The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

You Little Thief

File-sharing on the internet isn’t stealing. It’s probably not helpful to call it that. Because the people who do it don’t think they are stealing. They’re using the Adrian Mole defence.

In one of the early Adrian Mole novels – i.e. the first two, the good ones – our hero justifies taking a train journey without paying for a ticket because, I quote from memory, ‘the train would take me there whether I paid for a ticket or not.’

That’s pretty much the same argument that file-sharers use. The people who make TV shows, CDs, books or computer games aren’t being deprived of a sale because otherwise you couldn’t have afforded to buy them; the people who want to pay for these things still will pay for them because they are rich enough to afford to, it doesn’t matter if other people who aren’t as well-off get them for free.

To use another analogy, it’s like people sneaking in free to cinemas without paying. After all, they’re going to show the film anyway whether you pay or not, right? And if you couldn’t get in free, you wouldn’t have gone to see the film, so it’s not as if the cinema or the people who made the film are missing out on getting your cash.

But to extend the metaphor – file sharing means that for the one person in the cinema who paid for the ticket, every other seat is taken up by someone who got in free. Who the one person who paid for a ticket is subsidising. They’re the real victim in this – the person who pays more because they’re paying for everyone else

File-sharing’s like those people who shove themselves through a tube turnstile immediately after you because they haven’t got a ticket. That’s what it is.

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