In the wild days of 1996, when I got my hands on a computer (it cost about a year’s worth of my Dad’s salary, and nothing that I am would have been possible but for that sacrifice he made), I was enamored by the ease of content consumption on a computer.
In one year, I went from knowing nothing about the world, to interacting with hundreds of other people across the world, talking about different things, and experiencing new content every day. Ideas in the form of text, video (granted there wasn’t much back then), music. That desire to learn new things, and to “consume” content has not abated in the last decade and a half.
Last week, I was mentioning to a colleague that I had to “download” a particular album by a new artist since it was unavailable in the US (both iTunes, and in store), and the conversation moved to the ethics of doing such a thing.
How can one, in the world today, justify “pirating” a song, when there is so many ways of getting, said product?
In my opinion, the cost of virtual goods (videos, movies, music, pod-casts, articles) are higher than their perceived value by the consumer.
With these images on the internet, the cost of storage, distribution, and revenue generation is almost zero. Yet an album is still priced around $10-$20. In such an environment, scarcity is pre-dominantly artificial, whether it created by DRM or regional restrictions or pricing schemes, only serve to fuel piracy.
In my case, I would have gladly paid for it on iTunes, but it wasn’t available there. It was available on Spotify, but of course, that is not available in Canada (it’s only been 3 years since the rest of the world has access to it). So my choice is between being denied access to content I’m willing to pay for, or fire up a browser, find the torrent, and download it. Guess which one I chose?
Fred Wilson, says it better than I can ever hope to (seems like he had a similar problem, and found the same solution):
I understand their muscle memory in terms of the scarcity business model. But restricting access to content is a bad business model in the age of a global network that costs practically nothing to distribute on.
We, humans are creative beings, and we will always seek the shortest, fastest, cheapest path to creative content. We can make it illegal, but we can’t stop people from reaching out to their fundamental impulses. Perhaps it is time we change the way we have organized how we make money from those impulses.