Many people mistakenly think of content theft as a “victimless” crime. But stealing content is harmful to both consumers and creators: it provides seed money for organized crime, weakens personal privacy through identity theft and malicious software, and undermines creators’ artistic expression and rightful incomes.
Criminals steal content—not just from big media companies, but from regular people as well—to generate illegal earnings through advertisement and subscription revenues. Internet companies like Google profit as well, since they are the ones displaying the ads and sharing a revenue stream with the criminals. Payment processors who provide credit card support to sites that sell illegal content also share in the ill-gotten gains. If there aren’t protections in place to guard the intellectual property of those who make our Internet communities interesting, engaging, and fun, then creators will hesitate to work online. And that would be a loss for everyone.
But it’s not just content creators who suffer—consumers who download illegal content are also at great risk, and may not realize it. The old adage, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is” applies even more online than it does in real life. There’s really no such thing as “free” online, and illegal content is often a Trojan Horse giving criminals access to your computer and your personal information through malware, spyware, and ransomware silently embedded in that movie, song, or game.
Content theft is no longer just college kids trying to find ways to share their favorite music or movies with their friends; it’s the new frontier of organized crime and content thieves profit enormously at the expense of content creators and consumers alike.
As Digital Citizens, we demand that Internet companies and civic leaders help put the right safeguards and enforcements in place to protect both the intellectual property of content creators and the personal information and property of consumers.