Rampant piracy in Romania

Not sure if you know this, but Romania is a virtual no man’s land when it comes to movies, books and music. Romanians often get to watch movies before they’re in theaters in the US, and there’s a large loophole in Romanian copyright law that makes it nearly impossible to prosecute those who break the law and share digital copies of movies, books or music online.

I consulted with our IP lawyer, and the gist of it is that in Romania, you’re allowed to make a copy of a “book” for “private, home use”. But since there’s no reference to movies or music or anything else in the law, courts extend that same privilege to them. And by “copy”, the courts have come to understand digital copies as well. As long as you don’t charge for them, the courts consider them “private” copies. So that leaves the door wide open for all uninformed (and informed) people to share “private copies” of movies, music and books all over the net.

Back in 2009, I wrote an article about software piracy in Romania, explaining that when software costs $300 to buy (i.e. Windows), a typical Romanian won’t be able to afford it, because that’s their monthly salary. My advice back then, to those who wanted to do the right thing, was to look at Ubuntu, which is free, friendly and completely legal. Now I can add OS X to the list. At $29, it’s certainly affordable for a Romanian, and for the tech savvy people, it shouldn’t be too hard to put together their own Hackintosh. Although not entirely legal, as pointed out in this comment, it’s still a better alternative to running a pirated copy of Windows.

Something I cannot condone though is the piracy of books, movies and music. Their price is affordable to the typical Romanian. A book costs somewhere between $10-30, often even less than that. A movie can cost anywhere from $1-5 to rent and $5-20 to buy — or you can subscribe to Netflix and watch all the movies and TV shows you want for $7.99/month. Music costs $0.99-1.99 per song. There is no excuse for stealing these. Most anyone can save 20-50 RON in order to buy a book or a movie, if they really want it, and anyone can most definitely spare 3 RON to buy a song. And yet, most Romanians don’t. They willfully elect to download pirated movies, music and books whenever they can.

When did it become acceptable to steal something just because you can’t afford it? If you can’t afford it, then you can’t have it. Save up for it and get it later, you’ll appreciate it a lot more than if you steal it.

Want to hear the sad part? It’s not the poor Romanians who are stealing books, movies and music. No, it’s people who have the means to buy these things in the first place, who could afford to part with a few RON in order to get the latest song from their favorite artist, or to see the latest movie. Their lame and legally/morally invalid excuse is that the artist/movie studio/writer is already rich or that everybody’s doing it, because society’s progressing and the old ways no longer work. Which old ways would that be? The need to pay for a service or a good? Well, when I can pay for my utility bills or my mortgage with a movie I downloaded from a torrent website, that’s when we’ll talk about the old ways no longer cutting it.

Since when did someone who has no idea about the hard work that goes behind making a song or a movie or writing a book and getting it published, get to make a judgment about the artist’s financial health or about whether or not it’s okay to steal their work? When did it become okay to steal? This is tantamount to stealing a piece of clothing from a store, or a chocolate from a supermarket.

These same people who complain they have no money then go out and eat at restaurants, they have vacations at sea side resorts, they spend their weekends in the mountains. That is hypocrisy. Ever since my wife and I came to Romania, I keep hearing there’s a financial crisis going on, and everyone’s complaining about how little money they’re making, but whenever I travel the country, mountain resorts are full, seaside resorts are booked up, restaurants are full, coffee shops are full, marketplaces, supermarkets, stores and malls are full of people, everyone’s barbecuing, there are tons of cars on the streets, and money’s flying left and right. Where’s the financial crisis? 

I don’t care if the law’s not up to snuff, stealing’s never okay. Romanians always brag that they’re good Christians. If they were good Christians, they would know the eighth commandment says, “Thou shalt not steal.”


22 thoughts on “Rampant piracy in Romania

  1. another Romanian says:

    Hello Raoul,
    First of all, I know this post is old, heck from a year ago, but just in case anyone reads here anymore, my 2 cents:
    I am Romanian, born and bred, and I want to tell you how things are here. First of all xeroxing a book, any book, is not even considered by almost anyone theft (or piracy – however you want to call it), you just go to a place where there’s a xerox machine, pay and have the book xeroxed, no fuss no muss. Heck, even the teachers at my old high-school, when they required us to have a book at class they just said “Xerox it ” – in their defense sometimes the book could not be found so almost all the class had copies . And if that sounds perplexing, you haven’t heard the half of it. At University one teacher was really mad at us because we didn’t get organized to buy some books of the internet (some – very expensive) scan them and put then on a website so everyone could have access tot them and learn from them, she even called us lazy for not doing so :)). So book copying/xeroxing/scanning = OK in Romania (Even I don’t consider it theft (I buy the service of xeroxing and the paper), I just see it as copying, but I understand your frustration and other people’s that consider it theft…you don’t get any remuneration for this, I get why you’re angry, but different countries have different laws, and not all people feel the same about this matter. The question is why do you (Americans) expect everyone to conform to your laws and rules and morals when you don’t conform to, or respect everyone Else’s. You want to make the whole world in your image? Stalin and Hitler wanted that too.
    But why so bent-out with Romania, other EU states are much worse (Holland for ex.) or why not say something about piracy in Asia, now there’s something to talk about. There is almost no copyright protection and in China for ex. when EU car manufacturers sue Chinese ones for infringement on car design the Chinese government protect Chinese manufacturers (same case with I-phone clones, watches..etc) and I sort of agree with the Chinese – I mean their products looks like the original but they are buying the raw material to build it, they are doing the hard work to build it, it may not be their idea but they are COPYING ,NOT STEALING in my mind (ATTENTION: your thoughts or laws may vary ); and in Romania at least everyone knows the difference between the original and something made in china -usually breaks instantaneously :)) . The only thing that’s “stolen” here is the idea; case and point: If I saw a model of a chair and I build an exact replica of it, is that stealing? NO, i bought the wood i built the chair, nothing stolen, the idea you could call it “stolen” , I just call it COPIED, which is not the same as stolen. If i xerox a book I have a copy of it, a black and white (usually) ugly copy but sometimes it’s enough for my purposes, i don’t have something stolen, but copied.
    Now if we are to talk about software, movies and music – almost everyone considers it theft in Romania, it’s just not like you say, the courts don’t consider torrents legal, heck you see it every other day on the news: ” You could go to jail -up to 4 years -for copying a song from youtube ” – that’s just CRAZY to me. Even some ten years back some acquaintances of mine did jail time for distributing illegal software, but they learned their lesson afterwards: Bribe the cops! :)) (they need their tribute as well)
    I thing that I don’t understand is why are torrent sites not closed, most of what they’ve got are illegal. Shit, in China many sites are banned, why not do the same with torrent sites. It perplexes me. I can download almost any software with crack or a key posted on the net. Sometimes just google-ing it gives illegal results.
    Just to end this, people get enough money for their work, if the movie is good enough, people will queue up at the cinema to see the movie, if the music is good, people buy the album…etc. Actors are very rich, singers as well (writers not so much though -just the very good one like J. K. Rowling – she really knew how to make money of her work…). Is it right that some countries have different laws that are not the same as the U.S.’s ? Ya..I’d say so, and if you want more money for your work you’re in the wrong line of business. As long as computers and technology permits us to copy, no man can truly stop it, it’s crazy to expect everyone to do something that comes so easy and is not illegal(in some countries)..just rambling at this point…NOTE: some thing that I’ve written might be wrong, I’m just tired now…JUST RESPECT YOUR COUNTRY’S LAWS and you’ll be OK y’all. BTW I don’t use torrents anymore, they’re illegal, not even use torrents anymore to download legal stuff (because some ill-informed here think that all torrents are illegal-they could just lock me up for dowl. a legal torrent… and because you can’t really tell the difference sometimes between the legal and illegal ones). Anyway the “gist” is that one can download pirated software legally in Romania (FOR NOW) if you don’t seed/send/give it to anyone else…(for private use only). For now that’s OK, 5-10 years ago it was legal to dowl. softw., there were no laws to prohibit it or were laughed at :)) -as the law against smoking in public, which is still in effect but nobody takes that law seriously as there are no big companies pressuring the state to respect that law.
    That being said, i don’t consider xeroxing a book stealing (maybe it’s because I’ve xeroxed books from early childhood and nobody even snuffed at it, all around me dit it without remorse), software however is a bit different, I have many original Windows XP , W7 copies, and all the software that I’m using is legal, but as long as the laws permit me to, I’ll download some illegal software just in case the law won’t permit me later and I will need them..putting it aside for now, there are many legal software that can do the job just fine.
    Anywayyyyss… more importantly : Where will you go when you die? Heaven or Hell? Doesn’t it concern you? Do the test to see:


    • I care about piracy in Romania because I was born here and I care about the country and its people. Your argument that others are doing it so what’s the big deal is specious. And I can’t believe you threw your religion at me. Shame to you for proselytizing.


      • another Romanian says:

        You’re wrong friend. Nowhere in my post dis I use the argument “others are doing it so what’s the big deal”?
        My argument was that different countries have different laws, and we shouldn’t all respect or adopt US laws as you don’t other countries.
        Peace 😉


      • another Romanian says:

        You said you care about Romania and its people, well I care about you, I don’t want you to go to Hell, that’s why i sent you that link.


        • Well, I’d like you to go to hell, if there is such a place — you, along with the many other so-called Christians who think you’re better than the rest of folks on this planet.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Bones says:



  3. freethinker says:

    I am in total disagreement with this post that, no offense, that it denotes a closed mind on what the web is, and it represents for most people.
    First, start by saying that I am an author, but of new generation. I believe that if you live in a country where people can not afford to buy things and you’re a seller .. the most logical thing you can do is not to despise people for their poverty or criminalize altruism (ethics exchange non-profit of a person who has purchased a product and he lends it to another person without gaining anything) … but to learn the rules of marketing on the web .. gains on the web are not based on direct sales, but on the advertising model.
    In fact, Google has become a multibillion-dollar by providing free services to users. Youtube allows you to see free videos and it gains doing this. So for 70% of marketing models on the web.
    I do not understand, because, an author should care if a person that can never be a customer has received an asset from an another person … if this person can not afford the asset in any case you remain empty-handed.
    Also I believe that a good salesman should listen to their customers and adapt to market needs, and not to impose their own needs to the market through dictatorial laws!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You make a good point, and there certainly is a flip side to what I’ve written in this post. I’ve been thinking about writing up “the other side” in another post, and it’ll probably happen in the near future. The problem is that both sides of this story make good points, it’s not as simple as “piracy is okay because it’s free marketing” or “not paying for movies is a crime”.


  4. Nick says:

    I’m an American who just moved to Romania recently. While I agree with your post for the most part, I must say that certain options you cite as alternatives to piracy are simply not possible here. Netflix, while cheap, and something that I had been subscribed to in the States, is not available here. You sign into your Netflix and you get an error that says, “Netflix is not available in your country.” There’s not a Redbox on every corner, so I can’t rent movies, and the pickings are slim even at big stores.

    Same with iTunes, Kindle, any form of digital media I’ve come across. You can’t buy them or access them simply because you’re in a different country, or namely, Romania.

    I intend to return to the United States one day as well. All the DVDs I would buy here would be region-coded NOT to play in the United States.

    Some of these products that people want to consume are not available in this country. And the government is very inefficient. I’m still winding my way through the vast labyrinth that is getting a temporary residence permit. I don’t think we’ll be seeing new legislation on this for a while, but I’m not sure if I’m rooting for it either…


    • Nick, you can certainly watch Netflix from Romania, it’s easy. See this post: Once you have a VPN account, you can then use iTunes and Amazon just as if you were back in the States. And as far as the DVDs are concerned, region codes are obsolete and they should be bypassed. You can either get a region-free DVD player, or do something that is your right as their owner and purchaser, which is to rip them to a digital format and store them on a hard drive. That’s what I’ve done with all my old VHS tapes and DVDs. Now I have a media library that sits on my home network and whenever I want to watch something, I browse it from my media PC.


  5. kellogs says:

    Wow,man. just wanted to rant about whaat hurts me most – no one bought gps software around here when the big houses were making their entrance in romania’s market. so guss what, they have now abandoned this market. Firwr tomtom, now sygic too 😦

    But i gotta continue the rant – you are begging forthe sequel iam sure! well, hackintoshes are not that easy to bring up anymore. took me a week in 2008, i am unable to even begin assembling one nowadays.

    secondly, romanians and high mrals do not make a happy mariage and you know it. ffs that is why you took a edecision a while ago. jut to back this up further, none of my friends complain abulour the money, yet all of them are happily pirating.

    if it were like you and many others wanted it to be, we would have not much use keeping some institutions on our backs such as the olice and fiscpity organs, etc. wake u, people don’t reffrain from steealing because of hith morals but rather because of effective law enforcement. in a world where the gods got slowly but surely replaced by the dollar, it is never going to get any better. where there is propriety there is also theft.

    no woman no cry: 🙂


  6. JP says:

    I like and agree with your line of thinking. To that point; if one has a gun, is that a license to kill? If one has a car, does that make them responsible to drive others about at their will? Because one has a PC is, how does that convey a right to steal or hack another persons property? Does this make one smarter because they can hack or crack or copy? Romania is not the only country with loopholes, legal or ethical. We live in a world that has experienced the rise and fall of so many socio-economic and political backgrounds in our lifetimes, yet we still can’t find a way to learn from one another and not repeat the errors of history. The disease is “cultural entitlement”, the symptom is greed, the result is anarchy. In the recent power blackout in Southern California, the stories of just a few friend’s experiences were appalling and frightening; It takes little to turn people to animals.

    Regarding software, there are plenty of very functional FREE software solutions available on Windows/MAC and Linux via open-source advocates and initiatives. SourceForge is a great repository. Authors have made a choice to provide it freely, for all to use. For those who have not chosen to give their talents away for free, it should be respected. For those caught in the middle with a little bit of conscience, perhaps they could contribute to these free efforts by contributing to a language translation.

    Perhaps people in Romania can lobby the government to tighten up the laws and promote a cultural awareness of this? I know there are many global software companies that have headquarters or development labs in Romania, would this growing industry not be enough to move something like this forward?


    • Thank you. It’s true, the laws can be tightened, but the “agenda” of things to be done in Romania is so big that copyright law is not really on the radar. It could be, if all the software companies who have interests in Romania would start a lobbying arm. I’d also like to see some PSAs shown on national TV channels, but I honestly hope they’re not stupid, like the ones shown in the US. The focus should clearly be on the morality of the act, not on how fast or how slow the torrents are, or what the quality of those files might be, which was the focus of a few PSAs that aired in the US.


  7. Ro says:

    Do you really think we can afford it? When salaries are sometimes lower than that 200E and the rent is more then 100E plus other services … think we have money to go to the movies or buy DVDs of movies you see once? I would buy all original (software / movies / music / etc.) If I had the money but the truth is that I don`t even buy me things I really need to have a decent social life. … but to give 100E is a game too much … and guess what…i work in the film industry too…


    • Nobody’s asking you to spend 100 Euro on a video game. I wouldn’t spend that much money on a video game — and that’s why I don’t play video games. The choice is very simple, you see. If you can’t afford it, don’t get it. That’s what I used to do when I was poor, and believe you me, I was worse off than you at one point in my life. But you’ve somehow managed to put your conscience to sleep when it comes to illegal downloads. You’re saying you can’t afford it and therefore it’s okay for you to download it. It’s not. It just isn’t. It will never be okay, no matter what you tell yourself.

      Try it my way. When you want to see a movie or play a video game and you can’t afford it, just say no. Say to yourself, hey, I can’t afford it, so I’ll do the right thing and stay away from it. I won’t download it illegally. I’ll find other, more productive things to do with my time. Maybe you’ll use that time to come up with a TV or film idea that will make you some serious cash, and then you’ll be able to afford all the things you want.


  8. I don’t disagree with your sentiments here Raoul, but I am going to argue with you on a few points. But before I do, I’d just like to point out that putting OSx on a Hackintosh is a breach of the licensing conditions and therefore a form of stealing as well! But anyway….

    Firstly, your point regards making copies of content for personal use. I’m all for it. When I buy a product I want to be able to use it how I want it. On what device I want to use it on. I’m not alone on this, and there’s a good reason DRM is dying out.

    Secondly, for decades the music industry published content at extortionate rates, effectively stealing from the consumer. On at least a moral level, if not legal. You mentioned karma…..the digital revolution is their karma coming to bite them in the bottom. As a matter of principle I fully encourage the illegal theft of digital music. That’s not because I consider myself a thief (although I’m aware how the law sees it) but because I believe the industry corps are a bunch of backward, unethical, thieving swines. The sooner they are gone, the better. I’ll celebrate with the bankruptcy of each and every one. The music industry doesn’t need them. The music industry will do better without them. I won’t obey bad laws just because they are laws. I’ll choose reasonable, rational, practical and effective means to oppose them.

    I feel different with the movie, television and software industry. Whilst they share some of the same faults as the music corps, big budget movies need big pocketed studios to make production. But still, they need to really bring themselves into the 21st century with practical business models that are fair to the consumer and effective in what is, like it or not, a global economy. Piracy was rampant in Mexico too. Prices of CD’s and DVD’s were more expensive than north of the border, despite the expendable income being much lower. Scalable pricing is an obvious, sensible step. It’s also important that content is made available everywhere, simultaneously, at fair prices. I used to download stuff in Mexico for free. Stealing it. Because I couldn’t buy it!!! I would have, if I could have. But they wouldn’t offer me a method of purchasing it.


    • Gary, I agree with most of what you’re saying. It’s one thing to make copies of the content you buy for yourself or for your immediate family, and it’s quite another to put them on the web for anyone to download and use.

      It’s true, the music industry has been screwing artists and the public long enough. But artists already make little enough money from the music they make. If everyone steals their music, they’ll make even less. That’s why, whenever I can, I support them by buying their music, if possible, directly from their websites.

      Movie studios do indeed need big budgets to make great movies and to leverage their huge investments in every movie they make, not all of which will make money. Every time someone steals a movie, they’re contributing to the lay-off of great talent and their replacement with mediocre talent. Movie studios have to recoup their investments, otherwise they go under. If they can’t recoup them with one movie, they make the next one cheaper and so on. Theft of movies contributes to the overall decrease in movie quality and talent used on film. I definitely agree with you when it comes to scalable pricing. The prices should be proportionate to a country’s median wages.

      Let me give you an example when it comes to books. My wife and I self-publish books, and we sell them at very affordable prices — less even than what it would cost to photocopy them. So far, we’ve written and published three books on raw food in Romania. My wife’s first book is already available on torrent sites in three different versions, and on Scribd as well. People have the gall to come up to us and ask us to put the book up on the net in better quality, so they can download it. It never occurs to them to buy it. Meanwhile, we’re bootstrapping every one of these published books, hoping to recoup our investments, and we do, but nowhere near what we hope, because of all the theft. It’s just unbelievable how rude and thieving people can be.

      This isn’t happening just to us, it’s happening to everyone who takes the risk and makes an investment in a creative work that can be digitized and stolen on the net. Society as a whole has rationalized theft of digital content, and that’s just NOT right.


      • Hi Raoul,

        I think we’re on the same page when it comes to backing up/duplicating/ content and the uploading of content. The first might make the second possible, but that’s not to say the former should be legislated against.

        I would argue that those artists who are stolen from most are by and large pretty wealthy. The indie musicians I do have more sympathy for. But at the same time, most musicians do what they do as a labour of love, so I’m not convinced there’d really be less music. Maybe less Back Street boys and fewer Spice Girls. tell me that’s a bad thing!

        I have sympathy for yourself too. And I don’t condone that sort of theft. I do sort of accept it though. In that, when I produced my own book, I added a CC allowing sharing. I don’t expect any serious financial recompense for my work, and that’s the difference between us in this regard.


        • Thanks Gary! Right on. The difference here, as you pointed out, is that this is what we do for a living, and it hurts us a lot when people steal from us. And it hurts the other people out there involved in the same sorts of activities when piracy is so rampant.


  9. Durdude says:

    If a company doesn’t want people to pirate their material, they could publish it on an alternate medium: For music, Vinyl. For movies, VHS. For books: stone tablets. Look, the future arrived while you were napping in your bathrobe. Wake up and stop whining.


    • Well, I hope you get a heaping, steaming helping of all the karmic crap you’ve been saving up, Durdude, because you sure deserve it. Enjoy! 🙂


Comments are closed.