Pirates Steal Ships, Not Songs

If you copy this post and pass it off as your own, that’s called plagiarism. If you illegally download a Freakonomics e-book for yourself, that’s downlifting (or, more traditionally, bootlegging). If you want to be a pirate, downloading a bootleg of Hook isn’t going to get you there — you’re going to have to actually go out onto the high seas and commit yourself some illegal acts of violence or depredation. Confusing piracy at sea with “piracy” on the internet, according to Copycense, is misleading “public relations blather.” K. Matthew Dames furthers the case in this paper, investigating the etymology of piracy and finding just how far the word has strayed from its original meaning. [%comments]


Downlifting sounds really bad, and doesn't make much sense in the context. It's copyright infringement, that's all.


This explains the situation perfectly, pass it on. I printed this cartoon and posted it on my fridge last summer before all the real piracy started, I thought it was clever but had no idea it would become a real issue. http://aureamediocritas.blogs.sapo.pt/129055.html


Richard Stallman on software piracy:

And when they say that "if you share [software], you're a pirate", they're twisting up morality because they're trying to equate helping your neighbour with attacking ships.


Okay, you've referred to "downlifting", you can stop now. Nobody's going to understand that word without an explanation, and it's no more accurate that "piracy" is.

Ryan Grant

The piracy argument aside,can you please stop using the phrase 'downlifting'. The comments showed most disagreed with it last time, and its perhaps even more confusing as a term.

trader n

Thanks. I was confused about the different kinds of piracy.

Though the guy I bought my copy of Freakonomics from had a parrot on his shoulder.

English Clergyman

I like the term "downlifting". I also imagine there are quite a few people more than happy with the term who aren't expressing it, but are scared off by the vocals who dislike it.

It seems to me that it's in ways similar to shoplifting, if not identical, and thus using language to express that similarlity while not suggesting that they are identical isn't out of place. Yes, it is also copyright infringement; lots of things are copyright infringement, so creating more specific terminology is useful.

Furthermore, no one is requiring that you use the term. If the word really is confusing (not sure how it could be, but let's say it is), it will fall out of use on its own. Don't sweat it.


Can we please just stop adding to the confusion.

It's called "copyright infringement" or "IP violation". Period.

Not "bootlegging", not "piracy", not "downlifting".
Not "theft".

No matter what side of the fence you are on, at least lets be accurate.


It seems as if the word 'piracy' has been, um, hijacked.


Downlifting sounds really bad, and doesn't make much sense in the context. It's copyright infringement, that's all.



I'm an IP attorney, and my problem with "downlifting" is that it makes the dubious connection between tangible goods and intangible property. It ignores the fact that not all "downlifting" would be illegal/unlawful when the same "defenses" would not be present for shoplifting. Really simply, would it be "downlifting" if you made two copies of your ebook for your own use?

IP issues are not readily amendable to analogy to tangible goods/crimes. You don't trespass or steal or take copyrighted material: you infringe an exclusive right.

I don't disagree that "piracy" is at least as bad description of copyright infringement (probably more so). But introducing yet another term does not make the situation better.

Space Pirate

Terminology aside, sharing digital files of any sort of content is far from the theft that 'piracy' and 'downlifting' imply. These are infinite goods, there is no cost to anyone for the creatuin of an extra copy and the argument that the extra copy is always a 'lost sale' is complete bunk.

Ed Pinkley

@English Clergyman: Well said. But, I will sweat it. Put me down as a vocal minority.

Referring to copyright infringement as piracy is so ridiculous that no one would ever confuse the two meanings. When you use a word similar to shoplifting the division is not so clear. But it needs to be. Shoplifting requires the product to be removed from the store. Illegal copying does not.

It is just as "similar but not identical" to trespassing (using property without permission) and counterfeiting (making a copy and presenting it as the original.)


Was downlifting named purposefully so that eventually people could begin referring to the actual bootlegging as uplifting? You know, since downloading copyrighted material isn't illegal but uploading it is....

Strikes me almost as much as all the reporting that the RIAA was going after 'downloaders', since everyone can say to themselves 'oh goodness! I've downloaded on the interwebs too! they want to outlaw downloads!' when they where actually going after people who 'uploaded' or 'distributed' their copyrighted content.

Larry Gritz

This is an absurd argument. "Piracy" as a term for copyright infringement dates to the 1800's, back when it referred to ripping off sheet music. Can't anybody see that "piracy" can encompass many types of stealing, and thinking that it must for all time refer *only* to hijacking ships is childish.

Getting all wound around the axle about whether a term now (or for a hundred years) is different than it was 300 years ago is a distraction from all the real issues.

By the way, I hope RIAA gets ground into dust and forgotten by history, but that doesn't change that this is a stupid argument.

C. Larity

All the bad news out of Somalia is really going to put a damper on Talk Like A Pirate Day this year.



I think bootlegging, is good term for it. You used to get bootlegged copies of tapes, now you get bootlegged copies of software.


Stop trying to make up your own cool words. Didn't the response to the last article tell you this one was a bad idea, for many reasons?

Perhaps we need to open up the forum for discussion of the term "Freakonomics", just to give you grief mind you since it is unlikely to go away.


Right - "Piracy" is just “public relations blather.” They've been so effective at pulling the wool over everyone's eyes that even the "Pirate Bay" and the "Pirate Party" uses the word "Pirate" to describe what they're doing. (roll eyes)

Personally, I'd prefer that everyone stop using the words "Identity Theft" since no one is being deprived of their identity. Let's call it "unauthorized identity sharing".

Can we stop trying to convert everyone to following our own personal re-wording of well defined words now?


I like trespassing better myself. As in, "He was convicted of trespassing on an intellectual property."

Have to say that I prefer piracy to downlifting. I don't get to wear an eyepatch and drink rum while downlifting.