Thursday, September 04, 2003

Publishing industry to sue libraries

On my way to work this morning, I started thinking about a parallel to the music downloading "problem."

I finished reading The Da Vinci Code last night, so Misty was returning it to her boss, from whom we'd borrowed it. She read the book, too. Since we borrowed it from someone else, though, had we cheated the publisher, retailer, and author out of the money it would have cost us to buy it?

This is the argument the music industry is making regarding music downloads. Supposedly, if I download a song from Kazaa, I'm stealing money from the record company, the retailer, and the artist.

If that's the case, then it should fit for other media. And the libraries must be stopped!

Think about it... Libraries are in the business of just loaning books out for free! You can go to a branch, check out a stack of books, read them, take them back, and never have to pay for them.

But have book publishers suffered since Benjamin Franklin invented the library? No. We still buy books. Sometimes people like to own things despite our ability to get them for free.

Now, don't give me some malarky about libraries only being temporary  lending services whereas music downloads are permanent. How many times are you going to read a book? Usually once. So, it doesn't matter that you have to give the book back. Once you've read it, you're done with it anyway — you're not going to buy it, and the publisher loses a potential sale.

But were you going to buy the book in the first place? Often times not. If libraries didn't offer books for free, we'd simply read a lot less. Few could afford to purchase every book that they think looks interesting. But if there's a book that really strikes us, we'll still plunk down the cash.

It works the same way with music. Most of the music people are downloading is stuff they're only picking up because  it's free. We may have a casual interest in a song, but not so much that we'd go out and buy the album. In these cases, record companies aren't losing any money. They can't lose  money they never would have had in the first place.

But we probably ought to shut down all the libraries just in case.

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