Are We All Thieves?

The history of advancing technology is long littered with accusations of copyright infringement along with charges of outright thievery.

The problem seems to stem from ever-changing definitions of what comprises a song, a performance, or a book. Back in the days when the player piano was invented, musicians themselves seemed to define a song as a live performance. Hence, the spreading invention of mechanical player pianos and reproduced sheet music would somehow destroy music itself.

Of course, what actually happened was that rather than being destroyed, music was promoted and ultimately became more popular.

Music is not the piano rolls, nor is it vinyl records, audiocassettes, or CD’s. These are simply physical transmission mediums. It could also be equally argued that MP3 or other digital file formats are not the actual music either, though they are heavily intertwined.

Can’t we as consumers be honest? How is it that so many of us can think nothing of illegally downloading media, yet wouldn’t think of stealing a physical object without paying for it?

Those who continue to rationalize that it’s “okay” to illegally download copyrighted music, movies and other copyrighted materials are thieves. Would you enjoy having your stuff stolen? Are excuses popping up in your mind why wrong is right and right is wrong? If so, you failed the test. If you have to make an excuse to yourself or anyone else to justify your behavior, you are wrong. If you find yourself the victim of a thief, how can you then turn around and complain? Isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black?

The solution to the problem is easy. Get what you want by legitimately paying for it. If you don’t want to pay for it, don’t be a thief by stealing it.

On the other hand, if you don’t like the less-than-stellar behavior of certain media-production organizations, the solution is equally easy. Don’t consume their products. Turn them off. Pull the plug. The world won’t come to an end. You will survive. The age we live in is filled to the brim with alternative entertainment and information sources that make it possible to reduce or completely eliminate the need to consume copyrighted material, if that is your wish.

3 thoughts on “Are We All Thieves?

  1. Your argument isn’t really valid. It’s the same one the RIAA uses, and that doesn’t make it any better. You’re arguing that if someone made a copy of one of your family photos, you wouldn’t have access to it anymore. I’m sure you know that making a copy itself isn’t illegal. Giving away the copy, if it’s a violation of the license agreement, or using a copy you don’t have a license for is what’s illegal.

    The point I’m trying to make is that you shouldn’t perpetuate the idea that downloading music without paying for it is theft. It is illegal, but you’re not depriving another of what they paid for.

  2. The issue with ‘are we all thieves’ is that the very definition of being a thief, and its cost to society has been so perversely manipulated. There can be no doubt that if I take a CD or DVD from a store and don’t pay, that I have stolen something. Similarly, most reasonable people would say that if I download a movie or song that I have not paid for, I have stolen something.

    However, when you start throwing around numbers like $200,000 per song stolen, the average, reasonable person begins (rightly so) to think you are full of crap. You add to this the idea that somehow if someone makes a song, he or she or a corporation should still be holding that as a profit center 50+ years later, while the rest of us need to do new work to make new money, and the average person begins to lose belief in the value of the art, or the veracity of claims someone is stealing your work. The media corporations have created this monster out of years of greed, and I doubt it will go away any time soon.

    Most people will happily pay a fair price for content. Most people will also lose belief in the fair price if you consistently lie to them, and attempt to make pay multiple times for content. Stealing is wrong, theft of goodwill is not only wrong, it is more costly.

    Mike James

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