Attitude Media Crime and Punishment

Justice for an Unjust World

by, John F Groom

  • 15 of 18

Intellectual Property and Justice

      Intellectual property represents work, and should be protected at least as diligently as any other sort of property. Stealing music through an online file exchange system is no different, morally, than stealing a car. In both cases you are taking value, not engaging in a voluntary exchange. The key question is always the same: have you entered into an agreement with the owner, or their authorized representative? Is the exchange consensual between the parties?

      You’ll often hear people say that Bill Gates has plenty of money when they copy Microsoft software without paying for it, or the same argument in regard to some pop star when they steal music. But if you believe in the principle of mutual consent than how much money the owner of intellectual property has is not relevant. In fact, the point is about you, not them. Is it only your action which you control, and only you can determine what transactions to engage in. What kind of person are you? What are the rules you live by? Either you are engaging in an exchange with mutual consent or you are not.

There are far more Rodriguezs in the world than Beyoncés. Haven’t heard of Rodriguez? Rodriquez is a folk singer who wrote and performed songs like Sugar Man, I Wonder, and Climb Up on My Music. His music was praised by critics but his first couple albums flopped in the US. However, unbeknownst to him, his music set South Africa on fire in the fight against apartheid. He was bigger than the Beatles in South Africa in the 1970s and was also a best seller in Australia. But he certainly wasn’t benefitting from it.

He was living in downtown Detroit, barely making a living, breaking his back doing manual labor; trying to support a family doing house demolitions. Unlike most people singing or talking about the hard life of the inner city poor, he actually lived it. He was never paid a dime from the sales of his music in South Africa or Australia. If you want to understand that intellectual property theft is not a victimless crime, read his story.

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