sourmìlk wrote:You're not arguing for piracy of abandonware,
Correct, I am arguing for changing the law.
sourmìlk wrote:you think piracy is okay in general, which is an untenable position.
Incorrect. I think that the legal duration of exclusivity for copyrights should be much shorter than it is.
Qaanol wrote:As a result, we see that there is no direct economic harm caused by stealing software.
Sure there is. The person who made the software loses a sale, and is not financially compensated for his work, despite the fact that people are using it, and that he did not give people permission to use it without paying him.
The key word there is “direct”. The person who made the software does not *lose* anything as a direct result of the sale, or lack of sale. He or she has every possession he or she already had before you downloaded the software. “A sale” is something he or she *never had*, and thus could not possibly lose. Let me make this abundantly clear: A lack of gain does not equal a loss.
Furthermore, the idea of a “lost sale” is greatly abused these days. As I understand things, almost all unauthorized software downloads are done by people who, if the free download were not available, would not have bought the paid version anyway. For example, suppose a certain piece of software is priced at $10. If it is only worth $5 to person P, then P will not buy it. If a download is available, P might download it though. That is not a lost sale, because P was not going to buy it for $10.
What does the software maker gain or lose when P decides whether to download it or not download it? Nothing. P was never going to buy it, so there’s not even a “potential future sale” on the line. What does P gain by deciding to download it? The use of the software. Now take the view of an omniscient observer. If P downloads it, the software maker gets nothing and P gets the software. If P does not download it, the software maker *still* gets nothing and now P does not get the software.
When faced with that choice, it becomes a lot harder to argue “P should not get the software”, because all other things are equal and the only question is whether P gets the software. That is to say, no one else gains or loses anything, and the choice is between having P gain something or not gain anything.
The “thing” that the author loses, insomuch as anything, is “a monopoly”. And ceteris paribus
, the loss of a monopoly is a good thing
, because it allows the so-called “invisible hand of the market” to effect the free market equilibrium, thereby maximizing total utility.
Monopolies are almost always bad, and the only time a monopoly can be good is in the presence of externalities. In this case, there are externalities, namely the incentive to create new software. The reason why the author should be compensated for his or her work, is to incentivize authorship.
We are all better off if people are writing software that people want, so we collectively want software authors to get paid for their work. As such, a monopoly is desirable.
Am I making this clear? A priori
, there should not be any monopolies, and the government should bust up or heavily regulate any monopolies that spring up. The argument “there should not be a monopoly on <xyz>” doesn’t even need to be made, it’s the default assumption. It is the other side, the argument, “there should
be a monopoly on <xyz>” that needs to be heavily supported and justified. If the argument in favor of monopoly is not rock solid, there should not be a monopoly.
In this particular case, the argument is not for just any old monopoly, but specifically for a monopoly that infringes the freedoms of speech and of the press
. That is what a copyright means: everyone
except the copyright hold, has their freedoms of speech and of the press limited, as they are no longer permitted to reproduce the work.
In order to limit someone’s freedom of speech requires yet another rock-solid, compelling reason. And here, that reason does exist, in my opinion. I am arguing in favor
of copyright protections. I am saying that there should be a monopoly
, and also that there should be limits on speech and the press
. Yet I am strongly opposed to monopolies, and strongly in favor of free speech and free press. Something convinced me that in the realm of creative works, it is sometimes okay to not only allow, but to actively enforce an inefficient market and the restriction of constitutional rights.
That “something” is the greater good. We are all better off when the creation of quality works is rewarded, because that leads to more such works being created, but we are only better off to the extent that those quality works are disseminated among the people who want them. Therefore, to maximize the greater good, we must ensure that the artificial monopoly of copyright protection expires in a timely fashion. That way authors have incentive to keep writing, and their works get a wider audience than could afford them at monopoly prices. Limiting the term of copyrights also provides benefit in the sense of decreasing restrictions on freedoms of speech and the press.
The very existence of copyright protection requires substantial justification. I provided that justification, and simultaneously demonstrated that the very justification itself leads naturally to the conclusion that the duration of exclusivity should be limited, certainly to a length much shorter than a human lifetime.
You want to know what you should do given the laws that we have? Whether you should download a specific piece of software? That is a personal choice. You can weigh the expected benefit of the software to you, against the possibility of being punished if you are caught. The same sort of calculation one might do before breaking any rule. In this case, the likelihood of getting caught is rather low, and the potential punishment is probably not very harsh. But what I really recommend and encourage you to do, is spread the word about how badly out copyright system needs an overhaul, and work to change the laws for the better.