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December 09, 2003

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Larry Bister

The gist of the article is that file-sharing is a form of risk-sharing by music consumers. While that's an interesting argument could it be that the writer has "over thought" this issue? It seems to me that it is more likely that file-sharing has become so prevelant for no other reason than it can be done.

I suspect we all know people who spend several hours a day on-line downloading everything they can get their hands on. This type of indiscriminate acquisition of copyrighted material has nothing to do with risk-sharing. These people wouldn't be buying everything they download in the first place.

We live in a "something-for-nothing" society and large-scale file-sharing is simply an outgrowth of that.

If one wants to argue the implicit contract between the music industry and the consumer it is important to remember that consumers have always, and will always, have the opportunity to vote with their wallets. If laying out $18 for a new release CD is too much to risk on an unknown performer, stealing the material is not a reasonable or acceptable remedy. Perhaps it would be if the thief regarded it as a "purchase on approval" and would pay if the quality was up to the listener's standards. But that's not the case. It's my guess that very few CDs are purchased because the consumer stole it and liked it. After all, what would motivate anyone to pay for something that had already been obtained free of charge?

There is an argument that runs contrary to the writer's which says that consumers have plenty of opportunity to mitigate their purchase risk ahead of time. Brief "preview" versions of many, if not most, of the songs on new CDs are readily available from on-line sellers. It certainly doesn't require any more investment of time or resources to listen to those previews than it takes to download the album.

The only real risk-sharing going on here is the hope that if enough people file-share often enough it will be too difficult to police and no one will have to face any consequences.

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