Hmm, well this discussion has been relatively civil so far; that’s nice. The only torrent I’ve ever used was the download for Katawa Shoujo, which was free and legal anyway. I do have a lot of mp3s that are probably technically illegal on some level, but I do think of it as similar to the old days of people recording cassettes off of friends’ albums. I think one of the main reasons I think that way was that the cassettes were never illegal (blank cassettes were sold everywhere, and so were radios with dual-cassette capability which obviously existed for that very purpose) and on a business model level, there are still some other similarities akin to what others have said: if I really like somebody’s music, I’ll actually pay money for a CD or high-bitrate mp3 download so I get better quality.
I think a lot of the issue with this is similar to issues in the pharmaceutical industry. Recently, my doctor gave me a prescription for a medicine that turned out to be over $800 dollars! (I ended up not buying it and asking my doctor for an alternate choice.) In a few years, that very same medicine will be selling under a generic name for $10, so people ask, “Why are the pharmaceutical companies gouging us?” Well, it’s because while the medicine only costs about $10 to manufacture, the company had to go years of research, development, clinical testing, and FDA certification, all of which takes a lot of time and money. They only have a few years of selling the medicine at a higher price to recoup their investment before some other company is allowed to make a cheap knock-off that required none of the above steps.
On the other hand, in the entertainment industries, there are some expectations that are only partially realistic, in my opinion. Movies usually take a lot of money to produce, and I understand wanting to recoup that money so everyone in the film industry can go on working. What I don’t understand is the attitude that if a movie only makes a few million dollars over its production costs, it’s considered a failure. I blog, and I consider getting a few hundred hits on my blog a success. I’ve never made a cent off of blogging, and I can hardly imagine coming to the end of a year of blogging and saying, “Well, I only made $10,000 off of my blog this year, guess it’s a big flop.” That attitude means someone has forgotten art for art’s sake; if I were a musician and I made enough money to support my family and live comfortably, I would be more interested in how many people liked my music than how many millions of dollars I could potentially be squeezing out of my fans. Maybe I’m weird that way.
They are making no profit from each download of this whatsoever so it’s like your friend gets a dog, and later the dog gets preggers, and he gives you a puppy. Then the government busts in yelling at you saying that you stole that puppy from the person that sold the original dog to your friend.
I had to address this, because while your other points are fairly reasonable, I think there is a big error here. The problem is that the products at issue here are not physical objects, but packets of information. When someone sells you a physical object, you can of course do whatever you want with it, but since it’s an object, you can only share what it produces, not the object itself. If you buy a dog, you can give away or even sell its puppies. If you buy an ice cream maker, you can give ice cream to all your friends, or let them borrow the machine to make some themselves. If you buy a car, you can use it to run a taxi service, or strip it down for parts to sell to other people. Now take MS Word as a simple example: You can certainly write a book using the program, and the book is yours, not Microsoft’s. You can let people use your computer and write reports using Word. You can set up a small print shop company which uses one or more licensed copies of the program to format documents. What you may not do is give a copy of the program itself to all your friends.
And the company’s revenue is beside the point. If your next-door neighbor’s dog has a litter of ten puppies, does it make it less of a theft to take one of those puppies without permission than if the litter had been only three puppies? If someone kidnapped a child from Nadya “Octomom” Suleman, would they say, “Well, I’d hardly call it kidnapping. She’s got thirteen more!”