Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
Back for a limited time - Get 15% off sitewide on Slashdot Deals with coupon code "BLACKFRIDAY" (some exclusions apply)". ×
User Journal

Journal Journal: Rationalizing Theft 59

There is a principle of psychology that people do not make decisions by logical reasoning. Instead, we use our intuition to decide and we only employ logic to help rationalize the decision later. Ironically, smarter people tend to be better at rationalization than not-so-smart ones, which is why there is a hell of a lot of rationalizing on Slashdot.

The most popular arena for rationalization is, of course, music piracy (or "sharing" as it is more commonly known). The logical explanation for piracy is simply that consumers love a free lunch and will gladly steal when they can't get caught (and especially when they are stealing from big faceless corporations). Hell, I can't claim that I never copied a few tapes or games in my youth. And the kids today are mostly honest enough to admit why they do it.

But you'd never get that from reading Slashdot. No. The Slashdot crowd are pro-sharing but anti-theft. And as we all know, sharing is not theft because 1) the labels rip off the artists, 2) "sharing" increases sales, 3) bands can still make money performing live, 4) you're not depriving anyone of property, 5) information wants to be free, 6) we have fair use rights, or some such nonsense.

1) the labels rip off the artists

Give a man a soapbox and he thinks he's Abby Hoffman. Here is an example of the expression "two wrongs don't make a right". No one seems interested in the fact that the Internet will allow artists to cut out the middleman and sell their music online. Instead, it's just GimmeFreeStuff.

2) "sharing" increases sales

Perhaps it does, perhaps it doesn't. Perhaps it only works for lesser-known artists. But that doesn't give the consumers the right to decide how music is marketed. If you remember, Lars Ulrich's famous complaint about Napster was simply that no one ever asked him if he wanted to participate.

3) you can make money performing live

These last two go together. Music should be free because there are alternate business models available: the good old loss leader and the bait and switch. Funny how Slashdot readers feel they have the right to give business advice to the music industry. (Cuz we all know what a great job they've done with the software industry.)

4) you're not depriving anyone of property

No, not specifically. Of course you also wouldn't be depriving them of property if you snuck into one of their concerts, or even if you hired them for a private concert and then refused to pay. The fact is, you're not paying them for the time and money they spent recording the CD. That cost has to be amortized over the price of each album that is sold. But who cares, rigth, as long as you're stealing from a big faceless corporation.

Anyone literate in math would understand that zero is an arbitrary basis point. By the same logic, if you learned that Ferarris cost $9000 to manufacture, you could steal one from the dealer and leave them $9000 in return. You aren't depriving them of property because they can go buy another Ferarri with the $9000.

Another variant is "I'd buy CDs if they only cost $2-$3." Again, the geniuses who helped flush a billion dollars worth of investment capital down the drain think they know how to set price points.

5) information wants to be free

Hey, so do murderers.

6) we have fair use rights

Fair use rights govern what you do with the information once you get it. Anyone who believes that file sharing services exist primarily to facilitate fair use is guilty of willful ignorance.

Willful ignorance, vapid aphorisms, arbitrary distinctions, non-existent choices and flat out rationalization. These are all examples of the rationalizations that are used to justify theft.


Nobody said computers were going to be polite.