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Bill Brown

A complicated man.

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I’m a big fan of copyright and property rights in general. I had long equated software piracy and file sharing with shoplifting those same items, but this article and some further thought reveal that they’re not equivalent. Theft is related to the actual property whereas copyright infringement does not deprive the copyrightholder of actual property, just the value of that property. I understood the principle in the positive (especially as it relates to selling used software, music, or books—i.e., you own the actual program, CD, or book and you can sell that tangible item as you please but you don’t own the right to produce it), but I guess I hadn’t followed through in the negative sense.

In the area of morality, I don’t think there’s a bit of difference between the two because you’re still depriving the rightful owner of his due either way. The infringement doesn’t cost him anything out of pocket like the theft does, but it’s still lost revenue. In fact, sharing is even worse because you can’t share the stolen item with more than one person without stepping into the infringement arena. In other words, this new revelation for me doesn’t change my attitude towards the situation except in a strictly legalistic way.