Are Pirates Communists?

There’s something about paying for software, it just doesn’t sit right with a lot of people. Likewise with music, once you’ve discovered Limewire (new window) how could you bring yourself to pay for music again?

What’s the psychology behind that? Is it an unwillingness to pay for anything? Are all software pirates also thieves in the traditional sense? I don’t think so. I don’t think they also steal hardware, physical items. I think it’s motivated by something different.

I believe, although I’m no expert, that in communist beliefs, there are no piracy laws. There is no copyright. What one produces can be used for the good of all. All are rewarded equally, so the concept of the right to copy, or copyright, doesn’t exist.

I think it’s a similar mentality that motivates people who download software, movies, or music from the internet without paying for it. I think it’s a sort of “why should I pay for something that doesn’t actually cost anything to produce?” attitude. I realise of course there is a production cost in the traditional sense, it does cost money to write software, record music, etc.

However, there is a neglible unit cost in economic terms. It costs the same for a song to be recorded and downloaded once as it does for it to be recorded once and downloaded a millino times. This only applies to P2P networks of course (where you download from other users) because there is a cost in allowing people to download.

Anyway, the principle is there. If the unit cost is zero, why should I pay a few dollars or a few thousand dollars for something?

Having said taht, the most exciting question for me is this. If downloading music were to cost ten or twenty cents per song, would piracy be as high? If you took out the cost of promotion and distribution from the music industry, paid artists slightly more “average” amounts of money, and allowed people to download music for next to nothing, would it be worth the effort of downloading music illegally?

With software it’s slightly different. The cost of production is significantly higher, although the cost of distribution is probably much lower. The open source model seems to work well, within the limitations of a democratic process. If the software isn’t popular amongst developers, it won’t get built. Pure democracy in some senses!

Personally, I think the record companies will finally catch on and start to compete with piracy head on by offering a better service, with correctly tagged files, super fast downloads, integration between devices, so I can own the song once on my computer, my car and my iPod. Then they’ll start hitting piracy where it really hurts, price. When that happens, goodbye Limewire, Napster, Kazaa and hello the big boys again.

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