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An Illegal Download Is Not A Lost Sale

2010-10-07

Over and over, and over again, the music- and movie-industry talk about all the money they've lost because people download illegally instead of buying, but are they really?  No, they're not.  If someone gives you free t-shirt you'll take it.  Maybe you'll use it a few times, maybe you wont.  But if they want money for it - you might very well say no.

Every time the movie and music-industry say they've lost X million dollars because of file sharing, every time they drag people to court, and every time they lobby to change our laws they make the claim that each illegal download is money they've lost.  But however obviously incorrect that is, no one seems to care.

But it is quite simple, and there's a good reason to repeat, that if someone gets something for free, it does not mean that they would've spent money if the free option was not available.  Take any person who downloads illegally, ask them what, and how, much they download and figure out what it would cost legally.  Do you think anyone has that much money to spend on that kind of entertainment?

But the money that people actually have, they do spend.  Even if they've already downloaded it.  In fact, they spend it Because they've already downloaded it.  A lot of people download music but then go to concerts they wouldn't have even known of otherwise.  Others download movies and can then recommend good ones to see at the theater or buy the DVD for.

All of the money people have to spend on music, movies, etc - they're spending it.  And thanks to the wonderful efficiency of the file sharing networks they can spend it on things they really like.

Sure, people are enjoying some entertainment without paying for it, but if they had to pay for it they'd just do something else.  But since most illegal downloads represent either purchases that would not have been made anyway, or purchases that will be made because of the download, the music- and movie-industry aren't actually losing any money on the file sharing.

Then why do they keep whining about it?  I can only come up with two reasons, neither of which are worthy.  1) They're quite stupid and really think people have more money to spend on their products, or they're too greedy and just want even more money, regardless if the market has it or not.  2) They're losing control and significance.  With all the different softwares, the Internet and the file sharing, people can now create, distribute and make money without greedy middlemen.  And people no longer have to spend money on things that end up being worth crap.