Digital Thievery Essay

1587 words - 6 pages

Digital Thievery
When was the last time you downloaded a song off of the internet? Had your friend email you that new hit from your favorite band? When was the last time you committed a theft punishable for tens of thousands of dollars? In the digital age, where information can be copied, uploaded and transferred across the globe in a matter of second, how do we define theft? With the advent of the internet, the definitive line that theft had drawn has now become blurred to the point of recognition. Theft is defined as “the dishonest taking of property belonging to another person with the intention of depriving the owner permanently of its possession”. No one would say that breaking into someone’s vehicle and driving away is not theft. The owner of the vehicle had his property taken with no likelihood that it would ever be returned to him. Now take for example, copying a song on your computer to a USB drive and giving it to your friend. What you have done is currently defined as theft punishable for fifty times the compensation required for grand theft auto. But the real question is, how do we define theft in the digital realm, where information and content is not removed and taken, but copied and shared? If the owner of a music file has it copied from them by a teenager, are they being deprived of their property permanently? I would argue that in the digital realm, theft deserves a different definition, a more modern definition.
The last twenty years have been a tumultuous time for the digital world. From the widespread acceptance of the internet, to the creation of digital music, movies, and media, to the spread of social networks, a lot has changed. One of the largest changes has been the distribution of digital goods through the internet. This advance in technology has allowed billions of new users to access content previously unavailable to them, and to download it within minutes, if not seconds of purchasing it. This expanded the market for music, movies, games, all content that could be made digital to a global level that had never before been obtained. According to Apple, iTunes alone has sold over 10 billion songs in the last 7 years (Apple). Not only did this help with the spread of content, but the distribution was radically changed as well. Scarce remaining are the days of the physical CD (though it pains me), the physical video game, or the DVD. With the advent of digital distribution, the game changed for media companies. No longer did they have to pay to have each CD burned, each cover printed, each box built. No longer did they have to package, process, ship, and deliver their merchandise. All of their products were now housed on racks of servers in a building somewhere, it didn’t matter where, accessible by all to be copied and downloaded… for the right price. As content publishers began to make their materials available online, they began to run into the problem of people purchasing their product...

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