Comparing Unauthorized Downloads To Speed Limits

from the problem-starts-at-home dept

Given the entertainment industry's obsession with claiming (often in a misleading way) that unauthorized use of copyrighted content hurts all the "everyday" people in the industry rather than the big stars, you would hope that people in the entertainment industry capital of the world, Los Angeles, would be concerned about the problem -- but it appears that many are not. A new study suggests that one in four Los Angelinos bought, copied or downloaded an unauthorized product. Now, that includes things like counterfeit handbags as well as downloading music. However, it's a self-reported study, so it wouldn't be crazy to suggest that these results are much lower than reality, as many people probably wouldn't admit to downloading when asked point-blank. No matter what the number is, Justin Levine uses this study to kick off an interesting discussion comparing such actions to breaking the speed limit. His point is that most people have a general sense of fairness. If they're breaking the speed limit, it's often because they actually think the speed limit is too slow. If speed limits were raised, some people would still speed, but it would be a smaller amount. Alternatively, if the speed limits were lowered, more people would likely break the speed limit. If you swap that analogy back to downloading, Levine notes that it seems like this study is only going to be used by officials as a reason to "crack down," or effectively "lower the speed limit." In other words, trying to crack down on the problem is only likely to make it worse -- which is pretty much exactly what we've seen over the past decade.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    BilDaKid, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 12:40pm

    Insightful

    Very good analogy. I agree 100%. Honestly I hated Itunes for the DRM and the relatively high price, so I was tempted to download illegal music. Then AllofMP3 sprang up. Now I know it may not be legal here in the US, but my "general sense of fairness" kicked in and all of the sudden I felt good about spending 13c(just realized there's no "cents" symbol on a keybord) a song.

     

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  2.  
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    allyn, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 12:52pm

    AllofMP3

    I loved all of MP3 and spent more money there than I ever did on Itunes.

     

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  3.  
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    RandomThoughts, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 12:59pm

    So its pretty much about price, right? I mean, you can buy DRM free music. You just don't like how much they charge?

     

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  4.  
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    freakengine, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 1:06pm

    Let's put it this way - when there is no physical disc, no physical distribution, and fewer middlemen, shouldn't prices be lower than the itunes model? When the labels finally learn that the consumers have the ultimate power to buy or not, it will probably be too late, much like it was for the French aristocracy.

     

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  5.  
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    RandomThoughts, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 1:11pm

    Consumers have the ultimate power to buy, not buy or obtain it without paying for it. I have a problem with the third option.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 1:15pm

    I know this is a bit off the subject but you can get the ¢ sign by holding down the alt key and at the same time typing in 0162 on the number pad. You have to use the number pad to do this. The ¢ will then show up after you release the alt key.

     

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  7.  
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    BilDaKid, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 1:17pm

    Price point

    Yeah, actually it is about price. Also when AOMP3 came out there was no Itunes Plus, DRM'less music available. So now I'm supposed to pay $2 for one song? That's almost as much of a ripoff as ringtones.

    I am a firm believer in capitolism and our economy. Can't blame Apple for charging $5 a song if people will pay it. But when the government gets invovled and limits competition that results in those high prices. That is something I'm very much against.

     

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  8.  
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    Wolfger, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 1:17pm

    Re:

    I don't like how much they overcharge, correct. The price charged for DRM'd music is a decent price, but DRM'd music is not a product I wish to purchase. I would gladly pay that price for non-DRM'd music, but they decided that they can gouge us (30% increase) for that, and I won't consent to being taken advantage of. Why pay *more* for digital copies of an album than I would pay for the physical album (which I can easily turn into digital copies) when the digital version costs the record company *less*? Too much greed on their part creates (or at least increases) the culture of piracy we currently see.

     

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  9.  
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    Health Sceptic (profile), Aug 28th, 2007 @ 1:23pm

    Charge to much for something...

    ... and people will find away to not have to pay that high price for something they want. Econ 101. Music is just another example of failing to heed the market. iTunes is a clear example of at least listen a bit. Make easy to be legal and make it so you only pay for what you want and people will flock to it. Make the product expensive or add and charge for stuff people don't want and people will either not but or find another way to get it.

     

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  10.  
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    ibmihs, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 1:24pm

    Living a lifetime w only 5 installations of iTunes

    I am resigned to purchasing CDs.

    I have had drives fail and needed to reinstall iTunes... each time this happens I give up another pc that the music can be access from as prescribed by Apple. With my luck, I won't be able to use any iTunes purchased music (what with crapping out drives and other hardware upgrades and random freak accidents) in 2 years.

    Is this fair? NYET!

     

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  11.  
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    GoblinJuice, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 1:30pm

    Re: Insightful



    Cent symbol (no spaces): & cent ;

     

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  12.  
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    awwtbone, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 1:53pm

    ¢

    ñÖ¿

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 1:59pm

    Re: Re: Insightful

    GoblinJuice: That's a white question mark in a black box.

    Obviously the method using alt and the numpad is better, as it is really a cent sign. Using something that only works ify ou have your settings right is kinda useless compared to something that works on everything.

    Hmm, sounds like DRM so I guess I'm not tottaly off topic.

     

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  14.  
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    Bah who needs one, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 2:00pm

    Here is what I find amusing. The L.A. Times article says "A counterfeit DVD, for example, costs about 50 cents to produce but sells for at least $5 on the street. That makes it cheap for buyers and lucrative for bootleggers."

    It neglects to mention that a non-counterfeit DVD likewise costs about 50 cents to produce (actually, probably significantly less, due to the higher volume of production and economies of scale) and goes for closer to $15.

    Who's ripping their customers off more? The bootleggers, with a factor-of-10 markup, or the "legitimate" recording industry, with a factor-of-30-or-more markup?

    (And whichever you buy from, the artists are lucky to see a thin dime in royalties. The bootleggers are actually more honest; people buying from a bootlegger probably suspect the artist won't see a cent of their money just spent, whereas people buying from the local HMV probably don't suspect, especially given the recording industry's frequent loud rhetoric about artists having to get paid when denouncing bootlegging and downloads.)

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 2:03pm

    ¢

     

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  16.  
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    BilDaKid, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 2:07pm

    ¢

    Wow, that was easy. Just when you think you know everything something else pops up.

     

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  17.  
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    Derek, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 2:21pm

    nice analogy

    i really like that analogy... anyway, there are people who are working a new music service who want to help, fill out their survey. Listener's Choice Survey

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 2:22pm

    Re:

    god you are dumb. bootleggers have no costs involved producing the actual CONTENT, which is what people are paying for. a factor of 30 or more mark-up? It's not a mark-up, it's to cover the many costs of doing business, and actually creating the content in the first place. Content isn't free, and people put a lot of hard work and energy into creating it, which bootleggers have no respect for.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 2:29pm

    Here is an idea. If you don't like the price, don't buy it. Oh, I know, the industry is turning its customers into crooks.

    I want a Mercedes but I can't afford it so its ok to steal it.

     

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  20.  
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    Casper, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 3:18pm

    Re:

    Here is an idea. If you don't like the price, don't buy it. Oh, I know, the industry is turning its customers into crooks.

    I want a Mercedes but I can't afford it so its ok to steal it.

    You fail, please come back when you are more intelligent.

     

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  21.  
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    Mischa, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 3:40pm

    Re: Re: Re: Insightful

    And I just see a regular (black) question mark. :-)

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 3:58pm

    Casper, come back when you stop being a crook.

     

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  23.  
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    common_sense, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 5:50pm

    Re: Re:

    while you say this, your real motivation and thoughts are "you don't agree with our rationalizing and subjective ethical behavior. please come back when you aren't challenging our positions."

     

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  24.  
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    john, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 6:44pm

    And the price for most derailed analogy goes to...

    How is "cracking down" the equivalent of lowering the speed limit? Cracking down on downloading means, I imagine, increasing measures to catch lawbreakers, which in the analogy would be something like installing speed cameras - which s what's done to prevent speeding, and which presumably works to some extent. Lowering the speed limit is making the activity criminal at a lower rate of occurrence - for this to make sense in the analogy there would have to be some amount of illegal downloading that one is legally entitled to do, which there isn't. Not officially, at least.

    God, I hate bad metaphors...

     

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  25.  
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    Pete, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 10:54pm

    Ok. I know this has been stated in the past. But let me restate in anothers words.
    For those last comic standing fans, one comic put it this way. (cant remember his name)

    I hate the fbi ads at the begining of movies. They say "You wouldn't steal a car." Right. I wouldn't steal a car. But if my buddy called up and said "Hey I just got a brand new BMW. Would you like me to burn you a copy?" I might think about it.

    Seriously. It's a COPY. An seriously if you think the $15 goes to "covering costs" you are just as brainwashed as the rest of them. Go get in line. Effing Lemmings.

     

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  26.  
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    Pete, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 11:00pm

     

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  27.  
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    Neverhood, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 1:40am

    Come on ppl

    I loathe bootleggers almost as much as the record companies. They are making big money off other peoples work, and there is a huge difference between that and the single consumer copying his friends CD.

    This is why we have copyright. But if people starts copying single copies for them selves instead of buying your product, which you should be able to make much much cheaper because of huge volume, then there is something wrong with your price/business model.

    And saying that downloading music illegally is the same as stealing a BMW is total BS.

    Pete says it beautifully:
    "They say "You wouldn't steal a car." Right. I wouldn't steal a car. But if my buddy called up and said "Hey I just got a brand new BMW. Would you like me to burn you a copy?" I might think about it."

     

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  28.  
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    Pete, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 2:15am

    You give me credit for that commentNeverhood, but i did not come up with it. Just laughed really hard when i heard it.
    Maybe I am now guilty of copyright infringement.

    And one more thing.

    John. Maybe you should get your reading scores up before you post. The comparison is to WHY people are dl'ng music istead of puchasing. It is not comparing speed limits to cracking down.
    Another lemming. Go jump.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 5:44am

    Re: Living a lifetime w only 5 installations of iT

    Ibmihs,

    All you have to do is call Apple and tell them you have a new hard drive. My buddy has done this several times, but I don't know how many times you can do it.

     

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  30.  
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    YouKnowNothing, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 6:24am

    Re:

    Flawed analogy. You're conflating intellectual property in digital format with real, tangible property. Please don't do that. Here's a better analogy:

    What if you had a magic wand and could create an *exact duplicate* of a Mercedes out of thin air, then drive off in it? You may be guilty of making an unauthorized copy, but you certainly didn't steal anything.

    Any by the way, the SCOTUS agrees with this. See Dowling v. United States, 473 U.S. 207 (1985).

     

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  31.  
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    SailorRipley, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 6:36am

    Re: Re:

    Actually, you can't tell whether he is dumb or not...we can tell for sure you are though...

    By the time the vast majority of movies is released on DVD, the cost to produce the actual content has already been recovered from the box office revenue. And this is without even taking into account revenue from merchandise.

    The additional cost of additional content for the DVD is minimal/next to nothing, as a lot of DVDs don't do much more than slap some deleted scenes, trailers, biographies, stills, and some other bits that were already shot during the making of the movie (often for promotional purposes at some point). Heck, even making a commentary track doesn't cost that much, after all it's the actor(s) and/or director and/or ... sitting around, watching the movie and giving comments

    In short, for the vast majority of movies
    1) content creation has already been paid back by box office revenue
    2) the additional cost for additional content on the DVD is minor/non existent

    so his initial comparison still stands as far as I am concerned...by the time a movie is released on DVD, any costs of content creation have been covered plenty

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 7:11am

    Re: Re: Re:

    nope, our real motivation and thoughts are: please come back when you (can) challenge our positions with something else besides old (as in used and dismissed many times) arguments that are irrelevant...

     

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  33.  
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    ibmihs, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 7:29am

    Re: Re: Living a lifetime w only 5 installations o

    Gee, thanks for the FYI... I'm pretty sure I tried that before drinking 5 bottles of wine and crying into my finally empty cup.

    However, if it has worked for someone, can't hurt to call again. Thanks.

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 9:41am

    Way around ITunes DRM....

    Burn your music purchased from ITunes to a CD and then rip it back to MP3 format without any DRM. Simple as that.

     

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  35.  
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    ibmihs, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 10:21am

    Re: Way around ITunes DRM....

    I am technically retarded. Didn't know that was possible, lazy me didn't bother to search for that solution. Thanks for pointing it out. (Next chapter: haranguing my proficient friends for free labor)

     

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  36.  
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    John M, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 10:30am

    It's not a question of not being able to afford it, it is that the price is too high for what you are getting especially in the case of downloadable music - even more so for DRM'd downloads.

    Rewind back to the 80's when companies were selling VHS and Cassettes. One of the large "Yes, please." factors to moving to CDs and DVDs was that those media types cost less to manufacture... Yet when they came out, they charged more for them than the older VHS/Cassettes. A lot of people were angry about this, and a lot of people went on to obtain illegal copies "in protest" of their decision to charge more for something that was cheaper.

    Now we move to downloads for music and movies. These cost even LESS to produce, and a website does not require a large sales and manufacturing workforce to man it. This "should" result in an even cheaper product, right? Wrong. The downloads still cost the same, and sometimes even more when you compound 99 cents per song. AoMP3 was charging about what it should have cost for much of their music - $1-$2 per album, with a sliding scale based on track length. This allowed you to get a track from an album like "1. Intro 0:42" for only a few cents, rather than the 99 cents like the other online retailers. The big name websites could learn a thing or two from this...

    Then you add DRM on top of it all, and this costs money. The company had to pay the initial costs to develop the system, and has to host a licensing server for the music/movies to call home to. This is very expensive in comparison to non-DRM distribution methods - and guess what? The cost is passed off onto the consumer, making your downloads cost more than they should.

    DRM also gets problematic in that you do not have full control over your media. You can delete it from one computer and put it on another instead, you can only burn one or two copies to disc, so on and so on. What happens when you replace your computer more than once in your lifetime? Or maybe you keep losing or scratching the CD that you burned? Too bad, you gotta buy it all over again. This is ridiculous.

    I personally refuse to purchase music or movies online for more than it would cost to buy it from a store. I'd rather pay less and get the actual CD/DVD including the package. I also refuse to buy any media which contains DRM. It is a waste of money for me to invest in those tracks on the offchance that I need to make more legitimate/legal copies of the media than they think is fair.

    "I want a Mercedes but I can't afford it so it's okay to steal it." is not how these people are thinking who download music illegally. The amount of money people have is not at issue here. The people downloading music/movies without paying for it come from all walks of life. Some are poor, some are middle class, and some are millionaires.

    The notion remains that if they dropped the price of online media to better represent the cost of bringing it to you, I would personally guarantee that the number of unique customers and the volume of sales would increase, while the number of illegal downloads would decrease. There will always be people who find it nice to still get things for free - that won't go away, but you can still bring back the ones who WANT to buy the music legally, but can not justify paying their insane rates.

    Take that $70k Mercedes you used in your example, take out the increase in price the dealership is charging, strip out all of the optional accessories (but hint that it still has them in your online ad), and then tell me that I can only drive it 15 miles a day, and that the car company will track me on GPS 24-hours a day to see that I do not park my car at a friends house when I visit him, and that no one else may ride in the car aside from yourself... And charge $75k for "removing the dealership" (middleman). THIS is the problem with buying online music with DRM, and why people are avoiding it.

     

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  37.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 11:33am

    Re: Re:

    Any by the way, the SCOTUS agrees with this. See Dowling v. United States, 473 U.S. 207 (1985).

    This case fell before the No Electronic Theft Act was passed. Get it, THEFT.

    Another point is that the Dowling case said that copyright violation material (the CD's) couldn't be considered stolen property. NET changes that, and even if it didn't, the act of distributing copyright material illegally is defined as theft.

     

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  38.  
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    common_sense, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 3:50pm

    Re: Come on ppl

    another bad analogy. you just dismissed the BMW theft being compared to illegal music downloading, then compared burning an illegal copy of something with obtaining a BMW illegally.

    the bottom line here is not the business model as much as it is the ethical decisions people choose to make and the increasingly creative ways they justify and rationalize their behavior.

     

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  39.  
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    common_sense, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 3:52pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    i should have been more clear, anon... my comment was directed towards casper's statement. i notice sometimes the comments don't thread correctly on the page.

     

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  40.  
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    common_sense, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 3:57pm

    Re:

    all an elaborate attempt at justification for your actions, but the bottom line motivation is "getting something for nothing".

     

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  41.  
    identicon
    Simon, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 4:27pm

    Re: John M

    What you said is exactly right in every way!!!!!!!
    Couldn't have said it better myself

    I do not download music/movies legally because the price is too high and the stupid f*****g DRM is too restrictive!!
    If they removed the DRM and charged a reasonable price for it I would probably pay for it legally.
    These greedy industry b******s just don't get it AT ALL!!

     

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