A month ago I engaged in an interesting conversation with Luke Bergeron on his [now defunct] blog, about copyright law. My interest was prompted in large part by Luke’s incisive generational examination of the question of piracy.
Here’s how Luke initially framed the issue:
The real issue goes beyond digital piracy to copyright itself. Now, I don’t believe that digital file sharing, even of copyrighted materials, is theft. That’s probably a generational thing, but we’re gonna do our best to suss out as much meaning as possible. Keep in mind, this entry is a fluid conversation, so comment if you wanna participate.
So, theft seems to me like it is inherently defined by the taking of something from someone else, depriving them of it. Theft is a physical concept, based on a starvation economy, that there is a finite amount of resources to go around, and possessing resources means someone else will not possess them.
Last week I read a post on The Millions called Confessions of a Book Pirate. On the subject of piracy the confessor had this to say:
In truth, I think it is clear that morally, the act of pirating a product is, in fact, the moral equivalent of stealing… although that nagging question of what the person who has been stolen from is missing still lingers.
Two days ago I read a post from Marian Schembari on Digital Book World, called
A Gen Y Reaction to Macmillan’s Piracy Plan. In her comprehensive rant, Marian had this to say about piracy:
I’m not condoning piracy (sort of), but if major publishers are only going to look at the “legal” side of things and spend precious time and money fighting the inevitable, they are going to crash and burn.
I’m poor, I understand technology, and I guarantee I can find any book online, for free, in 10 minutes or less. You can delete and sue all you want, but at the end of the day the internet is a wide and limitless place, meaning it’s a waste of time, money and energy to fight it.
In response to Marian’s post, Debbie Stier of HarperStudio/HarperCollins wrote a post on her company blog, congratulating Marian for stating her overall case regarding Macmillan, and for giving insight into the Gen Y perspective.
Here’s the bottom line for me — whether you agree or not with Marian Schembari’s views on piracy, she has given us a glimpse into the psyche of a Gen Y reader. I appreciate her honesty. I believe this is a gift. I think we should listen.
I agree with Debbie. We should listen. But then we should reply. [ Read more ]