sub specie aeternitatis

For the 100th Time, Digital Piracy is NOT the Same as Shoplifting

October 20, 2006

Charles Cooper, in his latest opinion piece on, argues that the U.S isn’t doing enough to protect companie’s intellectual property in regards to web 2.0. Sites such as Google News and Youtube are successful because they reuse other’s property in a way profitable for themselves. While I agree that creators should be fairly compensated for their work, I hardly think Google News’ 2 sentence summaries are outright piracy. Furthermore, Cooper makes this horrible analogy:

You can’t get away with that idea in other walks of life. Believe me, I would love to waltz into the local bookstore, browse through the aisles, and walk out with a bag full of novels without making a pit stop at the cashier. Same goes for the record store, or the neighborhood video joint. Life doesn’t work that way. Our social arrangements don’t allow some people to work for others without the remotest chance of receiving compensation. You may remember that this nation fought a civil war to eradicate that despicable practice.

Please people, stop saying digital piracy is the same thing as physical theft. It is nowhere near the same. I steal a CD, the store no longer has that CD to sell and instantly loses money since they had to pay for that physical disc. I pirate your CD, and we both have a copy. It may not be legal or the right thing to do, but it is nowhere near the same thing. Seriously, does anybody really put shoplifting and copying music on the same level? Also, a commentor on the piece added another very good against Cooper’s argument:

The one thing that bothers me about the entire discussion of digital media is that if you are free to use the analogy of a bricks and mortar store and shoplifting, then you darn well better include the analogy of a public library too. There is an argument to be made for serving the public good, which exists beyond the profit motive, and the media needs to start placing that concept prominently as the third leg in this discussion called Web 2.0.