Mightier Than the Sword? Battling Digital Pirates

by Devin Robinson

    Our culture has had a long running fascination with pirates. From Errol Flynn’s 1935 turn as the privateer Captain Blood to Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy—which grossed nearly $2.8 billion worldwide—pirates have long been upheld as antiheroes of the baser instincts of man.

    But although the pirate and his many tales have become part of our historical folklore, it might be surprising to learn piracy is even more of a problem today than in the time of Blackbeard, Francis Drake, and the mythical Capt. Jack Sparrow.

    Just ask Jason Runnion ’98, who never imagined his career would revolve around pirates … until he took a job as client services manager for an anti-piracy company in Morristown, N.J.

    “I actually started out in my present company using a lot of the information I had learned at Cedarville,” Runnion says. “I mostly responded to requests for proposals, documented new product enhancements, and created new contracts.”

    He discovered, however, that the skills he learned at Cedarville as a professional writing major would be weapons—used in a fight to protect major music labels, movie studios, software companies, video game companies, and book publishers from intellectual property pirates. To the fledgling start-up, Runnion’s technical writing skills proved especially valuable.

    “I grew in terms of what I could offer my company in addition to my role as a technical writer and graphic designer,” he says. “As our company grew, it became essential to not just document the technologies emerging from our engineering group, but to provide clients with any information they needed to assist them in using our technologies.”

    Runnion came to realize that working to protect a company’s content from pirates is a high-tech, high-stakes game with millions of dollars on the line. Whether it is a much-anticipated book about a certain teen-aged wizard, the latest album by that band everyone is talking about, or that top secret movie plot that is under lock and key—if the information is compromised, it spreads like wildfire across the Internet.

    “Anti-piracy is interesting because there are always two sides to every story,” Runnion explains. “One side wants the media companies to change the way they do business in the digital age, which, I believe, is warranted.”

    Unfortunately, on the other side are the people who want something for nothing, and they don’t see anything wrong with piracy when it comes to digital content.

    Runnion describes digital piracy like finding a magic wand that allows the user to duplicate anything. For instance, why not magically transform that beat-up, old jalopy into a brand new 911 Twin Turbo Porsche? Of course, once the resourceful magician starts showing off his new car, everyone will want him to perform the same magic trick for them. Pretty soon the neighborhood is full of Porsches, and the police are starting to ask questions.

    “It’s easier to put morality back into the discussion of file sharing and digital piracy when you think of it in more concrete terms,” says Runnion.

    Despite the stress that comes with such a fast-paced, high-tech career, Runnion points to his experiences at Cedarville as having shaped him for the challenges of the professional world.

    “Cedarville’s professional writing department, especially Professor Sandy Harner’s courses, did an excellent job of preparing me for the formidable tasks I face in a typical work week.”

    Even when those “typical” tasks involve facing off against pirates.