To most of you reading this, online piracy is probably a way to get your hands on the latest games, movies, music, or software without having to pay for it or go through oftentimes annoying platforms. For people in less developed parts of the world, however, online piracy is a way for people to get their hands on many of the educational tools that we in the West take for granted, either because these people can’t afford to buy them or they’re restricted by the government.
In Western countries piracy is often seen as a leisure tool, granting people unauthorized access to the latest hits and Hollywood blockbusters. However, there are also parts of the world where piracy is frequently used as a means to gather and spread knowledge. In parts of Africa, for example, where legal access to educational books and software is often restricted or unavailable. Over the years we have seen various illustrations of the educational importance of piracy in developing countries. When the e-book portal Library.nu was shut down, for instance, we were contacted by a United Nations worker in Kenya, who voiced his disappointment. “I am very concerned about the recent injunction against library.nu. The site was particularly useful for people like me working in Nairobi, a city that has no more than four bookshops with nothing but bestsellers,” the UN worker informed TF at the time. In an effort to determine how piracy affects literacy and the spread of knowledge, the African Governance and Development Institute conducted an in-depth study comparing piracy and human development data from 11 African countries.