by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
copying, copyright, file sharing, theft

Yet Another Study Shows That Students Inherently Know That File Sharing Is Not Theft

from the it-just-isn't dept

While folks like Vice President Biden continue to repeat the myth that infringement is no different than theft, and pretend that we're just one good education campaign away from having "the kids" all realize this, it's time to recognize this just isn't true. Infringement and theft are inherently different in many different ways, and no "education campaign" can make kids deny this reality. The massive SSRC study we've spoken about a few times made this point, and now Copycense points us to yet another study (and this is not the first one like this that we've seen) showing that students recognize that shoplifting a CD and downloading a song are simply not the same thing.
Why? The very nature of music piracy is likely the largest obstacle to curbing it, the authors say. There is no risk of physical harm to a victim and no physical object as a target -- making it easier to deduce that digital music theft is harming no one at all. Also, there is widespread social support for the behavior within the internet community and on college campuses.
As much as the industry wants to believe that if they keep repeating that it's the same as theft, people will believe it, kids are smart enough to recognize that making a copy of something is quite different than depriving someone of a physical object. In the initial case, no one is missing anything. That doesn't make it legal, but it certainly makes it clear that arguments around "educating" students that it's the same thing as "theft" aren't going to work. The kids know it's not true.

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  1. icon
    Nick Coghlan (profile), 14 Apr 2011 @ 6:58pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Most people don't realise this, but the number of software developers employed by companies that directly sell software is a relatively small fraction of the industry.

    Software development is really about selling the service of problem solving with computers. A company has a task they want to complete regularly. They'd like it automated to reduce errors due to manual processing, and to free up staff for other more productive activities. They pay software developers (directly or indirectly) to solve their specific problem.

    Or perhaps they want to sell a physical product that does something, so they pay the software developers to make the product do what they want.

    That's the real beauty of the open source approach. As we resolve different problems, the solutions can be published and shared, meaning that we can move on to solving new problems instead of endlessly reinventing solutions to problems that others have already dealt with effectively.

    There are a ton of ways to make money in the software industry, and most of them don't involve getting paid multiple times for writing a single piece of software. Instead, most of us get paid for writing new software, or selecting and tailoring existing software for a specific situation. Even in the companies that do sell shrink-wrapped software, the developers aren't getting paid royalties. Instead, we're paid (and usually well) for the time we spend making the company's products better. It doesn't matter whether that product goes on to sell 10 units or 10 million, we've already been paid our share.

    In cases where people do sell the same thing multiple times, then the idea is to make it a better experience to do the right thing. Most smartphone developers understand this, offering their apps at reasonable prices, but selling to a lot of people. Those are cases where the developer pretty much is the company, though. There are plenty of examples of big companies not getting it, though, and it provides opportunities for competitors to come in and offer a superior experience at a lower price point.

    From my point of view, royalty deals mostly seem like a scam to get out of paying people adequate salaries up front by holding out the lure of possible future earnings (and hoping that authors aren't financially savvy enough to figure out what a raw deal they're actually getting due to the time-value of money and the disproportionate division of risk).

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