Is Downloading Really Stealing? The Ethics Of Digital Piracy

Is Downloading Really Stealing? The Ethics Of Digital Piracy

Many millions of people throughout the world will illegally download the fifth season of Game of Thrones, launched this week by HBO. Legally speaking, what they will be doing is a violation of intellectual property rights, or “piracy”. But will they be doing anything morally wrong?

Stealing picture from Shutterstock

It might seem obvious that what they will do is wrong. After all, it is illegal. But there are many things that have been illegal that people don’t think are morally wrong. Same-sex relationships, divorce and many other practices that are now widely accepted as morally acceptable were once outlawed and criminally sanctioned.

Few people think they were wrong just before they were legalised. Rather, they tend to think the laws governing these behaviours were unjust. So appeal only to the illegality of downloading doesn’t settle whether it is okay, morally speaking.

Opposing views

Two rival camps dominate public discussion around the ethics of illegal downloading. On the one hand, there are what might be called “fundamentalist libertarians”. These think that all ideas and artistic creation should be held in common and be freely accessible to all.

In their view, intellectual property, in the form of copyright and patents, unfairly restricts access to ideas and expression. They consider illegal downloading to be victimless crime, and do not think it imposes significant cost on anyone. In their view, the serious criminal sanctions that sometimes attach to illegal downloading are draconian and unjustified.

On the other hand, there are what might be called the “fundamentalist protectors”. This camp thinks that illegal downloading is equivalent to common theft.

This view is vividly expressed in the aggressive message that often precedes films in Australia:

You wouldn’t steal a car, you wouldn’t steal a handbag, you wouldn’t steal a television, you wouldn’t steal a movie. Downloading pirated films is stealing.

According to fundamentalist protectors, owners of intellectual property deserve just as much protection and means for redress as those who have had their handbags or televisions stolen, including civil and criminal sanction against those who have violated their intellectual property.

For them, the massive penalties that are sometimes attached to illegal downloading are important because they send a clear message that this practice should not be tolerated. This seems to be the view of much of the entertainment industry, as well as public officials and legislatures in countries that produce and export a lot of intellectual property.

In a recent speech, for example, US President Barak Obama claimed:

We’re going to aggressively protect our intellectual property […] Our single greatest asset is the innovation and the ingenuity and creativity of the American people […] It is essential to our prosperity. But it’s only a competitive advantage if our companies know that someone else can’t just steal that idea and duplicate it.

Excluding theft

Despite their currency, both of these positions are overdrawn and seem at odds with moral common sense. The fundamentalist protector position is problematic because there are clear and morally relevant differences between stealing someone’s handbag and illegally downloading a television series.

[related title=”HOW TO VPN” tag=”vpn1″ items=”4″] In common theft, the owner of property is entirely deprived of its use, as well as their ability to share it and dispose of it as they choose. Common theft is zero-sum: when I steal your handbag, my gain really is your loss.

The same is not true when I download a digital file of your copyrighted property. In downloading your film, I have not excluded you from its use, or your ability to benefit from it. I have simply circumvented your ability to exclude me from its use. To draw an analogy, this seems more like trespassing on your land than taking your land away from you.

Criminal sanctions seem warranted in thefts where one person’s gain is very clearly another person’s loss. But things are not so clear when the relationship between gain and loss are more complex.

And of course there are ways that owners of intellectual property can gain, overall, from infringements of their rights. The more accessible their products become, the more people may want to consume them. This certainly seems to be the case with products like Game of Thrones, a fact recognised by its producers.

Protecting public goods

On the other hand, the fundamentalist libertarian position is problematic because it treats all intellectual property infringement as a victimless crime. For one thing, intellectual property rights are an important means by which people gain profit from the effort that they put into the production of creative works.

That they can profit in this way provides an important incentive — aside from the intrinsic value of the productive activity itself — for them to engage in socially useful productive activity.

This is evident in other fields, such as research and development of medical treatments: firms have little reason to invest the time and resources in developing vaccines and other public goods if they cannot benefit from their distribution.

Thus, not protecting the rights of the producers in some meaningful way is bad for everyone. Infringing intellectual property rights can also increase cost to those do pay for the good, in the form of higher prices. Those who pay for intellectual property are effectively subsidising its use by those who do not pay for it. In most cases this seems unfair.

A different kind of theft

The question of the morality of illegal downloading is so difficult because it takes place in an environment in which the penalties attached to this behaviour ordinarily seem to be overkill, but where there are pretty clear social costs to engaging in it.

What, then, should be done? For starters, it seems important to stop treating intellectual property infringement as common theft, and to develop different legal remedies for its protection. Various kinds of property are different, and warrant different forms of protection. This is hardly a novel idea.

In his fascinating book, 13 Ways to Steal a Bicycle: Theft Law in the Information Age, the legal philosopher Stuart Green has pointed out that treating all infringement of property as theft subject to the same legal rubric is a relatively new development.

Prior to the 20th Century, theft law consisted of a sort of ad hoc collection of specific theft offences and specific kinds of property that were subject to theft. Different rules applied to different offences, and intangible forms of property, like intellectual property, were not included in theft law at all. We may need to return to rules that are well suited to protecting different forms of property.

In the meantime, it seems incumbent on consumers to try to respect intellectual property unless doing so imposes unreasonable cost on them. Refraining from accessing patented essential medicines that are inaccessible due to price does seem unduly costly. Refraining from watching the latest season of Game of Thrones, the ardour of its fans notwithstanding, does not.

At the same time, we should also strongly resist massive penalties levied on downloaders when they are caught. The practice of “speculative invoicing” — whereby people are sent threatening letters that offer the opportunity to pay a sum to prevent legal action seeking vast sums — is seriously objectionable. Even if what the downloaders have done is wrong, it is much worse to over-punish them.The ConversationThis article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Christian Barry is Head of the School of Philosophy at Australian National University.


  • Hi – thanks for republishing this article.

    I dont quite agree with “In downloading your film, I have not excluded you from its use, or your ability to benefit from it.

    If most people, say 30% of those who would have paid, instead download the media and dont pay, could it then be said :
    “In downloading your film, I have not excluded you from its use, but have limited your ability to benefit from it.

    • Agreed, that could be said.

      However, a case case can also be made that giving a copy away for free increases the number of people who are exposed to your product. ie. purchase rates may drop from 100% to 50%, but total market may triple in size, so your total earnings are 150%.

      Such is the “freemium” model of software, and the effect of getting your song on the radio.

      If I was not going to purchase your film anyway, and I download your film, then I have “not excluded you from its use, or your ability to benefit from it.” If I show it to someone who then goes and buy the DVD, you have in fact, benefited from my download. However, if I give it to someone who was going to buy your DVD, and they don’t buy the DVD as a result – well, that’s a clear case of lost revenue/civil damages/theft.

      • No it couldn’t. If the person downloading it knew they wouldn’t have paid for it anyway, the ability to benefit from it is unchanged.

        Anyway, even if their ability to benefit had been reduced, it STILL wouldn’t be stealing.

        This isn’t an ethics argument, it’s one of semantics.

        Stealing is stealing.
        Murder is not stealing.
        Trespass is not stealing.
        Assault is not stealing
        Copyright infringement is not stealing.

        Creating a(n illegal) copy of something can never be stealing.
        If you have a magical car-copying machine you’re more than welcome to copy my car as often as you like. You won’t be stealing.

        Piracy is illegal, and very probably immoral, but it certainly isn’t stealing.

    • This brings up the argument of “who is to say those people would have paid for the film if it were not available for free”. I for one certainly would not watch a lot of things if I could not download them, I simply would not watch it.

      • When I was younger I used to download a lot of films. I would not have paid for any of them.

      • I think this is an interesting argument. What would you have done with your free time allocated to watching the movie you pirated if you couldn’t get it for free? Would you pay to see an alternative one at the cinema? Buy and read a book? Sit at home in the dark? Just because you didn’t like it, doesn’t mean it was free to produce.

        • I was going to say listen to music but since I pirate most of that too, I probably would have gone to the pub instead. Or learned some things on the internet.

      • A lot of people argue that this isn’t a valid argument, as it’s still ‘wrong’ to do the thing. It is a factor that influence the effects of pirating be they positive or negative. It’s easy to draw conclusions that an illegal download equates to a lost sale, but this is simply not true. The benefits are equally difficult to quantify/qualify. Honestly, I’d bet my left nut that Game of Thrones would not be nearly the sensation it has been without the widespread accessibility that torrenting provided.

        • I agree, and honestly a lot of people that pirated it will probably buy the DVD’s etc down the track, which are sales they would not have had if the torrents were not so accessible as you mentioned.

      • “I for one certainly would not watch a lot of things if I could not download them, I simply would not watch it.” That’s exactly how it’s supposed to work, you just have to do without.

    • Technically, in that situation “I” have not limited your ability to benefit from it. You still have the same ability you had in the past. I have deprived you of a benefit you might otherwise have recieved. You might say that if I am uploading, then I am assisting others to avoid paying and therefore reducing the benefit you can derive from it.

      An analogy for downloading would be sneaking into a concert or a movie without buying a ticket. You can still sell the same number of tickets to other people, but few people would argue that you don’t have the right to stop me from doing it.

  • The crazy thing in this is that both ends of the spectrum have fundamental flaws and finding a middle ground that actually works is a technological and ethical minefield. I fully expect it’s one that we’ll find seesawing for the foreseeable future.

    With the rate of technological advancement however the foreseeable future could be anything from 50 years down to 2 years.

  • The closest analogy to copyright infringement I’ve been able to find is fare evasion.

    If you take a train without paying the fare, nobody else really suffers. (With the possible exception of peak hour.) On the other hand, everybody who does pay the fare is indirectly carrying the load for you. Just as it costs money to run a railway, it costs money to produce content, and in the end somebody has to pay that bill.

    The comparison isn’t exact, because trains and buses can become overloaded, but it’s pretty close.

    The point that the typical fine for fare evasion is no more than a hundred dollars or so also adds a bit of perspective to the draconian copyright fines. Even if you scale up the costs (fare of $5 / DVD cost $25 -> fine of $100 should scale to $500) the copyright penalties are disproportionate. Especially when you consider that the downloaded movie can’t become overcrowded.

    Personally, I watch a fair bit of fansubbed (i.e. pirated) anime, but I figure I’ve paid for the privilege via the shelves full of DVDs I haven’t watched yet…

    • That is an excellent analogy.
      Shows & movies do cost money to produce, and they need to make a living somehow. Capitalism doesn’t work without that simple fact. I completely agree that some kind of penalty is surely warranted.
      But you’re right, other paying customers aren’t really suffering from people pirating content, and the content producers aren’t being deprived of anything (as long as there is still a significant number of paying customers).
      I think some kind of fine in the range of a few hundred dollars is surely a fair penalty for being caught. But thousands of dollars? No way.

    • I consider it to be closer to counterfeiting; you’re making an unauthorised copy of something. And much like a counterfeit Rolex, it’s highly debatable as to wether the person involved was ever actually going to pay for the real thing.

      • Except that in the case of TV/movies, the counterfeit copy is actually more valuable to customers because it’s the highest resolution, malleable format, portable to any device, region-free, and free of advertising bloat.

        It’s pretty sad when pirates produce a higher-quality product than the official one.

      • I would agree if you’re making a counterfeit Rolex to wear yourself, but who does that? Your analogy is closer to one who downloads a movie, puts it on DVD and sells it to someone else. Now they have the money the producer of the original movie should have. That’s wrong.

        • I’m highly sceptical as to wether or not most pirated movies are actually paid for. It would kind of defeat the point.

    • Yes, but how many buses don’t come to your area just because they don’t want to? Or how many buses charge more for you to get on, but your neighbour down the street pays less?

      • Point a) None, the buses stay on route. Australia Post contractors on the other hand, the mere existence of a front gate or a steep driveway guarantees a “I’m sorry we missed you” card.

        Point b) ALL OF THEM. 90% of the people on the bus paid less than me thanks to either a pensioner discount, student discount, health-care card or recognition of disability.

        What can I say – if riding the bus doesn’t incentivize you to improve your position in life, nothing will.

  • It’s been pretty well proven that the most effective deterrent to piracy is not the stick, but the carrot, but the movie/TV industries have jammed their fingers in their ears and are yelling “LALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU,” while tugging on the government’s skirts to make the bad customers play by their unfair rules.

    Unfortunately for them – and fortunately for consumers – we are in a moment in history where the consumer has all the power in how they are treated. I can reach out and take what I want very easily, without paying for it. I should, but I don’t have to.
    Paying for content becomes an exercise in one of the following:
    * goodwill and ethics
    * fear of consequence
    * convenience and self-interest

    Goodwill and ethics? For an industry institutionally geared to fuck us over? Right… so that one’s out. Treat content owners with respect? Please.
    Respect is a two-way street.
    Content-owners get exactly the level of respect from consumers as they demonstrate toward consumers. ie: None.

    Fear of consequence? For movie piracy? Hah. Negligibly unlikely, even if you DON’T exercise the barest modicum of tech-savvy discretion.

    Well I guess that leaves convenience and self-interest. Kind of like what Steam does with its fast servers, constant availability (regardless of seeders), social features, legendary sales, and storage-friendly cloud library.
    And when a downloaded file is easier to get, faster to get, higher quality, playable in more formats on more types of and higher number of devices, with no ad-bloat, not to mention cheaper… well. Content owners have complained that you can’t compete with free, which is the biggest, most demonstrably-false load of horse-shit ever. Maybe you can’t compete on price, but you can and should at least maybe fucking TRY to compete on literally any other aspect of your product. Even if piracy was a paid service, people would prefer it to what’s on offer now.

    I’m really not seeing any compelling reasons – moral or practical – to go through the hassles of paying for what content-owners deign to give us access to at all. Let alone what they decide we shouldn’t have.

    Apologists for an exploitative and ignorant industry of greedy luddites can cry and moan all they like about morality, but at the end of the day… it doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t. In the hypothetical and unlikely scenario that you could make a compelling case against piracy, it wouldn’t matter.

    You can argue logically to a tsunami that its surge of coastal destruction is bad and it shouldn’t fuck up your coast, but that’s not going to do jack shit. What you need to do is get out of the fucking way. The internet is much the same. Whine all you like, lobby technologically-inept governments all you like, the power of the consumer is unstoppable, and until you learn to ride the wave instead of planting your feet and demanding that it turn back, you’re going to get dumped on your ass every time.

    • Very good read. Do you have any sort of blog or something? 🙂
      In any case, I wanted to know just what you were referring to when you said that content owners get exactly the level of respect that they show towards the consumer and their customers (me and you and everyone else).
      Do you mean to say that the outrageous pricing in Australia says that the content producers are not respecting us, and so, in turn, we do not respect them either? Similar to the way how Apple rips us off, then tries to hide the fact? Or is it something else entirely? I’m not very knowledgeable about the film industry so I would appreciate it if anyone could help explain in more detail.

  • One of the best benefits of piracy is that you can just hit play. If you buy physical media, you’ve got to sit through all that un skippable guff at the start. Like several logos and disclaimers. Then you threaten me in my own home about piracy. Then sometimes there are previews that I can thankfully skip. Then wait for the intro to finish before the PLAY option finally appears. Then hit play, intro out, and the logos start again.

    Thankfully Netflix doesn’t do this either!

    • Agreed. The way the industry had actively punished those who pay for content for years has been one side of the argument that never comes up in the big debates but is likely to be the last straw in pushing people onto piracy.

      It’s only now with services like Netflix that we see there is a better way – which is one reason it’s getting a lot of people’s money.

    • At least some recent releases have switched from “DON’T PIRATE, PIRATES ARE EVIL” to “Thanks for buying our product!” Somebody finally seems to have realised that the people buying the DVDs are not the people they should be threatening about piracy.

      Sadly, it’s not universal, but it’s a start.

      And it doesn’t make it less annoying when the DVD/Blu-Ray starts with an unskippable sequence that wastes your time, even if it’s now saying nice things about you.

      • “Thanks for supporting your local entertainment industry” on movies I have bought from overseas.

        I have a copy of Die Hard on BR and when I put it in, the movie just starts playing from the start. It’s brilliant.

        • I always wonder about the thank-yous for supporting the local industry when most of what I buy is anime, made in japan, and usually subtitled and authored in the US. The only Australian involvement is remastering for region 4 / Blu-Ray region B.

          There’s an extent to which I actively avoid Australian-made movies because most of it is either jingoistic trash (cough, “Australia”, cough) or highly niche drama. 🙁 This may be a side-effect of requirements for funding from local Government funding bodies.

          • I would have thought the region discs for us would have been pressed in the same place as all the rest, just a different run. Would make financial sense at least.

            And it’s pretty sad that a lot of Aussie films are rubbish. They should invest in some that would have a bigger audience to actually make some money back instead of backing almost only ‘art’ films.

  • IMHO corporations are wasting their time appealing to their customers to ‘play fair’. I’ve never known corporations to do anything other than try to screw every possible dollar out of their customers that the market and societal laws will permit them to. Then they’ll go and divert all of their gains through off-shore tax-havens to ensure they don’t return anything to the society that legislates their right to do business. Until this changes (i.e. when pigs fly) I’m going to screw every possible dollar back from them.

    • Two wrongs?? They could easily argue the same of you too. You’re putting all companies in the same boat. At least one of my friends is the CEO of a successful company and he featured on LifeHacker 🙂 I would describe him as highly ethical (unusually so). So now that i’ve stated that at least one CEO is ethical, what are you going to do now?

      Re: theft – people can make up whatever definition they choose but it doesn’t make it right. The author was exactly right when they said the movie wasn’t stolen/physically removed without permission. Illegally copied? Yes. Morally ethical? No. Why people make up bullshit is beyond me. It wasn’t stolen. Copyright was infringed. Is that so hard to understand? It seems so for many technical websites, except LifeHacker.

      Major kudos to LifeHacker for being about the only tech website that tries to keep its facts straight. Most of the major tech web sites are going to the dogs these days.

  • Copyright is copyright, and breaching that is illegal.

    Just because I wouldn’t have paid for something doesn’t give me the right to take it for nothing.

    Now – the bigger question is the restrictions movie studios put on distribution methods, including geographical regions.

    If I were to use a VPN to geo-unblock access to the same content in a different region – is that stealing? Is that illegal?

    If someone offers a product in one geography for a price, but restricts my access locally – are they surprised we try and circumvent things? If I end up paying for the product or service – how is that “stealing”? Its effectively grey importing which happens regularly across many goods and services.

    I look forward to seeing how this all unfolds. Maybe the next “Fair Trade Agreement” should deal with bringing down these digital walls.

    • Actually, it’s not illegal. It’s a breach of contract/terms of service, which can be pursued as a civil wrong.

      Also, the next international treaty is less likely to bring down the digital walls than to prop them up. The latest rumours on the highly-secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership pact (TPP) has the government willingly agreeing to change our laws to make circumvention of geoblocking (and copyright infringement) actually illegal.

      • Some types of copyright infringement (in particular, infringement on a commercial scale – which includes peer-to-peer downloads) carry criminal sanctions including some pretty nasty fines and potential jail time.

        I think that qualifies as illegal.

        A simple 1-to-1 download falls under the civil provisions and as far as I know doing so is, as you say, a civil breach rather than a criminal one. Format shifting explicitly legal and permitted – except for digital video.

    • Just out of curiosity, how would you know if you would not have paid for it?
      I have never imagined a world where you could take back a DVD and get a refund because it failed to entertain you, even though that’s what a strict interpretation of consumer law should allow.

      • If I buy dinner and it tastes like crap I can get a refund.
        If I watch a movie and it is crap, tough luck.
        That’s one reason I have pirated movies or shows I’m unsure of. As a consumer I have no safe guards from low quality or falsely advertised entertainment.

  • The morals are actually still clear cut. And follow the law.

    There seems to be a misconception that because the widget is virtual (i.e. a downloaded file has no physical presence) it’s OK to obtain it without paying for a licence.

    Another analogy is taking a book from a store without paying for it. Technically this hasn’t really inconvenienced anyone else as the shop has plenty of copies and can order more. But, as pointed out above, it costs someone to produce that book and market it. So, just because I can get the book digitally, doesn’t mean it’s intrinsic value and/or the resources required to make it available are any less worthy.

    The arguments above about never intending to pay for a certain product as a justification for downloading doesn’t hold water. Clearly there was an intent to obtain it otherwise the download would never have happened. The convenience of a “free” option just presented itself as the apparent path of least resistance. But what if the cost for a licensed download was just $1 or 10c or even 1c? Where would the line be drawn in determining the “value” of that product.

    That said, there does seem to be a self-defeating attitude by the large media corporations to charge unduly for content. That the new CDN-based providers can offer such large offerings for a relatively low cost does bring into question others’ pricing strategy.

    I’ll close with another point worth making regarding the difference between downloading (stealing) and uploading (dealing). It’s one thing to download and this could be argued as the “lesser sin”. But making copies available for others to share helps perpetuate this practice and gives the illusion of acceptability.

    • “Another analogy is taking a book from a store without paying for it. Technically this hasn’t really inconvenienced anyone else as the shop has plenty of copies and can order more.”

      That’s not even close… If I remove a book from a store without paying for it I have deprived the owner of the store of the income he would get from selling it to another customer – which he can no longer do. It doesn’t matter how many of them he has. Each “copy” of a book is a discrete unit with individual costs to each level of the supply chain.

      Downloading a movie is much more akin to taking your camera phone into the aforementioned store and photographing the pages so that you can read the content without giving the store owner any money. You have not deprived the owner of possession of anything. Nor have you impacted his ability to sell that book to someone else.

      Downloading a movie does not reduce the content owner’s stock of said movie by one. Removing a book from a shelf and walking out with it does.

      I am not arguing the legalities or ethics here. Just disagreeing with the analogy you drew.

    • “The morals are actually still clear cut. And follow the law.”

      “There seems to be a misconception that because the widget is virtual (i.e. a downloaded file has no physical presence) it’s OK to obtain it without paying for a licence.”
      Maybe in your world, but not to most people, but this is a weak argument for ignoring the definition of a word. Nothing was physically taken. The owner still has the item. What is so hard to understand about that. It’s not a right/wrong argument – it’s whether or not it’s *stealing*.

      “Another analogy is taking a book from a store without paying for it. ”
      Wrong, wrong, wrong. The rightful owner no longer has the book. They can’t make use of it. They can’t sell it.

      After you missed the point twice, I stopped reading your post.

  • This is really an issue of whether or not we should criminalise the conduct of copyright infringement for films and movies.

    If you are going to criminalise it for only films and music, you suddenly create a class of copyright material to which we assign more value than the rest. I understand large scale infringement is already criminal, ie. operating a business of selling burnt DVD’s and CD’s, as there’s a public policy benefit to that. But on an individual level, why are films and movies worth more than books, paintings, sculptures, or indeed even databases, letters? Surely the value is in the eye of the creator or rights owner. Its an equity argument. I could breach copyright in photographer’s work by taking off their blog and putting on mine the same way I could by downloading a film from a torrent. I could breach copyright in a designer’s work by legitimately importing their clothes, taking photos of them, and putting them on my website if those clothes have printed designs on them.

    Yet this happens daily. How man businesses do you see selling ‘unauthorised’ prints of Banksy works? How many eBay listings have simply Googled an image of their item instead of taking their own?

    If you criminalise it, you suddenly create criminals, and IP rights infringement is so widespread we would suddenly criminalise huge swathes of the public who unwittingly engage in rights infringements daily. That’s not the kind of country situation we should create to appease a film lobby whose outdated business model created most of the problem in the first place.

    • Copying your digital copy of a movie is illegal, but it doesn’t become criminal until it’s done on a mass scale.

      Unfortunately, peer-to-peer sharing is regarded as “on a commercial scale” (it’s used as an explicit example on the Government’s copyright web site). If you’re going to download a movie, you should use direct download. That way not only are you harder to catch, but you’re making ONE copy and so don’t trigger the criminal provisions of the Act.

      Historically, the whole idea of Intellectual Property is pretty recent, and extension of terms for copyright is an artefact of the last fifty years or so. Of course, that’s partly because it’s only in the last few centuries that mass copying has become technically possible.

  • Sure ruin peoples lives because someones profits aren’t high enough. Money is much more important than kindness. A pirate will pay if and when they can pay now or in the future or they will help you to get a sale from others. If you can download for free now to make your day a better one and your not selling or profiting from doing so then leave the home consumers alone. It’s just a movie/tv show after all – this is peoples lives we’re talking about. If someone had the time and/or money to sit in front of the TV for hours or to go watch every new movie at the cinema or stream them from a monthly subscription or purchase a few favorite shows from an app store they will, but if they can’t they wont. No amount of complaining/fines will change that.

    I can understand the issues of others profiting off someone elses work (selling or airing it public), but I do not understand how they can think they have lost a sale if someone chooses to watch something in their own home, really you can not compare a movie/show to anything physical as each digital file is only a representation of the original which is in fact a combination of real people, digital rendering, artists/composers and story writers. They chose to use screens and speakers to share their work, which should come with the knowledge not every viewer will need/have to pay, even back on VHS and DVD you would invite friends/family around to sit and watch your movies with you, now we share the data across the internet for our friends to share the experience.

    The laws should be in place to stop anyone but the creators/releaser from profiting from their work and not to enforce every viewer has paid a sufficient amount. People are generally good and not out to rip you off but when companies start being excessive they will cause a backlash until the balance is met.

    Times have changed, the industry has been very slow at changing with us. Artists are still being paid and have choices and work available to them. what they need to realize is how many of their audience doesn’t have a stable job or enough money to pay the essentials. I feel they are getting greedy by prosecuting the average Joe for a crime that people keep trying to compare to physical objects, it is not anything close to that, it is a photo/movie of someones land that your able to look at and experience and not like being their in person at all, the quality of it requires more imagination to complete the picture than the low resolution download pirates can access can give.

  • You are forgetting that movies ARE Free! When I go to the cinema, I’m paying $25 for a seat, the projectionist and the guy to take my ticket and clean up after. The Movie doesn’t really have any value in this scenario (and this is often literally true…. ).
    If I purchase a DVD for $20, watch it once, it’s worth $20. If I watch Transformers over, and, over, and over, again (which I’ve been known to do on a Saturday afternoon with a glass or two) each view becomes worth less than $1. If I have 50 of my friends over to watch my newly purchased DVD how much is it worth then?
    The whole question of the value of the movie is kind of distorted – and it’s not about not being willing to pay something for it.
    When you compare the price of a cinema ticket in AUS to the US you get another argument.
    Maybe services the rise of the online streaming services at an every month affordable price will change the equation or the Australian TV networks will start to realise where they are missing out in this connected world (as I think they are starting to).

  • That they can profit in this way provides an important incentive — aside from the intrinsic value of the productive activity itself — for them to engage in socially useful productive activity.

    This is evident in other fields, such as research and development of medical treatments: firms have little reason to invest the time and resources in developing vaccines and other public goods if they cannot benefit from their distribution.

    That would be an appropriate comparison if the durations of protection were similar. IIRC patents in Australia offer a period of protection of 20 years from filing (25 years for pharmaceuticals). Copyright duration is death plus 70 years. The duration of copyright has continually been extend beyond the length where is serves to provide the important incentive to engage in a socially productive activity. Why should an artist be afforded more protection than an inventor?

  • The tricky thing for me, is the subjects of downloading, recording off TV, fast-forwarding the ads and lending a DVD, not to mention educational recording.

    Legality aside, I see no difference between downloading a TV show, versus getting a friend to record it off air and giving me that copy, especially when I cut out the ads or fast-forward them. Same goes for DVDs. Some friends come over, we watch a DVD. If I have 10 friends over, that’s 10 “lost sales”.

    And educational recording. I work at a school, and our ScreenRights license gives us permission to do anything we like with whatever we record. We can even email a full length movie to 1200 students, ads cut out, and it’s legal. Yes we pay a license fee per student, but if we record tons of movies off air and give them to our students, eventually the “lost sales” outweigh the royalties collected from Screenrights.

    With these options in mind, why should I feel bad about downloading something, when there are many legal avenues I can take to “get around” having to pay others for content?

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