On the societal cost of a single act of non-piracy

Astute observers will have observed that every reading on this page is in the public domain (at least in some country.) In part this is to assure that if one of these short readings inspires a reader to delve further into the original text, it is readily available. It is also so that I don’t get into trouble for distributing copyrighted materials. But that is not much of a worry considering the fact that this is not a profitable website and there is not nearly enough traffic to attract any attention.

Additionally, most of the greatest works of all time are in the public domain, so why bother with anything else? In the 2 years since I’ve owned a Kindle, I have not once paid for a downloaded book. Amazon has so many free classics that it seems silly to buy anything else. So when I looked for Steinbeck books on Kindle, I was put out. It seems that the works of Mr. Steinbeck will not enter the public domain for another decade or so. So what am I to do?

One option is to buy a digital copy. But I don’t even have a credit card attached to my Amazon account because I NEVER BUY CONTENT. Another option is to illegally download a pirated digital copy. But that’d be illegal. The third option is to go to the library and check out the book I want (if it happens to be available.) Finally, I could buy a paper copy.

We’ll eliminate buying either the digital or paper copy because I am not made of money. Now which is better, to pirate a digital copy or to check out the book from the library? Pirating is illegal. That is, I think, the only negative aspect. It is malum prohibitum: wrong only because there is a rule against it. The argument that pirating robs from the artist is invalid since the artist doesn’t profit from me going to the library either (also the artist has been dead for nearly a half century now.) Going to the library and checking out the book has many more visible negative aspects than piracy does: the pollution and waste associated with driving to the library, the additional human labor required by library staff to re-shelf the book, etc., the inconvenience to others should they also happen to want the same book at the same time. These negatives are quite small, even to the point of being totally negligible, however, piracy has none of these downsides. Piracy, in this case, is probably better for society as a whole.

But it’s against the law, so I got a library card. Oh, and the library card is made of plastic, so add the associated pollution to the list of cons.

Beer of the Week: Efes Pilsner – This Turkish beer does not inspire a lot of hope. The malt is supplemented with rice and the beer is very light and nearly odorless. But for what it is, it really isn’t bad. Like so many other adjunct lagers, it’s rather sweet but one could certainly drink a lot of the stuff. (And no doubt, some Turks do drink a lot of it.)

Reading of the week: Well, I wanted to use Chapter 13, Section 1 of East of Eden by John Steinbeck for this week’s reading. It is an amazingly powerful indictment of collectivism and a bold claim that any religion, government or philosophy that undermines the concept of the free individual is an enemy to humanity itself. But East of Eden is still under copyright, so if you want to read it (and you should,) you’ll have to go to the library. Or you could do a google search for “East of Eden, Chapter 13 Josh Crain” and click on the first result. But don’t have any delusions about it, there is no reason to think that Mr. Crain has obtained the proper rights to reproduce this insanely beautiful (and I really cannot stress how amazing it is) piece of writing.

Question of the week: Steinbeck claims that every great creation is the work of a single mind. Collaboration is a phantom; in reality, one creates and the group then builds upon the creation of the individual. What does that mean for great artistic partnerships such as Lennon and McCarthy, Rogers and Hammerstein, or The Coen Brothers?


2 Comments on “On the societal cost of a single act of non-piracy”

  1. Cole Simmons says:

    Isn’t it strange that on behalf of the collective whole of “humanity” you decry the collective’s undermining the sanctity of a “free individual”? What if the freedom of every individual is the greatest crime against true individuality? Against the true freedom of the rare type “human”?

    Very entertaining post.

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