I regularly pirate TV shows and occasionally music or movies. Other than that, I lead a crime-free life. Like many people who pirate things, I'd never go into a store and steal a cd or dvd, which is ironic and not logical.

I know it's wrong, but honestly, if it were just me I would continue to do it. A lot of my friends and family do too, it's quite common these days. However, now that I have a kid, I'm second guessing myself. As a toddler (15 months), I'm sure she has no concept that I haven't bought the things I've pirated. Some day she will though. I want to help her develop a strong moral compass, and I also want to ensure she has a good understanding of the reality of the world we live in.

Edit for clarification: By "pirate" I mean downloading tv from websites or torrents. The vast majority is tv or movies that have aired on US tv stations, either network tv or cable.

Should I stop pirating now? Should I stop later? Should I keep doing it and explain that it's wrong but it's something that a lot of people do?

  • 6
    You should stop pirating to be around your toddler - it is a punishable crime that can lead you to declare bankruptcy or work basically 24/7 for the rest of your life, considering the fines: newmediarights.org/business_models/artist/… Do you want your child to grow up in such conditions?
    – Stephie
    Oct 1, 2015 at 13:09
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    I'm assuming in my answer that "pirating" is simply downloading things from the internet, which is the modern way of doing it. Also, the number of people that actually get fined for illegal downloading is incredibly low; trying to make people stop with "you could get fined" is mostly just fear-mongering. You're more likely to die in a car-crash than be fined for illegal downloading, but nobody is going to suggest you stop going on rides through the countryside for your amusement.
    – Erik
    Oct 1, 2015 at 15:21
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    If you think this is wrong, you should not do it, parent or not. If you don't think it is wrong, why would you want to pretend that it is?
    – tomasz
    Oct 1, 2015 at 17:28
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    It is debatable, in the first place, whether there is such thing as intellectual property in natural law. In my opinion, there isn’t, so I find that digital piracy is not morally wrong, and I would teach my children that it is not morally wrong, but that it is still illegal (depending, of course, of where you live). Oct 1, 2015 at 18:17
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    It's actually quite logical - many people pirate things because they aren't available by walking into the store and acquiring them there.
    – corsiKa
    Oct 1, 2015 at 22:36

4 Answers 4


If you want her to have a strong moral compass, you'll have to explain (when she is old enough) why you do it and let her make up her own mind.

As you say, a lot of people do it. Often, this means that a lot of people don't consider it to be much of a crime. That also means it's a very interesting way for children to learn about how to judge moral choices.

When she's old enough, have a long discussion with her on why exactly it's illegal to pirate, on who it hurts, on what the consequences of pirating might be for the pirate, the creator of the content, and other people, on when it might be justified to pirate something and when it definitely is not, etc.

You can't instill much of a moral compass if all you do around her is obey the rules without questioning them or talking about them or having an opinion about them. The fact that you pirate today means you clearly have an opinion on pirating. Denying your daughter the chance to talk about would be a wasted chance.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Oct 1, 2015 at 20:29
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    "You can't instill much of a moral compass if all you do around her is obey the rules without questioning them or talking about them or having an opinion about them." Inspired. +1 Oct 2, 2015 at 10:39
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    I like that this answer doesn't say whether or not you should stop pirating for any reason other than the context the question asks for. What is available around you, the possible consequences of pirating, and other factors for and against aren't in scope, and this answer does an excellent job of keeping those out of this conversation.
    – corsiKa
    Oct 2, 2015 at 20:32

I'm just going to focus on what you are going to teach your child with this. Any legal issues or discussions about if piracy is wrong are for another time and place.

Whether you should stop now or later or ever depends on what you want to teach your daughter. Eventually she will pick up on it. The longer you keep doing it, the easier it will be for her to see all the things you've pirated and ask you about it. Then you either have to teach her that it is wrong and you should stop or it is wrong but its okay to do it anyway.

If you want to teach her that it is wrong and should be stopped, you need to obviously stop and then get rid of everything you have pirated. If you do, you show that wrong is wrong. It also shows that it isn't acceptable no matter how much you want something. If you don't, you send the opposite message, one that it is okay to benefit from wrongdoing or that it's okay because "reasons". It's kind of like slugging your brother (hard and very on-purpose) then giving an insincere "sorry" because it was "wrong".

If you feel it is okay to teach her that it is wrong but it is okay to do anyway, go on pirating. This will bring up conversations about what makes it okay to do wrong things despite the fact that they are wrong. This can get potentially messy trying to teach your daughter what justifications ("lots of other people do it", "I really, really wanted to", etc.) are acceptable and when they apply and when they don't. I would also not ever be surprised if she does something you find totally unacceptable but then argues that it is okay because of justifications A, B and C. She will probably also throw the piracy thing back in your face with a "well how come you can pirate all those things and it's okay, but I can't do X?".

Personally, I would say stop now and get rid of all the pirated stuff you own. It will make it far easier to show her that wrong is wrong and right is right. When your words say one thing and your actions say another, you get moral ambiguity. You end up with a lot more gray areas which lead to a weaker moral compass. (Not saying there won't be some gray areas anyway, you just end up with less clear cut things and more places where you can talk yourself into being okay with any choice.)

  • 5
    +1 - "This will bring up conversations about what makes it okay to do wrong things despite the fact that they are wrong. This can get potentially messy trying to teach your daughter what justifications ("lots of other people do it", "I really, really wanted to", etc.) are acceptable..." Exactly. Oct 1, 2015 at 19:28
  • Very good answer IMO. If you can't explain your actions to your child then why are you doing it? On the flip side if you can explain your actions, then that's fine as well.
    – NPSF3000
    Oct 2, 2015 at 11:27
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    Your advice seems to be heavily swayed by the fact that you are against pirating. Replace "pirating" in this question with "going above the speed limit". Will your answer still be the same ('wrong is wrong so don't do it') or does your answer now change, because going even only 1MPH over the speed limit is something YOU are ok with? Because the fact is, they are both breaking the law.
    – n00b
    Oct 2, 2015 at 15:03
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    @n00b Replacing "pirating" with "speeding" doesn't change the advice. If I believe something is wrong but do it anyway, I'm a hypocrite. And I have to explain that to my child and why it's "wrong" but also "ok for me to do it".. (The legality of piracy is not the question here. It's about whether you believe something is wrong but choose to do it anyway and then how you explain that to a child.)
    – Becuzz
    Oct 2, 2015 at 15:30

Replace pirating in your question with speeding (defined as ever going above the posted speed limit). Is some level of speeding "ok" (e.g. going 5 MPH over) any amount (e.g. 50 MPH over) or none? Should you never speed to be a better role model for your daughter? After all, speeding is breaking the law regardless of your justifications for it.

Do you want your daughters morality to be defined by the laws of the country in which she lives? Otherwise, what role do they play in shaping/defining her morality? How does she know whether a rule/law is just or unjust? If she judges it to be unjust, should she still follow it? When is it ok to break the rules? Which rules?

These are only questions that you as her parent(s) can decide and help her work through. Ultimately she is going to form opinions for herself, but your role is to help guide her towards principles which you believe are sound. For some people, it's completely unethical, and 'wrong' to break any laws for any reasons. For others, their morality may be informed by how their actions affect others, and not by strict yes/no boundaries. For others it may fall somewhere in between.

Regardless of where you land, as Erik suggested, this is an area that you will need to talk through with her, be ready to explain your decision making process and also why others may disagree with you, to help her see all sides of the issue. In other words, it's an excellent training opportunity.

  • RE: Should you never speed to be a better role model for your daughter? Well, when she's 14 and on the verge of getting her learner's permit, then, yes, absolutely. ;^)
    – J.R.
    Oct 2, 2015 at 19:18
  • This answer assumes that piracy is wrong simply because it's illegal.
    – Stephan B
    Oct 3, 2015 at 18:45
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    @Stephan The OP "knows [piracy] is wrong", so accepting that as a premise of the question is appropriate.
    – Acire
    Oct 3, 2015 at 18:55
  • @Erica It seems my comment was misunderstood. I'm not objecting to assuming that piracy is wrong, but to doing so on the simple basis that it is illegal (see especially the second paragraph).
    – Stephan B
    Oct 4, 2015 at 6:47
  • @Stephan your comment presumes speeding is wrong simply because it's illegal
    – n00b
    Dec 17, 2015 at 16:56

The fact that your asking the question indicates that you feel guilty about it. If you feel guilty about it, than that must mean that you believe it is morally wrong. Therefore, you should stop doing it.

If something is illegal but you think the law is stupid and there's no good reason why it should be illegal, that's a more complicated question. I've told my kids that there are laws that I think are dumb but that I nevertheless obey because the consequences of getting caught are too high for it to be worth it.

(Of course there could always be issues where you feel morally obligated to break the law -- like if I'd lived in Nazi Germany where the law required you to report Jews so they could be shipped to concentration camps, I hope I would have had the courage to disobey. But that's not the issue here. You may think a law against video piracy is unjustified, but there's no moral imperative to break it. No one's going to die because you didn't download a TV show.)

Just recently I filed an insurance claim for some hail damage to my roof. My daughter asked me if I'd also claimed the damage to our chimney. I said no, the chimney damage was there before the hail storm. She said, yeah I know, but did you report it to the insurance company as hail damage? I am very glad that I could honestly say, no, of course not, because it wasn't. How embarrassing it would have been if I had had to admit that I sold out my integrity for a couple of thousand dollars. But it had never even occurred to me that one of my kids would ask about it.

  • 1
    The fact that they're asking the question means they don't feel piracy is morally wrong. If they were guilty, they'd simply stop doing it.
    – phyrfox
    Oct 2, 2015 at 23:27
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    Not necessarily @phyrfox. Plenty of people do things that they know are "morally wrong" for whatever reasons. I think this answer cuts to the core of things. I was about to post something similar when I saw this.
    – RubberDuck
    Oct 3, 2015 at 15:57

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