Piracy for art’s sake: The ethical paradox why freelance designers who use pirated software still assert copyright protection in the Philippines.

*The following article is a research I have written at De La Salle University in 2015. I have however shortened most of it to help make it more blogger-reader friendly.

Digital Artists and their tools

According to the journal of Thomas, Lee and Danis entitled, Enhancing Creative Design via Software Tools:

“Effective and innovative designs are extremely lucrative… The world is changing rapidly…there is a widening gap between the degree of flexibility and creativity needed in order for individuals and organizations to adapt”. (112)

They explained even further saying that,

“ Software tools can help… [organize] the creative process…[by] providing people with a rich array of appropriate strategies, knowledge sources, and representations… in providing the right level… [of] motivation for the task at hand”. (112)

These statements from Thomas, Lee and Danis, in this author’s opinion, is what best describes, how software is able to help the businesses of today’s new digital creatives. It clearly has revolutionized how they design, create and execute their artistic talents. However, according to The Gray Side of Creativity, a journal written by Mali, Ellis and Welsh, they said that, “ creative individuals [often] differ…in terms of the degree of cognitive flexibility”.(77). Cognitive flexibility is the ability of individuals to reconnect given information and restructure knowledge in multiple ways depending on demands, and enables creative individuals to switch their approach to meet the needs of the situation at hand. (Mai, Ellis, & Welsh, 77). They explained that creative individuals must often think outside of the box and go against the conventional ways of thinking to stay creative (Mai, Ellis, & Welsh, 77). This term of thinking outside the box by Mai, Ellis, & Welsh, can be related to Abbing Hans’ statement about, “Artists Resembling Magicians” (29) from his journal, Why are Artists Poor. Hans states that, “Artists use their imagination to create illusions”. (29). But with the arrival of machines and software tools, it has ultimately reduced the value of artworks made today by professionals (Abbing, 306).

He explains that,

“new techniques, especially those produced by the digital revolution, could very well portend a process of the demystification in the arts…digitally produced…music, images and moving images [or movies/film] will be cheaper to produce and to distribute than their predecessors… Moreover fragments of older artworks, be it legally or illegally [created or acquired], are increasingly being incorporated in newer works , thus rendering authenticity an even more relative concept”. (Abbing, 306).

This research from Abbing’s journal is very alarming because he contemplates that although these new technologies have made the jobs of digital creatives easier compared to the past, it has also brought them the problem of having their livelihoods being devalued and at the same time their works being copied or easily reproduced by others who have access to the same technologies. Abbing has realized from his research that technical (re)production has enabled a massive production of artworks at low prices (307) ,which may also explain why some artists tend to change their cognitive flexibility (Mai, Ellis, & Welsh ,77) and think of various ways to always stay ahead and be competitive in the freelance market including, not paying for the softwares that they use to create their artworks.

Studies about Software Piracy

According to Yoon, researchers have regarded digital piracy as unethical behavior(405). As a result, several other studies employed ethical decision-making models based on ethics theories (Yoon, 405).

Among these were,” the theory of reasoned action (TRA) by Fishbein and Ajzen in 1975; the theory of planned behavior (TPB) by Ajzen in 1991; the theory of interpersonal behavior (TIB) by Triandis in 1979; and ethics theories, such as the general theory of marketing ethics by Hunt and Vitell in 1986 and Ret’s (1986) four-component model of ethical decision-making”. (qtd. in Yoon, 205).

Yoon’s analysis posits that,

“Digital piracy … [poses] a significant threat to the development of the software industry and the growth of the digital media industry”. (407).

Yoon’s “TPB [Theory of Planned Behavior] is an extension of Fishbein and Ajzen’s (1975) TRA or Theory of Reasoned Action”(407). This theory explains that,” a person’s behavior is directly influenced by… [his/her] intention…[and is] determined by [their] attitude, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral controls”. (Yoon, 405). This means that a person will likely favor to behave or act in certain ways if he or she thinks the action would best benefit their personal interests (Yoon, 406). Yoon also added to his research Hunt and Vitell’s (1986) ethical decision model(406). According to Yoon, this model of Hunt and Vitell (1986), is from a general theory of marketing ethics which focuses on the reasoning process used by individuals and postulates that ethical judgements are determined by both deontological and teleological evaluations. (406).

According to Hunt and Vitell (1986),

“Deontological ethics focus on the central role of duty and moral obligation and justice theory…[while] teleological theories are based on the intended outcomes, the aims, or the goals of a certain action”. (qtd. in Yoon,407)

These study can also be related to Ralph B. Potter’s research about ethical foundations and perspectives, where in according to Potter,

“ Any single decision involves a host of values that must be sorted out…

   These values reflect pre-suppositions about social life and human nature…

   To value something, means to consider it desirable”. (2)

Potter then argues that,

“Our values are never pure… [and people] tend to become defensive…and rationalize [their] behavior when [they] violate them.”(8)

Potter sees values are what motivate most human actions. (Potter,8).Potter even suggests that most of the time,

“professional values are inscribed in power…[and] generally, they operate in their own interests”.(8).

     One example Potter explained in his research, was people who were involved in the media industry. He regarded them as individuals who undergo conflicting values and are under demanding and ambiguous situations. Potter tells us that these media practitioners often times must make decisions quickly and without much time for reflection (7), which results in some actions that are deemed unethical.

From these different studies on software tools, piracy and behaviors, the author of this research now would like to find out why there is a cognitive dissonance between artist copyright and piracy. For an artist to steal pirated software for their livelihood, the author would like to find out which values and loyalties are activated. What is the reason they do not change their ways and why do they feel that they have the right to still be protected by law if their works are created by stolen tools? 

With considerable study and investigation from several scholarly journals available, the author of this research has chosen to use Mali, Ellis and Welsh’s theoretical model from their book The Gray side of Creativity.

According to Mali, Ellis and Welsh’s research, they argued and that TAT or Trait Activation Theory has implications for the relationship between creative personality and unethical behavior”(76). Their research focused on how the creative process triggers an artist to do unethical actions(77); also quoting Gino & Ariely (2012) saying that ” creative thinking [has proven to have] increased unethical behavior”. (qtd. Mali, Ellis and Welsh, 77). They concluded that creative personality can encourage unethical behavior, but it is much stronger when creative personality is activated by aspects of the task at hand. When creative personality is activated, individuals are more likely to come up with justifications that increase the chances that they will act unethically. (Mai, Ellis, & Welsh, 84).

At the end of Mai, Ellis, & Welsh’s research they have suggested further research to their study using the self-concept maintenance theory. This theory from Nina Mazar, On Amir, and Dan Ariely’s journal, is about how external and internal rewards work in concert to produce dishonesty (3). The title of their research (Mazar, Amir, & Ariely) even sounds very close to this author’s own topic which is entitled,” The Dishonesty of Honest People: A Theory of Self-Maintenance.

Why this research is important

Software Piracy and Copyright infringement are two criminal acts that are very rampant among the media industries in the Philippines today. According to research, the use pirated software is unethical.(Yoon, 405). If digital freelance designers in the Philippines continue to use pirated software, it will pose a significant threat to the development and growth of the software and media industries (Yoon, 407). We must devise ways to stop it by investigating the root causes and use this information to find a solution.

This study aims to extend the research of Mai, Ellis, & Welsh’s journal about The Gray side of creativity, by applying the self-concept maintenance theory they have proposed from their inquiry. By interviewing experienced new media professionals and using the self-concept maintenance theory, we hope to find out three key questions: (1) given the opportunity, will creative people use pirated software instead of legally downloaded programs; (2) why do people who know that their actions are dishonest, don’t update their self-concepts or don’t feel guilty about their actions  (3)  what is the root cause of their dishonesty.

Review of Related Literature

The self-concept maintenance theory: Why are honest people dishonest?

According to the  general discussions of Mazar, Amir, & Ariely’s study, “ people in almost every society value honesty and maintain very high beliefs about their

own morality, yet examples of dishonesty can still be found everywhere in the marketplace (33)

Rooted in the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes and Adam smith, they believe that individuals carry out dishonest acts consciously because of expected external benefits.(Mazar, Amir, & Ariely, 5). According to Mazar, Amir, & Ariely’s research, people consider three aspects before committing dishonest actions: 1.What they can stand to gain; 2. What is the probability of them being caught ; and 3. What is the magnitude of punishment. (5)

Honest people committing dishonest acts are often torn between two competing motivations: gaining from cheating versus maintaining their positive self-concept as honest individuals”.(Mazar, Amir, & Ariely, 8). Researcher suggests that people are able to solve this dilemma by finding an compromise between these two (8) so that it can still be acceptable to as they say, eat their cake and but still have it to. Mazar, Amir, & Ariely posits on two mechanisms of self-concept maintenance: Categorization and attention to standards (8).

In categorization, people tend to label dishonest actions into levels where in they believe are forgivable mistakes in society ( Mazar, Amir, & Ariely, 9). Under categorization, there are two main factors that encourage it: ease and inherit limits. Successfully executed, these two help avoid triggering any negative self-signals that might affect their self-concept, which will therefore not get updated.(9) But the danger continuing in this mindset is that “as the degrees of freedom in the categorization increase, so does the magnitude of dishonesty a person can commit without influencing his or her self-concept”.(Mazar, Amir, & Ariely, 9-10).

In attention to standards, research suggests that when people are taught or attend to their own moral standards and are very much mindful of them, they feel more guilt for their dishonesty and will update these actions according to their self-concept. (10)

However, when individuals are inattentive to their own moral standards, meaning they are mindless about it, their actions will not be measured relative to their standards, and therefore, their self-concept is less likely to be updated, and their behavior is likely to diverge (10) meaning, if they don’t know its wrong or there is no incentive or punishment for committing dishonest acts, they will most likely continue to do them without feeling resentment.

In summation of Mazar, Amir, & Ariely’s research on Self-concept maintenance theory hypothesizes that:

  1. Dishonesty will increase as individuals pay less attention to their own standards for honesty.
  2. Dishonesty will increase when individuals face situations that are more easily categorized in honesty-compatible terms.
  3. Given the opportunity to be dishonest, individuals will be dishonest up to a level that does not force them to update their self-concept.


Software Piracy in Creative Industries.

According to the film documentary called Pirates of the under ground,

“A lot of people like the idea to get something for nothing. Most people use these programs as a sampler before buying. But there are still the people that just don’t care and feel that they’ve been betrayed by the industry. And they feel that not enough is being done to persuade them to stop.”

The documentary film talked about how pirated software is being pirated with the use of people from inside their own corporations.They even described the steps in detail on how they pirate them, recounting that the,

“Media that is found online line before its found in stores is acquired directly from people inside movie studios, recording studios and software companies. Once the media has been acquired, it gets converted into a digital format and then posted to the top websites. From there the file starts to show up on the IRC network as well as the hacked FTP servers.After that we start to see them trickle down to the popular peer-to-peer services like kazaa, vuze,etc…”

The statements from the beginning validates a journal study of Antonio Rodriguez Andres from his research, Software piracy and income inequality. He states that, “Economic inequality seems to have a negative significant effect on national rates of piracy”.(101). According to research, the IPRC or the International Planning Research Corporation, the estimated world piracy rate for business software applications is currently at 39% back in 2002. Worldwide losses for application rose to $13.07 billion from $11 billion in just one year (From 2001-2002)(Andres, 101). Andres states that, because of technological advancement, it has greatly reduced the costs of copying, and also increased the availability of technologies to pirate these products.(101). He concluded from his research that, “income has a negative and significant effect on piracy rates”.(104).Andres added that,” nations with more equal income distribution have higher piracy rates… the coefficient on rule of law is negative and statistically significant”.(104)

According to the journal, Creativity, copyright and the creative industries paradigm, Ruth Towse cited WIPO or the World Intellectually Property Organization stating that , “The classification of the creative industries… unsurprisingly places copyright at the center of its model, with the core copyright industries”. (463) This meant that creatives by nature should be instinctively drawn towards upholding all copyright requirements, including using softwares, and that “copyright is [their] basis for creativity” (qtd. in Towse, 463). But Towse explains that the implied casualty in the terminology described is misleading and that economists have been at pains to avoid the idea that these industries are dependent on copyright. (463). Furthermore Towse posits that copyright should consider two elements to be more effective. These are economic and moral rights. According to Towse, by providing these two elements, economic rights will generate extrinsic rewards; and moral rights will provide intrinsic rewards, thus making copyright more agreeable(465).

This research by Towse is interesting. Because it validates an interviewee from the film documentary stated before (Pirates of the underground), that there are people that feel they are betrayed by the industry and feel that not enough is being done to persuade them to stop. And once they are faced with these situations that would threaten their survival, according to Mai, Ellis and Welsh, “creative individuals may be able to use their cognitive flexibility to reinterpret questionable conduct in self-serving ways”,(78) meaning that because of their desperate situation economically and with minimal support by society, they choose piracy.

From the journal, The Grey Side of Creativity, findings showed that creative personality can encourage unethical behavior, but its effect usually is much stronger when their creativity is activated and creative individuals tend to most likely come up with justifications that increase the chances for them to repeat it. (Mai, Ellis Welsh, 83)

Software Piracy in the Philippines

From the research of Tilman Baumgartel, he quoted the International Intellectual Property Alliance in 2005 which said that “the growing piracy business has made the Philippines one of thirty-one countries worldwide, that supposedly have a large market for illegal software than for commercial use”. (375) This is shocking because it means that pirated digital goods are apparently selling more than those that are legally available in the country. How can this be?

According to Baumgartel, “production hot spots of bootlegged DVDs and CDs seems to be in China, Indonesia and Malaysia, the Philippines were on the “priority watch list” of the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA)”.(375) ”According to a recent newspaper report, film producers were forced to pay 200,000 pesos to movie pirates in order to keep them from selling the entries to the Metro Manila Film Festival during the festival (San Diego 2006)”(Baumgartel, 375). Baumgartel research tells us more about the complexity of corruption concerning piracy in the Philippines; even divulging from reports that the head of the OMB himself, which is former action-star Edu Manzano, is cutting deals with these pirates.But despite the disturbing accusations in the news, Manzano never even denied the reports. (Baumgartel, 375). Baumgartel then states that,” it is safe to assume that the piracy situation in the Philippines is not going away any time soon”.(375) especially with the benefits piracy has given. Baumgartel describes that , “Film biffs are happy to get their films from these illicit sources, because it gives them an unprecedented access to film” (376); to which many films found in the pirate markets, are not even officially released via legitimate distribution channels in the Philippines.(376)

When Baumgartel tried to investigate the source of these pirated goods in the Philippines, he reports that the information he needed was very difficult to obtain (376).”Most of the traders were unwilling to talk about their trade, and those who were prepared to talk knew surprisingly little about where these disks came from, where they were manufactured, [or] where the original films came from”, said Baumgartel. (376)

“The type of piracy…we see developing in southeast asia is an obvious result of the technological and economic aparatus that has spung up as a result of international fiscal and political globalization”. (Baumgartel, 377) This statement from Baumgartel, matches other studies mentioned in this paper about digital piracy driven by an individual’s desire for self preservation (Mai, Ellis and Welsh, 78 ; Towse, 465; Andres 101; Mazar, Amir, & Ariely, 8) . Ultimately ,the creative, do-it-yourself-aspects of digital media, which have been hailed by many media educators and computer evangelists has allowed for the mass production of illegal media.(Baumgartel , 378). Baumgartel  also stated that ,

“digital information is very different from physical goods such as crude oil or rice, because with digital material – unlike with foodstuffs or other raw materials – there is no scarcity. A digital file can be reproduced and distributed for relatively low costs. Piracy is therefore an important case in point where the price of digital data, that software manufactures or DVD producers ask is challenged”. (380)

Baumgarte then concludes from his research that with,

“the mobilization of moving images that both international and Philippine piracy has set in motion seems unstoppable at the moment. The government lacks resources – some might argue even the will – to effectively reduce piracy.”(395)


The methods for collecting data for this research will be: (1) conducting a personal interview with  veteran digital freelance designers who use pirated softwares; and (2) cross-reference their answers to the self-concept maintenance theory and determine a qualitative analysis of the collected information about their experiences.

Scope and limitations

For the purpose of this research, personal interviews will be handed out to volunteer digital freelance designers to help investigate the study. The interview questions will be designed to answer key factors from the self-concept maintenance theory, to help try to address the roots of using software piracy in the creative arts. From the self-concept maintenance theory, the term “dishonest or dishonesty” will be directly related to using designers choosing to use pirated software and asserting copyright protection. This answers of the interviewee will then be cross-referenced with the self-concept maintenance theory and analyzed using qualitative research.

Although it is the desire of this researcher to have a broader collection of information to help with this study, due to the limited time and financial constraints, the author of this research was only able to conduct one interview. However, to compensate for this limitation, it is the hope of this researcher that because of the extensive experience and knowledge of the selected interviewee, their insights will provide a substantial information to be able to accomplish the minimum objectives of this study which is to discover their ethical positions on why they use pirated software and assert copyright protection.

The Interview

For the purposes of privacy and to help not discredit the interviewees because of the sensitive information they will be sharing to this study, their names, address, contact nos. will be omitted from the inquiry. The author will also assign a pseudonym for these interviewees for the purposes of quoting excerpts from the interview for this research.
*Because of the topic concerns sensitive personal information, for the purposes of protecting the identities of the interviewees, their real names have been withheld from the report. The interviewees’ pseudonym and profiles consist of: A) Kara, who is a producer/Media Professional and B) Kal-el, A freelancer/ educator. The individuals who have undergone this interview has no knowledge about the researcher’s topic, theoretical framework, and hypothesis. What they only know is that the questions will concern creativity, ant the software(s) they often use and information about their experiences in the media industry.
How old are you?
Kara: 34
Kal-el: 42
What is your occupation?
Kara: I’m a producer, freelance voice talent, and technical writing.
Kal-el: I’m a freelance graphics artist, animator and a professor.
How long have you worked in the industry?
Kara: I’ve been in the industry for 10 years.
Kal-el: I’ve been in the freelance industry for 18 years, in education for 20 years. A total of 38 years.
As a creative professional what values do you think will help you be successful?
(e.g. Hard work, originality, resourcefulness, perseverance)?
Kara: You need to be organized. In terms of value, you need to value your network. I think that is the first and foremost for me as a producer.You must be able to manage whatever requirements there are.
Kal-el: I think it’s perseverance and determination because the problem today is that professionals and students have a low threshold for accepting failure. So in able for creatives to succeed in the industry, its crucial that you must have these two.
As a successful creative professional in the industry what is the highest principle/value  or golden rule that you think all you share? ( Originality, Creativity, Technique)
Kara: Usually its meeting deadlines. Its unspoken rule that if you are not able to you need to find ways to make up for that. Also you should not steal. (Referring to when she was asked about artworks being used by others without permission). Credit should be given where credit is due. For you to be called an artist you need to be an originator. But there is no original idea anymore. Its considered stealing if you steal from one person but if its a number of people that you steal an idea from and then put it together on your own, then that is something original.
Kal-el: For me there are two things: 1) Artists should need know how to compromise and negotiate with regards to deadlines 2) Give credit. “Its good to steal only if you give credit.” It’s not directly copying everything, its taking out some elements and adding your own. The process of deriving works from each other,is a helping/learning process because “we need not re-invent the wheel all the time”. “Its all up to you to enhance it, to innovate it, to give it your own personal characteristic/attribute/touch.
What actions do you think are most frowned or you should avoid if someone were to enter the creative industry? What do you think is the no.1 action that should be avoided as a creative?
* Already answered in previous question.
Are there any laws in protecting artists from this dishonesty? What usually is the punishment they receive in the industry in society?
Kara & Kal-el : We do know that intellectual property is what protects individuals, not just artists, depending on the given situation (patents, copyright, trademarks). I don’t know the punishments or penalties for violating these laws. An example ( stated by Kara) is this case in aboard where in there was one artist who collated photos and artworks from different Instagram accounts; repackaged it and made a gallery and took all the credit showcasing all those photos and artworks. That put intellectual property at the heart of the discussion of the article I read on the internet.
Do you believe that softwares help creatives achieve their artistic goals?
Kara: Yes. Softwares are tools. As such, they are what creatives use to be able to create something new.
Kal-el: Yes. But these tools to help creatives were always a factor even in the past. It has  change through the course of time, but their role in creation remain the same.They are just tools of an artist. Today, these tools allow us create more things at a shorter amount of time. But in achieving one’s artistic goal, there should still always be, “the personal artistic touch” on the creation no matter how standard the process is, no matter what tools are presented or how advanced it is; “the artistic feel should always be unique”.
What are these softwares that you normally use?
Kara:  Adobe, Autodesk and Blender
Kal-el: Same with the addition of mobile and cloud apps. I’m also experimenting with other softwares because I am constantly exploring better workflows to help with my projects.
Do you think software is the key to creating great ideas? Explain.
Kara: The software is “always just the tool”. Its never the only way for you to be able to create something.The tools are more for the execution and not about the idea. I don’t agree with softwares being the key to creating ideas, I believe the source of the great idea is “its reason for creation”. It doesn’t stem from the software or the tools, it always comes from the artist or the individual(s). Creating great work for me, “It’s always the idea of the artist and him choosing which tool to use” not the other way around. Kal-el: For me it boils down, not on the tool. It still depending how well the creative of the thought process given to an artist.There is no software that can substitute for a good brain storm/board meeting to derive new ideas. Its about the creative direction, and that direction you cannot automate like a computer program, each is unique to its own. The facets of production will always change regardless of the tool, so it will always come down to the people or individuals who generate the concept. For me the next steps for the new big ideas will not be from technology but from psychological and social factors ( experiences, beliefs, cultures, etc..)
Do you think software designers are not as creative as artist designers?
Kara & Kal-el: They are very creative. The term software designers, means they are originators. They have posited ideas in able to make the workflow of creatives faster. And that is where their creativity and design as originators come from. The software designers are what makes the tools software and not the other way around.
How do you acquire these softwares? Legally or illegally?
Kara: There are some that are legal and some that are not. 70-30, 70% being pirated and 30% not pirated. This is because of the struggles we face at working with demanding clients with limited resources. It has become a fight for survival.
Kal-el: Its like this, it all boils down to your professional ethics. If for example you would want to work with a client. This client has limited resources. Now this situation can compel you as a freelancer to evaluate which software to use, most often because of the situation; I use pirated software. The irony is you want behave professionally, but the practices here in the Philippines, for me is an environment that is tolerant towards piracy. It has become a norm because it now matters for an artist to keep his profession and his(their and our) fight for survival. We are living in the third world economy with first world prices which most of the professionals here cannot afford to sustain, “hence we go to piracy”.  With the piracy, the cost we give to our clients will be lower because most of the time we do not charge the software as a factor in the costings of our work.
Do you consider using pirated softwares as a dishonest act? Explain.
Kara: Ethically yes. However, like I mentioned earlier, its about survival. If I am an artist and this is my bread and butter, how will I be able to do execute if I am not able to afford the prices being set by the market. I believe that software prices are set too high. Considering the amount I am being paid for and is what is acceptable to clients for every project, is not commensurate for me to not to be able to afford acquiring legal softwares, as much as I would want to. To stay competitive, you half to take the price of the software out of the costing.
Kal-el: Yes. Because these softwares keep changing every year and every artists is somewhat dependent on these tools, and the pain of re-evaluating your costs as a professional every upgrade. Having your costing for every project change constantly because of software prices, this give you a disadvantage in terms how can I be more competitive in the industry. If this wasn’t such a big factor, I would gladly include original software in my costing, but the reality is its too expensive, and most likely if I do include it, I would not win the bid for any project because my costing or price would go up. To stay competitive, you half to take the price of the software out of the costing.
Does your peers in the creative industry punish you or each other for using pirated softwares? Explain.
Kara: They keep mum.
Kal-el: Its tolerated. Because for most people, when download something and they use it, they think that this their way of getting even to the first world countries that are charging us way too much.Might as well get the revenue from there and bring it here to the third world country. Creatives in the Philippines want to also be competitive globally and this is how they can do it. For them including the software fees will not be price-competitive. The industry today has a mentality for undercutting artists by their clients. So to fellow artists and clients as well, it tolerated because its beneficial to both parties.*Artists like Kara and Kal-el are already trying to survive in their careers in the creative industry. And the creative industry today is in constant peril even if freelancers already took out the cost for softwares.They tolerate software piracy because it now boils down to survival as a creative professional in the Philippines.That is Kara and Kal-el’s situation. (Kara & Kal-el. Personal Intervie 2015).
Do you plan to purchase legal softwares in the future? Under what terms will you consider purchasing legal software?
Kara: Maybe. I think it would be nice that these software companies come up a system that I only pay for them whenever I use it. It will be help me as a professional because now the pricing I can give to my client will be dependent on how long I worked on a project and how long I use the softwares or tools.But then it will be a different system of payments if you are trying to learn the software compared to if you’re using it for work and profit.
Kal-el: Maybe. I agree with Kara. It should be charged by the hour or only when I save and export my final output. I foresee softwares like Adobe CC, artists being able to use the software for free up until a final output is agreed, once you export it; there will be a system of calculations that would estimate how much should I pay or how much should I charge them for my client. Software companies are mistaken for charging too much today if you would compare it to the “Economies of scale”. This means that the cost is shared by the number of users of that software. Again, I think their foresight is based on first world countries considering that today they should see it being used globally or should cost it on a global scale with several different economies across different countries all their software. Because of this, their cost should be much lower from what they are asking creative professionals to pay.
When you create art using pirated software, do you think your work is subjected to copyright protection? Explain.
Kara: Yes because the tools you use are separate from the ideas you produce.These tools allow you the ability to create, but the ideas themselves are original. Laws are setup to protect the rights of the people. But what are the fundamental rights? Basically to be able to eat, to be able to survive, to be able to live. You cannot say that any law is absolute and are able to protect everything. I feel that IP laws are more geared in protecting the companies and not about protecting the creative professionals / artists ,considering what their backgrounds are, culture, social status, etc…I don’t see how professionals can benefit on how can they use these two laws together to survive.These tools that we as professional use to survive in my opinion, the punishments for using pirated softwares should just be disregarded for now so that we can survive.
Kal-el: Yes because regardless of the software that you use, again its a tool. There is no rule that actually tells you that when you use my tool I’m covered only by this particular IP or Intellectual Property or I could be subjected in this type of punishment with regards to creative output. The use of the software for me is just processes. And processes are things that you use to come up with output. Since we are measuring creative output and not about the processes, your right to be protected for creating that output remains the same and ultimately the art is still yours. To be honest it is a conflict of ethics for some. Because on the other hand, you steal to be able to acquire software yet you get mad when your work from that gets stolen. But again, these actions all go back in artists struggling for survival. They have to find substantial income, and they are able to do it using those means (pirated software). I think people want toto correct and conform to the right ethical practices, but because the software prices don’t fit in the factors in society in the Philippines, they will continue to think the same and continue using piracy.

General discussions 

The interview with Kara and Kal-el clearly shows what Mai, Ellis, & Welsh said about creative individuals who must often go against the conventional ways to stay creative (77).The way that the questions were answered from the report closely resembles  Mai, Ellis, & Welsh’s description from their study regarding how creative personalities are activated and that individuals are more likely to come up with justifications to explain their unethical behaviors.

According to Mai, Ellis, & Welsh’s self-concept maintenance theory, dishonesty is triggered by three things. These are:

  • Dishonesty will increase as individuals pay less attention to their own standards for honesty.
  • Dishonesty will increase when individuals face situations that are more easily categorized in honesty-compatible terms.
  • Given the opportunity to be dishonest, individuals will be dishonest up to a level that does not force them to update their self-concept.

From the interview of Kara and Kal-el, both seem to have a significant experience in the media industry (Kara with 10 years and Kal-el 38 years). Both know the same software that is most frequently used by professionals and both have acquired them by piracy. 

When asked what values they consider most on the job, they both answered that deadlines and being able to negotiate or please your client are key values to be able to succeed in the industry. But as to how these values are sustained remains questionable based on the answers they have given from the interview. From the looks of things, they had to continuously adjust their ethics to appease their clients to stay competitive. This perception has caused them to act dishonest by having categorized piracy as a forgivable offense amongst themselves. This belief can be linked to the self concept theory, about dishonesty increasing as individuals pay less attention to their own standards of policy. Because of their demanding clients, their standards of policy is significantly distorted.

The fact also that during the interview, Kara and Kal-el, were always trying to explain and validate their unethical actions with several analogies and insights, which validates the self concept theory about, dishonesty increasing when individuals face situations that are more easily categorized in honesty-compatible terms. Because they know that they are being unethical, they have invented ways on how their actions is acceptable to their own self concept.

And finally, when the researcher asked them about should artist assert copyright protection even when they use pirated softwares; they agreed to it. Its a clear sign that they do not think using pirated softwares as unethical. They argue that  softwares are only tools and not the originators of the idea, hence the idea or the individual who conceived it, should always be protected no matter what. When asked what they thought about software designers and do they think they are not creative as well, they answered no and agreed that the software designers themselves are creative but not  the tools that they make. With this answer, this researcher assumes that digital freelance designers do not value the work that is put in with these new tools, and that they are too concerned for their own self interest. The argument given is to artist-centric and focused mainly for their self preservation amongst fellow practitioners in their industry. Their answer to the last question validates the self concept maintenance theory that says,” given the opportunity to be dishonest, individuals will be dishonest up to a level that does not force them to update their self-concept.

  From the interview there was also a few more examples where in digital designers have categorized (Mazar, Amir, & Ariely, 9) their actions. On one instance Kal-el said that, “most people, when [they] download something and they use it, they think that this their way of getting even to the first world countries that are charging us way too much”.

Based from what Kal-el said, he does not only categorized his actions to levels which are acceptable, but he also is mindless to his attention to standards (Mazar, Amir, & Ariely, 10). And the way that is so close to what is said on the documentary Pirates of the underground is uncanny.

Another argument that Kal-el said ,which concerns categorization and mindless attention to standards (Mazar, Amir, & Ariely, 9 &10), is when he said that, “Its good to steal only if you give credit. It’s not copying if its taking out some elements and making the your own. This researcher is baffled by this argument. Clearly Kal-el level of categorization has reached new heights. This researcher recalls what is said from past studies that,

“the danger continuing in this mindset [categorization] is that, “as the degrees of freedom in the categorization increase, so does the magnitude of dishonesty a person can commit without influencing his or her self-concept”.(Mazar, Amir, & Ariely, 9-10).

However, from this inquiry, we have also found out that one of the biggest factors and justification, why digital freelance designers act unethically, is because their clients are undercutting them. They describe that everyone in their industry is struggling and are just trying to survive. They steal so that they can continue working in the hope that one day, they can be successful enough to stop.

It is the opinion of this researcher that maybe the root case of their unethical behavior are their demanding clients. Because even if software companies entertain their suggestions of payment, it is doubtful that the clients would agree with shouldering the software additional cost. I believe that if freelancers start charging software fees and will result of higher pricing from the previous bids, clients would ask or look for cheaper alternatives. This apathy of clients towards freelancers in the media might be because the clients themselves are dishonest too and are more concerned of their self preservation. This now begs the question, Do bad clients promote piracy in the digital freelance industry?

The author of this study suggests that future research be made with this inquiry using the TAT theory and the self concept maintenance theory.


From the qualitative analysis from the interview and with the use of the self concept maintenance theory, this researcher concludes the ethical paradox of digital freelance designers using pirated software who still assert copyright protection is very much true in the Philippines. 

Given the opportunity, creative people will continue to use pirated softwares instead of legally purchased programs because of unfair treatment by their clients. Freelancers will admit that their actions are dishonest/unethical but won’t update their self concepts because they feel that conforming to the right ethical standards will make them less competitive in the industry and make them loose their business. Freelancers think that its unfair that society wants them to follow the law but the law does not protect their survival. This causes them to create various reasons to  not feel guilty in using pirated software. Finally, the root cause of their dishonesty is their need for survival. And their survival is mostly threatened because of their unstable industry. The media industry’s unfair treatment has caused them to consider unethical practices which they tolerate because it favors a sustainable income in the future.

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