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Swedish Logical Fallacies about File Sharing

I watched a debate on Swedish television the other night, it was about P2P networks and the Alliance government’s new plans of giving record companies and the like rights to hunt down individual file sharers and sue them.

From the view of personal integrity this is of course a problematic issue. But what I found even more perplexing was that there is absolutely no reasoning with those who hold the view that free file sharing is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Try as you might to explain to them that  downloading the latest James Bond movie for free using Bittorrent IS actually stealing. This only seems to get them to behave like the worst kind of teenage drama queens: “Uuuunh, you don’t understand a thing! – BLAM!!” (as they slam a virtual door in your face). Many of them seem to react like this whether they are 14 or 54 years old.

As I find that kind of “debate” ridiculous to say the least, I’m not going to comment that much on what was said in this discussion, nor am I taking a stance on wether it is right for companies to go IP-address hunting. But just let me point out a few very common logical fallacies that the ignorant P2P:ers are throwing about as undisputed “truths”.

Claim 1: “We are just copying files, which couldn’t possibly be illegal”.

Well, I am sorry to burst your bubble. But depending on what file you happen to be copying, your actions may constitute anything from violation of copyright to outright national treason. Yes, that’s illegal.

Claim 2: “Music, movies etc. in file format are immaterial, so even if I “take it” the owner hasn’t actually lost it. It is therefore not the same as stealing a physical product”.

In the Swedish television debate the politician trying to explain the suggested legislation compared stealing digital music to nicking your neighbor’s lawnmower – and was subsequently ridiculed by the opposing side, using the logic in claim 2 above. According to them downloading a movie from a P2P network is actually the equivalent of only looking at the neighbor’s lawnmower…

I guess that follows some sort of logic (as “logic” is basically whatever you make of it), but as an argument it is pure fallacy.

Because, is there perhaps some difference in how you consume a lawnmower versus how you consume a movie? I know this requires thinking on several levels – but a pure fact is that by watching a movie you actually consume it. And if the law says you hadn’t acquired the appropriate rights to do so – you were stealing.

In the context claim two is used in this debate, it is essentially saying that the package – NOT the content – is the actual product. Wonder what they think about companies and people dealing purely with services?

Claim 3: “The people in the record and movie industry make way too much money, and their products are too expensive anyway. If they do not keep up with technology that is only their own stupidity.”

To begin with the last portion of that claim, whether this is legal or not hasn’t got anything to do with technological advancements. If you take something that isn’t yours and that you haven’t paid for – you’re stealing. The fact that what you are taking might not exist in the format you would want or at a price you are willing to pay isn’t a viable excuse.

Furthermore, there is a broad spectrum of players who sell products that can be converted to a digital download or perhaps is already being sold purely as a virtual product (an ebook for example). And believe me, far from all players are multimillion dollar companies.

Combined with claim two, there is actually a sort of double fallacy being presented here (typical behavior for both drama queens and perps): On the one hand (claim 3) the proponents of file sharing demand that, if they are to buy from record companies, the products must be made available for instant download online. At the same time (claim 2) they say that something like that isn’t a product you should pay for as it’s virtual and thus not a real product.

Okay I get it, you want to have the latest of everything right now and for free. Sorry, but that just doesn’t work. And if you think it does, I have plenty of gardening I need done in my backyard – please come and use some of that altruism of yours and help me out. According to your logic you won’t mind if I don’t pay you a dime, right? đŸ˜‰

Claim 4: “The file sharers are a market segment that companies should listen to.”

Since when where thieves an important customer segment? This is about as smart as if car sellers and makers started paying attention to “customer demands” from those slick car thieves “exporting” cars from Stockholm to Russia.

Why yes, if we take something like music (as that is what is most often debated), there are many ways of distributing it online. And if you have just decided to try and take that next step with your very own garage band there are indeed many other possible ways for you than politely knocking at the door of that big record company.

But any one strategy isn’t right for every artist out there. For example, if you’re doing something that might very well become the next hit on radio stations world over, a traditional record company may still be the best way to go for you – if you actually want to make a living out of your talent.

And dear downloaders, if you want to behave as a “market” and slowly influence how big record companies behave – then download your music, movie and television shows through legal channels. Support that indie band, who will actually let you have all their songs for free, by telling all your friends about them, by going to their concerts, by buying a t-shirt or in whatever way they are actually making their money.

That way the “other side” of this debate will finally understand what you are all about.

Final words

Phew, I wrote way more than I had intended. And typically enough, I just now managed to formulate the one thing I really wanted to say about this kind of debate:

There is nothing smart, sophisticated or original about blaming committed crimes on various surrounding circumstances, it’s more or less the standard operating procedure for all kinds of criminals.

And downloading and consuming commercial copyrighted material without paying for it is a crime. That is not an opinion – it is an undisputable fact. And as long as that is what you are doing you can’t expect anything else than that the rightful owners will do whatever they can to hunt you down.

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