Vamshidhar Kommineni

October 7, 2006

Copyright infringement on digital content

Filed under: Miscellany — Vamshi @ 5:55 pm

Occasionally, Engadget produces a great op-ed piece like this one:The Clicker: Digital content — why the sense of entitlement?

This is a great article and somewhat relevant to my last post in that the content from television was so easy to find on YouTube hours after they were broadcast. The basic thesis of the article as applied to entertainment content (even before the Internet made it trivially easy to do) is:

"…people have no respect for goods where the marginal cost of production is zero or close to it. It doesn’t matter that work went into its production. It doesn’t matter that the sales of current goods pay for development of future goods. It seems to only matter what production costs…"

I would actually argue that this extends to any form of produced goods where the cost of production is close to zero and there is no enforceable penalty for stealing. Otherwise morally upstanding people have similarly little remorse when it comes to pirating software. Or not paying for parking when you can get away with it ("The lot is almost empty, does it really matter if I park there for a couple of hours…?" Of course, the threat of the larger fine if caught deters most people from this).

Companies or individuals that recognize this tendency and are in a business where there revenue stream depends on such goods are services are invariably vilified for trying to raise the bar of entry and/or enforce a penalty for theft of their products. The DRM debacle is only the most recent and largest example of this. As consumers, I think the only correct choice we have is to not buy products that are overpriced (in our opinion). And companies that charge prices that cannot be sustained by the market are inevitably run over by competition that is willing to charge less (it may take time, but it always happens).

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