Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Word on the Free Market Economy…

I recently commented on a friends blog about the ‘merits’ of piracy and their potential role in the marketplace.  Granted, my comments were a bit tongue in cheek and I don’t begrudge the views of my esteemed colleague, but I thought I would take some of my own space in the blogosphere to weigh in on the topic.

It’s not uncommon for moderately techno-savvy people I know to shake their heads and squint when I take the position that I refuse to download and distribute media that I don’t have a legitimate right to do any such thing with.  I can remember vividly some discussions with my kids about why I wasn’t going to allow them to install lime-wire or other media sharing applications on our home computer.  I also have been known to take a hard line about them even ‘borrowing’ media that has been ‘burnt’ so that they can play it on our equipment at home.

In our home, we use digital media quite frequently.  Every single song we own has been purchased legitimately from an on-line store like iTunes or puretracks.  We buy DVDs from either Wal-Mart or Best Buy.  We have ripped some of the CDs that we’ve bought over the years so that we can load them on our MP3 players, but I flatly refuse when someone asks me for a copy.  It is common for us to loan or give books away after we have read them, but lending of written texts is not a right that is typically reserved by these copyright holders…copy, reproduction and redistribution is.

We don’t do this because we feel the need to fritter away our money on big corporations that are ‘just in it for the money’ or because we are afraid of getting virus or even because we want to make sure that the money goes to the artists.  We do this for the same reasons that we vote, pay taxes and write our politicians…because it is how our society is supposed to work.

I am troubled when I hear an argument that it is ok to copy music and media (illegally) because anyone can do it easily.  To be honest, when someone gives me that argument, I don’t even continue the conversation because there is actually no thought being put into the repercussions of such things.

Don’t misunderstand me, at one point in my life, I saw nothing wrong with downloading software off the internet with ‘patches’ and key generators.  I can remember being slightly enamored with ‘Napster’ and ‘Morpheus’ when it first came out.  These have all gone the way of the dodo by now, but it never really entered my head that I was doing anything really wrong.

At one point, one of my kids became the quintessential computer addict for chat programs, email, and whatever else they do on the internet; and at one point was getting frustrated that the restrictions I had placed on her home computer account didn’t allow her to connect to a file sharing service on the internet.  Knowing that I was the key to solving this problem, she came to me and asked me to ‘fix it’ for her.

Somewhat hypocritically, as I listened to what she was trying to do, I decided that what she wanted was just not right.  I didn’t think that she should be able to swap around whatever she wanted on the Internet (perhaps do to some control issues on my part, but more on that another time) and I flatly refused to help her.  During the ensuing battle, I came to realize that what I was doing was really no different, and I argued my way into what has now become a principle that our family now follows…to the letter.  I can list many arguments for why its only right to buy what is not yours to own, but I don’t think there is as much grey area there as others would like to believe.

Perhaps you could call it dogmatic, perhaps rigid, perhaps some may call it naive.  But the principle is quite simply this: you stand by what you believe, no matter how easy it is not to.


Doooh_head said...

I couldn't have said it any better (please read):


Unknown said...

OK...let me see if I follow this logic. A good 25% of the artists out there have invested enough of their time, energy and most likely money so that they have become popular using good old fashioned marketing, and the other 75%...well...haven't.

This means that the 25% successful musicians should stop investing needlessly in the music business and just get on with the other 75% that just post it for free on-line...in hopes that they will like it and come and buy the real thing.

You know, if that is the model, then I'm all for it. But as long as someone feels that something is worth something and the market agrees, I don't see why they shouldn't charge for it.

I still don't see this as justification for stealing.