PIRACY!

Research recently done in Switzerland has resulted in the downloading and uploading of copyrighted materials being kept legal. Downloading has been legal in Switzerland for a while now, but the research brings out a few valid arguments for not banning piracy. Yet the ethical aspect of not making piracy illegal has, and most likely will be challenged. The prominence of non-tangible media has brought along a need for research in both the mind of the consumer as well as his purchasing habits.
As the Swiss research points out, people who pirate copyrighted software are also the ones who spend the most money buying entertainment and interactive media, as well as going to concerts and so on.  This is a valid point, as well as a large misunderstanding on the part of the media producers. The idea that finding a way to decrease piracy is a valid method to increase profits, is in it’s essence, false. The understanding may be more truthful when dealing with actual tangible products. Like cars, for example. Yet when the property a company is making profit from is digital, this equation just doesn’t work. Yet another point that the Swiss research brought out, is that the piracy of software is complementary, not exclusive. The money used to buy software of all kinds is prognosed to say the same. As such, the amount of software bought as a result of making piracy illegal will not increase, it will stay the same.
Another point that the Swiss bring out, is that piracy and free sharing is the modus operandi of the Internet and that the producers of media and software should not try to battle it, but rather to try and strive thanks to it. It is said that piracy is sort of a filter, thanks to which the good software thrives and the weak falls behind because nobody actually buys it. This is yet another valid argument. If the software is good enough, it will be bought enough times for a gigantic profit to be made. Another way is to provide some sort of benefits to legally owning a piece of software. Some added functionality, or top notch customer support will motivate your end-user to pay for your software even after he has pirated it. Many games can only be played in multiplayer when the game is purchased, for example. This gives ample motivation for people to buy software and is a good filter to see what software is actually good and what isn’t.
Yet, even when considering this liberal way of thought, there are still people who just pirate because they want to, with no intention of supporting the developer or producer.  And there is indeed no denying that piracy is a form of theft, and as such, a criminal violation. So at its roots, the decision Switzerland made is still legalizing theft. It does not matter whether the product is tangible or not, it is still theft. The psychology of the thief might be different, but sadly there is no “middle way” to combat piracy. You’re either a thief or you aren’t, nobody can be a semi-thief. So the only choices are basically to make it illegal or keep it legal, because there can be no partial legalization of theft.
The ethical issue of theft is more complex by an order of magnitude, due to the thing being stolen not actually being tangible. There is a great divide between the mindset of pirates and thieves, yet they have to be penalized in the same way. The arguments the Swiss research paper makes are valid, yet the choice of not banning piracy is still making theft legal. Yet the other choice would not completely be right as well. The hope is that developers of software will start thinking up new and new ways, not to combat piracy, but to make their products more and more enticing so that the end user would be more compelled to pay for their software.