Ask Dave Taylor: Tech and Business


What is the real price of piracy and bootlegging?

The members of a writing list with which I'm involved are engaged in a very interesting debate about the dangers and evils of bootleg copies and illegal downloads. While most members take the stance you'd expect of people who produce unique intellectual property, that all copying, however benign, is evil and shouldn't be tolerated, a few are questioning whether that's really true.

In particular, when the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Software Publishers Association talk about the billions lost to piracy and illegal copies, their argument is based on a false premise: that every single person who bootlegs or pirates would otherwise have purchased the original.

I just don't think that's true. In fact, I think that the vast majority of people who have pirate or bootleg copies of music, movies, software or books would never have spent a dime on the product if that was the only option.

Realize as I write this that I have visited peer to peer (P2P) network repositories and found free-to-download PDFs of books I've written, so I'm not a stranger to the production and artistic side of this equation either. But really, given the predominant demographic of p2p users and given the substantially greater convenience of a print book (and that most of my books are about $20 or less anyway), being in the p2p space doesn't bother me too much.

First off, obviously, I don't believe that...