Opinion: Kids use age-old excuse — "everyone's doing it" — to justify media piracy. So what's new?

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andy-merrett.jpgAndy Merrett writes…

I’m sure it’s the classic excuse for why kids and teenagers do pretty much anything their parents (or indeed, The Law) don’t want them to.

“But everyone else is doing it.”

Passing over the classic teacher retort “Well, if everyone else jumped off a cliff [auditioning for a part in “Lemmings the Movie, perhaps?], would you?” (oops), that seems to be the reasoning for kids who copy and distribute music, videos, or software over the Internet.

It has to be a lot less dangerous – at least physically – than jumping off that metaphorical cliff.

A study from the European Commission — which is seriously official and, therefore, must be true — found that a large number of kids knew that what they were doing was illegal, but still did it because they saw both their peers and their parents doing it.

The EC calls this an “implicit form of authorisation”.

I just call it kids wanting the latest music and being too poor to buy it. It could be laziness. Or the possibility that most albums contain mainly crap music and they want to make a mix tape of decent tracks.

The EC survey found that older kids were more likely to pirate stuff than younger ones, and boys more than girls.

Other excuses for doing it included the belief that copying material for personal, rather than commercial, use was not as bad, as well as the high cost of ‘real’ media (CDs and DVDs), and the belief that musicians earn too much money already.

Some interesting logic also stated that “if the media was truly illegal, it wouldn’t be on the Internet” — uh-huh, right — and that “We pay because we are spending megabits!” (that famous pan-European currency).

At the end of the day there’s nothing much new here, except everything is now digital and it’s easier to find and distribute media. Having said that, the vast majority of these kids will not become major criminals, bootlegging dodgy media.

Remember back in the ’80s when you copied that cassette software from your mate on your rather dodgy tape-to-tape stereo so you could play it without heading down to the local computer shop and spending your sweet money?

Course you do.

Sure, plenty of people in authority would like to nip piracy in the bud before “the habits that they form … stay with them for a lifetime”, but you know, some piracy seems almost educational.

The biggest threat to kids and teens downloading stuff off the web seems to be the threat of viruses and other malicious software, rather than any legal threats. Maybe Sony and Microsoft can oblige?

Read Kids in Europe justify piracy: “Papa pirates, so I do, too”

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Andy Merrett