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  Piracy is Progressive Taxation, and Other Thoughts on the Evolution of Online Distribution
Subject:   shoplifting yes, but
Date:   2002-12-12 15:06:00
From:   anonymous2
Great article.

Nevertheless, I'm wont to quibble the term "shoplifting." Should I lift a novel from a bookstore's shelves, they are denied inventory. But if I copy an ebook, someone's denied a quanta of scarcity.

I have written a couple novels and I'd dearly love to have a million people "pirate" copies of my work. You nailed it: obscurity is my enemy. And when obscurity isn't an issue (e.g. Stephen King) any pirated copy impacts the bottom line. You nailed it again: it's a progressive tax.

This levelling effect is a profoundly Good Thing. I sure hope the Powers That Be don't kill it off.

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  • Tim O'Reilly photo shoplifting yes, but
    2002-12-12 17:06:49  Tim O'Reilly | O'Reilly AuthorO'Reilly Blogger [View]

    I agree that shoplifting isn't the right term. My point is that online copyright infringement is analogous to shoplifting in its impact. That is, not negligible, and something we wish would go away, and might want to put in some safeguards against, but not something so earthshatteringly destructive that we need new laws, including draconian new laws that require third parties to become enforcers.

    BTW, someone sent in a GREAT link on the right term for what the music industry likes to call piracy. It's simple, and legally accurate: "copyright infringement." There's a great summary by Supreme Court justice Harry Blackmun at http://philip.greenspun.com/dldf/dismiss-order.html in which Blackmun makes clear why copyright infringement is not the same as theft, for much the same reason you outline in your posting.