As I listened to the disc my son had popped into the computer, I was amazed at some of the songs his teenage friends had created. One friend has had one of his songs played on a local university radio station (with a listening audience of over seven people).
My son explained that his friends create music using an application called Fruity Loops Studio that they had downloaded from the Internet. I have a firewall, and I’m one of those control freak dads that makes his kids get permission to download stuff. As my son extolled the virtues of FL Studio, I googled and found the website.
You can download a free trial copy of the Express edition of the application, but it will cost you $49 to make it fully functional. Buying the Fruity edition costs $99, and the Producer edition costs $149. I surmise from product descriptions on the site that my son’s friends are using the most expensive version, possibly with additional “XXL” options that run the price up to $299. If you’re into creating music, this thing looks like a major blast to use.
I told my son that while I would love for our family to have this product, we simply don’t have the resources to buy it right now. He said that one of his friends had downloaded a key generator for FL Studio. That’s when the red flags went up.
A key generator is a cleverly written program that will give you a product key that will fully activate a software application without obtaining a key from an official source; i.e. by paying for it.
I’m hypersensitive on this issue because I work in the software development field and have a special interest in electronic intellectual properties. So I proceeded to lecture my son about laws, ethics, and the eighth commandment, concluding with something like, “We don’t have illegal media in our home!”
The next day I pulled up Windows Media Player and scanned through the library to see what I might want to listen to. I then realized that we had at least one album there that had been ripped from a CD belonging to a friend of my son. Kids nowadays seem to feel that sharing songs is an acceptable pastime. In fact, they see it as a good thing. I sense that many Americans feel the same way.
Few of us would think of walking into a store and pilfering a CD or a software package, but when it’s available electronically we suddenly have no compunction about pulling it down and using it free of charge. After all, one electronic file transfer doesn’t substantially increase the producer’s costs, so there’s really no basis for charging for it, right?
That’s the wrong question. The question should be, “Do I want this enough to pay the price for it?” When someone legally holds something for sale, the only legal and ethical way to obtain it is to pay the required price. If the seller will agree to a discount, that’s great, but there is really no excuse for ripping someone off simply because it is easy.
Researchers have found (requires registration) that pirating software and media stifles innovation and costs jobs. Some countries are working with the Business Software Alliance to strengthen their intellectual property policies so that they can improve domestic innovation and compete in the global marketplace.
Pirating media might reduce our costs and increase our convenience, but in the long run we are hurting the economy and are costing jobs. And despite any slick arguments about ease and overpricing, you simply can’t get around the fact that what you are doing is stealing.