How to Stop Illegal Downloads

Dan Ariely's picture
Rank: Monkey | 39

Three days after publication of my new book , The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, I was able to find electronic copies on a few websites that specialize in illegal content. These were high quality versions of the book, including the images of the cover, the references, and--my favorite part--the copyright notice.

I was flattered. On one of the sites, the book had been very popular, downloaded over 20,000 times in just a short period of time before my publisher shut it down.

I was also amused. The irony of illegally downloading a book on dishonesty was painfully obvious.

But mainly I was curious, as is my wont. As someone who has been studying dishonesty for many years, what could I learn from the theft of my own book?

My first insight came with a personal conversion. Before it was my book being illegally downloaded, I was more on the "Information wants to be free" end of the spectrum. The sudden, though predictable, shift in my feelings when I found my own work being downloaded for free was a jarring experience. Maybe Information finds complete freedom too threatening, I thought, and maybe it would rather be a bit more protected. It was a very clear example of how my own views of morality are biased - as are everybody's — based on our immediate perspective.

Recently in a lecture on dishonesty in San Francisco I was explaining, as I always do, that dishonesty is largely founded on our ability to rationalize, and a young guy stood up and argued that downloading music was actually the right thing to do. He said that the companies make lots of money while artists don't (they make the music for the public, not for profit). And either way, he wouldn't buy the music anyway so it wouldn't make a difference. "My friend," I said, "thank you for proving my point about rationalization." Then I asked him to imagine if the product in question represented several months or even years of his life. All that time he was creating, writing, editing, and marketing this thing in order to fund his next project. And then everyone downloaded it, illegally, for free. At which point he sat down.

My second thought, after realizing my popularity in the "download for free" category, was about the potential for moral deterioration on a broader scale. Once people start seeing a particular behavior--such as illegally downloading books, music, and movies--as a very common behavior, there is a chance that this sense of social proof will translate into a new understanding of what is right and wrong. Sometimes such social shifts might be desirable--for instance, being part of an interracial couple used to be considered illegal and immoral, but now we see such couples all around us and it helps shape our understanding of social approval. However, the behaviors we most often observe and notice are ones that are outside of the legitimate domain (e.g., doping in sports, infidelity by politicians, exaggerated resumes by CEOs) and in these cases the social proof can change things for the worse.

And then I had an insight about confession. How can we stop such trends toward dishonesty (in this case, broader acceptance of illegal downloading)? The problem is that if someone has acquired 97% of their music illegally, why would they legally buy the next 1%? Would they do it in order to be 4% legal? It turns out that we view ourselves categorically as either good or bad, and moving from being 3% legal to being 4% legal is not a very compelling motivation. This is where confession and amnesty can come into play.

What we find in our experiments is that once we start thinking of ourselves as polluted, there is not much incentive to behave well, and the trip down the slippery slope is likely. This is the bad news. The good news is that in such cases, confession, where we articulate what we have done wrong, is an incredibly effective mechanism for resetting our moral compass. Importing this religious practice into civic life was effective in the Truth and Reconciliation Act in South Africa, where acknowledging the many abuses and violations of the apartheid government allowed the South Africans to forgive past sins, and start fresh.

I think that this same approach could be effective in preventing people from illegally downloading music and books. Why don't we offer young people (because let's face it, most of them have some illegally downloaded material on their computers) the opportunity to admit and apologize, receive amnesty for the material they already have, and start fresh.

In the meantime, until we adopt this course of action, I am hoping that the New York Times will create a Best Seller list for a new category - the Most Illegally Downloaded Books.

http://danariely.com/2012/11/03/how-to-stop-illega...

Comments (36)

Nov 5, 2012

Very thought provoking. I have a few of questions:

  1. If it were up to you to implement, would you have a timeframe in which people can confess, or more of a one time "get out of jail free card" that people can use during their lifetime, or something totally different?
  2. What would there be to stop people from just using this as an excuse to download as much free music as possible, and then just confess right before they have to confess, thereby getting a lot more music for free?
  3. What if they confess, are allowed to keep their music, and then continue to download illegally? Do you think that this would help to shift the thoughts of those people that what they are doing as wrong?

Thank you for the post! This is an area that I am definitely interested in for my side business. It also touches upon my love for tackling a difficult moral problem to solve practically.

"There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that's your own self." --Aldous Huxley

Nov 5, 2012
TripWest:

Very thought provoking. I have a few of questions:

  1. If it were up to you to implement, would you have a timeframe in which people can confess, or more of a one time "get out of jail free card" that people can use during their lifetime, or something totally different?
  2. What would there be to stop people from just using this as an excuse to download as much free music as possible, and then just confess right before they have to confess, thereby getting a lot more music for free?
  3. What if they confess, are allowed to keep their music, and then continue to download illegally? Do you think that this would help to shift the thoughts of those people that what they are doing as wrong?

Thank you for the post! This is an area that I am definitely interested in for my side business. It also touches upon my love for tackling a difficult moral problem to solve practically.

Hey Tripwest, good questions, this is a syndication fyi so he may not see this, can you add your questions to his blog directly?

WSO's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My Linkedin

Nov 5, 2012

Nice thread picture, chap. Good you're being discrete about which torrent site was sporting your book. Looks like you're just a fan of pirates and bays. Then again, who isn't!

People won't download stuff when it's affordable and you get some incremental benefit from the purchase. For instance, to watch movies I often rent them off the iTunes store for 3 bucks. It's not expensive, it loads very quickly, always high quality, and work nicely with Apple TV. I'm willing to pay 3 bucks for convenience and reliability, versus 30 bucks for a blu-ray disc that would take hours or more likely days to procure.

Nov 5, 2012
Going Concern:

Nice thread picture, chap. Good you're being discrete about which torrent site was sporting your book. Looks like you're just a fan of pirates and bays. Then again, who isn't!

People won't download stuff when it's affordable and you get some incremental benefit from the purchase. For instance, to watch movies I often rent them off the iTunes store for 3 bucks. It's not expensive, it loads very quickly, always high quality, and work nicely with Apple TV. I'm willing to pay 3 bucks for convenience and reliability, versus 30 bucks for a blu-ray disc that would take hours or more likely days to procure.

I agree. I'd like to add that I always pay for e.g. games developed by independent developers. That's when illegally downloading really feels like stealing.

Nov 5, 2012
Going Concern:

Nice thread picture, chap. Good you're being discrete about which torrent site was sporting your book. Looks like you're just a fan of pirates and bays. Then again, who isn't!

i put up the pic (this is a syndication from his blog, and it didnt have a photo), p-bay was first thing i thought of, no connection necessarily

WSO's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My Linkedin

Nov 5, 2012
AndyLouis:
Going Concern:

Nice thread picture, chap. Good you're being discrete about which torrent site was sporting your book. Looks like you're just a fan of pirates and bays. Then again, who isn't!

i put up the pic (this is a syndication from his blog, and it didnt have a photo), p-bay was first thing i thought of, no connection necessarily

Haha, looks like I got owned. Though I like the "necessarily" bit at the end of the comment instead of just saying "no connection"...always good to be hedged!

Nov 5, 2012

I've always been split on this issue from a pure economic sense. It's the government's job to protect private property, but it is clear that with the internet, some level of illegal download will likely occur no matter what and this level negatively influences the incentive for artists/writers to produce. However, due to the complete overabundance of musicians/writers in society (including amateurs capable of producing/writing) I suspect that regardless of whether or not illegal downloading is curbed later on that society will still have music and books - theoretically not at the same quality as they would be perhaps given a greater profit margin. Though I am certainly not a fan of theft or the "mob mentality" prevalent with illegal downloading, it annoys me when artists/writers complain non stop about being screwed over when no one is putting a gun to their heads to produce and they could always quit and allow for amateurs to fill in the void (i.e. famous youtube musicians satisfied with online fame and praise).

Nov 5, 2012

A study was done in Europe showing that a large majority of people that illegally download music are also the largest market for buying said music. Many people would rather download it illegally to actually listen to the song (who knows why they don't use youtube) rather than listen to a 30 second clip.

Nov 5, 2012

I'm of the opinion that all media should be free and open source if it is applicable, thus I see nothing wrong with pirating media.

Nov 5, 2012
Nefarious-:

I'm of the opinion that all media should be free and open source if it is applicable, thus I see nothing wrong with pirating media.

When you say free do you mean from a monetary standpoint or free from censorship? If you mean free of charge, I'm curious as to why you believe this. Isn't media ultimately the product of one's mind and should therefore be treated like any other form of private property?

Nov 5, 2012
Dying's For Fools:
Nefarious-:

I'm of the opinion that all media should be free and open source if it is applicable, thus I see nothing wrong with pirating media.

When you say free do you mean from a monetary standpoint or free from censorship? If you mean free of charge, I'm curious as to why you believe this. Isn't media ultimately the product of one's mind and should therefore be treated like any other form of private property?

Let's take for example this author. Did you know who he was prior from today? Would you ever purchase his book? Do you think any of the people that pirated his book would have actually read his work if they had to pay for it? I can tell you based on this blog post he doesn't seem very interesting and I wouldn't pay for his works. What people don't realize is the exchanging of media at no cost actually helps the author/creator.

To examine this further, let's look at Radiohead's album "In Rainbows" and the pay what you want initiative they did. You can read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiohead#In_Rainbows... - They made more money doing this and even sold less albums.

When it comes to media, music, in my opinion, is the one form that should be free. Bands make most of their money from touring anyway.

Nov 10, 2012

ya but happens when said media supports the livelihood of a person, then what?

Nov 5, 2012

where acknowledging the many abuses and violations of the apartheid government allowed the South Africans to forgive past sins, and start fresh.

Start the abuses and violations fresh, the victim is now the executioner.

Besides, lawful/unlawful is one thing, but since ACTA morality is not an issue for me.

Nov 5, 2012

Crazy thing is that everything you said was covered in this video...and more.

This has been one of the most impactful and insightful lectures I have ever listened to. It's long...but worth a watch.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPAO-lZ4_hU

Nov 6, 2012

I stopped illegally downloading things after I was out of college once I decided to think about what I was actually doing. I would much rather have a lower guilt coefficient, that way I could have continued to steal things and derive utility from the stolen goods. I would be able to consume more. However, I accidentally thought about what I was doing once, and since then, I have stopped stealing intellectual property.

I also get the occasional utility boost from knowing that I am better than jerkoffs who can't see the difference between what Radiohead made the decision to do with their property and what the author has chosen to do with his.

"What people don't realize is the exchanging of media at no cost actually helps the author/creator."

This can be true if free content is a loss leader for paid content, but shouldn't that be a pricing/marketing decision made by the owner of the property rather than the way for you to avoid the guilt associated with stealing people's property?

"Bands make most of their money from touring anyway." Nice rationalisation.

    • 1
Nov 6, 2012
cityknight:

I stopped illegally downloading things after I was out of college once I decided to think about what I was actually doing. I would much rather have a lower guilt coefficient, that way I could have continued to steal things and derive utility from the stolen goods. I would be able to consume more. However, I accidentally thought about what I was doing once, and since then, I have stopped stealing intellectual property.

I also get the occasional utility boost from knowing that I am better than jerkoffs who can't see the difference between what Radiohead made the decision to do with their property and what the author has chosen to do with his.

"What people don't realize is the exchanging of media at no cost actually helps the author/creator."

This can be true if free content is a loss leader for paid content, but shouldn't that be a pricing/marketing decision made by the owner of the property rather than the way for you to avoid the guilt associated with stealing people's property?

"Bands make most of their money from touring anyway." Nice rationalisation.

How can you say so easily that the marginal benefit of listening to radiohead vs. the unknown band handing out music for free for the purposes of being well regarded and well praised justifies the steep costs of popular music on disc/itunes? (for middle income families) Why should intellectual property be kept by individuals? No one put a patent on calculus. The capital spent on consumption of music/movies/books could be used in better ways, and we would all still be preoccupied with free sources of entertainment (youtube, reading articles on wikipedia, wso, etc - paying for personalized expertise NOT standard articles/books that should be shared with the public freely or not published at all if the author is so concerned about theft)

Nov 6, 2012
cityknight:

I stopped illegally downloading things after I was out of college once I decided to think about what I was actually doing. I would much rather have a lower guilt coefficient, that way I could have continued to steal things and derive utility from the stolen goods. I would be able to consume more. However, I accidentally thought about what I was doing once, and since then, I have stopped stealing intellectual property.

I also get the occasional utility boost from knowing that I am better than jerkoffs who can't see the difference between what Radiohead made the decision to do with their property and what the author has chosen to do with his.

"What people don't realize is the exchanging of media at no cost actually helps the author/creator."

This can be true if free content is a loss leader for paid content, but shouldn't that be a pricing/marketing decision made by the owner of the property rather than the way for you to avoid the guilt associated with stealing people's property?

"Bands make most of their money from touring anyway." Nice rationalisation.

This reply is just full of idiocy and back patting. No one gives a shit that you had a spiritual awakening that convinced you that downloading media for free was illegal and because you stop, you no longer feel guilty. Who the fuck feels guilty for downloading music for free? Is this a fucking joke?

You aren't better than anyone. The first dead give away is your necessity to resort to ad hominems to make a point. Radiohead released In Rainbows online on their site in order to: 1) Prevent leaks 2) Prevent piracy. What they ended up doing was allowing anyone to access the music for free, just like piracy. They ended up making a lot of money on the album sales. It was an experiment to show people that music could be given away for free with an option to pay and it could still benefit the band. A lot of other musical groups have done the same thing and it will be the way of the future. Record labels are obsolete and groups can source their music to their audience directly from their site.

Bands making the majority of their money from touring isn't a rationalization. It is a fact. That is how bands (especially bands on record labels) make their money. They make very little money off of album sales (especially if they are on a label) that is why they tour and typically tour as frequently as possible.

I feel zero guilt that someone took the time to photocopy all 8 books of the Manhattan GMAT along with the videos and put them on pirate bay for free, for everyone and anyone to use.

Nov 6, 2012
cityknight:

rationalisation.

BTW, the word you are looking for is "rationalization" - "rationalisation" is a math term that doesn't fit into the context here. Maybe you should take some time to hop off of your high horse and download a dictionary for free.

Nov 6, 2012
Nefarious-:
cityknight:

rationalisation.

BTW, the word you are looking for is "rationalization" - "rationalisation" is a math term that doesn't fit into the context here. Maybe you should take some time to hop off of your high horse and download a dictionary for free.

hahahaha, owned.

Also, I'm very surprised that a guy going by the name of Nefarious is advocating for illegal piracy on a public discussion forum.

Nov 6, 2012

Excellent post, see this guy's TED videos on decision-making and moral code, fascinating

To the starving man, beans are caviar

Nov 6, 2012

"What we find in our experiments is that once we start thinking of ourselves as polluted, there is not much incentive to behave well, and the trip down the slippery slope is likely."

Very much agree with this statement. I think in terms of ebooks, there are many individuals out there who do not think the prices charged for ebooks are fair and yet at the same time do not advocate illegal downloading. Think project guttenburg. Even programs like spotify must have decreased the amount illegal downloads in some significant amount.

Nov 6, 2012
AndyLouis:

Hey Tripwest, good questions, this is a syndication fyi so he may not see this, can you add your questions to his blog directly?

Thank you for letting me know! I asked on his blog as well.

"There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that's your own self." --Aldous Huxley

Nov 7, 2012

Bands do not make money touring unless the overhead is less than the net, obviously. How many bands does that work with? Take a rough guess at how much it costs to get four or more people to the next city, plus the club's expenses, versus how much a band gets paid (if they do! "it's good exposure!")
And how much of their equipment, rehearsal time and space, recording costs, mastering costs, CD pressing costs (if there are) will be offset by this immense touring income?
Just think about it for a bit. Look at who's playing where and just guess how much they're being paid. And try to do a little actual math.
Sell t-shirts! oh yeah, that'll work.

Nov 9, 2012

Look, clearly this isn't a black and white thing, although I would say equating dishonesty with downloading copyrighted material is just factually incorrect. For me, the most important thing is that a balance is struck between maximising utility of information distribution, and not completely stitching up those that produce content. Probably only a small percentage of users of illegal content would suggest that the authors should earn nothing for what they do, and indeed the individual rationalisation is pretty easy. If you KNOW, that you would not have bought a film or book etc, because it simply doesn't appeal to you enough, then you know that the author has not suffered a loss because of your action, regardless of the fact that you are participating in a group dynamic that creates losses. The fact that it is such an easy rationalisation isn't indicative of the fact that it is 'wrong', so I am not sure exactly where you are coming from in terms of the rationalisation argument. To take an objective look at the situation, when the rationalisation is so compelling, I don't think you are going to end the pirating of copyrighted content through moral dissuasion, because on an individual level it just doesn't hold (especially when DVDs or books can be, depending on the utility you can get from them, reasonably expensive). The best prospects for the market seem to be either super strict laws (which I don't agree with morally) or a license fee model whereby everyone in a country that has access to on-line content pays a fee which is then divided between publishers based on the aggregated number of views. Although this is probably not implementable, it is probably one of the few scenarios likely to end pirating, and even then people would try to dodge paying the license fee.

On the moral side, I would question the notion that pirating is always wrong. A lot of people, for instance, operate on a mixed model whereby they spend a reasonable amount of money on the content they like, but use pirating to top up on their consumption. Again if you know that as an individual you don't have the capacity to make the extra purchases, you can be sure you are not inflicting any real losses directly. Is it any less moral to pirate, than it is to deny poorer echelons of society equal access to media? I am in the camp that would say probably not. I understand why zero sum consumption has to be distributed relative to wealth, it is just the nature of markets, but in scenarios where additional utility can be gained at very little cost, I think it is the moral weakness of the industry in failing to aggressively come up with a system that works in a more equitable manner vis a vis the maximisation of utility, rather than the purely pirates themselves, that are morally on the wrong side of the fence.

Nov 10, 2012

Interesting discussion...I'm in the camp that thinks downloading pirated material is wrong.

BUT, I did the same thing when I was in college and downloaded a few hundred songs from (was it napster then?)...it wasn't an epiphany that stopped me, it was a process of maturing and realizing that people depend on that revenue to eat. I am not naive enough to think that this trend will reverse itself, or that additional DRM will stop it - just that businesses, (like WSO) will be forced to search for revenue elsewhere besides ebooks.

What happens when WSO has 50% more traffic in 2012 and our revenue from our ebook publications drop by 30% like has happened this year? We saw several copes on scrib'd months too late, after each had been read several thousand times. But we are lucky...we can make $ through other means. but what about the mid-tier band that has all thier mp3s distributed for free? What if their tours aren't that profitable and their website doesnt get the traffic to convert enough sales to feed them? Or they don't have the expertise of how to do split tests?

What if WSO couldn't absorb this and are margins were lower, or traffic had only gone up 10% and we were forced to shut down? What happens next year if/when more people pirate the WSO guides? What happens to WSO if we depended on this revenue to function and provide the community platform for free?

I guess we'd just die off and someone would replace us with a better business model, right? Point is, it's easy to point to pirating as a foregone conclusion, but it's much harder to swallow when you and/or someone you know is directly harmed by it :-)

Plus, with how cheap / AMAZING Spotify is, do you really need to pirate music anymore?

also, good we are releasing all new version of most of our WSO guides this year.

Nov 11, 2012

Yes, of course being the victim of a crime easily results in the formation of distorted and often irrational responses to the issue, and perhaps this leads to problems whereby the most vocal (or maybe well funded rather than vocal) contributors to the popular debate are themselves, or at least represent, victims of copyright infringement (is this what you were trying to say?). Pointing to individual particularly negative examples of piracy isn't necessary useful in understanding the issue which is clearly very nuanced, if it was possible to highlight a specific example of piracy where there were no victims and it actually produced really positive utility, would that make all piracy justified? The tragedy of the situation is that in the current environment, in which piracy is perceived by much of society to be a homogeneous non-crime where WSO is no different from Sean Paul, effectively masks the moral distinction between certain instances of piracy. This then indirectly leads to worse outcomes for small businesses such as WSO, which could probably be improved if some sort of universal spotify model was introduced or a clearer distinction was made between different instances of piracy based on harm caused. Some may disagree and say that 'theft is theft', but the problem this introduces is that when you then take the hard line, on an issue that a significant number of people just don't agree with, it creates the impression of erroneous binarity in which those least able to absorb losses suffer more, and those most able to absorb losses suffer less, with relatively little change in the overall situation.

Just to be clear, I trying to approach the issue from a dispassionate angle, I do not pirate myself as my financial circumstances don't merit it, but I nonetheless recognise the issue as being extremely nuanced.

Nov 11, 2012

Also just a quick question regarding your example, as you are a useful datapoint as a victim of pirating. Do you regard all of those who downloaded the guide as equally wrong, or would you draw a distinction between those that would have purchased but instead found it for free (who I would consider to have stolen) vs. those that would never have purchased, but took a look because it was freely available. This is the issue I was trying to raise in my original post, as a dispassionate observer I feel there is a difference, but this may be purely my opinion, and it would be interesting to hear if you share this perspective?

Nov 11, 2012
anon56:

Also just a quick question regarding your example, as you are a useful datapoint as a victim of pirating. Do you regard all of those who downloaded the guide as equally wrong, or would you draw a distinction between those that would have purchased but instead found it for free (who I would consider to have stolen) vs. those that would never have purchased, but took a look because it was freely available. This is the issue I was trying to raise in my original post, as a dispassionate observer I feel there is a difference, but this may be purely my opinion, and it would be interesting to hear if you share this perspective?

anon56, why did they "take a look" if they were not going to derive any utility out of it? If they were going to derive some utility (and I'd argue, there is a lot of utility in our guides which is why they still sell pretty well), why should they not pay?

Your argument of "my financial situation" doesn't predispose you to stealing copyrighted material is equivalent to saying that it's ok to steal/pirate when you're poor. In this specific case, when we're talking about a $30 guide for Wall St interviews, do you think the majority of people downloading/pirating this guide are not in the position to pay for it (when most of them are paying thousands of $ in tuition every semester and spend that on 1 night out)?

My point is, it's easy to call it nuanced / complex - and I agree that there ARE positives to having more people view / download the guide...but copyright law was created for a reason. Shouldnt the decision of whether a publication is made freely available to everyone come from the author and not the potential customer? If we believe in property rights and copyright has any merit, shouldn't those be protected? It sounds like what you're saying is that copyright laws shoudl only apply when the person following them has the financial means to obey them...In other words, if in the eyes of the potential customer, they are financially strapped (enough?), they can go ahead and download that guide for free and those tracks for free because they couldn't afford them anyways.

I'm all for online education and disseminating information/entertainment for as cheaply and as widely as possible, however, I do think it shoudl be in the context of something like a Spotify, and not something like Pirate Bay. I think this is a fairytale with ebooks and movies / mp3s, so it's kind of a mute point except in this vacuum of an argument surrounding morality and "right or wrong".

Earlier you said "If you KNOW, that you would not have bought a film or book etc, because it simply doesn't appeal to you enough, then you know that the author has not suffered a loss because of your action" I think this is a big assumption. How do you KNOW that for an extended period of time you would have never bought it? What if a lot of your friends were buying it and saying how great it was?... then wouldn't you be more inclined to go ahead and dig deep to afford that $1 track or $30 guide?

Nov 11, 2012

I'm sure YouTube is chock full of copyright violations. It's like the streaming version of Pirate Bay. Limited to videos and music tho. But I don't think a single bro here doesn't go on Youtube and enjoy what it offers, even though there's plenty of people who rely on revenue from that media. Pretty unlikely that some bro will figure out how to stop piracy completely, whether that's Pirate Bay or Scribd or what have you. What you can do though is make the purchase convenient, affordable, and most importantly, incrementally beneficial versus the download. And for music specifically, that's just not there at this point. Digital is a double-edged sword. You can literally find almost any song on Youtube and use basic software to scoop out an mp3 from it if you wanted to. Also I'd happily pay for a concert from a group I like.

Nov 12, 2012

Thanks for the reply, it is much appreciated especially as you have first hand experience!

I was not saying that they were not going to derive utility from it, I was saying that they were never going to pay for it. I was just interested if you distinguished between the two groups or considered them to be equal. Thanks for letting me know, it is interesting as I would be of the view that among those that downloaded your material, there were different elements of criminality and harm caused. I guess I am trying to establish if you would prefer a system whereby the opportunity cost of those that would have purchased but instead pirated was removed, at the cost of those that wouldn't have purchased, but did view, being allowed to legally do so.

Yes that is exactly what I am saying, that there is a certain level of poverty whereby morally it becomes acceptable. Remember the important difference between pirating and traditional stealing is that stealing always produces realised losses whereby pirating tends to produce opportunity cost losses and some non-losses. In other words, pirating isn't zero sum. It is a similar argument in regards generic medicine, is it morally wrong for certain poor countries to produce their own generic versions of patented medicines? You may personally say it isn't, but it is hard to deny that a large segment of the population would say that it is, and I think a similar thing goes for pirating.

In terms of copyright, its sole function in society, in my opinion, is to ensure that companies are prepared to invest time and money in developing material for consumption in expectation of a return. In the case where it can be demonstrated that there is no financial loss inflicted, then the utility of copyright on a societal level ends and it no longer becomes objectively 'just' or of benefit to enforce it.

I agree with you that this distribution of content should be handled in the context of a legal framework, which protects small businesses that suffer the most (as I stated in my original post). However, at this current juncture, for a lot of content (especially for EM users) this simply doesn't exist and/or the prices are prohibitive. For individual users it is therefore a personal choice whereby for some their choice is between consuming pirated content and inflicting zero opportunity cost losses or not consuming, all I am saying is that in situations where this is the case, I don't think the former is objectively morally wrong.

In regards to your final point, it doesn't really seem relevant. So you are effectively saying that even if you think there is a 100% chance, then actually the chance could be 99.9%, the same argument could be made against the purchase of knives etc. how are you 100% sure you won't stab someone? What if you change your mind. Unless I have misunderstood you and you are saying that even in instances where people are 100% sure, they are actually just 80% certain and so the difference is statistically meaningful across 2200 users? Even so, for society more broadly it is a case of comparing utility, what advantages will the 2200 consumers derive vs. the producer who has made an opportunity cost loss of 0.01% of the pirated content? I am not saying which the answer is in this instance, just that it is contentious.

I think we are broadly agreed in that a better system for the distribution of media should be developed, our disagreement just seems to be over whether it is accurate to say that in the absence of such a system, all users of pirated material are morally wrong, or such a large percentage that it equates to effectively all. My suggestion would be that it is not accurate, but given your own personal loss, I can completely understand that you take an alternative view point.

Thanks again for taking the time to respond!

Nov 13, 2012

What is the difference between going over to a friends house to watch a DVD that he paid for and you didn't versus downloading that same movie online that an anonymous person paid for and put online for you to watch for free? Or even streaming sites like alluc.org?

What is the difference between someone buying a book, reading it and then giving it to a friend to read (for free) v. someone buying an ebook online and then passing it along for someone else to read for free?

I am interested in hearing someone really draw a distinction between these. No one really seems to care when you go driving down the street and find a book store with a table that says "free books"

Unfortunately there are too many grey areas, too many countries and too many conflicting laws for pirating to ever stop.

Nov 13, 2012
Nefarious-:

What is the difference between going over to a friends house to watch a DVD that he paid for and you didn't versus downloading that same movie online that an anonymous person paid for and put online for you to watch for free? Or even streaming sites like alluc.org?

What is the difference between someone buying a book, reading it and then giving it to a friend to read (for free) v. someone buying an ebook online and then passing it along for someone else to read for free?

I am interested in hearing someone really draw a distinction between these.

The difference is duplication. And with digital media, a song or video file could be duplicated millions of times over in seconds.

I'm not necessarily making a judgement either way, just makin' conversation really.

Nov 13, 2012
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