There is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft….When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal his wife’s right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness.
Khaled Hosseini – The Kite Runner
It is a queer irony that people love to hate the evil in others; and then use that evil as a justification for their own behaviour. As I have recently discovered this sort of mentality to be true close to home with quite a number of my friends who apply this to their everyday life regarding online piracy.
“Corporations are evil”, they say. They are big and ugly and unethical and faceless and soul-less. Hiding behind limited liability, they let individuals do all sorts of horrible things to the public and the defenselessness And as “the rich get richer, the poor get the picture” – Peter Garret’s catch cry – using their colossal market power to muscle out competitors. And because these firms are so horrible – it is OK ethically to steal or commit fraud against them, or so the argument goes. “We are not taking from people – individuals – therefore it is hurting no one. Only effecting this massive organisation, that is so big, my actions have no effect.”
These themes are explored in Joel Bakan’s film-documentary The Corporation (2003), that overtly shows the danger of organisation who’s actions are left un-checked across international boarders. When companies gain massive lobbying power that they government is willing to pay them out billions of dollars in hard times (a la General Motors in the US).
However here in lies the rub: because these corporations use limited-liability to be bullies in the playground; we can therefore justify theft. In the West we believe it is Our Right to have what we want now, and not have to pay for it. So would people stop stealing from these corporations if they were not so big, successful, powerful and ‘evil’? Somehow I doubt it…
One could say this is a hypothetical that could never exist. That companies so big could never act justly because their primary concern is their shareholders’ financial growth. However, in recent times, with more transparency being introduced into the commercial markets, increases in the speed of media communication, and more products being purchased based on image instead of functionality for the task intended – bad company image is bad business. This means that boycotting of products, such as Cadbury’s chocolate before being transitioned to Fare Trade certification, can be highly effective.
Deep down, I feel that many people that loath these corporations, secretly don’t really want them to change. Because if they did, it would take away the justification used to explain away their theft. And it s theft – because people make products, not merely companies. Many people, perhaps unknowns, would rather have a company doing global harm – so as to justify their small theft. Ironic huh.
It is comforting, that people only take stuff they want. And so I can sleep easy knowing that nobody will be pinching my intellectual property on this here blog…Just like that anti-piracy advertisement at the beginning of DVDs where it states “You wouldn’t steal a hand bag; you wouldn’t steal a car; you wouldn’t steal a TV” – to which I reply – “I wouldn’t steal that TV”