As creative people, nothing upsets us more than having someone steal our work. Especially when they take money out of our pocket and put it into theirs. The theft alone makes one feel violated and the money part makes it exponentially worse. When big companies steal our work, what we hear is that it’s “An innocent mistake”, “The intern did it”, “The outside design firm is responsible”, and so on. When the shoe is on the other foot, it interesting to see how extremely upset these companies can become.
Aaron Elstein, writing for Crain’s NY Business, has a wonderful article titled, “Stealing Signals”. In this great column the author gazes into the ever-expanding world of pirating live sports feeds. You can read it here.
Rather than pay your friendly cable or satellite TV provider for your sports, you can now go to a pirate site headquartered in say, in Panama, Kazakhstan, or Whoknowswherestan, which can provide you with a stolen signal of a live hockey or basketball game. Major League Baseball, The National Hockey League and NBC and just a few of the concerned parties.
Note that according to the article, Bob Bowman MLB’s chief of enforcement has ironically borrowed Mr. Reznicki’s favorite phrase regarding pursuing thieves: “We go after copyright violators vigorously…and we’ll never catch everyone. In the end, we play wack-a-mole”. (One of Jack’s favorite phrases and one of his favorite cheap amusement park games.)
These sites are pirating for profit. They are stealing from the big media companies who are now in the same shoes as individual creatives have been in for decades. Like those who steal from photographers and illustrators, the likelihood of prosecution is so small that these sites simply operate on an illegal business model. You can now add cable carriers and TV networks to movie studios as high profile victims of infringement. These companies spend tons of money and employ lots of people to prevent this financial bleeding but alas they lag behind the bad boys.
Whether you choose to call it karma or irony we can’t ignore the fact that some of the companies victimized by these pirate sites have been accused of doing the very same thing to photographers. There are few if any television networks, newspaper chains or media conglomerates which has not intentionally or negligently infringed on the copyright(s) of a photographer. If such infringement were not so common, Ed would need to get a second job to pay the rent.
Another article on how legit advertisers are supporting these pirate sites is linked here.
As we say so very often (see our last column), “People infringe because it pays to steal“. Which also brings us to our next blog column, the one on Richard Prince’s Instagram show, which we will have up shortly.