Ars Technica had a story yesterday that said that copyright holders (mainly the music and movie industries) are reconsidering their preference for using the word "pirate" to describe people who steal music, movies, and other content:
Copyright holders have long preferred the term, with its suggestions of theft, destruction, and violence. The "pirates" have now co-opted the term, adopting it with gusto and hoisting the Jolly Roger across the Internet (The file-sharing site The Pirate Bay being the most famous example).
Now, in the post-Pirates of the Caribbean world, though:
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Some of those concerned about online copyright infringement now realize that they may have created a monster by using the term "piracy." This week, at the unveiling of a new study for the International Chamber of Commerce which argued that 1.2 million jobs could be lost in Europe as a result of copyright infringement by 2015, the head of the International Actors' Federation lamented the term.
"We should change the word piracy," she said at a press conference. "To me, piracy is something adventurous, it makes you think about Johnny Depp. We all want to be a bit like Johnny Depp. But we're talking about a criminal act. We're talking about making it impossible to make a living from what you do."
Seriously? This is very silly. I don't think anyone sits down to illegally download Avatar or the new Gorillaz album because they are thinking, "Arrr! I be a pirate of the cyber-seas and I be plundering the entertainment industry! Where's me rum? Where's me wenches? I am a little bit like Johnny Depp! Arrrrrr!"
Nor would more widespread use of the word thief to describe people who do this be a wake-up call. People aren't stupid. No one in 2010 who is downloading copyrighted content thinks it is legal, whether it is called piracy or theft.
Way to blame your problems on words rather than your slow adaptation to emerging technology, entertainment industry.
On to the word nerdery. Here's the etymology for pirate, culled from a few dictionaries and mashed together: Middle English, from Old French, from Latin pīrāta, from the Greek peirātēs, from peirān, meaning to attempt, to attack, assault, from peira, meaning trial, from the Indo-European base per-, meaning to bring through, penetrate.