What follows is a more or less accurate transcript of a conversation I had yesterday:
Me: Looks like that charity album for Japan raised $5 million. Not bad.
They: Which one, Songs for Japan? I downloaded that last week.
Me: You...downloaded a charity album?
They: No! I mean, not all of it.
There was more, but I thought we could all do without more of my spittle-flecked profanity.
Whatever your views on obtaining music and movies and such without paying for them, I think we can all agree that downloading an album whose sole purpose is to raise money for people whose homes have been swallowed by the sea is kind of a dickbag move.
[Unsurprisingly, Coldplay's "Swallowed in the Sea" was not one of the selections in Songs for Japan.]
So we know of at least one case where torrenting copyrighted material is flat-out wrong. Are there any circumstances in which piracy might - *gasp* - be justified? Funny you should ask.
Personally, I'm against downloading stuff simply because I believe those who create should be compensated for their work unless they say otherwise. Not to say I'm pure as the driven snow when it comes to the subject, but in general I don't think "those guys make enough money already" or " "It had some good songs on it" is sufficient justification, charity album or not.
Having said that, there are - in my opinion - a few instances where piracy is not only warranted, but should be encouraged.
You Want To Watch The Unaltered Star Wars Original Trilogy
[Update: I'd selectively forgotten about the laserdiscs transfer released a few years ago, probably because I'd resolved to never give Lucas any more of my money.] You
can't can get the unaltered theartrical versions of the OT on DVD, but not on the upcoming Blu-ray release, which means there are likely no more chances to see Han shoot first or enjoy the films unadulterated with unnecessary CGI bullshit. Me, I've got the old VHS set.
You Want To See Any Of The Jersey Shore Spin-Offs
Honestly, I can't imagine people in this category really exist, or if they do, then I can't believe they know that a computer is useful for anything besides America Online. And loath as I am to deny a Dancing with the Stars alum and respected public speaker their desperate attempts to stretch out those 15 minutes, I think America's pretty solidly behind me when I say we've had enough abs and spray tan for one decade.