If you’re one of those people that say they never, ever have used a piece of pirated software I’d suggest you stop reading now, as this obviously doesn’t apply to you. For those of us that have, me included, keep on reading as there are a few things you ought to know. Many people, especially the generation that has grown up with the internet and never heard of dialup or bulletin boards, seem to think that downloading software, music of movies off of the internet is one of its purposes. They basically subscribe to the notion that if they can find it online it is theirs, or rather if they can right click and save it must be free of charge right? Well, it is for some things, but the majority of material found on the internet, whether it be software, images, documents, music or movies is copyrighted, thus that notion really doesn’t apply there.
Does that stop you, me or them? Usually it doesn’t; it is like stealing a candy bar from a grocery store, the chances of you being caught are low or even non existent. But lets stop right there and think about it for a minute. Because for the most part you’re not stealing the online equivalent of a candy bar, but rather software, images, documents, music or movies that cost a substantial amount more than that candy bar. If I had to compare it to something I’d say it is often equivalent to stealing a cart full of CDs, DVDs and software instead of that candy bar, from that very same store you just visited. Not many people will do that, hopefully because the majority of them think that stealing is the wrong thing to do, but also because you can’t exactly put all of that in your back pocket and walk out of the store with it and of course the risk of getting caught is pretty high.
So what we’re seeing here is the fact that the internet facilitates actions that you just wouldn’t consider in the real world. For example downloading music and movies is just a few mouse clicks away, but going to a store and steal the actual CDs and DVDs is another story. There are a few things that cause this; it is convenient, little effort is required to do it, it isn’t time consuming and last, but certainly not least, you can do it whilst remaining anonymous. And then there are lots of people that claim they don’t know that this is illegal, or reason that there’s no harm done, as it is all on the internet anyway. We’ll ascribe that to ignorance is bliss, because even a small child understands that taking a candy bar is stealing and so is downloading copyrighted material off of the internet. But if you really want to stick to that train of thought you should have no problems with just stealing that cart full of CDs, DVDs and software from the store right?
But there’s another good reason why you’d want to download your CDs, DVDs and software online and that is because you’re simply voting with your wallet, refusing to pay what the publishers are charging for their products. So is piracy hurting sales of CDs, DVDs and software? I hope it does, as that might finally motivate the publishers to adapt their business models instead of frantically trying to uphold their profit margins. In reality only an innovative few have stepped into the fray and offered what the consumer wanted, Apple’s iTunes being a good and successful example. So is piracy evil per se? I’m convinced it is not, it is the consumers looking for other ways to fulfill their demands which should mostly be considered as a public outcry for change, rather than the majority of the consumers turning into evil downloaders that have no consideration for the copyrights of others.
Isn’t is time the publishers address these underlying issues and start offering products that appeal to its consumers, rather than trying to force products down their throats that they don’t want? As always it is a balancing act between offering the right product at the right price as well as creating and fulfilling a demand. If they really are going to continue their current struggle against piracy, without giving in to these age old principles of economics, they’ve gone from being the good to the bad to the downright ugly and simply deserve to be pirated.