The accidental pirate

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Briefly after writing the German summary of Stephanie Booth's article on piracy, I found a strange item: it was a self-burned CD, it was not labelled, it contained music I had never heard before in my life, and I have no idea how it had come into my possession.

In all likelihood, it is an illegal copy. Its illegalness is based on the sole principle that this copy should never have been made. However, being confronted with this item, I asked myself a few questions before I destroyed the CD:

I don't doubt the item's illegalness [1], but how consequential is this for an item that, until the other day, nobody, including myself, even knew existed? How does this extend to other copies that are made (illegally), but never listened to? Is a music file defined by its ecistence on a storage medium, or by being listened to?

I also wonder how many such files exist that have been copied once, but have never been listened to. There's this insatiability about present-day consumer behaviour, an insatiability that is consciously encouraged by corporations who want to sell their products. Usually the item's price keeps the insatiability in check. When it comes to (illegal) digital sownloads, however, there is no price tag, so many people gobble up whatever they can. I'm pretty sure the unplayed, forgotten copy is symptomatic.

I'm not saying that it should be used to reevaluate what is illegal about downloads, I'm really just seeing it as food for thought because it is revelatory about a lot of things that go far beyond copyrights.

[1] Actually, the item was legal under Austrian jurisdiction because it was doubtless a private copy, and in Austria private copies are covered by a (rather hefty) surcharge on empty CD-R media.

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