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Ben Hudson

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Does piracy stem from the fact that digital media has no physical manifestation?

In his the first chapter of his book 'The Laws of Simplicity,' John Maeda discusses the simplification of a product with two counterbalanced actions in design. The first is that simplicity may be achieved by shrinking and hiding the complexity in a design. the problem is that that product is generally imbued with the expectation that the product truly is simple, and thus generally not something to be taken seriously. This phenomena can also lead to the expectation that a product that shrinks and hides it's complexity should also cost less money. This is where Maeda explains we must counterbalance that by embodying some sense of value into the design. For example, despite the fact that jewelry is small and sometimes fairly simple, we understand that it carries a high monetary value because it is made out of precious material. If that piece of jewelry has shoddy craftsmanship, however, the illusion is shattered.

Piracy is more and more becoming a topic of debate and discussion in this age of digital media. Many people illegally download software, music, movies without so much as a second thought. They generally wouldn't even think of robbing a house or shoplifting. They understand that it is illegal, yet they do it anyways.

Piracy has a number of contributing factors, but I'm wondering: Does piracy perhaps stem from the fact that digital media has no physical manifestation? Perhaps because we cannot hold it in our hands, we feel it cannot have any value as a piece of property.

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    Apr 4 2011: Ben, no, I don't think that piracy has to do with the lack of physical manifestation.
    There are pirates (real ones) off the coast of Somalia, stealing real big hardware. Piracy can be found in any realm of life.
    The difference is that music, software, etc. are easier accessible to "pirates" than a huge vessel in the middle of the ocean.
  • Apr 3 2011: Piracy existed before digital technology. It was limited to high ticket items because the expenses incurred for (re)production and distribution for lower priced mass produced items were not cost effective. It was usually faster, cheaper and/or easier, to buy the real thing. Those high priced items; designer hand bags, watches, etc., that do have a physical manifestation are counterfeited.
  • Apr 3 2011: Piracy in the United States has no physical form, usually, but in many other countries finding pirated copies of DVD's, for example, can be very easy and people do not seem to have much inhibition in purchasing them. I believe people feel less guilty about pirating digital because the music industry is so rich. It is hard to feel sorry for high paid executives and multi millionaire music stars. Personally, I refuse to pirate music from underground artists and people who are not signed to a major label but I have less sympathy for major artists. They are rich, I am poor. I could not afford the music otherwise.