Is Piracy Bad?

by F.

Reading Steve Jobs open letter about DRM made me wonder if piracy was a bad thing at all. Bill Gates famously wasn’t too concerned about piracy in China because, after all, a pirated copy of Windows/Office locked the Chinese consumer into his products as effectively as a licensed copy did. He could profit later.

Also, I wonder whether a certain amount of piracy isn’t necessary to open up the market for digital goods. It pushes down prices, yes, but the music companies seem to be adjusting.

Then there’s the publishers, who don’t seem to be benefitting much from the digital revolution. Could lack of piracy be to blame? Some SF authors are putting their books on the web in PDF and, rather than cannibalizing sales, it is a “try before you buy.” Google’s book scanning project is close to a form of piracy, in that they are adopting the strategy of “ask for forgiveness, not for permission,” which generally seems to be a pretty good away to go.