You know what’s weird?

May 13, 2009

Posted by Nick Sarno


Pirates. Not pirates themselves, pirates aren’t especially weird. It’s our use of the word “pirate” I’m talking about. Back when I was a kid, pirates were the guys sailing the seven seas, getting high off of nutmeg, plundering colonial ships and, for some reason, burying the booty for which they risked their lives rather than, you know, spending it on stuff. Nowadays, the word “pirate” is just as likely to conjure up images of dudes living in their parent’s basement, getting Chex-mix bits into their keyboards as they post chapters from the latest Harry Potter book. Or kids in their dorm rooms uploading the new Metallica album. It almost makes me happy to read headlines about Somalian marauders jumping onto boats, capturing the crew and holding the captain for ransom money. It makes me happy because it reminds us what pirates really are: guys on boats who kill other guys on boats for money and cargo.


I’m not going to argue about the legalities of downloading or posting movies, songs, books, etc. And I’m not going to talk about intellectual property or copyrights. All I’m saying is that there is a big difference between murdering people on boats for money and making the new Metallica record a free download on your blog. And that maybe the word pirate is misleading, and that whoever came up with the term made it intentionally misleading, and that maybe we should come up with something new. 


Now, if pirates quietly sneaked onto boats, stole things without causing any physical harm, and proceeded to give their booty away for free…well, then there wouldn’t be a problem.


So? Anyone? Suggestions for a new term to describe people who illegally download bits of copyrighted information? I’m going with “e-thieves”. I think “thiEves” is good too, but probably a little too artsy for the press.


That said, here’s an article from the Times about how e-readers are making it possible to “thiEve” books:


Ursula K. Le Guin, the science fiction writer, was perusing the Web site Scribd last month when she came across digital copies of some books that seemed quite familiar to her. No wonder. She wrote them, including a free-for-the-taking copy of one of her most enduring novels, “The Left Hand of Darkness.”

Neither Ms. Le Guin nor her publisher had authorized the electronic editions. To Ms. Le Guin, it was a rude introduction to the quietly proliferating problem of digital piracy in the literary world. “I thought, who do these people think they are?” Ms. Le Guin said. “Why do they think they can violate my copyright and get away with it?”

This would all sound familiar to filmmakers and musicians who fought similar battles — with varying degrees of success — over the last decade. But to authors and their publishers in the age of Kindle, it’s new and frightening territory.

For a while now, determined readers have been able to sniff out errant digital copies of titles as varied as the “Harry Potter” series and best sellers by Stephen King and John Grisham. But some publishers say the problem has ballooned in recent months as an expanding appetite for e-books has spawned a bumper crop of pirated editions on Web sites like Scribd and Wattpad, and on file-sharing services like RapidShare and MediaFire.

“It’s exponentially up,” said David Young, chief executive of Hachette Book Group, whose Little, Brown division publishes the “Twilight” series by Stephenie Meyer, a favorite among digital pirates. “Our legal department is spending an ever-increasing time policing sites where copyrighted material is being presented.”


Go here to read more, and to find out why Harlan Ellison threatens to turn your hand into “six inches of bloody stump.” 


4 Responses to “You know what’s weird?”

  1. How about “wwwrobbers”?

  2. urbesque Says:

    I like it, but only if you pronounce it like Elmer Fudd. I think “ethieves” would look good in a headline, but I’d give anything to hear a newscaster say “wwwrobbers” like Elmer Fudd.

  3. paul Says:

    Did pirates really get high off of nutmeg? (When I first read this, I thought it said “getting high off of nutmeg and plunder.” and that made so much sense).

  4. urbesque Says:

    Maybe they did get high off of both nutmeg and plunder. I don’t know where I read it, but as a kid I remember reading something about sailors and pirates getting high off of nutmeg. As a college student, I too wanted to get high off of nutmeg. But I looked it up and the side effects seemed to outweigh the positives. This is from wikipedia:

    “In low doses, nutmeg produces no noticeable physiological or neurological response. Large doses of 2g per 1 kg (say, an individual weighing 65 kg (143.3 lbs) would have to consume 130 grams)[citation needed] of body weight or more are dangerous, potentially inducing convulsions, palpitations, nausea, eventual dehydration, and generalized body pain[1] In large amounts it is a reputed to be a strong deliriant. Users report both negative and positive experiences, involving strong open-eye-visuals (hallucinations), and in some cases quite severe anxiety. Users may feel a sensation of blood rush to the head, or a strong euphoria and dissociation. Nutmeg contains myristicin, a weak monoamine oxidase inhibitor.”

    Maybe I should have said “got nauseous and dehydrated from nutmeg, plundering colonial ships….” But it just didn’t have the same ring.


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