Do you ever get the feeling that you’re paying for nothing?
Software and data in general is an artificial product created by our laws. We can sit here and argue about whether these laws benefit or harm society. But I’m not going to do that.
What is a valid product is the service of creating data. You can surely pay someone to create data that does or says what you want it to. But why is it that it is against the law to transmit this data to some unauthorized party? Something just seems inherently unnatural about this. Support is also a valid product. You create software for someone and then charge them to support it.
I think this is partly the basis for the free software movement.
Hell, I don’t even know if I agree with all of this myself. I have recently shelled out $189 for VMWare, when I could have easily just pirated it. I guess it is because I feel like they deserve my money. It is a good product. But at the same time, I see this as a donation in the sense that it doesn’t make sense that it should cost money once it is already written. I mean, other than the negligible cost of their bandwidth, it cost them nothing extra to “allow” me to download their software. In other words, I wouldn’t have felt particularly bad if I had pirated the software. I only would have felt as bad as, say, listening to free Internet radio without donating any money.
Of course, the software and entertainment industry wants us to believe that each time you illegally download software, music, movies, or some other sort of data, they are somehow losing money. Sure, some of the people that did it illegally would have otherwise paid for what they downloaded. But they would have you believe that a college student, had they not been able to download $250 Photoshop and $10,000 worth of music, would have paid for it.
Give me a break. More on free software to come (free as in speech, and free as in beer).
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