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Avast ye!

February 5th, 2009

I really cannot stand the pirate analogy that seeks to demonize sharing. Consider this ridiculous quote from the front page of the NYT:

Hollywood may at last be having its Napster moment — struggling against the video version of the digital looting that capsized the music business. Media companies say that piracy — some prefer to call it “digital theft” to emphasize the criminal nature of the act — is an increasingly mainstream pursuit.

Looting? Capsizing? Theft? Piracy? Really?!? To remind everyone, here’s a picture of real pirates in Somalia today:

Notice the use of violent weapons: guns and rocket launchers. Recall that they are attempting deprive someone of physical property. Physical property, unlike so-called intellectual property, can only be owned by one person at a time. Also, they take the crew hostage and hold them for ransom.

In contrast, sharing of digital goods increases the public good at no harm, on the margins, to the original owner. Remember kindergarten? Sharing is good!

The only plausible argument against sharing is that freely sharing may reduce the incentive to create content in the first place. But that argument only holds if (1) less entertainment content were created because of sharing and (2) the amount of lost value exceed the massive benefit to consumer of cheaply and easily accessing the content. As far as I can see, there has been no discernible decrease in the creation of good or crappy content in the five years or so.

Labels and studios may hurt from online sharing because it disrupts their control over distribution. But the artists? New artists that are creating the new content actually benefit from this alternative distribution mechanism that avoids the usual payola necessary through labels and studios. In fact, I think that digital distribution is creating a greater incentive to create content than previously. If we waste all our resources in a futile effort to protect vested interests, we are certainly going to get passed by other countries that side with the future and not the past.

Stop the insanity!

1. technology, 2. politics , ,

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