The cost of a clone

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Posted by: stak
Posted on: 2011-02-02 15:10:22

So I was thinking more about my earlier post on the music industry. The scheme probably won't work for any number of reasons, but it made me realize the fundamental difference between music and everything else - copying it is free. Of course this applies to anything that can be digitized, not just music. Software, movies, etc. all fall into this boat. Making and distributing copies is considered "piracy", but from a moral standpoint, is it wrong?

The answer depends on how you define theft. If you think of it as depriving somebody else of the ability to use the resource, then the answer is no, since the copy leaves the original intact. But if you think of it as obtaining something without paying for it (or in general, without contributing to the cost of production of the object), then the answer is yes. With physical objects theft does both of these things, so we never needed laws before that distinguished between the two facets. But for the digital domain, we definitely do. And as 3-D printers (Thing-O-Matic, RepRap, etc.) get more common and refined, this problem will apply to physical objects as well.

I believe that there is a "right" answer to this question, but I'm not sure what it is. There's strong arguments for both sides, and I think some of the implications of "free" copying are as yet unknown.

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