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The thing is, most physical goods no longer have natural scarcity in rich western societies like the UK or US. A bottle of water is not at all scarce, but it's still illegal to take it from a store and use it without permission.



That's not what scarcity means. There is a limited supply of bottles, and it costs real pennies to get some and transport them full of water.

Low-cost is not no-cost, and digital copies made by someone else are actually no-cost.


For any practical purpose, there is no limit on our supply of plastic bottles. They are incredibly cheap to make and the raw materials are incredibly abundant.

> Low-cost is not no-cost, and digital copies made by someone else are actually no-cost.

They're not actually no-cost, it's just that the costs are indirect so it's easy to lose track of them. For example, I'd be interested to see someone make and use a digital copy without a computer and electricity, both of which cost money. Distribution takes an Internet connection and servers, which cost money too.


>For any practical purpose, there is no limit on our supply of plastic bottles. They are incredibly cheap to make and the raw materials are incredibly abundant.

The raw resources for bottles are abundant, but it requires labor to make and transport them. Labor is not free, so bottled water remains scarce. If robot swarms will refill and restock bottles for you, then you can take one off a shelf.

>They're not actually no-cost, it's just that the costs are indirect

None of those come out of the pocket of the person being copied. I guess I was too unclear about specifying made by someone else. When we're talking about a '''theft''' scenario, the burden imposed on the person being '''stolen''' from is very important, and when it comes to digital copies they are uninvolved in the action and have no costs at all.


You're not playing fair with your comparisons. In the case of bottled water, you want to count all the costs of making the bottles, filling them, transporting, them, etc. In the case of digital content, you want to ignore the cost of producing the original, and focus only on the subsequent copies.

When you take a bottle of water, the cost of inventory (which captures the entirety of the amortized cost of production) is less than half of the harm to the shop keeper, because the markup on bottled water is well over 50%. The primary harm is the revenue the shop keeper will forego because he cannot sell that bottle.

In the digital realm, using a copyrighted piece of content without permission causes the copyright owner--who did have to invest in the original creation--to forego revenue as well.


>You're not playing fair with your comparisons. In the case of bottled water, you want to count all the costs of making the bottles, filling them, transporting, them, etc. In the case of digital content, you want to ignore the cost of producing the original, and focus only on the subsequent copies.

With bottled water, I want to count all the costs to the manufacturer of making a specific bottle: materials, wages, property taxes, equipment wear, etc.

With digital content, I want to count all the costs to the manufacturer of making a specific copy: none.

I'm not saying that unlimited copying of work is fair, I'm just saying that there is a qualitative difference in scarcity.

I don't really want to argue about what hurts more. I'll just point out that using nothing, or purchasing a license to work A, or purchasing a license to work B, can all be looked at as causing the creators of A and/or B to forego revenue.


There is no single manufacturer of digital content. In that respect, I agree that there is a qualitative difference.

The difference is that water bottle manufacturing is centralized, while digital content "manufacturing" is distributed--each person "manufactures" the digital content on their personal electronic device. That is, they use a device and energy that they paid for, to turn the IP into something that is physically consumable (sound, images, etc.)

So the concept of scarcity is different too, but it doesn't go away. There is still a physical cost to digital content, it's just unbundled from the act of creation.

You could not give infinite amounts of digital content to everyone on Earth, because you'd need to first give everyone an electronic device that can store and play it, the power to operate that device, and a means of digital distribution (network connectivity or shippable media). There are physical and cost limits on all of that.

Digital content only looks free and infinite if you ignore the required infrastructure.


But infrastructure is paid for separately. I'm ignoring the cost of the highways for water bottle shipping, because highways are needed with or without them.

Basically, since people already have computers and power for them to do things completely unrelated to getting this media, the 'cost' of a copy is in the same range as asking for one. Tap your phone against someone else's and you're done, for example. And if you think asking is a real cost then you've defined things so that it's impossible to be past scarcity, so I reject such a definition.




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