Nathan Bransford wrote an excellent post the other day, in which he takes New York Times’ columnist, Randy Cohen (aka The Ethicist), to task for trying to justify downloading a pirated copy of an e-book (This morning I saw that reneesweet also covered it on her blog ).
The logic Mr. Cohen uses is that, if you’ve bought a copy of the book in one version, downloading a pirated e-copy of the same book in digital form isn’t really illegal (at least it shouldn’t be), after all, you’ve bought the hardcover, the author gets paid. Who cares if you then get an e-book version from some git who thinks it’s okay to steal other folks' stuff and give it away online [at this point, you’ve probably got a good idea about where I stand on this issue]?
I was surprised how many folks seemed to disagree with Nathan’s objection. It seems that some people really believe that if you’ve bought something in one format, there’s either nothing wrong with, or there’s some justification in, helping yourself to it in another format without paying.
When it comes to pirated copies of anything, I’ve heard a lot of daft logic about why ‘It’s okay because…’ from people over the years, usually about music. My personal favorite excuse is the ‘Well, if I had to pay for it I wouldn’t buy it, ‘cause I don’t like it enough, but this way, there’s a chance I might buy something else by them in the future.’ I’ve heard that often from folks who make or download illegal copies of CDs.
Regardless of the particular reason, the one thing which never gets acknowledged is the theft. If you ask me, excuses like: ‘Everybody else does it’; ‘It’s their fault for charging so much’; ‘It’s their fault for making it so easy to copy’; ‘I wouldn’t buy it, so they’re not really losing money’ are all irrelevant. If you take something which doesn’t belong to you, you’re stealing.
In a weird way, the thing that disturbs me most about all this is the attempt to justify the theft. If you’re going to steal something, at least be honest enough to admit that’s what you’re doing.
Then again, maybe I’ve got it wrong. Maybe if you’ve paid for a print copy of a book you deserve to get the digital copy for free, even if you have to take it yourself.
How about you?
Is it okay to obtain a pirated e-book if you’ve already bought the print version?