Today’s pirate is tomorrow’s CEO*

Speaking of piracy, last week David Pogue wrote in the New York Times about The Generational Divide in Copyright Morality. He related how during talks he walks audiences down a continuum of activities that clearly do not infringe copyright at the start and then go over a line where many or most listeners believe the activity does infringe copyright. He tried this talk with an audience of 500 college students. None believed that the activities at the most problematic end of his continuum to infringe copyright. Pogue continues:

Finally, with mock exasperation, I said, “O.K., let’s try one that’s a little less complicated: You want a movie or an album. You don’t want to pay for it. So you download it.”

There it was: the bald-faced, worst-case example, without any nuance or mitigating factors whatsoever.

“Who thinks that might be wrong?”

Two hands out of 500.

He states “to see this vivid demonstration of the generational divide, in person, blew me away.”

I’ve been teaching college students for a decade or so, coinciding with the rise of Napster and era of music-sharing. At the beginning I did not believe it would become a widespread phenomenon. Now, hundreds of conversations later, I don’t see how it will ever go away. I was blown away when a student in my first Internet law course in 2001 baldly stated “I don’t see why I would ever pay for music again for the rest of my life.” Since then our relationship with the music industry has changed irrevocably. There is no going back. The question is what comes next.

*or CFO or corporate lawyer or state prosecutor or professor of ethics

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