I Loved the Whole ‘Information Is Free’ Thing. Until It Was My Book Getting Stolen

Dan Ariely is a Duke professor and author of Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality, both New York Times best sellers.

Here, Ariely talks about the strange lessons learned during the release of his latest book, The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty.

 

How to Stop Illegal Downloads…

Three days after publication of my new book, The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, I was able to find electronic copies on a few websites that specialize in illegal content.  These were high quality versions of the book, including the images of the cover, the references, and — my favorite part — the copyright notice.

I was flattered.  On one of the sites, the book had been very popular, downloaded over 20,000 times in just a short period of time before my publisher shut it down.

I was also amused.  The irony of illegally downloading a book on dishonesty was painfully obvious.

But mainly I was curious, as is my wont.  As someone who has been studying dishonesty for many years, what could I learn from the theft of my own book?

My first insight came with a personal conversion.  Before it was my book being illegally downloaded, I was more on the ‘Information wants to be free’ end of the spectrum.  The sudden, though predictable, shift in my feelings when I found my own work being downloaded for free was a jarring experience.  Maybe Information finds complete freedom too threatening, I thought, and maybe it would rather be a bit more protected.  It was a very clear example of how my own views of morality are biased — as are everybody’s — based on our immediate perspective.

Recently in a lecture on dishonesty in San Francisco I was explaining, as I always do, that dishonesty is largely founded on our ability to rationalize, and a young guy stood up and argued that downloading music was actually the right thing to do.  He said that the companies make lots of money while artists don’t (they make the music for the public, not for profit).  And either way, he wouldn’t buy the music anyway so it wouldn’t make a difference.  “My friend,” I said, “thank you for proving my point about rationalization.”  Then I asked him to imagine if the product in question represented several months or even years of his life.  All that time he was creating, writing, editing, and marketing this thing in order to fund his next project.  And then everyone downloaded it, illegally, for free.  At which point he sat down.

My second thought, after realizing my popularity in the “download for free” category, was about the potential for moral deterioration on a broader scale.  Once people start seeing a particular behavior — such as illegally downloading books, music, and movies — as a very common behavior, there is a chance that this sense of social proof will translate into a new understanding of what is right and wrong. Sometimes such social shifts might be desirable — for instance, being part of an interracial couple used to be considered illegal and immoral, but now we see such couples all around us and it helps shape our understanding of social approval.  However, the behaviors we most often observe and notice are ones that are outside of the legitimate domain (e.g., doping in sports, infidelity by politicians, exaggerated resumes by CEOs) and in these cases the social proof can change things for the worse.

And then I had an insight about confession.  How can we stop such trends toward dishonesty (in this case, broader acceptance of illegal downloading)?  The problem is that if someone has acquired 97% of their music illegally, why would they legally buy the next 1%?  Would they do it in order to be 4% legal?  It turns out that we view ourselves categorically as either good or bad, and moving from being 3% legal to being 4% legal is not a very compelling motivation.  This is where confession and amnesty can come into play.

What we find in our experiments is that once we start thinking of ourselves as polluted, there is not much incentive to behave well, and the trip down the slippery slope is likely.  This is the bad news.  The good news is that in such cases, confession, where we articulate what we have done wrong, is an incredibly effective mechanism for resetting our moral compass.  Importing this religious practice into civic life was effective in the Truth and Reconciliation Act in South Africa, where acknowledging the many abuses and violations of the apartheid government allowed the South Africans to forgive past sins, and start fresh.

I think that this same approach could be effective in preventing people from illegally downloading music and books.  Why don’t we offer young people (because let’s face it, most of them have some illegally downloaded material on their computers) the opportunity to admit and apologize, receive amnesty for the material they already have, and start fresh.

In the meantime, until we adopt this course of action, I am hoping that the New York Times will create a Best Seller list for a new category – the Most Illegally Downloaded Books.”

68 Responses

  1. Avatar
    Visitor

    Great article!

    Fortunately, we don’t hear the information-wants-to maxime anymore, except from the a teenager or an old hippie once in a while.

    And the reason is obvious.

    Most adults today have this in common with the author: They know from their own experience how valuable information is. And how important it is to protect it.

    Yes, it’s about social proof. And it’s about what you can get away with:

    If we could steal cars without any risk whatsoever, we would.

    Cars want to be free, ya know.

    • Avatar
      Visitor

      Great minds think alike, see above… 🙂

      Anyway, it’s great to see more and more people realizing why protecting Intellectual Property is so important to us all.

    • Avatar
      Visitor

      Not sure if I should be happy that he changed his ways, or sad that he escaped justice.

  2. Avatar
    laszlo_szell

    while at university, whitin one year six newly bought bikes of mine were stolen. the last one was lifted from the locked storage room of my sutdent´s hostle , where the bike itself was also locked. that bitter insight made me neglect ethics and scrupel and i also stole one – which i still ride though 23 odd years have passed since.

    as the owner of a tiny specialized record label my insight went the other way round. eventhough i had to witness and suffer, how our own releases are being stolen all around the world that ate away sales, for moral and ethical reasons i have still been buying records, also vinyls of until the near past. now i prelisten streams and then if i consider it _really_ worth keeping, i download without scrupel.

    (i also borrow cds from the local public library, some of which i save a copy on my hd, which is absolutely legal. whre is the difference?)

    • Avatar
      Visitor

      Just confirms the theory that most pirates also steal other products…

  3. Avatar
    Jong Azores

    Amnesty: Turning a new leaf

    A general amnesty can surely set a new era in the digital music scene. What should come first are the rules that will set the new business model.

    • Avatar
      Visitor

      But we already have the New Business Model:

      Suing pirates!

      Every stolen song is worth $150,000. Don’t let amnesty spoil the party.

  4. Avatar
    Spoken X Digital Media Group

    I really can associate and feel on this particular article-piece about , downloading, streaming and distribution without permission. It happened to our digital assets at the height of the digital revolution: It’s good to see yourself in every major digital music store in the world after a long–deep thought creative process; but after the reality that no license were involved settles in, joining , Al Qaeda ,seems like a comforting idea. . .

  5. Avatar
    call me cynical

    it is truly shocking that this guy only got converted after his own personal experience — for a “thinker”, it’s quite surprising that he was unable to imagine, or as a human being feel, experiences outside his own.

    this story, of course, doesn’t read so much as a confession as a self-serving press release for his book now that his publisher has shut down the illegal downloaders (while for musicians, that option is impossible.)

  6. Avatar
    Anonymous Coward

    “My first insight came with a personal conversion. Before it was my book being illegally downloaded, I was more on the ‘Information wants to be free’ end of the spectrum. The sudden, though predictable, shift in my feelings when I found my own work being downloaded for free was a jarring experience.”

    With all due respect to the man writing about dishonesty… I think his tagline “How We Lie to Everyone… Espescially Ourselves” fits himself perfectly. This is [at least] his 3rd book. To say his conversion happened after his 3rd book is inane.

    • Avatar
      bigboy99

      I can’t imagine he’s never heard of cognitive dissonance.

  7. Avatar
    Versus

    The problem with the deceptive Soviet-like slogan “Information wants to be free” is this:

    What are you calling information? A creative work is not just information, it’s the product of someone’s labor. Unless one advocates guaranteed financial support for all creators of intellectual work – scientists, artists, writers, etc – then labor must be sellable else the creators starve. Illegally acquiring the fruits of this labor takes away the lifeblood from these people who are generating the creative “information”. What if it were your work and your life and family depended on the income from it? Where is your compassion, moral compunction, integrity, sense of fairness?

    • Avatar
      Visitor

      Then there is the other and significantly less known part of the maxime:

      Information wants to be expensive!

    • Avatar
      Just another voice in the air

      @ Versus, you’re incredibly articulate and I think more people should be able to clarify their positions like you are able to. Bravo.

      For the sake of contrast/parity, it’s important to consider that free information in an of itself isn’t a bad thing. It’s an inherently complicated issue because the true economic value of these “products” are arbitrarily set through policy and copyright driven price control, as opposed to a natural equilibrium of supply and demand.

      Let me make something clear: I’m not defending free content so much as I’m trying to point out that regulated price control of these goods and services is causing the perceptual rift in value between consumer and producer.

      I welcome any foolow up comment on either side as I’m fundamentally torn on the issue.

      • Avatar
        known unknowns

        Without a fair market (read: non-piratical)

        We won’t know the ‘true’ value of a product. I believe it’s currently WAY undervalued at 99 cents…

        Compare todays prices for a song/album to yesteryears’. adjusted for inflation the cost of (legally obtained) music has gone down drastically. …yet people stilll complain that one dollar is too much money…

  8. Avatar
    Johanna Drott

    We could reverse this in very interesting ways. Let’s, for instance, take the fact that this honest book very likely probably is still available for free out there. Anyone with a minimum of internet savvy can go get this book at no cost whatsoever – this is a given.

    The reversal: will you, honestly, read this book?

    It’s free, after all. All you have to do is to go get it. No cost, no fuss, no wait – it’s there, waiting for you. Right now. At this very moment. No additional effort required.

    If people answered this question honestly, the overwhelming response would be that they at this particular moment has something else to do than to read a book. In fact, the ratio between “reading this book” and “doing everything else there is to do in the world” is likely going to be a disheartening number.

    Even though it is free.

    And if it’s hard to get people to read it when it’s free – well, just imagine how hard it when it is the opposite of free.

    I must confess that I searched for the book. It’s available. But in all honesty, I’m not going to read it. Not today, and probably not tomorrow either. Most likely, it will never happen. Not because I have any particular opinion one way or the other about the book or the author, but because I have too many other interesting things to do. Nothing personal, but it’s just not relevant to my interests – free or not.

    Which do you think is worse? The fact that the book is available for free, or the fact that I most likely won’t read it anyway?

    Be honest about this.

  9. Avatar
    emma

    It’s so important that this is factored into any type of discussion, regarding pirated material. How to you reach people, and get them to read, listen, watch? I’ve noticed how each downloaded copy is regarded a theft in many arguments, but rarely does it address the fact that that is the argument of the privileged. The read to, listened to, viewed. The one who “made it” already. What kind of effort goes into seeing how many actually read, whatched, listened, and what are the consequence of that. One would think that the overwhelming majority of writers wants to be read, rather than just downloaded, in the long run.

    • Avatar
      Visitor

      It’s simple to reach people. Just provide awesome content, and they’ll be there.

      But there is a catch:

      It’s very, very expensive to produce awesome content!

      That’s why we need to pay the creator. Otherwise, our grand children will have to listen to our old MP3’s and read our old books.

      • Avatar
        emma

        Yes – it is expensive at times, and a lot of effort at least is put into awesome content. But my point is, that for a creator to know if the actual content has reached people, not “just counting downloads”, that might or might not be read, watched, heard, you need to think a bit wider than “just recieving payment”. What kind of effort is put into finding out what pirates make of the content. Does it generate other sources of income, perhaps even? Do they buy the hard cover to family and friends? Is there any sort of consequence of the download, that can be measured beyond “somebody downloaded without paying”. It’s a rather narrow view, regarding each free copy as a lost sale, as I see it, if not proper research goes into finding out wether or not it actually IS a lost sale or merely percieved as one. We are looking at another sort of synergies in the market, and whereas people certainly are proned to justify poor choices, copyright holders are obviously not exempted from that.

        • Avatar
          Visitor

          Let’s not make a complex issue out of something very simple.

          When people steal my property, I don’t care how they use it.

          I’m pretty sure most of us feel the same way…

          • Avatar
            Qeruiem

            Content isn’t property as a fish isn’t an aeroplane.

            Content can be created and mass produced at a constantly decreasing cost while it’s constantly easier to reach a constantly increasing public. Property must still be produced by the ones since it’s physical and you need a fixed set of raw material for each copy.

            If you see content as property you’re confusing the content with the traditional media. When you pay for a paper book or a CD you primary pay for the physical media (and the associated costs) because when you bring home your new book or CD what you own isn’t the story or the music, you own the media. Nothing more, nothing less.

            Todays Internet removes the need for a media and the one by one copy doesn’t make sense anymore since the content isn’t locked to a media that you can call property.

            For something to be stolen there has to be property that someone will lose, when there’s no property involved anymore there’s nothing to steal.

            Thus it isn’t theft. It might be copyright infringment and you might think it’s wrong to copy content for free, but no matter how you bend it it’s never theft.

            The distinction is important because otherwise you’re just opening your mouth making meaningless sounds.

          • Avatar
            Visitor

            You got it exactly upside down.

            See, when you buy a CD or DVD, you primarily pay for a license to hear the music or see the movie — not for the plastic!

            That’s why it doesn’t matter if you steal an album in a store or on the internet.

            What you steal is called Intellectual Property. Our global economy is based on it. Which is why you see a wide range of internationally coordinated efforts to protect it right now.

          • Avatar
            Visitor

            Basing your national economy on something that is entirely imaginary? Don’t be suprised when your economy suddenly becomes imaginary. Unfortunately we are learning this the hard way

          • Avatar
            Qeruiem

            No.

            It’s the law that defines what you’re allowed to do with copyrighted music or story. When you buy a CD or a book you really don’t get any newm or extended, rights to the content because you can still listen to the music on the radio or at a friends place and you can still borrow the book on a library or from a friend without breaking any laws.

            Having your own copy is simply just more convenient.

  10. Avatar
    cipher

    Something for nothing is built into us humans…make all the rules and regulations you like something for nothing is here to stay.From downloaders to looters after the hurricane us humans cannot help ourselves we love to steal…is that too strong a language maybe but if the hat fits wear it.

  11. Avatar
    @jeremyleegold

    How do we stop pirates and illegal downloaders? Repent!

    • Avatar
      Qeruiem

      Like so much other things in history what we see now is a mere repetition of old scenes. Piracy, and other “disruptive” actions, are a result of a discrepancy between the law and the people and a law that is not publically accepted has to be enforced by violence since it won’t be respected. There has even been times in the history when Copyright infringements were punished by death. It didn’t help, the illegal copying continued.

      What the current hunt on file sharers is creating is a society where a huge part of the population is criminalized and if you’re criminal yourself you will think twice before you, for example, help the police as a witness since it will risk backfiring on your own activities. This erodes the legal system which in modern times has been based on what Friedrich Carl von Savegny (1779-1861) called “Volksgeist” (loosely translated “Folk spirit”).

      When the law and a big part of the population don’t agree, the law has to be adjusted to better conform with people’s opinion of right and wrong. And no, this doesn’t mean that theft (as in real theft, when you actually steal a physical object) or murder should be legal as well. There’s a strong acceptance among common people that those actions are wrong, thus those laws are in harmony of public opinion.

      We have already been down this road before in history, history can teach us that you can’t kill Copyright infringement, only make it go underground.

      On the other hand, if it’s something we can learn from history it’s that we extremely seldom learn from history…

      • Avatar
        Visitor

        History shows you can’t kill copyright.

        Communist Russia tried and failed miserably.

        Today, copyright is more important than ever before; our entire global economy is based on Intellectual Property. That’s why we see a wide range of internationally coordinated efforts to protect it.

        Copyright is here to stay, and that is a very good thing for all of us.

        • Avatar
          Qeruiem

          Of course. I’ve never claimed that Copyright doesn’t have a place in society.

          But that you can’t kill Copyright doesn’t mean it can’t be altered or modified. The Copyright time limit has, for example, been adjusted several times. Sometimes by increasing it but occationally also by shortening it. Mostly by increasing it though…

          It has been said that Copyright was invented to give incentive to the creators to create more. It’s debateable if this really holds given the history of Copyright, but never the less it could be said that this is the reason Copyright is still hanging around. Now, I can buy this argument for, for example, the original Copyright in the US when you got 14 years Copyright that could be prolonged with an additional 14 year, ie a total of 28 years. If you create a master piece at 32 years age you can still have an exclusive right to your own work until you’re 60. Fair enough.

          Today the copyright has been increased to be longer than a possible human life span! There’s no way you can claim that todays length of Copyright is necessary to create an incentive for a creator to keep creating ’cause you create zilch when you’re dead and buried!

          If the global economy is based on Intellectual Property (a “fact” I highly doubt even if I’ve heard the argument before) it means the global economy is based on protectionism, greed and stagnation. It can never survive in the long run since it makes it virtually impossible for the small entrepeneurs to compete.

          http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/08/technology/patent-wars-among-tech-giants-can-stifle-competition.html

          http://www.salon.com/2000/06/14/love_7/

          Creativity and innovation has never had a place among the big companies. Typically you see the real growth, the vitamine injections of an economy, among the small players. They’re flexible, adaptable and innovative. Todays rules that surrounds Intellectual Property (Copyright, Patents etc) hurts innovation and the longer it continues, the more damage will it do to the global economy.

          The whole base you’re talking about is crumbling beneath your feet.

          • Avatar
            Just another voice in the air

            Dude, you’re the man. Straight up.

            You have done a terrific job of pointing out the systemic flaws of protectionist policy. The debate isn’t over compensation of creative people and/or content creators, but the extent to which they can control and manipulate the market using perverted copyright laws.

          • Avatar
            Visitor

            As long as we agree to respect the laws, we can certainly discuss how to improve them.

            My favorite question regarding the current copyright law is this:

            Is it fair that artists who want to use a note sequence from Beach Boys’ 49 year old hit Surfin’ USA have to ask Chuck Berry’s grand children for permission until at least 2082?

            Not in my opinion.

            So yes, there is room for improvement. And that improvement will come.

            But here’s the kicker: It won’t come from pirates, and it won’t come from people who defend pirates.

            So you have to make a choice.

          • Avatar
            Qeruiem

            There’s another kicker to this as well:

            No moderation of the Copyright legislation will be initiated from the Copyright defenders as well. At least not the ones that use it as a weapon for Copyright maximization to block competition, like Disney.

            It simply has to originate from an undefined “us”, we that happens to be somewhere in between…

  12. Avatar
    James

    “My first insight came with a personal conversion. Before it was my book being illegally downloaded, I was more on the ‘Information wants to be free’ end of the spectrum. The sudden, though predictable, shift in my feelings when I found my own work being downloaded for free was a jarring experience.”

    Though ultimately it’s a good thing that he underwent this conversion and is now speaking out about it, frankly I find it staggering that a man who is both a professional creator and professor of psychology should apparently be so lacking in basic empathy that it took the theft of his own work before he was able to appreciate what his fellow authors were going through.

    • Avatar
      Visitor

      Better late than never. Besides — who knows if he’s absolutely, er, honest? 🙂

      Perhaps, he’s just making a point. And a good one, at that.

    • Avatar
      Versus

      Agreed. Despite the questionable claim that everyone has “biased” moral views, it doesn’t take much imagination to realize that theft is theft.

      Apparently the power of rationalization is deep and terrifying, and does not bode well for the future of democracy.

      – Versus

  13. Avatar
    mikeczyk

    The problem really is your fans suck. If they respected you and your work they would feel like jerks for stealing your content. Perhaps you should do some work to be more accessable. Speaking engagements are great, but do you do anything specifically with your fans? Hold small roundtable discussions? Google hangouts with you as prizes?

    It’ll get you a lot further than complaining about the trend toward dishonesty. Dishonesty is here forever. Just like drugs and terror, you can’t simply change this trend or triumph over it.

    You have to deal with it.

    • Avatar
      Visitor

      Thank god, you were not around 500 years ago.

      Imagine, if Shakespeare had wasted his time on ‘small roundtable discussions’ instead of writing Romeo and Juliet.

      And always remember this:

      Pirates are not fans. Pirates are useless parasites who should be sued.

      • Avatar
        Cernael

        Two things.

        Shakespeare wasn’t born 500 years ago.

        And; the Statute of Anne, which is widely referred to as the first instance of a copyright-like law, wasn’t enacted until 1710 – 94 years after Shakespeare’s death.

  14. Avatar
    JD

    He shouldn’t be allowed to make money from his book. I want it for free. He should make his money from merch and speaking engagements his successful book creates. There’s lots of money in touring right? And his book publisher rips him off anyway (That’s what I’ve heard at at least), so I’ll steal from them instead.

    (i am being facetious of curse). Anybody who condones stealing music from a content owner who paid for, funded the creation of music and master recordings, and spends millions marketing it, is a completre loser. And yes, there are a lot of them on this planet apparently.

    • Avatar
      Qeruiem

      Do you also call rape for murder?

      No, it will never be stealing, no matter how many times the content industry tries to tell us that. Yes, that horribly annoying clip on many DVDs keeps trying to associate Copyright infringement with stealing (and the irony is of course that they keep bugging us loyal (stupid?), paying customers about it when the pirates never have to watch that bloody annoying … thing!), but when they bring someone to court the’d get thrown out head first if they tried to accuse the file sharer of theft.

      ’cause it isn’t and even they know it. The only reason they call it theft publically is beause they try to ride on peoples strong opinions about actually losing things to thieves, and considering many comments to this article they’re doing a pretty good job confusing people so they (you) actually believe it’s the same. It’s not.

      Realising that there’s a difference is the first step realising the problem isn’t as black or white as the content industry wants us to believe. But I’m repeating myself.

      Things are never (or at least extremely seldom) as simple as “wrong” or “right”, “yes” or “no”. File sharing and piracy is definitely not about stealing. It’s about Copyright infringement but it’s (even more) about a culture shock between the pre-Internet and post-Internet generations.

      Watch Larry Lessig. It’s a good piracy 101 if you want to leave the bipolar view of the word you’re having right now.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Q25-S7jzgs

      (same link as above for those of you that has already watched it)

        • Avatar
          Qeruiem

          I couldn’t agree more, which is why I hope that the Copyright legislation can be reformed so creators and customers can meet directly instead of having to go through publishers, record companies etc. Do you even know how much a typical actor, artist, writer etc get of the money their creations brings in?

          Courtney Love describes the typical process in a speech she held back in 2000. I posted the link before but I’ll repeat it here for your convenience:

          http://www.salon.com/2000/06/14/love_7/

          Her speech begun with:

          “Today I want to talk about piracy and music. What is piracy? Piracy is the act of stealing an artist’s work without any intention of paying for it. I’m not talking about Napster-type software.

          I’m talking about major label recording contracts.”

          Read it, it’s very informative.

          • Avatar
            Visitor

            Let’s see… First, you link to a notorious nutcase who not only have close contacts with convicted criminals, but also wants to hit his opponents “in the face with the nearest chair”.

            Then you link to a twelve year old speech by Courtney Love, of all people, in order to understand the finer points of contemporary music business.

            And I mean, have you any idea of what happened the past twelve months?

            Wake up, man! Everything’s changing as we speak:

            Mainstream piracy is going away because of all the new global anti-theft laws & initiatives, Spotify is dying thanks to Ms. Swift/Red, and the need for labels are vanishing because every sane artist launch her/his stuff on iTunes today in order to get 70%.

            This is the beginning of a new golden era — not only for musicians but more importantly for music.

          • Avatar
            Qeruiem

            So close, and yet so far away…

            No. file sharing isn’t going away, it’s increasing at the same time as iTunes and other services increase. The Copyright laws have very little to do with it, it’s just that iTunes, Netflix etc are example of 21th century business that embrace the net instead of trying to fight it. There’s no contradiction in that file sharing and legal services can successfully co-exist, but for a business to succeed it has to offer something the customer wants.

            Personally I think that when we look back at this era a few years down the road BluRay will look like a desperate move to try to keep an obsolete technology and business plan alive (DVD still outsells BluRay with more than a factor 3) and most people will have migrated from DVD to Netflix and similar rather than BluRay because, really, transporting information on plastic disks in the 21th century? How quaint…

            This “All you can eat”-approach is, as far as I can see it, the only realistic way to meet, and beat, file sharing and it surprises me that for example Amazon still try to sell e-books by the title. It feels outdated…

            But killing piracy and file sharing? Well, despite trying for a few hundred years noone has succeeded before so excuse me if I doubt it will be more successful this time.

            On one point do we, however, agree. This WILL be a golden era for the artists and their work, although I kind of see it happening despite the Copyright laws, not because of them… 😉

          • Avatar
            Visitor

            On the contrary, it’s very easy to kill mainstream piracy.

            Our politicians and the ISPs have been a bit slow, but now they get it.

    • Avatar
      Visitor

      Things are improving a lot these days, though.

      More and more people understand that we have to pay artists if we want them to create more music and literature for us.

      That’s why we see all these new anti-theft laws and educational initiatives across the world right now.

  15. Avatar
    AndyM

    So a salesman (that is the position the writer takes in this article) appeals to the morality of his readers, despite the fact that the system in which commodity exchange exists in our society demands that business relations are bound by nothing apart from naked self-interest. One rule for sellers, another for buyers, it seems.

    The writer has misinterpreted the irony involved in people downloading his books. For exchanges to occur, there must be set up a whole system of apparatuses: banks, currency, courts etc. This is the environment in which property, exchange, theft and appropriation is defined and occurs. it does not exists outside of this domain, in some idea of ‘ethics.’ The problem the writer has is that this system is, at present, full of contradictions (i.e. i can file-share or photocopy his work, going against his wish to extract surplus value in the inefficiency of everyone buying an individual copy from his publisher). Rather than seek to change the socio-historic system in which these social contradictions occurs, he instead appeals to some ahistoric notion of ‘honesty’ in the hope people willingly ignore these contradictions. He characterises the self-calculated interest of those who download his work as rationalisation: it is precisely that, it is the use of their own reason. And the use of their reason against the use of the writers, who wishes people not to think at all, but just obey his ideas of ‘honesty’

    The real irony of this episode is not, then, that people download books on honesty, but that this writer peddles morality in order for himself to make money out of amoral systems of commodity exchange. He is full of false consciousness, and this is what he peddles.

    • Avatar
      Qeruiem

      Most excellent observation and summary.

      I take my hat off for you.