Originally, imported CDs cost around US$10.00. Pirated CDs were being sold for US$1.00. But, after a certain period of time, the prices of legal, imported CDs dropped to US$2.00 – thereby making them much more affordable for that country’s inhabitants, and thus allowing the multinational corporation and Western artist to make at least more profit than they had before. This is to say: illegal copying and sales of CDs in effect broke a market monopoly, so that the market forces worked as they are supposed to – i.e., with free(r) competition leading to lower prices.
In addition, the student pointed out that, by contrast, many students and others of limited means consciously choose to pay full price for a CD produced by a local/regional/national music group. Again, the argument is, on first blush, utilitarian:
(ii) By paying full price for CDs produced by local/regional/national musicians, they thereby supported those who really needed it – and thereby helped boost their own economy.
In both examples, the student’s arguments echo the arguments I hear from many students in the developed world. Again, in the case of a nationally or internationally known musician whose work is distributed by wealthy and powerful corporations, the positive benefits or consequences of illegal copying and downloading (in terms of making the music more easily available for more people) outweigh the possible negative costs (of a modest amount of lost profit to the musicians and the companies). By contrast, many will make a conscious effort to “buy local” – to pay full price for CDs produced and distributed by local bands struggling to make a start.
Responses? In particular:
(i) Does it seem to you that, say, students and others in developing countries can make a greater/stronger case for pirating and other forms of illegal copying than students and others in developed countries?
(ii) Assume that the developing country in this example is a country marked by one of the more community-oriented traditions discussed above – for example, ubuntu or Confucian thought. And assume that the students in the developed world that I refer to live in the well-to-do countries such as the United States and Scandinavia – that is, countries and traditions shaped by Western conceptions of the individual and primarily exclusive property rights.
In light of the important differences between the cultural and ethical backgrounds, how do you respond to the claim that the students in the developing country (shaped by ubuntu or Confucian tradition) have a stronger justification for their illegal copying than Western students?
Or would you rather argue that everyone should follow the copyright laws – no matter what their location and culture?