Rick Falkvinge takes on the standard claim that file sharing is all about "just getting stuff for free," by arguing that the 'free' part frames the discussion totally incorrectly. Instead, he notes, it's all about sharing
, and was never about the money. He explains by analogy:
In a future where the Earth has been poisoned to an extent where the water is a health hazard, cleanup efforts have been ongoing for a long time. For health reasons, there are laws that people may only drink the water from a particular company, Waterisnew, which enjoys a monopoly on water supply — and know to charge for it, too.
Then, one day, nature’s water is announced clean by scientists. But the laws are still in place. People rush out into the forest and drink from rivers, despite the fact that it breaks laws and Waterisnew’s monopoly.
Executives at Waterisnew are furious that people dare break their monopoly. Somebody asks, cautiously, if the price of water may be wrong? Could there be a business failure involved? If they charged less for the water, then maybe people would stop pirate-drinking water from clean rivers and go back to legal alternatives?
As illustrated, the question misses the point entirely. Just as the water had become decommercialized, so has making copies of bitpatterns.
People don’t copy because of a price tag somewhere else, entirely regardless of what that price tag says. People copy because they can, because it is associated with freedom and because it is in human nature to share
In fact, he points to some very interesting research on why people share
, and it comes down to a simple point: it's human nature to share content. It doesn't actually cost anything and it builds a relationship and cultural bond with others. If you look at the reasons that people share, it's the reasons why people do all sorts of things: to connect with others, to entertain others, to "define" ourselves, to spread information, etc. Information has become a tool, not a product, and that's difficult for those who are used to selling it as a product to grasp.