Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Why the Software Industry's Anti-Piracy Fight Flies Under the Radar, and the Entertainment Industry Gets No Love

This post from National Journal's tech blog on prison sentences meted out to Chinese software pirates reminds me of something I've always considered curious: why does the software industry receive so little grief for its anti-piracy efforts, as compared to the vitriol regularly heaped on the music and film industries for their attempts to stamp out infringement of their works?

It's not as if the BSA, the industry's trade association, is a bunch of softies; its web site regularly touts its victories in civil litigation as well as its successes in getting law enforcement to target software pirates. It even offers rewards to encourage people to turn in suspected pirates.

I suspect the main reason is cultural. Many among the copyleft/"free culture" movement are techies. They either make money by writing software themselves, or hang out with people who do. They know that it's hard work, and they wouldn't want people to steal the fruits of their labor. So they understand, and tolerate, the BSA's efforts to fight infringement. Or they blind themselves to it, and don't ask too many questions. (Think they'll be protesting the Chinese legal system's lack of due process in response to the prison sentences mentioned above?) To the copyleft, however, "Hollywood" is a foreign culture, that they suspect is made up of fabulously wealthy stars and execs who don't really deserve their rewards. How dare those pampered fat cats persecute poor "fans" who just want to "share" culture?

I'm sure there are other reasons as well. Ideas?


  1. You raise an interesting comparison. I think it's easier for the copyleft to categorize software as useful "technology" that has concrete applications, and thus value, and thus deserving of protection. Whereas entertainment is ephemera with no purpose other than to delight the mind and senses. The copyleft crowd also believes the printed word -- from reference books, to novels, to newspapers -- is the symbolic expression of ideas and information that should just be "free."

  2. Where do these copylefties think all of this comes from? That it just springs forth like Athena from Zeus's head?


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