I’m by now profoundly tired of the misconception that has been floating around in our modern digitalized society for too long of a time. It thrives within the older generations, but is in no way limited to them. It goes like this:
Piracy is theft!
This statement not only indicates a lack of understanding of how the digital world works, but quite often also a lack of will to understand it, the latter being a really frightening aversion to future.
Most often the idea of a lost profit is the fundament of this flawed thinking,
and the subsequent assumption of criminality doesn’t make the train of thought
better tied to reality in any way.
What it is tied to however is an age-old view of how the immaterial is spread, a view that is not compatible with the internet; internet is not like anything humanity has every experienced before.
In May 2009 at TED, Clay Shirkey had a talk called “How cell phones, Twitter, Facebook can make history”, and while I urge all my visitors to see this talk (as well as his other one), there is one important quote that sums it up quite well:
The internet is the first medium in history that has native support for groups
and conversation at the same time.
Whereas the phones gave us the one-to-one pattern, and television, radio,
magazines and books gave us the one-to-many pattern, the internet gave us the
For the first time media is natively good at supporting these kinds of conversations.
A keyword in this talk is revolution. It is a strong word, but an accurate one
nonetheless. When a large amount of people are given the power to create,
recieve and share intellectual content at will and in unrestricted amounts,
then there is no other word that will describe the phenomenon better.
So the fundament of the fallacy is the notion that the internet fits within the old boundries of the centralised systems, the corporate control and the old media. It does not.
An alternate reality
Another issue with the mentioned “lost profit”-explanation of why digital piracy should be considered a criminal act is that this way of thinking is completely incompatible with the idea of altruistic sharing. Within most cultures around the world, sharing items of your ownership is considered an act of friendship, especially if done voluntarily.
Now I hear the opposition wildly shouting “Not at the cost of someone else!”. The thing is however that when saying such a thing the opposition expects to get money for things they have no control over. Another important question is whether they have the right to have control over them. When a piece of information is digitalized the idea of the opposition is that there is a fee that should carry with the very existence of the work.
Let me present you with a hypothetical alternate reality:
Imagine there was a fairly unknown, but very easy way to replicate matter; cross your fingers on the left hand, look at the object you want more of, snap the fingers of the right hand and suddenly you’ve got more!
This knowledge was at first limited to a few select people called “geeks”, but because it was so easy to do, soon the world’s populace was perfectly aware that if anyone wanted something then a snap of your fingers was all you needed.
Let’s say you’re out with your friends some evening in this world. You all went
to an event of some sort, had a good time, and sooner or later found that it
was time to return home. The problem was however that you had some urgent
matter to take care of, making you drive in a completely opposite direction,
which of course conflicted with the plans of your friends.
An idea stroke. At the snap of your fingers your friends could have a car each. A snap.
What should one do? Help your friends at no cost whatsoever? Refuse?
At what grounds would you refuse? That they should buy one themselves when you’ve got a thousand in your fingertips? And why would the thought even cross your mind? These are your friends in need, and with an infinite amount of cars at your disposal it would seem odd not to help them out.
Your turn to think
This is quite a ways from our world, but the observant have already noted that this is how the digital world has always worked. If an item is infinite in amount (which is a tad more than what the old generation is used to) then one must question whether to control this item is feasible, reasonable and most importantly righteous.
The digital world is here to stay, I wonder how long it will take for some to adjust to that.