Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.
Foreword: I posted some of this as a comment in the account of foobar104's journal. I never got a reply, but maybe I directed it to the wrong person - I seem to remember him being vehemently anti-piracy, and I could have confused him with someone else. (Or her, or it, whichever. "Him" is a non-insulting pronoun in the English language, unless one happens to be a feminist.) In any case, I wanted to preserve these points for debate with interested parties - I'm curious to see the answer that might come from it, and, as always, am quite willing to be enlightened. Note: I have added to this since I posted in foobar104's journal.
Regarding software piracy:
First - do people really own the software a vendor sells them? Can they do anything they like with it? Resell it, chop it up and use its bits in their system for other things? Port it to another OS and use it there? With normal vendors, the answer is usually "no", yet they behave as if software is a normal, concrete product and sell it under false pretenses. If software is to be treated as a normal product in the sale, the right to copy it is implicit with all the other rights involved in owning a normal product - but any copy of a normal product would likely end up imperfect. Thus the software industry ends up shooting itself in the foot - people /expect/ to be able to do what they want with their software, and ignorantly go along and do so.
Second - have they taken anything beyond the bits (and even that is debatable, given that the burden of providing bandwidth for stolen software usually rests on the thief) from the vendor? If they weren't going to buy it in the first place, how can it be counted as a lost sale? This bothers me as well, in a rather fundamental way. How can this be theft if no one loses anything?
Third, I want to share a story I read as a child which reminds me a lot of the current situation. I dunno, maybe it's worth something, maybe not.
A poor boy was wandering through his village, and purchased a loaf of bread with a few coins he'd earned begging. He came upon a meat vendor, and saw the tasty roast turning on its spit. The boy held his bread out over the roast to absorb the scent of the meat, and began to eat the bread. The meat vendor caught him, grabbed him by the arm, and called for the local fuzz. When they arrived, the man accused the boy of stealing the scent of his meat. The fuzz were flustered - had the boy actually done something wrong? He hadn't really taken anything, since the meat was still just as good-smelling, but even so, his bread was better for having done what he did. They turned to the village fool and asked him what to do, mostly to see if he'd come up with something they hadn't thought of. "Do you have any coins left, boy?" said the fool. The boy replied that he did, but only a few. The fool nodded, took the coins, and shook them in the meat vendor's face. "He has stolen the scent of your meat for his bread, and now he has repaid you with the sound of his coins." So the cops let the kid go, the meat vendor gave up, and the boy ran off to die young of disease or exposure. They all lived happily ever after, or whatever.
This last part tells me that perhaps we need to look at the software piracy subject from new angles, find other ways to pay for things like that. Open Source software geeks do this already by making it themselves. It is new ground, I believe - never before have we had the means to spread so much information so quickly to enable so many people. What /would/ the ideal solution be? Not what's /going/ to happen, but what /should/ happen. Thoughts, anyone?
Note, please, that this is a question about idealism and morality. It's not for practical issues like law; I want to figure out the /moral/ and /correct/ thing to do here, without relying upon "because Uncle Sam says so".