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I pirated some music today[0]. I went to my usual shops to try to buy it, and for some reason the label had explicitly decided not to offer downloads of any sort. Just vinyl and CD. I wanted it now, and I couldn't really be arsed with those choices, so I stole it.

What would an honest Android-app allegory for this be? Perhaps a consumer is faced with these options:

1. An official shop, which accepts money (yay!), gives only some (boo!) of it to the artist, and offers:

a. The source code to build the app (i.e. a plastic disc that you have to rip yourself)

b. maybe, sometimes, a version of the app compiled for a 320x480 screen (acceptable lossy compressed files)

c. maybe, even fewer times, a version of the app compiled to use any screen size (lossless files, or high-quality lossy or whatever you like)

2. A dodgy (boo!) pirate site, which doesn't accept money (boo!), and offers all of the compiled versions.

Of course this is not even close to reality. No Android apps are compiled by normal end users. All paid Android apps offer 1c. Music piracy does not exist because of religious "information must be free" nuts like this article is talking about -- it exists because people's moral feeling about getting some money to the artist is not strong enough to overcome the inconvenience of 1a (or even 1b). Maybe we should conclude that the analogy has broken down.

Society does not "accept" this sort of piracy like it's a binary switch. The "morals" curve slides down, the "inconvenience" curve slides up, and at some point they pass each other. I see no reason why they can't trade places again -- if we actually try to do something about it instead of spinning clever allegories.

I suspect we need to look elsewhere to understand the motivations of app pirates (yes, I know this was not the point, but if you're going to be facetious...). The real thing is right there, for a few dollars. I've already given Google Checkout my credit card information. I cannot fathom what would make someone deal with sketchy sites (sketchy sites whose entire purpose is to install executable code on your device) to get the same thing they can just pay for. Maybe they are in fact just religious nuts.

[0] Honestly, I can't even be bothered to pirate most things these days. I'm culturally behind because filling in the gaps in what I can actually buy in FLAC would be a part-time job. If a record shop so much as rejects spaces in my credit card number I get bored and go listen to something I've already bought. This is a problem that could use some, as they say, disruptive innovation.

You didn't steal anything (nobody no longer has it because of you), you pirated it.

When the guy that wrote the thesis theme for Wordpress was being demonized for violating the GNU license, people used the word "steal" and "theft", even though no code was actually stolen.

It's interesting to me because when something involves free software being used in un-intended ways, many here in the HN community have no problem describing it as theft. However, when it involves copyright violation, there are huge arguments about word usage.

This is just a tactic to make theft more acceptable. When you use nice words like "copyright infringement", people don't associate negativity with it and over time, people don't have a problem with it.

Over the course of the last 10 years, it seems to have worked. It's sad that many from the open source community have to be so hypocritical.


Identity theft is still called theft, even though your identity is not actually stolen.

"Identity theft is still called theft"

Identities are supposed to be unique, its part of the whole idea of identity. If someone else is using your identity, you are being deprived that. So in that case, yes, it is analogous to someone actually taking something physical to you. You cannot fully use your identity once someone else starts using it.

You cannot fully use your identity once someone else starts using it.

Of course you can.

Operative word: 'fully'. Down-voted for replying without reading.

Oh, I most certainly read it. Your identity is still fully at your own disposal, even if someone has abused some parts of it.

That's spoken like somebody who has never had his credit ruined on account of another's actions.

I think nearly everyone here is aware of the distinction. Speaking only for myself, I will continue to say "steal" since both words describe the same action (assuming you're not a prescriptive linguist), and steal better connotes what I believe to be the economic impact.

The phone company steals from me every time my DSL fails and I spend an hour on the phone with a tech or by another replacement modem.

HTC steals from me every time the USB cable doesn't dock securely in the port.

Microsoft steals from me every time Windows crashes.

Would you also call taxes theft? Having to stand in line at some DMV versions?

All of those steal time or money from a person who hasn't agreed to it.

He stole it. However, I think it's perfectly moral although illegal to download the materials and then buy the hard copy.

Really? What a clever and original distinction. It makes all the difference to the guy that wanted people to PAY HIM to use his work, but instead they just use it and don't give him a dime.

You're being sarcastic, but it's not really a clever or original distinction. It's an obvious distinction that should always be kept in mind when comparing physical and non-physical goods. Your moral outrage falls flat.

Should be "always kept in mind" why exactly? It's BS.

It's not about stealing a physical object or not.

It's about doing something with someone's work (his program) without respecting his wishes (to be paid before you use it).

When you plagiarize a poem as your own the original still exists. But it's still stealing.

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