From the incomparable Cory Doctorow. Would that we could make all our politicians and media moguls understand the concept of sharing.
“I recently saw Neil Gaiman give a talk at which someone asked him how he felt about piracy of his books. He said, “Hands up in the audience if you discovered your favorite writer for free because someone loaned you a copy, or because someone gave it to you? Now, hands up if you found your favorite writer by walking into a store and plunking down cash.” Overwhelmingly, the audience said that they’d discovered their favorite writers for free, on a loan or as a gift. When it comes to my favorite writers, there’s no boundaries: I’ll buy every book they publish, just to own it (sometimes I buy two or three, to give away to friends who must read those books). I pay to see them live. I buy tshirts with their book covers on them. I’m a customer for life.
Neil went on to say that he was part of the tribe of readers, the tiny minority of people in the world who read for pleasure, buying books because they love them. One thing he knows about everyone who downloads his books on the Internet without permission is that they’re readers, they’re people who love books.
People who study the habits of music buyers have discovered something curious: the biggest pirates are also the biggest spenders. If you pirate music all night long, chances are you’re one of the few people left who also goes to the record store (remember those?) during the day. You probably go to concerts on the weekend, and you probably check music out of the library too. If you’re a member of the red hot music fan tribe, you do lots of everything that has to do with music, from singing in the shower to paying for blackmarket vinyl bootlegs of rare Eastern European covers of your favorite deathmetal band.
If I could loan out my physical books without giving up possession of them, I would. The fact that I can do so with digital files is not a bug, it’s a feature, and a damned fine one. It’s embarrassing to see all these writers and musicians and artists bemoaning the fact that art just got this wicked new feature: the ability to be shared without losing access to it in the first place. It’s like watching restaurant owners crying down their shirts about the new free lunch machine that’s feeding the world’s starving people because it’ll force them to reconsider their business models. Yes, that’s gonna be tricky, but let’s not lose sight of the main attraction: free lunches!
Universal access to human knowledge is in our grasp, for the first time in the history of the world. This is not a bad thing.”