You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
It is exactly the correct word. A monopoly exists when there is only one supplier for a certain good. In this case the good is “SimAnt” and the supplier is “The legal copyright holder”. Or, at least, if the law is being followed, that is the case. There is only one legal supplier. The law serves to punish people who try to compete as suppliers for the good. The market for legal copies of SimAnt is an artificial monopoly.
sourmìlk wrote:Anyways, your math and arguments fail to take into considering two things. First, that the developer worked on the software and thus deserves to be compensated for his work. If somebody decides to benefit him without compensating him because that's easier, the developer has done work for no payoff.
This is wrong on multiple levels. First, doing work does not entitle a person to compensation. A person deserves to be paid only and exactly to the extent that someone is willing to pay them. That is a basic tenet of capitalism. In order to earn money, you need to find someone who will pay you. Second, my argument explicitly did
consider whether the developer deserves to be paid, and I concluded that the developer does deserve to be paid in order to incentivize the development of software.
sourmìlk wrote:Second, if the developer owns the property, then it is and should be his right to give it to whoever he damn well please, for any reason at all.
The property in question is information. Specifically, it is a number. The SimAnt program is a sequence of 1s and 0s that uniquely specify a non-negative integer in binary. That is the thing you are thinking about buying or downloading. The developer, in essence, wrote down a number. No one “owns” numbers. However, initially only the developer knows what the exact number he or she wrote down is. It is a secret number. When you obtain the software, someone is revealing that secret number to you. You now know what it is, as it is written out in bits on your hard drive. Let’s call the number K.
K is just a number. It is a positive integer, and no one owns numbers.. You know its binary representation, so you are one of the secret-keepers now. If there were no laws about copyrights, you could, if you wanted, freely tell the number to other people. It’s just a number after all, and you have the freedom of speech so you certainly have the right to say numbers. You have, if I may use your very own wording, the “right to give that number to anyone you damn well please, for any reason at all.”
Copyright laws say, “No, actually, you do not have the right to tell other people the secret number”. This is a restriction of your freedom of speech. That is the only thing that copyright law does—restrict freedoms.
sourmìlk wrote:Total gain doesn't matter. I don't know why you'd think it would. If I steal something then the net gain is $0, that doesn't mean stealing is okay.
Total gain does matter. It is not the only thing that matters, but it definitely does matter. The only valid measure of how “good” a low is, is how much better off is society with this law in place than without it, or with one of its alternatives instead. When copyright laws are well-written, they restrict freedoms in an important and beneficial manner, such that society as a whole is better off than it would be without those laws.
sourmìlk wrote:To do your math again, let me show you how the vendor's gain is negative:
x = value of product
This is wrong already. Products do not have intrinsic value. A product has value to a person, and almost always has a different value to different people. You may have wanted to say, “x = free-market equilibrium price of product”, or “x = pure monopoly equilibrium price of product”, or some other meaningful statement about the price charged for the product.
sourmìlk wrote:y = value of work divided by potential sales. Should be less than x assuming the vendor can price properly
Case 1: you pay me 10 for it
My gain = 10 - y
Your gain = x - 10
Total gain = (my gain) + (your gain) = (10 - y) + (x - 10) = x - y
Case 2: you pirate it
My gain = -y
Your gain: x
total gain = (my gain) + (your gain) = (-y) + (x) = x - y
Good, we’re on the same page here. However, y is not what you think it is. The actual relevant number is “y = marginal cost to produce one unit of the product”. If we are dealing with a physical object like a hammer, then the marginal cost to produce it will include the cost of supplies, the wages for workers to produce it, and other associated costs with producing “one extra hammer” at the factory. But when we are dealing with an information object like SimAnt, then the marginal cost to produce it is essentially zero. Making a digital copy is nearly free, certainly much cheaper than any physical manufacturing process. The cost to produce “one extra copy of SimAnt” is far less than the cost to produce “one extra toothpick” or “one extra paper clip”.
As a result, equilibrium free-market price for software is $0. Also note that, when I download the software, the infinitesimal cost y of producing a copy is borne by whoever actually made the copy, namely whoever I downloaded it from. If that was not you, then you don’t suffer any loss at all.
When you were writing your post and thinking about y, you probably were including the cost of developing the software in the first place. That is a fallacy. Those costs, just like the cost to construct a factory in the first place, are called “sunk costs”, and do not affect the marginal cost to produce the product.
The marginal cost for making a copy of existing software is essentially zero, and thus so is the equilibrium free-market price. Anyone who tells you they support a free market and oppose government regulation, but also support copyright protection, is a hypocrite. Copyright laws are solely and exclusively a government regulation that restricts the free market.
Why do such laws exist? We already covered that. They are beneficial to society. They allow developers to set prices at the monopoly level, thus recouping sunk costs from development. Without such a law, the sunk costs would discourage anyone from developing new software. That is because the barrier to entry in the market of “supplying copies of existing software” is also nearly zero, so anyone could just start undercutting the price.
sourmìlk wrote:Case 3: you do not purchase or download
My gain = 0 (you wouldn't have counted as a potential sale)
your gain: 0
total gain = 0
Note, though, that total gain doesn't actually matter, for reasons articulated above.[/spoiler]
As you can see, the developer's gain is negative when you pirate it. It is not free for the developer to create software, and a potential customer has no right to deny the developer of his compensation.
It is, as I mentioned, essentially zero-cost for anyone to create copies of existing software, so no one actually loses anything. However, the sum total benefit is greater when you have the software. Society as a whole prefers that the transaction, where you (meaning anyone who wants it) get the software, should occur as often as possible. In a free market, the price would go to zero because the marginal cost of manufacturing a copy of existing software is zero. Then everyone who wants the software would get it. Maximizing utility is exactly what the free market does best.
However, the free market only maximizes utility among the buyers and sellers. It does not account for good or bad effects on other people who were not involved in the transaction. In this case, we are interested in the effect of “potential future software developers decide whether or not it is worth their time and effort to develop new software”. And for that, the free-market price is too low. Of course, the monopoly price is almost certainly higher than necessary, but we can live with that for a time.
I already explained how and why we allow the temporary monopoly, as well as why it is better to have a moderately short duration for it rather than a longer one. I am not going to give you a detailed introduction to economics, although I think you would benefit from having one. I recommend that you take a course in economics when you go to college.
I will, however, explain the difference between stealing and downloading without the developer’s consent.
In actuality, there are many suppliers for a copy of SimAnt. Namely, anyone who already has a copy can easily duplicate and distribute it. After all it’s just a number, a number that we represent by the symbol K. When there is a free market, a supplier and a consumer can make a trade without any outside influence.
Suppose you have a copy of SimAnt and I want a copy of it. It costs you y (approximately zero, certainly much less than 0.02¢ if you already have a server set up for people to download SimAnt from) so you are willing to sell it for any price above y. It is worth x to me in enjoyment, so I am willing to pay any price less than x. If x>y, which is almost certain since y is nearly 0, then we can haggle for a while and then decide on a mutually amenable price c, where y<c<x. It does not matter in the abstract sense what exact value c takes, since it is in the range where we are both willing to complete the transaction. Once we have agreed on a price, we complete the transaction. You give me a copy of SimAnt, and I give you c dollars.
That is how the free market works. We agree to a transaction we are both okay with. In the case of downloading the software, if someone is offering it for free then they are okay with a price of $0. Maybe they still get value from displaying ads on their website, so they are happy to have my traffic there. Maybe they just like being helpful.
In a free market, if someone is willing to complete the transaction at a price you are okay with, then you are better off because you get something of more value to you than you spent, and they are better off because they get something of more value to them than what they spent. Both parties are better off. In the case at hand, you downloading SimAnt from wherever you can find it, you value SimAnt more than the $0 you spend for it, and whoever provided it values your traffic to their site more than the trivial amount of bandwidth it cost them to send you a copy of SimAnt. So both the buyer and seller are happy. There is no “stealing” involved—it is a standard, basic, simple, free market transaction between a willing supplier and a willing purchaser. Everyone involved in the transaction is happy with it.
But what, I hear you ask, about the developer, or whomever currently owns the rights to SimAnt? They are not directly involved in the transaction, so any effect the transaction has on them is an externality. The free market ignores externalities, and that is why regulation of the free market is necessary—to maximize total utility including externalities. What, exactly, is the externality here? Does your download benefit or harm the copyright owner? Well, no, not directly. Not in the sense that buying a pack of cigarettes harms lungs of the people who will be nearby when you smoke.
The actual harm done by you downloading SimAnt for free, is potential that, “If everyone download all software for free, making software would not be profitable so no one would do it.” Who does that harm? Well, everyone who would have benefited from that future software. So we have to weigh “The potential benefit of future software” against “The actual benefit of current software”. Notably, both of those are directly contingent upon how many people are using the software in question.
So an optimal copyright law is one that enables developers to recoup the sunk cost of software development, meaning to let them pay for overhead costs and earn a decent wage during the time of development, including within that the costs associated with the risk that the software might not take off. But the optimal copyright law also provides as few restrictions on freedoms, and as short a duration of monopoly as possible to meet the requirement that developers be able to achieve compensation.
So in short, copyright laws are anti-capitalist, and the act of downloading from a website is a standard free market transaction. However, due to externalities the free market is suboptimal for dealing with so-called “intellectual property”, and as a result copyright laws serve to regulate the market so as to increase the total benefit to society.
Regarding the actual ethics of downloading abandonware, in this case the regulations are too strong. They in fact serve to decrease total utility by denying the legal right to obtain something beneficial from a willing supplier, in a manner that is not actually conducive to incentivizing new software production. Since the law itself is wrong, I see it as an opportunity for civil disobedience. If you are willing to take a stand for your freedom of speech, for the free market, and for reducing copyright terms to a superior duration such as 10 or 20 years, and if you are willing to suffer the consequences, then you might consider intentionally violating the law in a very public manner, along with a large number of fellow demonstrators. You may go to jail for several decades, but you might eventually get the law changed to better respect everyone’s rights and better maximize total utility.