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 laserdisc transfer released a few years back, mostly because I resolved long ago not to give Lucas any more of my money.] You
can't can get the original, unaltered theatrical versions of the original trilogy on DVD, however the Blu-ray release announced for later this year won't include Han firing first or movies not crammed to the gills with annoying CGI bullshit. I'm sticking with my VHS set, personally.
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.
You Live in Australia
I'm using the Land Down Under as an example, when in fact there are many countries who have an equivalent of the Aussies' Classification Review Board, which has kept movies like Baise-Moi and Ken Park from airing and video games such as the Grand Theft Auto series from being released.
You Want to Listen to Certain Music of Your Youth
I confess: back in the late '90s, I made use of the peer-to-peer service Napster. At the time, I (mostly) limited myself to stuff that wasn't readily available in music stores (online retail sources being largely nonexistent), and it was there I went to satisfy my desire to listen to MDC, the Big Boys and 7 Seconds. Even now, it's difficult to find a copy of JFA's Valley of the Yakes or Really Red's Teaching You the Fear without paying the equivalent of what a Santa Cruz deck would set you back in 1984.
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Your Name Is Jean Lafitte
He never attacked an American ship and was instrumental in helping us defeat the British in the Battle of New Orleans. I'd say that warrants a little looting. Beats the hell out of those Somali assholes, anyways.