92). When something is not
commercially available, it means it is no longer available in stores for purchase but is available online.
Lessig states, As the history of film, music, radio and cable TV suggests, even if some piracy is
plainly wrong, not all is (91). So in conclusion, Lawrence Lessig was correct in his opinions of how piracy
could be used as a positive tool, however stealing other peoples hard work for our own gain. Lessig also
expresses, Many kinds of piracy are useful and productive, either to create new content or foster new
ways of doing business (91). Piracy is something that is used a lot more in the twenty first century to
make new things and even create businesses. Its all about your perspective on the word that
determines how it is portrayed outwards. Lessig states, The question is one of balance, weighing the
protection of the law against the strong public interest in continued innovation. The law should seek
that balance, and that balance will be found only in time (92). Eventually all of the negative talk about
how piracy is a bad thing will soon be changed, we all will use piracy as a positive and not a negative
thing only used to tear things down but to help build businesses and even new content for business to
help them flourish and grow.

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Works Cited
Lessig, Lawrence. Some Like It Hot. The Norton Field Guide to Writing with Readings and Handbook.
2nd ed. Ed. Richard Bullock, Maureen Daly Gagggin, and Francine Weinberg. New York: W.W.
Norton & Company, 2013. 88-92. Print.