Instigator / Pro

People who illegally download online media should recieve harsh fines/punisments.


The debate is finished. The distribution of the voting points and the winner are presented below.

Winner & statistics
Better arguments
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After 5 votes and with 20 points ahead, the winner is...

Publication date
Last updated date
Number of rounds
Time for argument
Three days
Max argument characters
Voting period
One month
Point system
Multiple criterions
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Contender / Con

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Round 1
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, piracy is defined as the “act of illegally reproducing or disseminating copyrighted material, such as computer programs, books, music, and films[1].” In many cases, pirating online files is bad for the creator of the original file, and the economy, and is just outright dangerous.

Piracy is dangerous
A study done by IDC found that of pirated files found on the internet, approximately 36% of these files were viruses[2]. This not only puts your information in danger, but can also hijack your accounts and send these viruses to people you know. Even though pirating files may only seem to put one irresponsible person in danger, it could also put those close to them at risk as well.

The creator loses money
A large number of artists make money through ad revenue when their content is streamed. An example of this being Spotify, which pays artists using Spotify based on the number of ads shown on their tracks, and the number of premium users viewing their content[3]. Though this specific agreement is only applied to artists and creators on Spotify, similar agreements apply to creators on sites such as YouTube, SoundCloud, and Google Play. When media is taken off these platforms and disturbed to users for free, advertisements can not be shown to the users, and therefore the creators lose money. Though this may not be as big of a deal for larger companies but can have a more significant impact on the revenue of creators with smaller followings.

Effect on economy
The music industry alone is a significant portion of the economy. An article from Science Direct states that from 2004 to 2009 there was a downturn in the economy of around 30%. The same article goes on to state that one of the biggest contributors to this was the illegal downloading of music from the internet[4]. This doesn't account for the pirating of other non-music, user-generated content from sites like YouTube. This means that piracy of all files has a much bigger impact on the economy than many people realize.

Without harsher punishments and fines, it won’t stop
Laws need to create increased fines or even jail time. On top of that, these laws also need to be actively enforced in order to deter piracy. Without harsher punishments, the problem of piracy will continue to have a negative impact on many aspects of the world.

I. Extremity considerations 
  • The scope of the topic is quite concerning for the critic as well as the prospective voter. The idea that "[p]eople who illegally download online media should receive harsh fines/punishments" does not allow for any nuance indexed to the degree of crime committed. Rather the topic commits pro to argue that anyone who illegally downloads online media should have such harsh penalties.
  • This is problematic because "it is illegal to download any music or movies that are copyrighted." Pro's view does not account for minor cases under which law enforcement funding should not be wasted, which places the resolution in obvious falsity. 

II. Proportional Punishment 
  • It is important to note that downloading anything you don't have rights to without some form of licensing permission is technically illegal. As aforementioned, "It is illegal to download any music or movies that are copyrighted." So, while this is a violation of a law, it is certainly not a serious one in any capacity. For a comparative analogy, even littering in small amounts is technically illegal in many states, North Carolina serving as an example. But we are not seeking to impose harsh fines/punishments for instances of littering. This is because trivially, there are law violations that are not serious in any capacity, and any random person downloading a song they like falls under this category. 

a. "Piracy is dangerous..."

b. "The creator loses money..."
  • While true, this is just a claim that is trivial to what piracy is. We need an argument that tells us how we should approach the issue given a limited set of resources, and a proper consideration for the severity of offenses. Thus, extensive from above, there is still no reason to give minor offenses of piracy harsh punishments just like there is not a compelling reason to give people who litter in minor degrees harsh punishments. 

c. "Effect on economy..."
  • Pro cites that the music industry is a significant economic niche. Granted, but that does not actually tell us what should motivate public policy, and how to actually approach issues of minor piracy. Just like littering harms the environment, we should certainly not impose harsh fines or punishments on any person who liters. Just people who commit a significant littering infraction, such that we receive better consequences from using criminal justice resources to pursue this. Speaking of that, pro does not account for the economic effects of as he says, these laws he wants to be "actively enforced." It is difficult to imagine the enforcement of such a policy to a certain extent, and our resources are far better spent on more significant crimes. 

d. "Without harsher punishments and fines, it won’t stop..."

  • This is an important topic to discuss, but ultimately I believe all of pro's arguments are severely flawed in establishing that any incidence of piracy ought to be punished severely. Further, the lack of nuance in the resolution outlined by pro sets his case up for severe disadvantage as aforementioned. On my view, we should not pursue every case of piracy with criminal justice resources as this is unfeasible and a waste of resources. It is perfectly fine to punish rare large-scale cases in a severe manner of course, but I take it that the consequences from severely punishing minor offenses are not positive, and that pro's arguments for such have not been compelling. 
Round 2
  • Extend. 

Round 3
  • Extend.