A student from a third world country confess us a crime he commits on a daily basis while he defends it. A story of chronic consumption and an open question of the borders of legality.

Even though they yell in the street advertising their products, once I contact one of them, see the catalog and ask for something, the mystery starts. He is in his thirties and speaks like a gang member. He takes me like in the middle of a movie operation to a café near by. He tells me what to ask for to the waitress and to wait 15 minutes while he gets the stuff somewhere else. As I wait there with a chicken pie that I won’t eat, I wonder if actually all that mystery is needed. I mean, obviously it is illegal but everybody does it. Police should give a fuck, and a break to us in the meanwhile. He comes fifteen minutes later as promised, with his hand in his jacket, clearly holding something, clearly something illegal. He is a movie star, a secret agent, and has a mission that he cannot fail, for the sake of the world as we understand it, for the whole civilization. He opens his jacket looking suspicious everywhere and give them to me: four beautiful dvd’s with a name written with Sharpie: Adobe suite CS5. 10 euros. He misspelled “suite”.

Movies, music, videogames, tutorials, software to work, Rhinoceros, Photoshop, Final cut, Illustrator, Pro tools, anything you have ever dreamed, anything you desire, I have had it, costless, or extremely cheap at least. And it has been that way from the very beginning, from the Internet explosion. I am 25 and I have been there all the time. I started with small things: Pokemon Red and a Gameboy emulator in a floppy disk. I have consumed a lot in these years, on a daily basis, a lot of everything. I am a massive criminal and all the people I know are too.

I sit down, edit a picture in Photoshop, go to a website to check the last episode of The walking dead that was released yesterday (it is already uploaded with Spanish subtitles), then play a little bit of World of Warcraft in a Korean pirate server (I do not speak Korean but that doesn’t matter; there are pirates from every place in the world so English is the main used language) and then I chill a bit with the whole Pink Floyd discography, which of course I did not buy through iTunes, which doesn’t work in my country by the way. A fun afternoon that cost me nothing. But it could.

I guess if you take a calculator you will find out that I should have paid roughly 1500 euros. Photoshop is fucking expensive. The most basic Adobe suite CS6, Photoshop, Illustrator and Fireworks, cost 2000 USD. The minimum salary in my country, if you are lucky to get a job with a contract that assures you at least that amount, is around 250 USD. So do the math, of how many months a person from the third world needs to work and live with no rent either food to buy it, while I edit a couple of videos taken from different series in Adobe Premiere (which is not included in the basic package) for my university homework on pop culture and globalization.

I have nothing against the Adobe team. I imagine them on a sunny Thursday working hard in a fun white office using a lot of Post-its. They look like nice people. And I am sure that there are people that also work their ass off and sacrifice beautiful life moments to get an original and legal version of anything they need. And I am also aware that calling yourself poor gives you no right to go and take what is not yours. But this is a grey area. Or I feel it that way. I don’t feel that I am stealing. And, like is now obvious in music industry, this market model is not good for any of the parts.

What can I say, I need the Adobe suite. I am a design student. I want to apply to universities in United States for a MA. I cannot send a portfolio edited in Microsoft Paint and pretend to make it competitive enough. And I cannot pay 2000 euros for the basic stuff. Which student can? I have a friend, Norwegian of course, that bought the legal suite. She regrets it. Not only you have to pay that but also some extra costs, something to do with the license.  I know how to deal with the licenses: it is called Little Snitch, a 50 USD software that blocks any attempt of any software in your computer to connect to internet to search for updates. In that way they never can track your pirate stuff, or your lack of license. Of course, you cannot get the updates either.  It has worked amazing, since the day that of course I downloaded from a torrent for free.

I have to admit that even if I had the money I wouldn’t pay 2000 USD for an incomplete version of something that I can get for 15 USD. I guess I have a criminal mind after all. And mom tried so hard. But is that the price is ridiculous. I understand that when are licenses for offices and big things but I am a student, I’m from the third world, I cannot pay for this yet I have to keep competitive, I have to educate myself in my area, and basically keeping it legal will put me into a functional analphabetism.

My life without piracy would be very different. 80% of the movies that I have seen I didn’t pay for them. I am sorry; my local cinema doesn’t show “The five obstructions” or basically any movie from Lars von Trier or Jørgen Leth. Blockbuster doesn’t have it either. I think they are not even in town anymore.  The only option left I guess is to see four times in a year “Die hard” in the national TV, dubbed, or go to the library and hope to find that Japanese movie that was premiered in the Berlinale ten years ago. That was disappointing when I tried.

It is undeniable that the software and digital content market is still being build, and that traditional trade approaches are not so convenient for these goods. Sharing should be an option. The problem is to find out how the developers could get the money through that spirit. I don’t think is impossible, but certainly it is complicated.

I am not going to be the person that gets to the solution. I just play the game, as it is presented to me. I feel lucky. Piracy has done a lot for me. I am certainly a more cultivated person because of it, and I cherish that. I don’t consider myself as a criminal. When I watch a movie on Internet I rather see it as if someone invited me to his house to check the new dvd he bought. An unknown friend in a far-away country who decided to share.

I guess I just stopped to think too much about it, piracy is there, everywhere, everybody uses it, is like air, you consume it, you need it, its around you and you definitely are going to miss it if is taken away.

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  • Jack Brown

    amazing article and stunning illustration! ps: download this comment! 😉

  • Striput Calendru

    Awesome Illustration !!

  • Shravan

    This is a brilliant article. A great metaphor executed crisply.