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Piracy and Its Split Personalities

James Williams writes: "It seems like no matter where I go, I hear people talking about piracy and its destructiveness. There seems to be a general consensus that piracy is harmful to the industry. It's easy to understand why people share this view, since on the surface, piracy seems to lead to lost revenues. However, I've looked into the problem at a deeper level and come to the conclusion that piracy is actually quite beneficial. How, you ask? Well, keep reading."


First, let's consider some arguments people have about piracy. They call it stealing, because you are taking something you didn't pay for. What I find ironic about this is that outside the field of software, music, and movies, copying a company's product is typically considered acceptable. If I sew my own clothes and grow my own food, nobody will accuse me of stealing from the fashion designers and the farmers. Yet the result is the same -- I'm creating something for myself instead of paying money to the people who normally provide it. "But you didn't write the software," I hear you exclaim. That's true, but I didn't design the clothes I wear, either. "But sewing your own clothes and growing your own food takes considerable time and expertise. Copying software is as easy as clicking a couple icons." Again, true, but the process of copying something is unimportant. Only the end result matters. Do you think if I copied a piece of software in a way which required considerable time and expertise, it would be acceptable? I didn't think so. "But the cost in software is in the development, not the materials it's distributed on." The same can be said for most things in life. You can't honestly tell me it costs $40 to produce a pair of jeans, or $20,000 to build a car. The design is the primary cost in these items as well.

The benefits

Now, allow me to move on to the most ironic part of all this. What most people fail to realize is that piracy actually earns companies more money. Imagine that there is a new computer game on the market. You will probably become aware of it in one of four ways:

  1. You walk into a computer store and see it on the shelf.
  2. You see an advertisement for it in a magazine, TV, etc.
  3. You read a review about the game.
  4. One of your friends who has the game tells you all about it, and maybe even lets you play it.

Take a look at the four choices. You've probably learned about products through each of these ways. Which one has the strongest impact on your desire to acquire the game? I bet it's number 4, isn't it? In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if you can remember a time when a friend showed you a game or other product, and you were so impressed, you ran out and bought yourself a copy. This kind of impression rarely comes from the other three choices. Of course, you probably didn't really run out and buy a copy of the program. Your friend made you a copy of his, right? But what if he was unable to at the time? What if you had to wait a week or more before he could get you a copy? If your friend sold you on the game as well as my friends often do on me, you wouldn't want to wait a week. So, you run out and buy a copy. Or maybe you're just really honest and bought yourself a copy because it was "the right thing to do". Either way, you end up paying for your copy.

Okay, so your friend has convinced you just how badly you want this game. But what if there were no piracy? Your friend wouldn't have had a copy to show you, since he pirated his copy from a friend, who in turn pirated a copy from someone else, and so on. Let's assume that 95% of the copies of this game are pirated. The game makers will scream bloody murder, saying they lost 95% of their potential profit to piracy. Of course, anyone who has thought about it for more than 2 nanoseconds will realize that of the 95% of the population that pirated the game, only a small number of them would have actually bought the game if they couldn't have gotten it illegally.

If there's one thing piracy is good at, it's at spreading popularity of a product to as many people as possible. Countless numbers of people will become aware of a product when otherwise they would have simply looked past it. Piracy is crucial to the success of virtually any product. If a product is of good quality, the piracy will increase. Once the product has been distributed widely enough, it's inevitable that people everywhere will be talking about it. All this talk, also known as "buzz", drives up the interest in the product from people who don't have their copies yet. These people can try to find a friend who has a copy to give them. But, as is often the case, these people won't be able to find anyone who can give them a copy, so they are forced to either buy the product or do without. Because of the buzz, the desirability of the product is increased, and people like these will be more likely to choose to buy it. Think about stuff you've bought. Aren't you more likely to buy something that everyone's talking about? Yep, me too. Let's consider the game I mentioned previously. Suppose the game was popular enough to spread 20 million copies through both sales and piracy. If the game was not pirated, only the people who saw the game in the store, ads, or reviews would have bought the game. Because there are fewer people with the game, there is not nearly as much buzz, leading most people to overlook it. In the end, the game sells 20,000 copies. Compare this to the original scenario, with 20 million copies. Even with the piracy, the game still sold a million copies. In my book, that's quite a difference.

Yes, I can hear you now. You're saying this is all speculation, and that there is no way to know how many copies would really be sold without piracy, and there is no way to perform a scientific study because there is no way to control piracy to get accurate results. I disagree, of course. Consider programs that come with some form of copy protection. They never seem to sell as well as those without. Most people attribute it to the inconvenience of the copy protection schemes. But if you have a game of truly excellent quality, you're likely to overlook the inconveniences to get to it. I tend to believe that the primary reason for the poor sales is that the copy protection actually works to some degree, limiting the number of copies floating around. Naturally, for every copy protection scheme invented, someone writes a crack program to get around it. But not everybody has access to these cracks. Because of the reduced amount of piracy of these programs, they generate less interest from the public than software that is widely pirated, and that, I believe, is the reason copy protection reduces sales.

The MP3 revolution

Let's take a step away from software piracy for a minute, and look at the piracy of music. The RIAA is screaming about people stealing music, and they like to quote Napster as being the reason for countless millions in lost revenue. If you think about it, Napster is little more than a means of distributing music to the people who like to listen to it, even though they haven't paid for that music. I can think of another medium which does the same thing, only on a scale many orders of magnitude larger. It's called radio. The radio stations broadcast music to hundreds of millions of people around the world who also have not paid to hear the music. Yet nobody has a problem with this. There seems to be a double standard in here somewhere. I know, I know; with the radio, you only hear songs that have been released, and you only hear them when the disc jockeys decide to play them. But the songs people want are generally the ones on the radio, and if people agreed to only play the songs they pirate a few times a day like the radio does, do you really think the RIAA would stop their complaining? And besides, nobody seems to have a problem if I record a song from the radio onto tape. What's that you say? The quality isn't as good that way? Does that mean low quality mp3s would be considered acceptable? No, I don't think so either.

Now, let's take this a step further. Imagine if broadcasting music on the radio was suddenly considered piracy. All of a sudden, the only music you would get to hear would be either music you buy at the store or something someone pirates to you. Would you buy an album if you'd never heard any of the songs on it? I wouldn't, and I don't know of anyone who would. Without the radio, music sales would dry up almost overnight. But, thanks to the radio (which might be considered the largest source of pirated music), we can hear the songs we like, and then head down to the local record store and buy them. The benefits of piracy kind of make sense when you look at them this way, don't they?

I happen to be in a position where I depend on mp3s to hear new music, simply because none of the radio stations around where I live play my type of music any more. There used to be three of them, but they have all changed format since then. I can honestly say that being able to hear my music through mp3s on the Internet has led me to buy more than one CD. That's money I would have spent elsewhere otherwise. And the result of all this is that everyone comes out happy in the end. I will admit, of course, that I don't buy the CDs for every song I download, just as I didn't buy CDs for every song I used to hear on the radio. But at least I buy something, and I firmly believe I'm not the only person on this planet doing this.

Statistics seem to back me up. The RIAA reported sharp profit increases in 1999 during their fiasco with the mp3 movement. When cassette tapes became available for the first time, the recording industry protested, saying they would lose money to people copying the music. The invention of the cassette tape actually gave their profits a boost. The story for VCRs and the movie industry reads about the same way. What we have now with mp3s is simply another format for recording music. The recording industry made a huge profit from tapes because they finally embraced the technology instead of fighting it. Even though they are already making incredible profits in the middle of their battles with mp3 music, they stand to make even larger profits by embracing it.

To recap: Piracy is good for business primarily because it spreads awareness of a product to the largest number of people possible. Companies who fight it often find that their efforts do more harm than good, and the more severely they strike out against the pirates, the more they find themselves adrift in bad PR. Oftentimes, a company's attempts to silence the voices it opposes only cause those voices to grow louder. As the media latches on to the struggle, people are forced to take sides on the issue. The end result is acceleration of the process and proliferation of the information the company wanted to keep quiet in the first place. Remember DeCSS? Do you think it would have become so widespread or as widely known if the MPAA had left it alone? I suspect that few people would even know what DeCSS is had that been the case. Even though DeCSS really isn't about piracy, the results are the same. We are seeing the same ripples in the mp3 arena, where it really is about piracy. So until the people in power come to understand the positive benefits of piracy, we can only expect to see the battles continue to rage on. Oh, and the next time you feel like retaliating against a company by mass pirating their stuff, just remember that you might end up helping them more than hurting them.


James Williams <> is a graduate student at the University of Kansas where he is finishing a Master's degree in computer science. Throughout his life, he has remained a computer enthusiast, learning various programming languages and operating systems along the way. He is also an active member of his local user's group, KULUA (Kansas Unix and Linux Users Association). In addition to computers, he also enjoys writing, drawing, bicycling, and music.

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RSS Recent comments

27 May 2000 08:48 sgunderson

Radio and piracy
Just a correction... Radio stations have to pay for every song the play, per listener, at least here in Norway. I see no reason why there shouldn't be a system like this in the US too, so I'd guess it is :-)

/* Steinar */

27 May 2000 08:53 vinceh

Radio Stations Pirating Music
Last time I checked, the radio stations actually DO pay licensing fees. They have to pay licensing fees for EVERY song played, I don't know about per listener basis, I assume it would be more of a "flat rate" but they do actually pay.

27 May 2000 09:35 logik

Piracy, and stuff...
I agree with his argument... I used to pirate games all the time on Windows(much more difficult on linux, being that there are few commercial games), and if I enjoyed it, I'd buy it, if I didn't, I would play it... I don't see the sense of me paying for a game I don't like and won't play...

In regards to MP3's, I'll often download mp3's of my favorite bands, either because the CD hasn't been released here yet(the last Cure CD was released in Japan a week before anywhere else), or never will... The other stuff I download I would never have bought in a store *anyway*, so no one's losing money off of it...

27 May 2000 10:14 ciryon

piracy nowadays
Just wanted to add that many games nowadays are really made for internet play and when you buy the game you receive a code or serialnumber that is unique for you. Games like that includes Half-Life and Soldier of Fortune. As far as I know it's impossible to play online without a the code since only one player at a time can use it. Of course the guy who bought the game in the first place isn't willing to spread his code to pirates.

I believe this will decrease piracing (at least with onlinegames) a lot in the future.

27 May 2000 10:32 briggers

Drawing a *very* long bow....
When people develop ingrained antisocial behaviors, they'll often devise convoluted pseudo-moralistic and practical explanations merely to ease their own mental insecurities. I tend to think that this is what a large section of the Linux community is doing in regard to napster / mp3 / music piracy.

MP3 downloading has become such a compulsive habit that addicts will trot out almost any cliched old arguments simply to justify themselves. This article regurgitates one of the classic arguments - that piracy is actually a Good Thing. One of the unfortunate facts of life is that given the choice, people probably won't cough up their cash for something they can get for free. With music and games, the case is even stronger, since there is no after-sales support to add value.

His argument boils down to 'piracy is free marketing!'. OK, so piracy creates some sort of 'buzz' - should games developers and record companies should just release everything for free and hope that someone somewhere along the line feels altruistic enough to make a quick donation? Just take a look at the sorry state of the Windoze shareware 'industry' to shoot down this line of reasoning.

I agree that the record industry needs to take the plunge and embrace MP3, but don't try and use that as an excuse for piracy in the meantime.

27 May 2000 10:43 marcpalmer

Radio revenues
Yes, as so many people have pointed out - you COMPLETELY missed the radio revenue, which affects your argument quite badly. I agree with you in some ways, but the radio analogy is a complete failure.

All media have to pay for what are called "performance rights". In the UK the PRS (Performing Rights Society) collect this, in the USA it's someone else (ASCAP? RIAA?). The way it's worked out is pretty odd, but depending on how many plays you get across the media, you can earn a LOT of money as an artist this way. Even restaurants are supposed to become PRS members if they play music to customers.

This is why they're pushing for protection, so you can "pay per play". I've spent a while thinking about this and while I don't like that approach, I can't see what else there is.

Take small music artists (with no major label or chart presence) for example. If they sell their CDs themselves via the web (or wherever) but somebody puts all their tracks on Napster, it is very unlikely that people will buy their CDs. They won't know where to go for them - as they will probably NOT be in the shops (which is the way the web is telling us to go) - so they'll just stick with the MP3s they "stole". So if this unknown band suddenly becomes popular among Napster users, they have no revenue stream at all.

So, I agree with you in terms of "no damage to large companies/entities" but it is certainly NOT the case with small companies or artists. Think about it... this stuff could actually kill off all the small guys just leaving the big fish who churn out crap with so much exposure that they still manage to make money despite the piracy.

27 May 2000 11:00 bogado

Shure radio pay for the music
Radios do pay for the music but that's not the point, you don't pay for it, you and thousands more. But as in the software, if you didn't had &quot;aquired&quot; the music for free you wouldn't had buyed the CD.

But there is a catch, the radio only plays the hit music, but the cds usualy have 6 more tracks that you probably don't know. But you have to pay for them. Napstrer and MP3 distribution via other means usualy is controlled in this way. So if you hear the other musics in the CD you can actually like them or maybe not.

What I am saying is that napster is taking a key power out of the recording companies, the power to choose witch music you should like.

27 May 2000 11:08 gweber

change &quot;games&quot; to &quot;MS Windows&quot;
Microsoft is what it is simply because of massive piracy of Windows all around the world (and DOS in earlier days). No need to use games as an example of piracy benefits. I now of many softwares which were heavily protected and are not around any more (and neither are their companies).

27 May 2000 11:11 linoleumblownapart

Wow... what a bad article...
I thought this was a really poorly reasoned essay, which overlooked a lot of really obvious issues.

First, let's take a look at the &quot;Myths.&quot; The author's point revolves around the idea that if you're not physically taking something from someone, you're not stealing. This is, of course, bull. The analogies to sewing your own clothes and growing your own food are bogus. In both cases, you are not depriving someone for compensation for the work they did, you are doing the work yourself. The comment about copy someone's design of clothes is also bogus. It is, in fact, illegal to copy someone's clothing products exactly, as Nike will inform you if you try to market shoes that are duplicates of theirs. The dodge that &quot;the programmer still has his product to sell&quot; is beside the point. You are benefitting from someone's work, and that person has gone uncompensated for the good they have done you. Sure, you're not phsyically stealing clothes or food from them. You're just depriving them of the ability of buying clothes and food. Huge difference, eh?

The author is also missing a huge point in the &quot;benefits&quot; section. First, among the options he overlooks is the rather obvious fact that most game companies put out demos that you can download or get with a computer magazine. There you actually get to play the game, try it out, see if you like it, and if you do, then you can go out and buy it. No need to rely on your friends pirated copy. I've played plenty of demos, enjoyed them fully, and never bought the game. The wonders of short attentions spans :)

Now, we come to the heart of the argument. &quot;Hey, if I wasn't going to buy the game anyhow, then my pirating it won't lead to lost sales, and therefore it's not (illegal/immoral).&quot; I'm not convinced by the argument. C'mon, if you really didn't have the ability to pirate a dozen games, don't you think you would have bought at least one or two? Ultimately, you're still being a leech off of someone else's work. You're enjoying the benefit of a lot of people's labor, and you're not contributing to supporting them in the least. It doesn't hurt anyone? Did you hear that Looking Glass Software just shut down? Did you pirate any of their stuff?

And, in the tangent of MP3's, others have pointed out that the radio analogy is bogus, since radio stations do pay royalties for the music they play. As do bars, resturaunts, and other places that publicly play music.
They compensate the artist for the good their work has done them. As with the argument about needing piracy to spread the word about new games, the author also ignores the legal channels the Internet provides to hear new music. There are many radio stations on the net, broadcasting both in RealAudio and streaming MP3s. Many bands also give out some of their music on their web sites, whether full songs or short snippets. The argument &quot;it's either radio or piracy&quot; doesn't hold water.

You can argue that MP3's, since they are not exactly what is on CD, will lead to higher music sales. I have heard from a number of people, though, that they buy less music now that they can snatch music via napster. Ultimately, it'll take years for things to settle down, and to see what the impact of the ease of pirating music will do.

The claim that piracy is ultimately a benefit is not substantiated. It's just a guess on the part of the author. The fact is that piracy exists, and has always existed to some extent as long as we have been selling intellectual property. The major issue now is that it is becoming easier and easier to create perfect copies of products. In the past, I did occasionally tape someone's LP or CD's (yes, I'm guilty!) Eventually, I would go out and buy the album becuase the tape wore out or degraded. In the digital age, this isn't an issue. If you have an MP3 of reasonable quality, it's going to remain that way for as long as you want it. You'll be able to make as many copies as you wish without degrading the sound quality. Buy a $200 CD-Rw and you can even make perfect duplicates of CDs. With this perfection, where's the reason to actually go out and buy the product? Sure, you might go to a concert or buy a T-shirt... but maybe you won't.

Ultimately, all of the arguments ring hollow for me, since the author does not address the central issue. Like it or not, we live in a capitalist society. Money is the way we support the works we like. If a musician or group of programmers cannot make money performing their craft, they will need to find other methods of supporting themselves. The Free/Open Software movements have shown that this is possible to do. As have bands like the Grateful Dead and Phish, which have openly encouraged the taping and distribution of their concerts.

However, it is the right of the person doing the work to make the decision about how their work should be used and distributed. To take that right away from the is immoral. To hide behind the fact that nothing is physically taken from them is beside the point. If you want to change the way music or software is distributed, then vote with your wallet. Patronize those who encourage the dissementaion of the product through open channels. Use open software. Buy music, tickets, and t-shirts from bands that release their music over the Internet. Reject the Microsofts and Metallicas of the world. But do it in a way that's fair.

I think it's ironic that the author was complaining about no radio stations playing the type of music he listens to. Do you think pirating music is going to change that in the least? Nope. It's going to make it worse.

I'm worried that piracy will become associated with Open Source. I know that from every corner of this community we'd hear a deafening battlecry if some software company decided to break the GPL and marketed the fruits of Open Source under their own propriatary license. Why, then, does it seem the community is casual about doing the reverse? If you do not respect the copyrights of others, why should they respect yours?

27 May 2000 11:20 akawaka

Not stealing?
How can anyone possibly say that piracy doesn't damage the industry because the people who pirate software weren't going to buy it anyway? Oh my word, this is stupid. So I can walk into a shop, pick up some things and leave without paying? Because I wasn't going to buy them if I had to pay for them? Please! There was not one ounce of unflawed reasoning in that editorial.

27 May 2000 11:32 rajak

Lets play a game of You say, I say.
I believe you are attacking a strawman in this editorial, proposing artificially weak objections so as to make your own argument look more impressive. Lets give some real objections, shall we?
You say: 'I am creating something for myself by growing my own food, sewing my own clothes, or copying a game'
I say : You are not creating your own product with the computer game that you just stole, you are copying it exactly. This is not creation of a new good. In the clothing analogy, this would result in an exact duplicate of those CK jeans you copied from. This is of course not what happens, you may copy the general form and design from the jeans, but no matter how good you are, your jeans are not the same. Bad analogy. A better analogy for the software part would be copying a game's design|format|idea, but still creating your own game. Thus how Unreal copied the general idea off of Quake and its predecessors. This is a standard legal practice, see a good idea, copy it. Much better fit with the sewing &amp;&amp; food thoughts
You say: '#4 is the strongest motivation to buy games'
I say : You underestimate hype. I know of many, many people dying to buy Diablo II, and could give a flying leap what other people say about it.
You say: 'I went and bought the game because my friend could not provide a copy at that time'
I say : And you know as more and more people get CDRs the percentage of time when they will be unable to provide a copy at that time lessens, which increases the proportion of momos using pirated copies as opposed to legal copies that the company recieved payment for. This will put them out of business and you will not get good games anymore.
You say: 'If there was no piracy my friend wouldn't have had a copy to show me and I would never have been so impressed to go out and buy the game'
I say : You didn't even want to go buy the game, you wanted to get another copy, he just couldn't get it to you. And I'm sorry none of your friends buy games, normal people do buy games and would still spread the word on how good the game was. Maybe not as many people, but certainly the 'my friend said it rocked' factor would still exist. And it would still propagate, and as more and more people bought the game this factor would increase, just like with piracy, except the company is still making money this way, and still will be making games for us in a year.
You say: 'Piracy is crucial to the success of virtually any product'
I say : Bah. Unsupported, silly claim. I'll knock this one down with a counter-example. Ultima Online, has copy protection firmly built into it that can't be touched AND charges a monthly fee for usage. Sold like hotcakes.
You say: 'Copy protection leads to poor sales'
I say : Didn't you read my last 'I say'? UO clearly knocks this down, as does StarCraft, with strong copy protection built into the online play (again requiring a unique ID).
You say: 'For every copy protection there is a crack'
I say : No, not really. Not all copy protections are accessible to the crackers (UO|Starcraft(online)), and then sometimes even what is available is of higher quality than any cracker has the skill or time for.
You say: 'Napster is like radio'
I say : Radio is licensed, napster is not. Radio has advertisements at the start and end of the songs, napster certainly doesn't. More on this in the next couple.
You say: 'Broadcasting music on the radio illegal'
I say : Thats a silly proposal, radio is licensed, why would it be illegal. I'll just skip that paragraph due to the silly factor.
You say: 'No one would buy an album they had never heard songs off of before'
I say : Believe it or not, there are people who have groups/singers/rappers/whatever that they like enough to buy the latest album automatically, because they know they will like it.
You say: 'I depend on MP3s to hear new music because my local radio stations don't play my type of music'
I say : Bah. Ever heard of radio stations that stream over the Internet? Use the legal, not the illegal. The true reason you want the MP3 over the radio (internet OR local) is so you can play it over and over and share it to all your friends, not to hear the new music.
You say: 'Statistics back me up'
I say : Uhm, there is no proof that the increase of record sales has anything to do with MP3s. Don't make unjustified conclusions.
To recap: I think your editorial was not very well reasoned, and attacked a strawman. I also think I deserve a T-shirt for all the writing I just did :)
Sorry about the poor formatting, lynx is not being agreeable today.

27 May 2000 11:54 jschaefer

radio station payment system
I'm working for a local radio station and want to mention something about the payment system. I'm from germany where we have to pay to the "GEMA" but probably the systems all work the same in every country:
As mentioned before, radio stations have to pay for the songs they play. I'm aware of two possible ways to do so:

you pay some annual / monthly fee. It is calculated by the number of hours you're sending music and independent if you're playing music from independant artists that aren't members of the GEMA, or "commercial" music. You could even play the same song all the time.
The money you pay to the GEMA is spread to all their members artists, so they all get almost nothing.
you can have a protocol of the music you played, the "playlist". This has to be very accurate because now the money is given to the artists you actually played. Creating this playlist is very difficult and not possible at my radio station because you even have to list the minutes playtime of every song you played.
So if you are playing music from small, unknown artists and have a playlist, he get's money. If you don't have a playlist he almost gets nothing.
The point in the whole MP3 discussion is the following, I think: If people don't have the chance to listen to music before they buy them, they rather won't buy them at all. That's why most record stores started to offer CD-Players to their customers. Customers are very "shy" with buying music they don't know...probably because they have to pay a lot of money for it. I remember the times almost ten years ago when CDs only costed about two thirds the price they do today. I often bought a CD from a band I didn't know just to see what kind of music they play. I don't do that anymore today. So if you sum it up, the companies are loosing money now, because I buy less CDs not because I'm pirating them from somewhere.The next point that isn't mentioned is that to get mp3s you have to have a good internet connection, a fast computer and a soundcard with good speakers. Not to forget that you have to spend some time on finding the songs you like to listen to...And once you have the mp3s, you always have to have your computer running to listen to music. "normal" people won't do that. "geeks" do it. How many geeks are out there and how many "normal" people? And who is the main customer of record companies? ...

27 May 2000 12:01 iainpatterson

Poorly reasoned essay? I don't think so.
Saying that this article was poorly reasoned is, I feel, a little harsh. Naive perhaps, but that must make me naive too, because I agree with much of what was said.
Yes, I heard Looking Glass went under and I was sad to hear that. Yes, I played a pirated version of one of their games: Thief. And when Thief 2 was released I had the opportunity to get a pirated version of that as well. However, I decided I'd rather pay for it because I knew I'd be buying a quality game.

I play pirated games and if I like them I'll buy them (unless I finish the game before I get a chance to get to a games store :) I realise why people say that the argument James was making doesn't apply and that all piracy is pure evil. I've even seen a non-English speaker, who didn't have the vocabulary to say that the version of Red Hat he'd acquired had been downloaded and burned on to a CD, have all his questions ignored in the #linux channel as soon as he said &quot;The Red Hat CD I've got is a pirate.&quot; In fact, I've seen someone kicked from #linux simply for also being in #warez. But despite what the people who say and do these things may think, James's argument that people will play pirated games and then buy them DOES apply. To me and to people I know. If we're in the minority, ainsi soit-il.

27 May 2000 12:02 fygar

Copying Software is a &quot;Good Thing&quot;
Glad to see someone sharing the same view.

In response to a quote I saw on a newsgroup some years ago (&quot;Let's not pirate the Amiga out of existence like we did the C-64&quot;) I wrote a paper called &quot;Happy Hardware&quot; which was all about the C-64 phenomenon of the eighties ... how a humble computer platform stayed viable long after its obsolesence.

The thesis was simple: a person is only happy with their hardware (computer, CDplayer, etc) when they have an abundance of software to use with it, and a person has a limit of how much they are willing to spend for software. If a person was to buy every bit of software for their C-64 they would have spent hundreds of dollars for very few titles .. and not have been very happy. As it turned out, most people still spent hundreds of dollars for a few titles, but being supplemented by hundreds of other titles, they were able to be happy with their hardware platform.

The ironic twist is this: the more software people have access to, the longer the hardware will remain and the more people will BUY SOFTWARE. It's an ironic twist that corporations will never see. You have to be in the trenches. You have to be an &quot;Id Software.&quot;

Simply &quot;copying&quot; something hardly makes a person a &quot;pirate.&quot; Copying music, software, etc from friends also keeps a person creatively interested in the subject material making it more likely that they will spend money on related items in the future ... to a much greater extent than teasers, demos, and evaluations. In fact, teasers, demos, and &quot;time limited&quot; evaluations irritate me and insult my personal sense of trust. I shy away from teasers and am less likely to by than if they'd just put the whole CD up for evaluation.

27 May 2000 12:06 kibble

They are full it
Did you ever stop to think of all the stink they are making of this napster mp3 thing? Does this not spread awarness of Metallica? I personally never listened to much of them myself, but after seeing all the fuss and bother over it I downloaded a few from napster and ending up buy a cd or two that I otherwise wouldn't have. I think they know that all the points in this editorial are valid, this is just away for them to get free adversising

27 May 2000 12:28 fygar

RE: Not stealing?
akawaka - May 27th 2000, 11:20 EST
> industry because the people who pirate software weren't
> going to buy it anyway? Oh my word, this is stupid. So I can
> walk into a shop, pick up some things and leave without
> paying? Because I wasn't going to buy them if I had to pay for
> them? >

This analogy always irks me because it misses a critical difference between intellectual "property" (media) and physical property (something made of atoms).

Just because I took a picture of an oil painting, blew it up and now have a wonderfully framed print of that painting without paying the artist for it isn't hardly the same as walking off with the painting. Yet I still enjoy the painting in every way I would if I had the original (except one: the satisfaction of "owning" something made of atoms).

It is a true fact that if I copy some media that I would not have bought anyway, the industry is not hurt. No artist got less royalties and no evil corporation got less munee.

So perhaps it *is* unethical and even illegal by some people's standards because a person is getting enjoyment from something that they got for free, but let's not compare it to stealing atoms. It's not the same. Not in any way.

Oh hey, and BTW, the Free Software movement with it's many channels of revenue is most definitely a topic in support of the argument above. Though there are many differences (mostly "tradition" only) music and other media that can now be digitally copied can benefit from the same openness. Those who stand to gain from openness: real artists. Song writers and performers who have substantial quality. Who stands to lose? The music industry and the "stars" *invented* by them (ie, the whole hyped up, "top 40", Billboard, Teen sensation, nonsense).


27 May 2000 12:34 engdegard

Pirate, and do the community a disservice

Piracy is one of the major obstacles for the general acceptance of
free software. After all, why use a free word processor when you
can get MS Word for "free"? And by doing so, you (or your company)
reinforces the grasp that Word has on the market because of
network effects, since you want to exchange document with
others (who, in turn, will need to buy^H^H^Hsteal MS Word...).

It is only when you strictly obey the licensing terms of commersial
software that their cost becomes visible. In the place you work,
insist that the company pay for each copy of Windows, Word,
and every little shareware utility you use, and you will start hearing
grumbles from the department paying the bills.

And nobody with the slightest insight in the massive amount of
dedicated overtime work that game developers put in a modern
game (only to see people pirate it - thank you very much, we'll
have to make it more expensive to cover the costs next time)
will argue in favour of game piracy.

Do complain about buggy, unoriginal overpriced junk games, but
remember that they are being forced to market quickly because
piracy dramatically shortens the time a game can be sold profitably.
After a couple of months, games are being dumped in bargain bins
for the price of a blank CD-R, because - guess what - that is what
they are competing with.

27 May 2000 12:58 broco

Difficult to support
It's hard to support a position that piracy actually
benefits the industry (as in, the developers who are trying
to sell software). Yes, you can come up with many convulted
theories but personally, in the absence of proof, I
tend towards the common sense explanation: people will
tend to buy software more if it is impossible for them to
get it for free. There are a few examples to support this
view, also: UO, like someone else mentioned, and console
games. Piracy of console games is comparatively rare (to
my knowledge) yet they sell much better than PC games.

Also, all companies selling proprietary software are flat
out against software piracy. I don't think there would
be such a consensus among the parties with the most
interest in the matter if any piracy was beneficial for

I think a better tack you could have taken is: do the
software developers deserve to be paid at all, just because you are using a copy of the software they wrote? RMS takes
the position that no, they don't, therefore don't hesitate
to make "unauthorized copies" of their software. And it's
an argument that holds together very well if you have his
value system (personally, I don't). If you feel a need
to morally justify your piracy, I suggest you read some
of his essays on free software instead :).

27 May 2000 13:02 chevy16

Piracy and its split personalities
Just wanted to add and clarify a couple of points: as to music licenses in the US, the licensing agencies are ASCAP and BMI. Radio stations pay blanket license fees to both of these organizations and are given blanket licenses to play anything that are licensed by the two (that means everything that's available in the US). These agencies also enter into license agreements with TV, movies, performing arts organizations, and any other organization or individual who plays music in a public performance. And if you don't pay, they are quite nasty. They don't hesitate to file lawsuits.

Now, this article and the comments that are being made remind me of the arguments that were being made 15 or so years ago on Compuserve's PC Forum. Back then there was very little freeware or shareware available for the PC -- most of it that was available was utility software and while nice it didn't help people do spreadsheets, word processing, presentation graphics, etc. Lotus, Microsoft and WordPerfect were all whining about lost revenue, but really the only way that one could try the software was to make a copy and run it. The software companies engaged in elaborate copy protection schemes, the principal effect of which was to create a market for copy protection-breaking software. In the end these companies pretty much abandoned their efforts, realizing that most people who DID engage in this "piracy" eventually bought the software so they could get the documentation. Those that did not do so had no access to upgrades, no acess to documentation and no access to technical support, all important back then.

Now people don't have to resort to "piracy" to try out software. The company that doesn't provide some kind of a demo -- usually through multiple channels -- stands out as unusual. In other words, the software companies learned to live with the problem and, really, turn some of its social characteristics to their advantage.

It seems to me that the recording and motion picture industries would do well to emulate the software industry. Instead of maintaining a two-front (legislation and law suits), direct assault on "piracy," these companies ought to embrace the distribution technology and figure out a way of providing time-limited demos of their wares. If, say, Metalica, were to join Napster and release such demos, my guess is that the "black market" for unauthorized copies of its music would contract significantly.

27 May 2000 14:03 jwz

&quot;piracy&quot; is propaganda
You're not talking about "piracy." "Piracy" is when you forcibly board a ship, and rape, murder, and rob the crew, not necessarily in that order. What you're talking about is "copyright infringement." It's just a leeeetle bit less severe.

(But if we can save just one child, won't it all have been worth it?)

27 May 2000 14:21 joesolbrig

Piracy And All That
The point of the article is at least partly on the mark.
Piracy has helped many industries. Look at phone companies. Sure "phone freaking" deprives these network providers of their rightful profits according their pricing model. But it also points the way towards flat-rate network access modelling. And the biggest MARKETTING difference between phone and the internet is that the internet is flat-rate at the consumer end.

So basically, the more flat-rate access models you have for information, the more production you can generate in the entire system. The internet is where it because it provides a huge welath of free information. A few digital shopping malls are not it.

But on to the other issue, "is it stealing," "Is it WRONG-WRONG-WRONG?" Sure it is. yes. It's breaking someone's rules and taking someone's stuff. For all you moralists, yes it is wrong.

And I'd like to submit something else for the moralists to consider. Yeh, digital pirates are indeed taking some piece of the digital entrepreneur's god-given property. But opposite movement these days is much stronger. More and more of the "intellectual commons" - the "realm of ideas" is being taken and made into intellectual property. From music to genetic property to patenting smells and further on, the realm of stuff that could be called held in common is shrinking fast. Is this a seperate issue? No siree. You can't wriggle out of this.

Basically, digital realm creates a world where the contrast between freedom and control is much sharper. Anything that gives you control over information can also the power to copy and "pirate" that information. But just as much, digital technology gives the controller more and total control over their domain. This divide indeed tends to result in either total free distribution of information or a total control of information.
- There was a recent article about academic journals stiffening their liscensing feees to the point those reading them would in effect "pay per page turn." Now the moralists would certainly say things like - "sad" "human nature" "inevitable" and that's sort of right. It seems either we'll extreme freedom or extreme control and repression (since they go together). My vote is towards extreme freedom.
Look at the

And what does this have to do with piracy helping industries? Well, it's true that if an industries can establish an access point then the flat rate will get them even more profits as the entire industry expands. But there are two or three problems that industries can see here.
- You need to be able to establish this - if you can't extract any money, you'll find yourself in a pickle.
- The industry has to be able to grow, there's no benefit in fixed economy to just having a flat rate for access. And while some people might believe that the internet information explosion will go on forever, most do not (I'm not saying what will happen, only what people believe).
- And once you have a non-growing economy with flat rate access, every provide will want to switch back to a charge-by-page system so that you can extract exactly what each consumer is willing to pay. Sort-of like the bandito - you ask "how much to get accross that bridge? he says "how much have you got?" This "pricing model" is already here for health care. It seems likely to appear for information commodities at some point as well.

- And there you are. The "digital divide" ultimately is not going to be about access but about control. Think about it.

27 May 2000 14:53 chetang

Piracy is good in the same sense that evil is good.
The argument of the article sounds plausible and logical. Piracy is good as long as it happens to other people's software.

&quot;Evil&quot; also helps propagate the value of &quot;good&quot; in some sense. Otherwise people wouldn't realize that &quot;good&quot; is &quot;valuable&quot;.

If everyone in the world only used pirated software, sure the software would be &quot;popular&quot;, but would there be any more incentive for better software after that? Maybe not.

People pay money for things that they believe will provide them more benefits than their price. e.g. your employer thinks you will generate more revenue out of your work that what you are paid. You know why you are with your employer, so I won't tell you what you think.
This works in a similar way for say, a $20000 car which you will buy if you think it worth, otherwise you won't.

Economy works on people's illusion that what they exploit from other people is worth more than what other people exploit from them. Advertising adds to the illusion of worth of an object. (Image is Everything (unfortunately))

27 May 2000 15:05 imbatman

RE: Pirate, and do the community a disservice
&gt;&gt; In the place you work, insist that the company pay for
&gt;&gt; each copy of Windows, Word, and every little shareware
&gt;&gt; utility you use, and you will start hearing grumbles
&gt;&gt; from the department paying the bills.

What company do YOU work for? I've worked for dozens of IS departments, and have NEVER seen a company that didn't pay for their software. Sure, an unlicensed copy of an app may have made it's way from someone's home to their work computer, but it was quashed as soon as it was found.

Let's face it, the author of the origional article is merely an example of the &quot;I'm entitled to everything without work or cost&quot; generation that's spreading it's wings all over this country. He doesn't want to pay for software, and it's his RIGHT in this country to be a thief if he so chooses. Unfortunately for him, the law is not on his side, and if he gets caught he'll pay the consequences for that choice.

But, he's not the problem the software industry is worried about. They're worried about companies like the one the fellow in the above comment works for that doesn't pay for software. His company has hundreds of unlicensed copies of Word and Windows, and is making money off of this. I see it as no different than an automotive &quot;chop-shop&quot;. They steal the product, then use it to make money.

They're also worried about companies who burn their own copies of software, repackage them and sell it as an origional. This is akin to the fellow who claimed he wasn't stealing when he took a picture of the painting, and blew it up. If he sold it, he should be imprisioned.

No companies are breaking down the doors of a high school kid who copied his friends Quake CD. While individual piracy probably amounts to the highest amount of theft, it's not worth a company's time to go after each individual thief.

Make all the arguments you want for piracy. However, if a product has a cost, and you aquire the product without paying the cost, you are stealing that product. No &quot;ifs&quot;, no &quot;ands&quot;, no &quot;buts&quot;. You're a thief, no matter how you try to justify it.

27 May 2000 15:19 dvitanza

This story is so dumb
This is the dumbest thing i have read it makes no point and it seems like it was written by a 15 year old who has never purchased software. You can't compare making clothes and growing fruit to stealing software. You could compare the two if you sat by your lonesome and wrote each line of code from your own head not ever looking at their code.. and if you came up with the same product then you are welcome to have it. What would you think if you spent all this time growing this "fruit" and someone came in your garden and took it.. that would piss you off.. .. i still can't get over how stupid and narrow minded and retarted that post was. I am suprised that i found that on this site.

27 May 2000 16:21 iserlohn

Ingrained Behavior
I don't understand why some people are so much ingrained into intellectual property rights. IP laws such as copyright allows the author to extend a *reasonable* amount of control to published works, providing them with an incentive, and avioding such real theft such as *plagarism*.

Copyright is not a god given right. It is not comparible to the right to live or the right to pursue substantial happiness. Most copyright violations are not theft. Please check the definition of theft and stealing before you come to conclusions. Copyright violations that truely deprive the original author of monetary or other gain can be termed theft, but the term piracy is totally inappropriate and mostly propoganda by the BSA.

What I find most annoying is that both sides try to rationize their arguements with falacies. People try to apply their own &quot;morals&quot; on what's right and what's wrong that they lost the objective view on what copyright really is.

Copyright is a law, governing the publication of information. It grants the author limited rights, and grants the user/reader/consumer a set of right ans reasponsibilities. That's all. It's not about the &quot;ownership of information&quot;. It's about the rights of who produced the information and who uses it.

It is really silly getting into a loaded philiosophical debate on what's morally correct or not. When you publish information, you lose control over it. If you want to &quot;own&quot; information, you don't publish it. In order to encourage publishing of information, copyright was concieved for the author to preserve *some* control over the work.

Now after a few hundred years it is so ingrained in our society that it is a god given right? Do we need to burn people who violated copyright at the state? I hope not.

If copyright as it stands now does not promote what is was supposed to do, don't you think it's time adapting it to this era? If they is no feasible way to coerce into preventing copyright violations, maybe it's time to propose a new system that promotes progress.

It's much better than watching this mudslinging-fest here on freshmeat. That stuff should be left on slashdot. :)

27 May 2000 16:51 bryanhenderson

Sewing and gardening analogy doesn't fit
This essay is riddled with bad assumptions, and makes too
many points to rebut at once, but the first point it makes
is flawed for a rather simple reason.

The first point in the essay is that copying software isn't
wrong in the same way that sewing your own clothes and
growing your own food isn't. It points out that they both
deprive a seller of revenue. But there are TWO components
of software copying that makes most people dislike it: 1)
the deprivation of revenue, and 2) freeloading off the very
person you're depriving.

So to make an accurate food-growing analogy, you'd have to
grow the food on an unused corner of the farmer's land. I
think most people would say this is wrong of you, and the
farmer could indeed legally stop you from doing it.

27 May 2000 17:03 bryanhenderson

Why RIAA worries about Napster and not recording off radio
The essay makes the point that nobody cares about recording
songs off the radio, so why should they care about
downloading via Napster, which is the same thing?

The author later demonstrates that he is aware that the RIAA
cared a whole lot about recording off the radio when
cassettes were new. The reason was exactly the same as the
reasons it fears Napster today.

Why did the concern fade? Because as it turned out, hardly
anybody actually copied off the radio. If no one uses
Napster, todays objections will fade as well.

But why didn't people record onto cassettes? The common
wisdom has been that it was because you could get much better quality by buying the record. This isn't true of

I don't actually believe the quality argument anymore. I
believe people don't record off the radio because it's too
much of a hassle. Downloading via Napster is far easier.
But I actually believe that at current music prices, even
downloading bootleg MP3 is too much hassle for most music lovers, and if they choose to download, would just go to the
copyright owner's site and pay for it and get it there.
As long as the RIAA can keep things like Napster that make
it easy to find the illegal copies out of the way, I think
MP3 will be another empty threat like cassettes.

Computer programs are a horse of a different color, just
because of the price. I know a guy who went to a great deal
of trouble to save the $500 purchase price of Adobe

27 May 2000 17:09 bryanhenderson

You can copy clothing designs
By the way, I just have to correct someone's earlier
comment that said you can't copy a clothing design, such
as a Nike shoe.

In the US, you can copy clothing designs down to the last
detail, and there is a burgeoning business in it. K-Mart
buys $500 dresses in Paris and knocks them off for $40.

The only thing you can't do is put the original designer's
label or logo on it, in which case it's called
counterfeiting. That's what Nike is contending with.

This doesn't figure into the software copyright issue, because
it's generally accepted that the information content of a
dress is minimal (a dress is cloth and, in the case of the
Paris original, image). In software, the information
content is everything.

27 May 2000 18:17 williamj

Okay, let me begin by making a couple observations. When I wrote this article, I knew it was going to be controversial, and I knew it would be difficult to convince most people of an idea which they have been brought up to believe the opposite of. It would be like telling people that exercise is bad for you. I also knew that, like any controversial statement, that those most opposed to it would make the most noise. This is much like when freshmeat changed its layout. Poor Jeff got swamped with emails from people saying they hated the new look, and he nearly shut the site down as a result. It wasn't until the rest of us stepped up and let him know that most of us were happy with the change that he brought the site back. I'd also like to point out that, with the exception of a few MP3s and some classic arcade ROMs (pac-man, joust, pole position, etc), I don't really pirate anything. And with my MP3s, about 90% of them are ones I made for myself from CDs I've bought. I also don't distribute my collection to others. In other words, I didn't write the article to try to justify my actions, since I'm not into hardcore pirating.

Now, with that out of the way, I want to try to make a few points regarding what some people have said. First of all, thanks to everyone who pointed out that radio stations have to pay for every song they play. I didn't know that. However, as one reader pointed out, the listeners haven't paid for it, and they are benefiting from it as well as the radio station. I guess you could think of it as a present from your local station. But if they've already paid for the music, then why do I have to pay for it again if I go buy it? Apparently, the radio stations only pay to broadcast music, not to let their listeners own it. But what do you do when you hear a song on the radio? You listen to it. What do you do when you buy a single at the local music store? You listen to it. Of course, when you buy the song, you get to listen to it whenever you want and however many times you want. But I'm starting to see a new development in TV, known as &quot;on demand viewing,&quot; where you can watch a program any time you want instead of just when it is aired. I would be surprised if something similar wasn't in the pipelines for radio as well. And if this were to become a reality, the excuse about getting to listen to your music at any time becomes a moot point. Oh, sure, you might have to listen to a few commercials mixed in with the music, but that would be an acceptable tradeoff.

To Christian Hedin: You make a good point about online games. I hadn't thought about that as a form of copy protection. Are you referring to games like Ultima Online, where you have to connect to a server provided, or games like Q3 where anyone can setup a server? Sorry, I've never played Half-Life or Soldier of Fortune online (living in the Linux world cuts off my exposure to most new games, unfortunately). In the case where the company provides the server, I believe they also charge monthly fees for the service. In that case, you're paying for the service (and they should probably just give the game away for free). Of course, they don't want to overload their servers with too many people online, so they benefit from not having the game too widespread.

To Brian Blackwell: I can't speak for everyone else, but I don't consider my downloading MP3s a compulsive habit or an addiction. Looking back over that last six months, I don't think I've downloaded more than 15-20 songs (less than 1 per week). I agree that there are people who go overboard, but are they in the majority? Also, about your comment on shareware: with most shareware, the only way to get it is to download it off the internet. With commercial software, you can usually go buy it in a store. There's something more appealing about buying software in a store, especially when some of these products amount to multiple gigabyte downloads. It's all about the convenience factor. And, buying the product in the store means you get a manual and a professional looking CD (assuming it comes on CD, which most software does these days). And with shareware, when you pay, you get no added benefit (unless it's crippleware, in which case it's just a demo of the product, and that's a different story).

To Marc: About your comment on small bands. Small, local bands who don't have a label and don't get airtime on the radio will have a difficult time selling CDs. This is why so many small time bands agree to perform concerts for free, especially when they get to open up for a larger band. For these types of bands, they will do anything to get their music out in the public where people can hear them. That's about the only way they can gain recognition. If it means letting people take their music for free, so be it. If they should become popular, people will want to buy their music. But most people will only buy music they see at their local record store, and this is where the record companies can help. They can help to get the CDs in stores where more people will buy them. If a band becomes popular and doesn't have a label, I'm sure the record companies would be falling over themselves to make a deal.

To Linoleum Blownapart: Suppose I was an expert in building cars, and my neighbor just bought a brand new car. With his permission, I go out to his car in the parking lot every day for the next week, making measurements and recording every detail that makes his car what it is. I then go out and purchase the parts and build an exact replica. My cars looks and drives just like my neighbor's, and I built the thing strictly for myself. Is that illegal? Do you think the authorities are going to take the time to arrest me for doing it? You make the point about cloning something, then marketing it. I never said anything about marketing it (pirates might make copies for a few friends, but they don't market it, they don't sell it, and they don't make money off it). Now don't get me wrong, I don't think piracy is 100% a good thing, since it hardly seems fair that honest people have to shell out money for their stuff while pirates get the same thing for free. It's like rewarding the dishonest people. But the point I tried to make in the article is that sometimes good things come out of what is normally seen as a unethical practice. About the companies putting out demos of their software: yes, it allows one to try out a piece of software before they buy it. But nobody has time to try them all (especially when you have to download 50-100MB). Which ones will you try? Simple, the ones that generate the most attention. You're not likely to spend all day downloading a product you've never even heard of and know virtually nothing about. About the &quot;but I wouldn't have bought it anyway&quot; argument; first of all, I never said that in my article. What I said was kind of the other way around. Companies like to make the assumption that everyone who pirated their stuff would have bought it. It makes for a more powerful argument on their side when they try to explain how much piracy has hurt their business. As far as leeching off other's work, watching TV is kind of the same thing, unless you go out and buy stuff from all the advertisers. Do you? You could probably say the same thing about playing game demos and not buying the full game. You're getting enjoyment out of someone else's hard work without paying for it. Yes, it's legal, but it's the same sort of thing. About not buying things because of pirating: Everyone I know who pirates software also buys software. There's just something addictive about going out and shopping. Lots of people do it, including pirates. I'm sure there are some people who have never payed for a piece of software in their lives, yet own mountains of it, but that doesn't fit anyone I know. Maybe your circle of friends are different. I don't know. About legal channels of obtaining music: There's an online station at that plays exactly the music I like. However, they've switched to Window's media format, so I can no longer listen to it. I also can't listen to realaudio format since my player expired last year and won't run, and I can't seem to find the Linux version on their site anywhere (actually, I've never had much luck finding stuff on their site, so it may very well be out there). I hear RedHat made a deal with them, so hopefully this will be changing soon. Also, until wireless internet becomes more prevalent, I can't listen to streaming audio in my car, though I can listen to MP3s recorded onto tape. About tapes wearing out after extended use: yes, tapes eventually wear out, but by the time they do, you're likely to be bored with the song anyway. And if you're not, just make another copy from the original (if it's still available). Even if MP3s wore out, that would not make copying them acceptable.

To rajak: Argument #!: In all three cases, I am copying an idea from someone else, and that idea is the intellectual property (although for growing food, nobody actually owns the IP, the DNA structure or whatever you want to call it). If I wrote a game that was looked and acted just like an existing product, and was completely compatible with in every important way (in other words, it could be used as a drop in replacement for the original), and I started distributing it as a freeware replacement for the original, you don't think the company would have issues with that? Argument #2: Yep, hype is a powerful motivator, but not every company has the marketing prowess or cash flow to generate such large hype. Also, if every company was able to hype their products to an equal amount, no company would have the advantage, and it would be as if there was no hype at all. Argument #3: As more people get CDRs, more people will be able to copy games, but this only works if your friend actually has the game. As games grow larger, the hassle of copying becomes larger (when a game has 10 CDs, and it takes 20 minutes each to copy, you need really good friends). Plus, as the need for storage space increases, software makers will move to higher capacity media, like DVDROMs, which few people can copy these days. Argument #4: Yes, there would still be people who said the game rocked, but since not as many people would have the game, there would fewer people saying that, making the number of people who hear it smaller as well. In the end, the game's popularity would be significantly reduced. Remember, how successful a game is depends greatly on how quickly it is adopted, because before long, it will be yesterday's news while everyone is hyped up on some new game. Argument #5-7: Ultima Online sold well. You got me there (though personally, I'd love to see actual figures compared to other popular games). But this goes back to what you said earlier: hype made people want the game. It would seem hype and piracy have similar effects. Argument #8: I only said Napster is like radio in the sense that people can use it to hear music. Radio has ads, but those ads benefit the radio station, not the musicians. Argument #9: I never said broadcasting music on the radio is illegal, nor did I say it ever will be. All I did was make a hypothetical situation to illustrate my point that without the ability to hear music, people wouldn't be interested in buying it. Nothing more. Argument #10: You may know people who buy music based on nothing more than name recognition, but most people aren't like that. Also, what about new bands who don't have the name recognition? How can they get popular without air time? Argument #11: I've already talked about streaming music, so I'll let you scroll back to the last paragraph to read it (PS, if you can point me to a good modern rock station on the internet I can listen to, please do. If they broadcast in readaudio, point me to where I can download realplayer for Linux. Seriously). Argument #12: No theory can ever be proven 100%; just ask any scientist. But the evidence I have regarding casette tapes and MP3s seems to say they are helping. It's not conclusive evidence, I'll agree. If you can point to evidence to the contrary, please do.

To Mattias Engdeg&aring;rd: If you raise the price of a product to offset the effects of piracy, you only stand to have your product pirated more. This comes as a result of people not wanting to pay the higher prices. So you have to look for a point where things balance out to give you the most money. Ie, lowering prices may actually make you more money. This reminds me of something someone told me years ago about taxes. If the government wants more money, they need to lower taxes. The idea was that lower taxes would make it easier for small businesses to stay afloat, and more businesses results in more tax revenue. It actually made sense to me in a weird kind of way.

To Alexandre Elias: Unfortunately, there is no hard proof out there (that I know of, anyway) to completely prove or disprove what I have said. The reason why companies have a common goal of fighting piracy is not necessarily because piracy is bad; it's because there's a common belief that it is. The same can be said for free software. For the longest time, no serious cooperation would take free software seriously, because there was a common view that free software was of low quality. Afterall, if it was any good, the author would be making money from it, right? Linux and the open source movement are helping to change that. Today, companies actually take Linux seriously, even though it is free. It takes time, but people's opinions can change if the argument is right.

To I.M. Batman: Actually, despite what may seem obvious, I'm not really much of a pirate. As I said at the top of this comment, my piracy is limited to a few MP3s and arcade ROMs. Since I run Linux, most of my needs can be met through free software. I own three commercial Linux products: WordPerfect 8, VMWare 2, and Motif 2.1. I've paid for all three of these (though I don't use Motif anymore, thanks to Lesstif).

To The Dave Man: You missed the point. If I sew my own clothes, I will be copying the design. It's kind of like if someone gave me a hex dump of a program, and I copied the entire thing by hand. I'm still copying someone else's work. Just because it's more difficult doesn't mean it's not copying. So why should one form of copying be allowed and not another when they result in the same finished product?

Well, my brain's getting tired, and my fingers are telling me they don't want to type anymore, so I'm going to wrap this up with one last thought: We can argue about piracy; the good parts, the bad parts, how it's helping industry, how it's hurting industry, why it's fair, why it's not fair, etc. But no matter how much we argue, it will still exist, like it or not. What we say here will likely have little effect on piracy as a whole. And with that, I think I'm going to take a break now. Thanks for reading this far and I hope you all have a good day.

27 May 2000 19:03 lordblaa

piracy (duh ;)
Firstly i want to say that whether i'm on Linux or Windoze (yes i know, but come on we have to give old Billy Goats a little help or he'll be down to his last billion in no time ;), i make a point of only d'loading games that are freeware, and only buying games that *DON'T* make demos, because i think it is actually cruel of the company to make me so desperate for thier games. Like if a drug dealer gave out free &quot;samples&quot; before charging. Why is it that is cruel and mean and in drugs yet it is accepted normal behaviour in games? Addiction i hear you say? I'm sure at some point you've all had that game you've played solid for a week, or that CD you've listened to over and over... What difference is there, really?

On that note, i have to say that i like and respect and buy the products of companies that let me copy their stuff infinitly more than stingy mean companies that don't. I remember, i got Civ2 off on of my friends, no kind of copy-protection system at all, and it let me edit all the files and stuff... I love their company now, and i will buy any game they make (yes BUY) just because i like them. Is it coincidence that Civ2 is one of the most popular, most imitated, most sequelled, most talked about, most played games out there AND the least copy protected? Don't think so...

The other thing is the fact there is nothing inherently musical about MP3s, they are just strings of little 1s and 0s which, when processed properly, *can* reproduce the same kind of music as a certain band or whatever. Banning MP3s would be like banning sheep because you could use them to make wool too make Nike imitations. Admittedly it's easier to make noise from mp3s for the average bloke than it is to make Nike imitationis from sheep, but nevertheless...

About the radio 'n' stuff, it *is* the same with MP3s... the first person has to pay for them, but after that it is free. The Radio Company pays ALOT of money, and gets ALOT of listeners, and Your Mate Dave Who Copied His CDs For You payed a small amount of money for the CD in the first place got a small amount of listeners. I bet Dave payed more money per listener than the Radio company...

To end neatly... Would the world really be that bad if everyone pirated everything all the time? I suspect companies would end up charging 100's of &pound;s/$s for their product (like bands to radios) and expect people to copy them. Anyway, in the meantime i say ^&pound;$% (yes, i can say that ;) them all, i'll copy your damn games 'till my CD-RW drive melts...

27 May 2000 19:09 gtyler

piracy ...
Hi, my name is g.Tyler. After reading Mr Covey's voice regarding piracy and these wonderful user comments it really stimulated some thought on my behalf and somewhat got me a bit fuming and thinking to a new extent. I have never really had the interest nor wanted to write a much regarding a topic being discussed on freshmeat.. or online in general.. as I tend to think i dont have enough time to really smell the tulips or sit on the beach for that extra 10 minutes.. but the discussion here just needed this.

First, to effectively communicate anything, the listener must first understand where the communication is coming from. I am sitting here on a little business/pleasure trip in deuchland, just returning from a great dinner having some tasty rabbit. I had read this editorial earlier before we left, downloaded it and logged off as the Deutsche Telekom charges you on a per minute basis and there are no free local calls... A traveled over here with a couple filled cd's filled with mp3s etc.. and currently am listed to the green day kerplunk album which kinda fits the mood for my comments. I am a 20 year old geek, been linuxing since 0.99 (dont know which letter it was).. used to run a renegade bbs and be mocked by the pcboard/wwiv'ers.... and a college drop out / internet entrepreneur, enjoy bandwidth at my waking hours.. blah blah. now that you understand me, you can understand my points.

Thank you Mr Covery for opening this line of discussion!

Mr Covey's essay, i can say for the most part picked up a couple important points, that indeed piracy is GOOD, indeed we have a problem on our hands, that it increases &quot;BRAND AWARENESS&quot; or furthers peoples knowledge of a product or content avail. on the net. Without piracy many individuals would not know about a specific product or have invested the time to learn a program which now plays an important role in their profession. I can also say that Mr Covey's essay for the most part, was presented in a bit goofy manner because he made such uneducated sweeping generalizations in specific with regards to the radio licensing, and an increase in sales after the intro. of mp3. By all means, if you are going to make your essay, or whatever u wish to call it ride on some type of data like such, SITE YOUR SOURCE, please.... and obv. if you dont have a source.. DONT USE IT, it look silly! i will try my best not to focus in on any one specific author but some of them just made me hop.. like that rabbit i consumed an hour before... (*note next time u are in deuchland, have rabbit.. domestic AND wild, but watch out for the shot they used to tackle it) ..

I am not an everyday freshmeater, but i do visit maybe a dozen times per month seeking a quick download of my needed GPL warez for my business and pleasure. Yes auto-cd ripping tools avail for instant download that dont crash are handy! .. of course for legal use.. blah blah... when i saw this article i had simple logged on to do a search and download of the rsync utility to do some server mirroring for our new cluster setup, and BAJOING, this great topic was in front of me so i had to load up that page and log off my 10 pennics (about .05 cents) per min. net connection and read. I have done a fair amount of thinking about the topic prior and my good friend Ben a ucsd undergrad has discussed in length with a few professors. what can we do to stop this copying madness? can we stop it? do we want to? dont we all just want free software, music, and VCDS ??

Of course the main issue here is that we must protect the authors so that they continue to product quality warez. Everyone wants something for nothing, but then again if you use it and make it part of your daily like, for some duration, any one with a little cricket on their shoulder (coincidence), would feel a little &quot;bad&quot; about ripping off the hard coders and producers of the product. But what is the alternative, pay several hundred dollars or spend $11 for a CD or pay emusic their $1 per track to give back to the author. Personally i would rather buy expensive credit card processing software for my business, or upgrade the ram in my servers.. and i am sure that most geeks share the same view. maybe the non geeks would rather just keep it in their bank account.. etc.. but the point is that people in general are CHEAP! I am cheap, but willing to spend when it is necessary or I feel obligated, or feel it is &quot;the right thing todo&quot; .. SO am i saying that the solution to all our copyright issues is to base a new system of content distribution on the honor system? that is plain nutz .. oke .. yes, that is what i am saying, to some extent.

To start off here.. i personally hate M$ and i am sure that many other readers do, and use alternatives like linux as a result. i do my best to make my life as anti-m$ as possible, but at this moment it is impossible to rid yourself of m$ completely. i can say that my personal business does not operate using 1 line of m$ code (to the best of my knowledge) but our designer partners, and the web in general still rely on it. as photoshop, fireworks, dreamweaver, flash, and illustrator. i use nutscrape or mozilla as much as i can, but sorry to say it.. at the moment they suck. are unstable, and just do not render or perform like the &quot;legendary&quot; IE. i end up viewing our site, and sites we develop under ie on other machines (of course not our company machines) to see how they handle as over 65% of the users out there are using some derivative of MSIE.. and it would be just plain stupid to be a development/production house that doesnt have sites tested on ie. as anti-m$ as we are. so where am i going with this anti-m$ issue.. i am relating it back to a great point that another user had.. one specific reason for M$'s great success.. i am not saying that M$ succeeded because of software piracy but i am saying that because windows and office, specifically word were such widely distributed, they became THE STANDARD! notice this, of all companies of course M$ could invest whatever amount of $$$ to create some type of anti-copying system that made it very hard to pirate their software.. but no.. for the most part, any ms product simply requires just a &quot;KEY-CODE&quot; .. which any dork can find in a matter of 2 minutes on the net..hmm lets see (disclaimer: this is for educational purposes only) 1. 2. search, &quot;cd-key windows 98&quot; .. or something to that extent. it doesnt take a brainstorm to manage to get a copy of windows or office either by downloading, or by getting a copied cdr with the cdkey written on the cd itself. That was a great point by the other author, MS LOVES PIRACY! of course i have no source or way to back that up except for my above conclusions, but just humor me.

Oke.. so my personal company uses no M$ but the design co's we work with of course run some extent of winblows.. why.. cause photoshop, dreamweaver, fireworks, illustrator, flash, blah blah.. dont happen to work very swell under vmware (yes of course they work) .. or linux .... now to my next point, i really do not know.. but an assumption would be that these designers most likely did not pay for win98 or 2k, nor photoshop, or the above software titles.. which if purchased online would prob be worth over $2500, at least.. maybe i am wrong, but u get the idea. unless you just have the cash to spend on software licensing, my conclusion is that the majority .. or at least a great portion of users would rather buy a nice new SB Live!, new cd burner and a 60GB UDMA drive.. u figure it out. so what is the solution. what do we do here. how do we stop this craziness and make it so that people respect others work.. RESPECT!

When Napster came out i chuckled quite a bit and have enjoyed saturating my @home connection for many hours grabbing some new drum and bass, other electronic music, some alternative, maybe britney spears.. (no just kidding) .. and just cruising through finding other new music. Of course napster was the hottest thing on college campuses since ethernet and alcohol ….. i have to say that most rock and alternative u find on napster is stuff u have heard of before.. u venture into the electronic area of music and it is a different world. of course what is downloaded is not legal, but there is no way in gods whatever that i am going to find some funky new mix from Amsterdam or scratch session from thailand on my local Santa Barbara station or KROQ. btw. la for the most part, sucks for electronic music on the radio.. maybe some other places are better blah blah.. but u just cant find it.. and the record stores.. sure u can find some stuff. but indeed it is limited. u gotta go mp3.. bottom line. I loved my napster.

When GNUTella's little sphiele surfaced, at first i started thinking how i could capitalize and integrate into my company's plan blah blah.. then this somewhat overwhelming laugh came into me.. kinda like a MUHUHUHHAHAHAH.. the RIAA and MPAA are history.. cya later.. try and stop this gramps. go back to your lawsuit against napster. of course we were all waiting for the opensource, distributed, and non-stoppable (for the most part) version of Napster.. and here it is.. and surprise surprise.. you can sure more than just MP3s .. HAHA. O wow.. i do a search for &quot;Photoshop 5.5&quot; .. and i get 1000 links to live high-speed downloads of our favorite image editor. cmon, this is too easy.. no more hopping around #warez's channels or looking at stupid banner supported slow web site type solutions to find your needed software product. of course i never did something like this, just saw others do it... just like every geek... and anything anyone ever may have downloaded was surely &quot;DELETED WITHIN 24 HOURS&quot; and used &quot;ONLY FOR EVALUATION PURPOSES&quot; as every little &quot;courier's note&quot; reads.. this is funny i have to say.

And yes indeed, the software makers and actual artists are LOSING OUT BIG. so we think or we have been trained to think.. or is it more the bug yuppie yuppies sitting in their big pretty offices are losing the millions.. you figure it out.. i think the little partnership between time-warner and aol.. and the pulling of napster was not to &quot;PROTECT THE COPYRIGHTS OF THE OWNERS OF THEIR WORK&quot; .. but more to keep more millions in the pockets of those big old people sitting in leather chairs in Los Angeles. i honestly do not think they care a bit.. well maybe a little.. but hell.. not really... i do not recall where i read or heard, but there are quite a few artists that encourage the illegal distribution of their work as it creates more fans, more listeners, and users of their product...... sounds kinda like M$ .. it makes you BIG!

You want everyone to know about you, and use your software or listen to your music. of course as any &quot;CREATOR&quot; does. but of course you want some degree of compensation for your efforts, not just a high five and a couple more fans.. or do you? do you think that the creators and artists themselves actually want more fans and people to like their music or do they simply want more money... i would assume an actual creator wants to spread his talent and creation... and the dudes in the leather chairs that made them their first couple million, want the rest of the 10s of millions.. or something like that.. where i am going with this point is that once things in this crazy e-conomy get a bit more figured out.. the artists and programmers are going to sell or rather &quot;lease&quot; their product directly to the consumer. you are thinking, well it is those people sitting in those leather chairs that MAKE IT HAPPEN.. it isnt the programmers that have the vision etc.. that is true for the most part.. but now looking at where we are, we have already set the path and the standards, now it is time for the CREATORS TO CREATE AND RELEASE THEIR PRODUCT DIRECT, kinda sounds like.. hmmm maybe &quot;open source&quot; .. or the GPL? .. oke so GPL IS THE FUTURE ? or something like that.. maybe.. but take the GIMP for example.. i have used it a couple times and tried to build a site.. sure you can do it.. maybe if you are a really slick and &quot;know what is down&quot; you can put out a slick looking site like slashdot or freshmeat, but get real.. the 99% out there is going to go with something industry standard like Photoshop, or macromedia's little box of tools.... so what are we supposed to rewrite photoshop and flash and fireworks/dreamweaver... and soon IE so that we have a competent browser.. no, that is not that realistic either.. at least that is what we are attempting to do with open source.. or gimp.. of course it is a direct replacement for photoshop.. but does it look feel and function the same as photoshop.. hell no..

so what do we do ? .. well to make any quality product it takes.. hmm lets think, good coders, good organization, the vision.. and a couple other ingredients to go into the soup.. and what might that be to get tons of people to work on and create a quality product.. MONEY!!! so that these people involved can pay their bills and go to hawaii when they feel like it as they could working for some firm that would pay them 6 figures. so what do we do? how could this work? people need more than just credits, and they need MONEY! .. everyone does.. blah blah... oke. so we could organize some keep PHP/MySQL/CCVS donation and project management system to pay the people involved and send them to hawaii.. hmm that doesnt sound to real..... hell lets look at 2 very specific examples, how could we make GIMP a Photoshop replicate.. and make Linux and its window managers an equivalent and replacement for Windows... or at least get this silly bugs out of Mozilla and make it something &quot;more solid&quot; like IE.. that actually renders pages like that dratted anti-trust bearing &quot;integrated&quot; web browser you readers despise.. but gotta live with .. and say u dont use.. but know deep down it is a better browser.

oke.. so we have this new giant .ORG style donation, means to start paying people to work on open source.. kinda like COREL tried to do.. cept that was all corporate and mucky muck and a stunt to save their stock and try to get in with the new generation. good gawd, speaking of which.. i was at comdex last year and watched the unveiling of the new &quot;Corel Linux OS&quot; where users could now &quot;Breathe freely&quot; .. that was pretty cute... ack. i kinda wanted to throw up.. but i did try their free ISO from their site.. and it worked.. oke... i am not a big deb fan as i have just kinda grown up with RedHat.. and the fact that corel linux did not include any utility.. made it a joke as i personally did want to spend several hours to get it up to date with all the needed tools etc.. common.. u gotta put ole pico in every distro or you suck.. some people just never will learn vi.... i swear... (note personal distro of choice is mandrake, although their booth at linux biz expo sucked hardcore and was major budget, i did get a chance to talk to some vp blah blah.. that happens to be 'based' in the greater los angeles area.. whoopee..)

oke so back to the solution....... for those copyright holders that do not wish to release their product as &quot;open content&quot; it indeed will be some extent of a pay-per-play solution.

like i said my business does not use 1 line of m$ code, but on occasion when i want to work on a personal project i do like to use my dreamweaver and fireworks.. no i DID (not) caugh up the licensing fees of how ever many hundred dollars they are.. i did NOT DO what any dork would do... (** for education purposes only) to download a trial.. and find a 'crack' that would be immoral... so .. what would a dork do ? personally i would not mind paying a dynamic software license leasing fee on a monthly basis for the software that i use.. based on how much i use it.. for example if i happened to use photoshop and those other macromedia tools on a daily basis.. i would not mind paying a handsome royalty which may, over a couple months add up to the normal licensing fees of the product.. but should i just dabble in it 2 times per month.. pay maybe $15 or so to have legal access to use these products..

** If you are creep and would never pay for software.. stop reading.. i dont like you.. as you have to jimminy cricket on your shoulder and will most likely goto a bad place when u pass this dimension (die) **

Basically a honesty-based system with monthly fees based on the product you use, paid directly to the creators.. for example.. you use all the design products on a daily basis for your job.. about $2500 worth of software. maybe you pay $100 or $200 per month for rights to use that software.. of course that is nominal and you have any design skill as your income would easily afford that as a designer.. now maybe as for the occasional user.. $5-15 per month for the above user.. (2-3 times use per month) ... something like that .. you catch my drift.. now on to music.. YES MP3s.. what is the solution here.. what if you paid some type of fee.. that was really up to you. ... which you know went directly into the artists pocket as opposed to those big label mucky mucks sitting in their leather chairs in los angeles. this is a little unrealistic, but you for sure see the idea here... lets say you want to have about 10 cds at your immediate disposal.. if you bought licensing to them. that would be about 150.. but of course as humans our short attention span will want another 10 different cds next month, and maybe listed to those old tracks only 1 time.. .. so maybe we pay about $40 per month for a specific number of albums or rather &quot;tracks&quot; ... a total service type solution.. i am sure this is kinda cloudy.. and it is in my head also.. but we have been working on a type of shout/icecast/emusic/direct download music network for inde artists.. kinda like u see out there.. where u pay by artist.. .. what i totally missed and will bring up with my partners.. is the duration issue.. and making it more recurring etc... all that i am writing will go into this project.. thanks Mr. Covey for stimulating this thought :&gt;

** oke quick note about the honesty system...
we have a serious problem in the states, and of course there will be a fair amount of people that choose not to pay .. no matter what.. they are cheap and will have some serpent bite them in the butt soon as a result.. the honesty system does work.. at least for the educated and respectable.. universities somewhat manage to implement something like this. and in deuchland, a fine electronic store called conrade electronics.. did not open the box to the 56k modem or 64MB pc100 we returned earlier today.. i know that every store in LA and prob the most of the US checks every component of a return that all the pieces enclosed.. and serial numbers match up.. why does everyone steal so much? why is everyone so friggin insecure? get real! of course the reason here is that the penalty of cheating on some type of test in a university would result in you probably being kicked out.. and in deuchland, you probably would lose your hand or go to jail for 20 years for returning fake components.. or something to this extent.. but people are generally just better people. cmon america.. what is wrong with you? why must you be so evil trying to get ahead and cheat your neighbor? this then ventures into the realm of how we have such lax penalties etc.. in the states.. and why everyone gets away with bloody murder.. but i really cant go off on that or i would be off topic..

oke.. so i am sure this indeed got some thinking going on how some of these ideas could work.. but the main point here is to support the artists and creators themselves.. directly.. removing the middlemen .. and furthering the efficiency of the production of IP. .. and instead of paying a one time monthly license fee.. some type of monthly fee for the content and IP that you use.. i know i would be very fond of some type of solution like this.. and much more inclined to SPEND SPEND SPEND! as that is the idea here isnt it?

stop the free use/piracy.. and get the pennies in the creators' pockets.

unfortunately i dont have a good conclusion or solid last thought here.. as i really need to go back to helping some customers, phping, and installing rsync and dialin to the deutsche telekom and spend some more pennics.. and waste a little time icqing and aiming..

cheers! also.. fire away those comments and slame me!

-g.Tyler koblasa

* of course all of the above is strictly fictional and i would of course never broken the law to steal someone else's IP **

** no hamsters from were harmed in the writing of this

*** anyone that passes judgement because of typos or mispuncations is just plain stupid.

**** btw the telephone/internet here in deuchland is a joke and just waiting for some US companies to jump in and kick some ass.. blah blah......

***** nextel worldwide and the i2000 kick some serious ass.. text messaging even works.. :&gt;

****** i apologize in advance to any onestop customer that may be reading this as they would rather i was sending my time fixing their problems

******* i hope i get a tshirt; i didnt have the 15 bucks to buy one when i was at your booth @comdex

27 May 2000 19:41 gtyler

oke.. i apologize for the ignorance.. i meant mr williams where i wrote mr covey.. duh... deuchland is getting to me...

27 May 2000 22:13 trims

Thing people miss about &quot;Piracy&quot;... (Economics 101)

First off, just a quick definition from the American Heritage College Dictionary:

piracy noun 2. The unauthorized use or reproduction of copyrighted or patented material.

While that's nice and neat, I'd like to add a few thoughts about the nature of piracy, and what we're all arguing about these days.

If everyone can remember back to their Economics 101, there was this nice little Price (y-axis) vs. Demand (x-axis) chart, with a curve drawn on it. In virtually all known instances, this is a decreasing curve, with demand increasing as price decreases. For any given point on the curve, you have a certain demand (that is, amount sellable) at that given price. The profit a seller makes is defined by the product of the price and demand (Assume price P and demand D, profit is P x D. ). This is a slight exaggeration, but useful for our purposes...

In the real world, this is what piracy is: for a given commodity (and believe me, music is a commodity), there is a "natural" demand. That is, if the price were allowed to fluctuate (given that it has certain minimums, associated with the cost to produces and distribute the product), there is a certain point where the profit is maximized; that is PxD is maximal. Thus, everything should sell at this maximal price - the largest amount of consumers are happy, and the seller makes the most money. In general, this means that everyone who really wants the product can buy it at what appears to be a fair price (this is an overgeneralization, but I'll gloss over it right now...)

Piracy occurs when the seller artificially sets the prices higher than the "natural" price would be. Since demand for the product exceeds the perceived "fair price" (which is what would be charged at the natural point), a certain subset of the people will pirate the product. For arguments sake, let us assume that the number of people that will pirate the music is equal to the number that would buy it at the natural price, minus the number that actually bought it at the artificial price.

There are two fallicies hidden in this nice little problem. First, assume the following: Artifical price A, natural price P, aritifical demand D, natural demand N. By definition, the maximal profit a seller can make is N x P. Instead, they make A x D, which by definition is less than N x P. However, seller claims that they lose money to piracy, and claim that lost profits are equal to A x (N - D). This is completely false, since in order to get demand N, they have to charge P. In any case, they are making less money now than if they charged the proper pricing for their product, based on the determination of N. The difficulties lie in determining what N really will be (thus, to set the price P), and also making the organizational changes that are required to produce and distribute N (which may be very different than the org and dist needs to distribute D). To be completely honest, the seller really can claim to lose P x (N - D) in profits to piracy.

In the Real World, piracy is difficult due to the physical nature of goods, and the difficulties and expenses related to producing, shipping, et al. the pirated goods. Thus, there are very few places where pirated (usually called counterfeit) goods are successful. However, in the digital world, distribution and production costs are virtually nil at the per-copy level, which is what is important for piracy determination. Thus, if the seller does not chose the proper natural price to sell his wares at, the level of piracy skyrockets due to the ease of it; additionally, piracy may eat as his normal customers - the social stigma of piracy is weakened by the rampant piracy by "Natural" customers, and thus a normal customer may pirate. Therefore, in the digital world, improper pricing may eventually erode the profits that you would normally make at a given price point.

Ok, that was the economics behind piracy. Here are some legal/ethical arguments:

By definition, piracy is illegal. We as a society have decided that in order to encourage ideas and inventions, we should invest physical property rights to ideas and inventions. I heartily agree with this philosophy: ideas and inventions should be protected. The extent to which ideas and inventions are protectable, and the period in which they are provided protection are completely separate issues (indeed, I would argue that both WHAT and HOW LONG are severely broken in our current system, but that argument has no bearing on this current one; despite other's wishes to blur the two together, they deserve individual treatment).

Thus, we shall make the following statement: irrespective of the determination of HOW LONG or WHAT is afforded Intellectual Property protection, once something is protected, the following laws and ethics kick in:

Piracy (by the above definition) is illegal.
Piracy is unethical, since it entails the use or acquirement of a products that you are not entitled to.
Piracy is unethical, since you deprive the producer of income (no matter how small, and no matter who the producer is) without the producer's consent. By virtually all known codes of ethics, taking or using something that the law declares owned by someone else without their permission is unethical (instances of critical need excepted, which don't apply here).
Allowing (either by lack of legal enforcement, or by social consensus) widespread piracy is ultimately bad for the society, as it discourages the future production of products, since the producers cannot count on a method of compensation for their works.
Widespread localized piracy is a sure indication of an improperly priced product. Thus, short-term, localized piracy can lead to several beneficial things:

Indications of price-fixing, monopolistic behavior, and/or cartelization. The authorities should immediately investigate to determine if this monopoly is legal and/or justified.
Indications to the seller of what the natural demand really is for their product, so they can re-price their products and increase their profits.
Lack of available options to consumers; thus, it can point out areas where competitors may have an effective market.
A poor understanding of the market dynamics and characteristics by the business community. Hopefully, once businesses understand better how that particular market wishes to operate, they will adjust accordingly and be able to maximize their profits.

Encouraging piracy of non-life-essentials on the basis of the behavior of the seller is unethical, even if the seller is behaving unethically. Piracy as part of an organized boycott/movement against the seller is questionable (it might be useful tool, but then again, its probably not a good one); as practiced by virtually all the members of the digital generation, it's an individual act of theivery.
There is no real difference between digital piracy and normal piracy. The differences lie in the economic costs to produce such an item, which are really immaterial to the overall societal harm piracy causes. Making MP3s from a friend's CD is conceptually (and ethically) no different than photocopying a friend's book, or selling fake Levis.

There might be some good things that come out of the massive MP3 and other digital piracy that is rampant these days. In fact, I sincerely hope so. However, that's all speculation. Especially since in the main, digital piracy isn't aimed at anything more than the "get-something-for-nothing" attitude. Scrub it up all you want, but anyone telling me that they are the digital equivalent of a Civil Rights marcher (or even a letter-writting campain organizer) is being totally self-serving, self-aggrandizing, and ultimately, self-deluding. We can justify the little lapses we make as not really important, but they're still unethical, no matter what rationizations we try.


(who admits to lapses of ethics on an ongoing basis)

27 May 2000 22:17 darke

A few innacuraries
One of the ther posters in this forum mentioned that the
Napster tool was almost a blight on the linux community. As
far as I knew, Napster ran on both linux and windows. It was
not a particularily Linux orientated product.

Its important not to confuse open source arguments
(free beer || free speech) with information freedom. And even
then, information freedom has nothing to do with monetry value
its all to do with accessability.

27 May 2000 22:48 raindog2

If I could copy a $20,000 car by pushing a button
...I sure would. And it would be absolutely the right thing to do, industry be damned. Same for a hamburger or a pair of jeans... or a CD. If you developed a machine to copy a sack of rice at insignificant cost, you would get a Nobel prize... and then get shot by some African despot who saw you taking away his control of his people. Or maybe Uncle Ben would sic a pack of lawyers on your ass. Doesn't matter, you'd still be right.

The mere existence of an outmoded system that makes it impractical to do something, and the fact that one has been able to make a profit off of that old system by exploiting its impracticality, doesn't automatically infer that one should be able to continue to profit when that system is replaced by a more efficient one. That's a type of protectionism, and it's wrong. What we are talking about is not theft - we're talking one plus one, not one minus one, do the math kids - and it's not piracy - no one is walking the plank except the rights of consumers - it's a mere breach of an implied contract, marketed to the point of legislation as a real crime by an industry with far too much money (um, and Lars,) who sees its imminent obsolescence (um, and fading popularity,) and is scared shitless. That's all. Hey, I'd pay off a bunch of lawmakers to outlaw my replacement if I saw it coming too.

I don't agree with the essay on its merits - it smacks of apologism and rationalization, and there's no reason for either - but since I use and write free software and the bands I'm buying are obscure enough that you won't find them on napster or gnutella (go ahead, search for "cardiacs"...) it's all academic for me anyway. I don't give a hoot whether expressing these opinions helps or hurts the free software community, because I think in a couple of years this whole discussion will seem quaint.

Ironically enough, the banner ad at the top of the article when I loaded it was a ThinkGeek ad for a portable MP3 jukebox. How's that for product placement?

27 May 2000 22:53 circuit53

When I think of "piracy" or "stealing" copyrighted works I think of people making illegal CDs or tapes and selling them for cash, or reprinting thousands of copies of novels or software and selling these copies for cash. If such people were going to PIRATE a recording they'd make it from a store-bought CD and not from a MP3.

Now what's happening on the net is that people are listening to music that has been compressed into MP3 format and listening to it *without paying for it*. In this sense, listening to a downloaded MP3 of a copyrighted work is much more akin to going to a friend's party where, as an example, some 25 people are standing around a keg of beer and listening to a CD on a stereo system. The more parties you go to, the greater are the chances that you are also listening again and again to the same recordings -- without paying for it. The listener doesn't pay to hear radio broadcasts in the United States, though other countries do charge a fee for buying receivers to pay for public broadcasting systems in some instances.

The important thing, though, is the debate is about wealth and not about morals, nor about legalities, nor about the rights of artists. Consider how petty the moral sense is that would have the band Metalica come to the gnawing realization that thousands of people are using their internet connections to listen to music without paying for it. The Law, as we know it, is simply a way for those with a lot of wealth to impose their will on those who have less wealth, though this may simply be the narrow perception of one who lives in a country where the government's primary function is to facilitate business interests, despite the trapping and outward symbols of democratic process. Finally, as far as artistry is concerned, there is the question of whether the recording industry as helped or hurt the overall ability of muscians to earn a decent living while creating a world with more musical creativity, choices, and freedom for musicians.

So we now live in a world where citizens, consumers, fans are considered "pirates" because our pockets can't be picked as we try out new music. I, for one, find that there isn't a lot of musica out there that really moves me anymore. That's why Gnapster seemed a good way to broaden my interests. Unfortunately, the music industry and, for that matter, big business generally, forgets all the ways that the rest of us have created a social context that they have benefited greatly from. For instance, public money funded the military-educational-industrial complex out of which sprang the internet. Some people think Microsoft or AOL created it. Public money also funded the space race (remember that) which led to miniturization of electronic components, thus making personal computers possible -- and providing the new technologies that have changed the face of the music industry as well.

What would be nice is for the internet to facilitate a renewed interest in music that comes from the people -- like before Edison invented the phonograph -- where those outside of the recording industry, in some cases talented amateurs, can pick up instruments, school themselves in music theory, and create a worldwide resurgence of varied, interesting, heartfelt, and original and honest musical expression that we can all enjoy.

28 May 2000 01:00 broco

I'd just like to congratulate you for having
the courage to post an article on such a controversial
topic, especially since a large part of the audience is
a bunch of programmers that feel very strongly about it :).
It's important to contest generally held ideas like that,
and I think it was a good article despite all the people
who flamed you (and even though, as I said, I don't agree).
I, for one, wouldn't have had the guts to put up such a thing.
Oh, and thanks for responding personally to each of our
comments. That reply was even longer than the article
itself, ne? :)

28 May 2000 10:40 bknotts

Radio stations and licensing fees
It is definitely the case that radio stations in the U.S. pay fees to ASCAP and BMI. As others have pointed out, this is because radio play is a "public performance."

But there's another side of this; to fully appreciate the sheer evil of these organization, you must be aware of the kinds of things they do.

It is either ASCAP or BMI who have put an end to the practice of singing "Happy Birthday" in many restaurants, as that is considered a "public performance." They go around to small businesses where employees like to listen to the radio, and threaten them to either pay up or turn off the radio. They also made legal threats against the Girl Scouts, for singing certain songs at campfires and other get togethers.

I will never have any sympathy for people like that; if anything, they should be paying the radio stations to play their music.

28 May 2000 11:45 jeffcovey


No, I am not scoop; at the time of the site redesign, my only relationship with freshmeat was as a fan.
No, I am not James Williams.


28 May 2000 13:22 nix

You do not understand what drives free software
`Linoleum Blownapart' writes:
: Like it or not, we live in a capitalist society.
: Money is the way we support the works we like.
: If a musician or group of programmers cannot make money
: performing their craft, they will need to find other
: methods of supporting themselves. The Free/Open
: Software movements have shown that this is possible to do.

If you think that free software authors only write free
software because they `cannot make money performing their
craft', you are operating under a severe misapprehension.

Most free software authors are *very* good, and the
product of their labours shows this; most of it is far
better than most of what is produced in the proprietary

Whether it be moral issues or joy-in-creation that drives
a given author is that author's concern, but I would be
willing to bet that very, very few are `forced' to free
software because they are too incompetent for the
proprietary world. (Indeed, the opposite is more likely.)

28 May 2000 14:50 raindog2

Someone said up above, "If you don't like the price or licensing terms for a piece of music, tough -- the work is the original creation of someone else's mind, and you will simply have to do without it."

The real story is, "If you don't like people disregarding your price and licensing terms, tough -- you should have gone into a field where success is not based on someone's inability to copy an intangible."

Both art and imitation came along before capitalism, and I imagine they'll both be around longer in the end.

29 May 2000 00:48 raindog2

Bullet points
I don't have time for the bullet points tonight, sorry. But since you felt your rebuttal was important enough to email me about it: Scarcity is the only standard -- not only for property, but for value as well. That someone would consider anything else to be so is a tribute to the amount of lobbying money spent by the Disneys of the world in this past century, and the amount they'll still be throwing at their lawyers in the one to come.

16 Jun 2000 05:11 alexbm

Hang on a minute
I have a question to ask of all you people who disagree with this article. How many of you record a song that you like from the radio? How many of you record a movie from the television? How many of you have bought a "cheap" video or CD from a market stall?

Recording something onto tape is the same principal as recording music from the Internet onto your PC. It makes no difference as to whether the source paid for the music or not. Incidentally, Napster do not distribute the music, they merely provide the software that gives you access to it. I don't see Metallica suing the radio manufacturers because I may have recorded one of their songs from the radio, yet they get annoyed with Napster doing essentially the same thing.

For a song to become an MP3, it must have either been originally recorded as one, or, a CD must be decoded. This then must mean that someone BOUGHT a CD and recorded it onto their PC at some point. So, when you download or "record" an MP3 from someone on Napster, there is a damn good chance that the person you are downloading it from has paid for it. Hmm, this sounds like radio....

A prime example of this, is 90% of my MP3 collection is encoded from CDs I have already bought. So therefore, I have paid for it, thus the same principle applies to me being on Napster as it does to the radio, no? And before I get told that I probably didn't pay as much as radio stations do for my music, well Napster doesn't have as large an audience as radio either.

24 Jun 2000 04:09 revcosmo

piracy pros and cons
just a little bite of reality sandwich for people who believe that piracy is such a horrible thing:

software programs make a lot of money. in fact, many of my friends who are programmers spend most of their day chatting on IRC, and get paid ridiculously large sums of money to do it.

with this in mind, i find it hard to believe that software companies in general are in any sort of economic danger, from piracy or otherwise.

13 Sep 2001 03:25 ChrisinBlueJeans

Re: piracy pros and cons
Me, I find that if I pay very little attention to others opinions, I live a much more simple and happy life. In other words, this argument's pointless. Cease preaching and commense pirating or not as the case may be (individually). You can't stop me, and likewise I can't make you. If you want to change the world, stop surfing the net and do something useful. oh, and start with something that might make a possitive impact, like feeding the children in ethiopia. The software company isn't being persecuted, and you ain't their champion (you don't make enough money). Ok, done now, Gotta copy Gladiator (for the computer upstairs of course, that doesn't have a dvd). Divx is another wonderful invention :)


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