Life, Liberty and the Download of Happiness

Piracy debates in libertarian circles often center around whether intellectual property is justified. Truly, nothing is being stolen and any predictions of about the market value of a song are simply wrong insofar as piracy is greater than expected. A sound justification, however, lies with a simple consequentialist argument: the use of copyright encourages the production of content which, overall, increases our standard of living.

The cost of music, books, software and other intellectual properties is often both out of range and beyond personal utility, however. At the same time, the cost of negotiating a lower price is high and the likelihood of success is low. Thus it seems to make sense that one should engage in two activities: purchase what one can or buy to the margin, pirate the rest. In the former case, one pirates everything that is beyond the reality of one's budget; in the latter one is honest (in some sense) about utility: pirating enough to bring the total price in line. Following either policy should have no impact on sales, and therefore production, while increasing one's own wealth and standard of living at no appreciable cost to others.

Piracy, then, is no longer something that's good for you, it's a moral duty.

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