Some thoughts on the file-swapping ruling

Published on Monday, June 27, 2005 By Brad Wardell In Industry

Over on the WinCustomize.com news page I gave my two cents on today's ruling.  Based on the poll I saw on News.com, 2 out of 3 people disagree with the ruling.  What a shock.  "But...I don't want to have to pay for other people's work..I want it for free.." 

I know a lot of people who pirate software, games, music, movies, etc.  I don't harp to them about it.  What ticks me off are the companies that actually make a business model out of serving pirates.  eDonkey and Kazaa and the like made millions of dollars by enabling people to steal other people's stuff.

And in turn, they have harmed consumers in ways most people don't realize. Copy protection has gotten nastier, DRM has become a household term, and licenses have gotten more and more restrictve.  Not that such schemes don't get cracked -- they do -- but the record industry (whom I'm no fan of either) and the like have figured out that those who don't pirate can be made to buy more stuff with more DRM to make up for those who would have bought stuff but were able to download it for free from Kazaa or something.

Such services cheapen the value of hard work too.  The other day I read someone complaining how WindowBlinds was "too expensive".  It's twenty bucks for crying out loud.  That's just a bit more than a Pizza dinner.  A decent cooking knife costs $50. An AutoScanner is $140 (and I can tell you with some experience that the production/profit margins on these things is pretty significant). Cheap shoes are $50.  Stuff costs money.  Yet we'll see someone complain that a software product that took years to perfect that people run every day for years that costs $20 is too expensive.  And why? Because places like Kazaa have made software look worthless. 

People will complain about paying $40 for a game that took two years to develop and provides support to the user but you rarely hear the same people think twice about paying $40 for a small box of legos where the buyer will never interact with the company.  Places like Kazaa and their ilk devalue intellectual property.  And the results hurt us all in ways that people don't realize. 

Software piracy isn't as huge of a deal as many make it out to be, but the mainstreaming of it through these peer-to-peer services were steadily making piracy something that even the newbie down the street was able to do which definitely takes revenue away from hard working software developers, musicians, etc.