Anti-piracy measures hurt us, piracy helps us

So, I wanted to write yet another essay on my opinions about intellectual property. They have become more clearly defined in my mind over time. Now, keep in mind, these opinions are based on a holistic view – if one were looking at the human race from the outside.

My first observation is that anti-piracy measures have cost us all millions of man-hours. the FBI warnings that can’t be skipped, all the thousands of hours developers have wasted on anti-piracy measures despite the fact that ultimately any media (music / movie / what have you) cannot be made pirate-proof because there is no closing the analog hole. Anti-piracy hurts the human race and the only reason it exists is there are some morons who can’t do the math and can only feel tall if they know someone else is short.

It also hurts us in other ways. To the extent that law enforcement and the CRJ wastes time on these frivolous claims by multimillion-or-billion-dollar-entities about people with almost no money, it’s wasting the time of those systems, and to the extent that they actually choose to punish piracy, it’s hurting people who have committed no real crime. It’s a sign of how deeply fucked up our world is that we would put someone in jail for stealing something that A: they couldn’t pay for and that B: that isn’t *gone* once it’s stolen. It shows that we let exactly the wrong people drive the bus.

My second observation is that piracy *helps us*. Now, I’m not speaking here of piracy done by people who could afford the content. They’re being asshats, screw them. Them as have the resources should pay for content – as I do, now that I do – so that content creators will have the resources to continue creating content.

I’m talking about the 12 year olds copying music, the people who barely manage to pay their bills pirating movies, things like that. In the first place, I made a argument a very long time ago that their piracy is just a form of de-facto librarying – humanity has certainly purchased enough licenses of this content that isn’t in use at any given point that you can think of what they’re doing as just using library copies in a more efficient way. but beyond that, they also help us all in several other ways.

First of all, exposure to ideas in movies, music, books, etc, makes people’s neural networks grow. Our brains physically change state when exposed to new input. So these people are helping themselves grow and become more intelligent and capable – or more SOMETHING anyway – which thusly is helping humanity as a whole have more people who are bigger and more complex. And, let’s face it, it’s not like these people were going to pay anyway. They don’t have the money. No one is losing any money, some people are just too awful to share.

Second of all, having a number of people who are familiar with the same books and movies and music gives us cultural references than enable us to communicate more clearly. So these people are aiding humanity as a whole’s ability to communicate.

Third of all, to the extent that these people enjoy their pirated content, they are adding to the net happiness of humanity as a whole.

I want to mention a few more things about intellectual property while I’m at it. First of all, you have to remember that intellectual property *existed before we found it* in potentia. As I’ve talked about before, any digital content is already sitting on the number line, existing in a abstract sense, before we do the work to concretely bring it into this world. Not only that, you can make infinite copies of any digital asset without reducing in any way the value or quality of the original. (In fact, as I discussed above, the original *gains* value when it becomes a cultural rosetta stone)

It’s also true that one number might well mean two different things depending on what codec you run it through. So you may find yourself (in a really odd world) in the bizarre position of, for example, having a digital image that’s identical to a MIDI file that contains a hook that already exists. As soon as you start thinking about the absurdity of, for example, someone claiming they own the number ‘2’, you start to comprehend the insanity of our system that allows someone to camp on any idea – when the same idea might have occured to many, many people. It’s a safe bet that across the universe musicians on millions of planets have landed on the same chord progressions as sounding good – once you start looking at infinity and eternity it becomes clear that we’re never the first to play these notes or think these things.

Intellectual property is a band-aid to try and make our already broken resource allocation system work for content creators. Personally I think – as I’ve discussed many other places – that it’s time to invent a new resource allocation system because ours is deeply flawed in ways that are reducing the net happiness of most of the users – and I do think it’s important to think of the needs of *all* the users in the system, not just the most mercenary.

One Response to “Anti-piracy measures hurt us, piracy helps us”

  1. Swipes Says:

    I enjoy seeing one of your lesser given lectures all written out, especially the ones that I find easier to follow.

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