So as a musician and a software engineer, I've got a lot of conflicting views on the whole notion of intellectual property, particularly in light of the recording industry's crusade with DRM.
Obviously I like getting paid for my creative efforts. But I work on open source software, because I believe in the free exchange of knowledge, and the indisputable benefit of having many many pairs of eyes review one's code.
Professional musicians today have it so easy, compared to previous eras. Before the advent of recorded music, you could only get paid for actual live performances. A patron might commission a composition from you, which would include payment, and you could earn money from publishing the written score. But by and large, you earned your money simply by exercising your art; if you stopped performing, you stopped making money. (Also, the ratio of composers to performers was pretty small, so the majority of musical profession depended on live performance.)
That was pretty much true for every profession - if you were a blacksmith, or a baker, or whatever, you made money from actually practicing your craft.
But now we have musical recordings, which can act as a surrogate for the original performer, and a performer can sell a few million of these surrogates and never work another day in his life. I like being rewarded for practicing my art, but this doesn't seem fair.
An inventor can design a new gadget, patent it, and collect royalties for all the millions of copies of it sold around the world. And if it sells that well, he may never have to work another day in his life either.
But that's not what patent law is supposed to do - it is surely supposed to prevent theft of ideas, but that's all. I.e., IP laws are supposed to create an environment that promotes innovation, one that encourages inventors to invent and *continue inventing*, to continue to contribute to society. You should get rewarded for your effort, yes, but you shouldn't rest on your laurels, you shouldn't even be *tempted* to contemplate such a thing.
I believe modern IP laws, as manipulated by big business thru the years, have tipped too far in favor of the "creative" folk - bearing in mind that generally it is a large company backing the artist/inventor that really reaps the reward.
Copyrights and patents are justified to the extent that they allow creative people to continue to contribute to society. When the statutory reward outweighs their contribution, something is wrong with the system.
Back to our inventor friend and his gadget - someone sets a price on the commodity, establishing a perceived value for the invention. You buy the gadget, and when you use it, you start to realize some of that value. The more times you use the gadget, the more value you extract from it. But you only had to pay for it once, and it was yours to keep.
Nowadays we have "commodities" that aren't even actually sold, they are merely "licensed", so you never own the item, and you are subject to repeated payments to re-use the item. If you buy a book, you are free to read it, mutilate it, burn it, pass it on to a friend, toss it in the trash, do anything you want with it. You *own* that copy of the book.
If you "buy" a piece of software, you have to agree to a shrink-wrap license that disclaims that the software is even capable of doing anything useful. You are bound not to fold/spindle/mutilate/disassemble it. You haven't purchased a commodity, you have merely rented it. Oddly enough, while the software remains the property of the software publisher, and can be updated at any time, remotely, without your knowledge, you are not allowed to return it to the software publisher after opening its packaging. They can revoke your right-to-use but you can't cancel the license yourself, and get refund of the license fee.
Again, something is out of balance here.
It used to be that if you were good at what you did, and people liked what you did, then you would have a community of people supporting you. Now, business is set up on the premise that people will steal from you every chance they get, and so all customers should be treated as thieves from the get-go.
When people obtain illegal copies of music and software, it reflects a basic disrespect for the creator/seller of that product. But I think in a lot of ways this is a justified response to the seller's obvious disrespect for the customer. And as long as things continue in a "he started it! - no, he started it!" cycle things will only get worse.
The fact that open source has been such a powerful success on so many fronts tells me that if you treat your consumers with respect, you will get respect in return. And the real value of your contribution to society is obvious, without any bean-counters needed to tally up prices for every little bit of effort.
When a minority of people are stealing your product, I guess you're stuck dealing with that socipathic fringe that you can't avoid. When a majority of people are stealing your product, I think that's a clear statement that its perceived value as a contribution to society is far lower than where you pegged it. And that should be a strong wake up call to either improve your product or change businesses.