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The tone of the following post sounds to me like “Oh my gosh! How dare he say it’s theft!”: ‘Piracy Is Theft, Clean and Simple’ US Vice President Says. This comes on the heels of Canada’s potential move towards harsher copyright laws, similar to the US.
But, isn’t it theft? My opinion has shifted over the years as it becomes obvious that attempts to justify copying digital media are quite obviously thinly veiled excuses to just get something for free. This isn’t to say we don’t all do it, but at a minimum we should at least accept what we’re doing.
The difficulty is that it’s kind of a moral grey area, at least on the surface. The act of downloading a copy of some movie isn’t directly hurting anyone, right? So, doesn’t that make it acceptable? I’d say no; we can’t avoid the fact that a product is being used without the compensation expected by the creator. Further, I’ve even heard people try to show how copying it helps the creator. Unfortunately, that’s all irrelevant because the creator isn’t getting what they wanted for their product and this is possibly the only part of society where it’s acceptable for the consumer to unilaterally decide a product isn’t worth it’s price, yet then still take it for free.
If you think the creator is asking too much money for it, don’t buy it. They’ll probably learn and drop the price. I would like to think that harsh copyright and protection would end up scaring off consumers, and therefore naturally move back to a more sane scheme. There’s a bit of evidence of this with iTunes and others moving away from protected music, but we’ve seen DVDs go in the opposite direction.
One of my difficulties with the new copyright laws being considered in Canada is that they (apparently) void the concept of fair use. I expect that any media I purchase can be legally transferred to any device I own for my own uses. If that’s not true, the value of the media to me is significantly less. I’m not particularly interested in purchasing a license to use a movie only on the particular plastic DVD that it came on. Discs degrade, break and become obsolete.
Although it’s not perfect, the iTunes model seems better, especially if the provisions pass in the laws where it is always illegal to work around copy protection, even for your personal use. If I purchase music or movies there I can legally transfer them amongst my computers, TV, iPhones and iPods. Sure, it’s a closed ecosystem, but that’s still a lot more useful than just a DVD.
What do you think? Is copying copyrighted material always theft?