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Science: “Copyright Infringement is Good for Everyone”

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By Nelson Schneider - 02/10/19 at 03:30 PM CT

At long last, science, that great discipline through which all Truth is revealed, has taken a look at a unique phenomenon of the modern world: Copyright. Since the Digital Revolution brought on by the advent of the Internet in the early 21st Century, IP rightsholders have tried desperately to continue enforcing their will on the general public through excessive lobbying, which has led to increasingly draconian laws on the state books in numerous countries, such as the United States, Poland, and most recently Japan.

In a 2018 study by Indiana University, spearheaded by Antino Kim, science has proven what many of us have known for decades already: Copyright infringement results in a win-win scenario. But how is it possible that flaunting the law of the land can lead to positive results? It’s quite simple.

In moderate amounts, copyright infringement benefits the rightsholders for digital media by creating demand and increasing mindshare (a.k.a., positive network effect). Megacorporations like Microsoft and Adobe understand this, and don’t generally make a big deal about prosecuting people who illegally download Windows, Office, or Creative Suite software, because they know that people who like their software and know how to use it will be more inclined to actually buy a license (or encourage the company they work for to setup a bulk licensing scheme) if and when the time comes that they’d need to dot the ‘i’s and cross the ‘t’s in a commercial use scenario of said software. Likewise, PC game developers have understood this literally for decades, as the idea underlies the entire Shareware distribution method of the ‘80s and ‘90s. The Indiana University study specifically cites illegal sharing of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” TV series as dramatically increasing interest in and demand for new episodes of the show, while ultimately costing little to nothing in the way of lost revenue, since people who pirate either can’t or won’t pay, regardless.

On the other side of the coin, casual copyright infringement benefits the end user and consumer by letting the rightsholders know that, yes, indeed, their infinitely-reproducible products do have a price ceiling. PC gamers and Steam users have long hypothesized that the reason 7th Generation games sold for $10 less on Steam than their console counterparts was because the PC users always had the piracy option available to them if they didn’t like the price, and in light of the Indiana University study, it turns out they were right.

In the end, if the copyright infringement levels of “Game of Thrones” are still considered ‘moderate’ enough to result in a net positive for both the producer and the consumer, AND that show consistently sets new records for ‘Most Pirated Thing Ever,’ it seems to me that worrying about copyright infringement in any way, shape, or form is a complete waste of energy. But as we’ve seen from Nintendo’s efforts to squash ROMs last year, and the concerns over AT&T repeating some of their older copyright shenanigans now that they have absorbed HBO and its Most Pirated Thing Ever, corporations are painfully slow to adapt, and hardline Capitalists are, ironically, some of the first people to go crying to the government when their beloved Hidden Hand fails to regulate in their favor.

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