Yes, I’m going economic on all of you. Right now I’m reading Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell, and it has gotten me thinking about economics more and more. Not only economics though, for example, today I read about anti-trust lawsuits and that got me thinking about not only the anti-trust lawsuits, which from the opinion I garnered from the chapter, are frivolous and for the most part unhelpful, but also about lawsuits in general. This in turn forced a memory of a news story from awhile ago where a lady was sued for millions of dollars for sharing 24 songs. Let me say it again. She was sued and charged with paying back millions of dollars for sharing 24 songs. Now seriously, how many of the people that read this have shared more than that? I imagine most of us here have. And if you don’t think you have, think about this, and then think again.
Limewire. Vuze. What are these names? They are both names of file sharing programs, hosting some, but not all, illicit files, mostly in the form of music and videos, respectively. Chances are, you’ve had a program like this on your computer at one time-maybe even one of these programs. Odds are, you still have it. You know the pages upon pages of results you get whenever you search for a song? guess where those files are coming from. Other people’s computers. Once you’ve installed a file sharing program it will index your hard drive for files and add them to its pool of millions of files available to the general public. That is, unless you can expressly disable that function, which is discouraged. So as you think back, maybe you aren’t quite free of ‘guilt’. And I use ‘guilt’ very loosely here.
So before I go on I want to talk a little bit more about that lawsuit. She got sued millions of dollars-and I have heard that that number went down to the hundreds of thousands of dollars-for sharing 24 songs. How many songs do you have? Probably more than 24, and I imagine that at least one of the readers here has gladly shared his or her music somewhere. Lucky you weren’t caught, huh?
Actually, luck had almost nothing to do with it, but that’s for another paragraph. Anyways. I’m no lawyer, though I have written defense strategies that could possibly be used just because, but there is apparently a law against making an example of someone. In this case, making an example of someone would be to charge a lady excessive amounts of money, when there is no possible way she cause that much damage. So if we were taking an example of the case above (it fits perfectly, go figure), maybe an example was attempted to ‘teach’ the ‘others’ a lesson? Sounds like a theory to me, and a good on, too. How could someone cause millions of dollars of losses by sharing 24 songs? Sure, maybe five, ten, twenty people downloaded songs from her, then, in turn (as I explained above) ten, twenty or thirty people downloaded the same songs from those other people. Soon enough there’s been copies of this song all over the place. I can see that happening. And those songs will continue to circulate until mp3 files, or wmv-or whatever she used are obsolete. And even then, they will keep going. I can see where the companies prosecuting are coming from, but come on, really? 24 songs? there isn’t something else you could be doing? how about cracking down on illegal dvd copes-those are definitely worth more than $0.89 songs-or bigger issues like child pornography? I mean, I can understand that just because there are bigger problems out there we can’t ignore the small ones, but still… it’s hard for me to understand. And like I said, I believe there’s a law the is supposed to prevent an example being made of one person to the masses.
Moving back to the topic of my article… First, let me talk about prices a small bit, a ‘titch’, if you will. PPrices are what keeps our economy running. Without prices, we would be sunk. Competitors keep each other in check by the threat of losing business. It works like this: if I see a box of apples at Target for $2.00 a box, and the same box at WalMart for $3.00 a box, I’m going to go to Target because it’s cheaper to buy there. Therefor, if a company wants to stay in business it must price its products relative to its competitors.
Allocation of scarce resources. This is a phrase I’m coming up again and again on in my Basic Economics book. What does it mean? It means simply that based on prices-based on what people are buying-the allocation of resources will be taken care of. If everyone starts buying lots and lots of milk, and milk only, milk will be packaged into drinking containers more than it will be used in, say, cheese. Similarly, plastic bags start being used in enormously large amounts, and I mean obscenely large amounts, gas prices will go up because crude oil is an ingredient in plastic bags. Similarly, if there’s only 10 loaves of bread delivered to a store per week, those 10 loaves of bread will be able to cost much more than normal loaves of bread because there are only 10 loaves to be had. Supply in demand. It’s a complicated concept to grasp, and I know I haven’t expressed it very well there, but I hope you will somewhat understand it all the same. How does this play in to anything I want to talk about? Read on.
What do you think would happen if price wasn’t an object? What if prices didn’t affect the amount of resources to be had? Something like this happened in Russia where the government controlled the prices of everything, making it very, very inefficient. I’ll leave it up to you to look that up, for now. Similarly, in India where monopolies were allowed, and imports were once forbidden, companies had no reason to improve upon their existing technology because they had no customers to try and attract from other sectors; there was only one option. Because of this, some companies didn’t even bother to look at market share: it just didn’t matter. The implications of this wasn’t fully realized until other companies were finally allowed to come into India, import their goods, and give existing companies a ‘run for their money.” Literally. There were some bad affects to the existing companies, but in the end it was much better for the people of India. Again, you can look that up on your own.
So hopefully by now you can see that prices play a huge role in our economy, and if prices aren’t allowed to fluctuate, if companies aren’t allowed to compete, not much goes well. So what do you think would happen if you could walk in the back door of Wallmart, pick up your groceries, and walk out with there being a very minuscule chance that you would ever be found out? and you could do it again and again, and the people at this Wallmart would never know the difference? I imagine that many people would come in and get ‘free’ groceries, even though they knew it was wrong. Some people would still buy their groceries at full price, and groceries would be shared between people-“You need a box of eggs? here you go!” or “What? you need a bag of flour? no problem!” And there would be excess. Extreme excess. Think about what happens on black Friday, the alleged cheapest time to shop of the year. A guy got trampled a year or two back. That’s horrible. Imagine if everything was free, there would be terrible excess, imagine if you could never be traced to having gotten your ‘groceries’ from the back door of Wallmart, versus the legit way? Imagine that.
Lettuce put this in to perspective now. If you haven’t guessed, I am using analogies, and these analogies stand for music. Particularly ‘pirated’ music. Illegitimate music. Same thing. There are ways to get any music file out there. You could use websites like Pillage.com which allow you to search for and download mp3 files. You could also do complicated Google searches for music files. As I mentioned before, you could also use a service similar to Limewire. Any of these services will get you almost any music you would like, and there are some other ways to get everything else, of which I wont go in to here. There are also ways to get videos from YouTube, Megavideo and other sites like that. Normally that’s not a problem, but what about movies? There are movies, most likely illegitimate, on Megavidea, for example. I know because I’ve seen them before. And you know what, Megavideo is an inconvienence because of the play limit, so how about using Limewire for your videos? it works almost as well. Still can’t find that video? Google it, download whatever you find as a .flv file and convert it. Looking for movies? Check out services like The Pirate Bay (which is currently under lawsuit) or other sharing software specifically tailored to share videos. Trust me, they all work. Wait, did I mention videogames? Sure, you can find torrents (most of the time, if not always, illegitimate downloads of pirated software) of almost any game through some of the same channels that you may use for music and video downloadation.
So now that you can get almost any digital media file for free, whenever you want, why limit yourself? Hear a cool song on Pandora and hop over to pillage or some other website, open up Limewire-whatever, and download it. See a cool movie lately? download it for free, or pay $5.00 or less and get a bootleg copy. Its so easy now; too easy really. That was my mindset for awhile: hear a cool song, write down a piece of the lyrics and download it when I get home. All free and easy. Over the past, oh, three years or so, and mostly in the past year and a half, I’ve accumulated over 500 songs. And guess what, most of them I’ve only played once. Excess leads to wastefulness. I haven’t shared my music though, and I can’t say that I’m planning on it either. So here’s what I did. Since I was waiting to reinstall Cygwin for the third time in the past hour and a half, I went through all my music and picked out the ones I knew that I really liked, music that I could shuffle through and not have to skip any. How many songs did I end up with? 139 songs.
I can’t say that I regret anything, though. I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy listening to all this music, exploring avenues that I wouldn’t have seen before. I can’t say I regret it, I’ve learned a lot through this, a lot about music, a lot about my computer, and a lot about many, many other things. I don’t regret getting any of the music I have, even if I don’t listen to it. I don’t have any regrets at all. And I don’t want this to sound like I don’t care, but I just don’t have any regrets as to what I’ve done. It’s hard to put knowledge into words, especially when talking about knowledge gained through a process, so I wont try hear.
No regrets, and lots of knowledge gained. That’s what I’ve learned.