I think there needs to be a little clarification on this particular issue. If I for instance buy a second hand book and also download a copy of it, is it any more stealing than if I simply buy a second hand book? That is, at which point does it become stealing, and how and why is it any more stealing than the purchase of a second hand book which you at least pay money for (and which money may be used by the person receiving it to buy more books themselves)?
Perhaps money was exchanged for the book, but perhaps it (say) was given me by a friend who didn't want it any more. Am I then stealing that book? But how can that be the case, if the publishing industry quite literally relies (at least in terms of fiction) on people doing precisely that?
Taken at face, many things we do can be called 'stealing'. Mix-tapes, and I'm sure many other things. We've all watched a movie in a friend's house. Are we stealing the movie? And so forth.
Picture this: you're sitting in your house with a book you just got second-hand. You read it. This is a common and accepted practice, and even Jeff Bezos claimed second-hand books were a good and even necessary part of the industry when he introduced the Amazon marketplace. A person who buys a book (as he said) has the right to sell that copy on and make a profit the publisher never sees.
Now say that your computer is to one side of you and you know you can read that very same book in your hands instantly off the screen. Physical second-hand copy, paid for with money: and an electronic version right there on the screen.
Say also that perhaps you're a student, or someone otherwise of limited means (hence buying second hand). If you read it off the screen and it's wrong, then doesn't that imply we should also cease buying second hand books?
I think there are some very interesting philosophical questions worth asking, especially in the light of the experience of the music industry.
It has been suggested elsewhere that rather than being detrimental to the music industry, online file-sharing actually kept that industry out of a slump it would invariably have fallen into long before, if file-sharers hadn't suddenly had access to a wealth of material they might otherwise never have heard. We're at a point where the technology increasingly available within a related industry - ie e-ink and book publishing - is casting a very bright light on some of the things we've taken for granted up until now - like loaning books, borrowing books or buying them second-hand. For instance - is it possible the increased availability of electronic texts, whether or not they're paid for, will create a boost in the publishing industry in the way that it has been claimed the music industry was boosted by online file-sharing?
Last edited by garygibsonsf; 07-13-2008 at 11:42 AM.