Tag Archives: analogy

Finding an apt analogy for piracy

Piracy

So my article on the ethics of piracy was posted in the /r/games subreddit and the thread pretty much exploded in arguments. I only saw it half an hour before I had to go to a Faun concert (and then straight to bed because I was working early next day), so I could only properly respond 16 hours after the fact, at which point everyone had already moved on. Still I did leave some answers in that first half-hour but I quickly found out I could barely get a word in sidewise, before being downvoted below the viewing threshold. Oh well, not unexpected I guess (albeit mildly ironic, given how anti-pirates are under the delusion that their opinions are unpopular). And it wasn’t just me, anyone who wasn’t explicitly negative toward piracy, was downvoted, even for simply stating facts.

Anyway, one of the classic problems when discussing piracy is finding an analogy that approximates the same dynamics. Anti-pirates will insist on using analogies relating to physical theft, such as shoplifting, car theft and so on, while pro-piracy people try to use analogies that simulate the zero harm caused to the current owner. It almost impossible to see eye to  eye on this between these two camps, but on the aforementioned thread, someone did make an analogy that I think is compelling in pointing out how piracy disrupts business models.

Quoth mrbobgray

Essentially, the current business model of video games is like this:

I paint a picture. It is a wonderful picture, and everyone loves it. I realize that people will pay me to see it, so I put it in a closed off room and charge people to come in and see it. This works fine for awhile, and I make a lot of money; then one day, everyone on earth develops x-ray vision. This sucks for me, because suddenly I realize that people no longer need to pay me to see my painting; they can stop by any time they like and see it.

What’s an artist to do? How can I possibly make money from my work?

What the video game industry currently does is simple; they ask the government to make it illegal to use x-ray vision on the walls to my house. Ta-da! Everyone has to pay me to see my painting again.

There is a problem though; it is essentially impossible for the government to tell who is using x-ray vision to look through my walls, and who is merely looking at my house. Thus, some people choose to simply ignore the government, and view my painting using their x-ray vision. There is nothing to physically stop them, and it doesn’t prevent others from listening to the government and paying to see it. I can say that I have lost money from those illegal peeping toms, but have I? How much? Neither I or the government know, because we have no way to tell who of the people using x-ray vision would be willing to pay to see my painting.

The problem with this system is obvious: it is reliant on an old, out-dated set of assumptions; namely, that people don’t have x-ray vision. Instead of adapting to new developments, a law was passed to simply pretend those developments don’t exist. This is where we are with digital goods and copyright laws.

Computers and the internet are truly incredible, amazing things. The ability to store and transfer incredible amounts of data near instantaneously has changed humanity as we know it. So why are we fighting it? Why do we pretend that it doesn’t exist?

The idea is not to prevent people from using the new, amazing developments we have as a society; the old model is fundamentally broken. What has to happen now is finding ways of utilizing these new developments to create even more value. Don’t ask me what that is, because if I knew, I’d be busy counting my millions.

 

Slap in the face

This mountain bicycle features oversized tires...

I’ve been trying to control and introspect my feelings lately, after the recent event where the Barefoot Bum abruptly terminated his self-hosted blog. This sudden turn of events left me stunned and hurt, very much like a slap in the face.

Thus, I’ve been waiting for the last few days to get an explanation, a reason or something anyway to understand what led to this. But after my emails were ignored and my IM attempts were shot down, I’m starting to believe this is for him, somehow personal.

But why is this a slap in the face for me? Let me give you an analogy.

Lets say that you have an old fashioned bicycle which does not have any speed control but always moves at the same old speed. This bicycle does not have anything fancy but it takes you where you want it eventually but like all bikes missing speed control, when the road gets upward, it makes you struggle and when it goes downwards, your pedaling becomes useless.

I see this and I explain to you that there are new types of custom bicycles with speed control. They takes a bit of time to setup and get used to but give you much more power in your rides. You’re sceptical at first but once I explain the rest of the features and widgets that a custom bicycle can have and that I’ll be glad to set it up or you as a gift (once you buy for the material) you’re sold.

I also explain that I’m trying to convince more people to try these out as I think it’s worth it.

So I spend some time to setup this bicycle and you start using it. The first week goes just fine and while you don’t yet have the perfect understanding of speed control, you can ride it. Sometimes it gets a bit harder as you’re not used to switching the speeds but nothing serious. As far as I know, everything seems to be going fine until…

One sunday, I wake up to find you shouting how much these bicycles suck. You start calling them an absolute piece of crap that only bike mechanics could ever setup and ride, regardless of the fact that many non-mechanics are doing exactly that. Not understanding what changed, I try to explain that this criticism is a bit harsh.

And the next time I wake up and find that you’ve smashed your new bike into millions of pieces. This bike which as a gift I helped you setup, without any expectation of reward and with the best of intentions, is now scrap metal.

How do you think that makes me feel?

All along you knew that as my first attempt to setup a custom bike for, you are the first sample people are going to look at as an example. And yet, you now start saying that custom bikes are not working and that you can’t remove those dynamos I suggested for your old bike either.

You don’t consider that custom bikes may not fit your style. You don’t give me a chance to fix any problems. No, you smash it and then say that they are crap. As if you’re trying to deliberately turn people off and sabotage all I’m trying to achieve.

How do you think that makes me feel now?

If you thought hurt and surprised, you’d be spot on.

Like a slap in the face.

And here I am now. A few days after the “slap”, and I still do not know the fuck happened. I’ve been patiently waiting to see if anything will be explained but in vain. I’ve also been trying to suppress my outburst but I’ve had enough.

All I know is that from one day to the other a succesful migration was trashed and I’m reading impressions that I didn’t expect. At least not from someone I respected. And make no mistake. The migration was succesful. All the posts from the old blog were moved. All the comments, from both blogger and IDC were moved1. Everything was working. The only missing was the moving of the old blogroll and widgets to the new blog, and the only reason I did not do this as well, is because I was not given access.

There was absolutely nothing more complex left to do, than going to your dashboard and clicking on “Write new post”. Others agree.

As for the setup difficulty; do not be confused by my step-by-step process. In that, I went into excruciating detail in order to make it as easy and fool-proof to follow as possible. I could have easily shortened it to half the size.

That’s it then. This post was mostly a rant to take this stuff out of my chest before it easts me up and burst out like an alien of bitterness and anger. I cannot claim to know why BB acted the way he did but for me, it was certainly the wrong way.

For me, it is especially troublesome when we’re talking about atheist activism, solidarity and cooperation to have my first attempt to help others, pissed on like that from the get go.

UPDATE @ 02/11/2009: This post was never posted publicly until now. As a result of recent developments with the Barefoot Bum, I’m making it public as I see no hope of salvage. Make of it what you will.

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