Cognitive dissonance and the "download 4 free" debacle

I've been watching the whole Amazon/Pirate Bay debacle with some interest. Of particular interest is the number and type of critics of the whole thing: Some of the loudest critics seem to be those who would otherwise proudly admit to downloading pirate copies of media, or who like to go on about the dying business model of 'old media'.

I think the reason for this rather odd about-face is a pretty severe case of cognitive dissonance. It's fashionable to justify casual piracy as 'victim free' by pointing out that "I wouldn't have bought it anyway" or other similar justifications. And everyone loves Amazon for providing a way to get media legitimately and cheaply and nearly as conveniently as firing up a BitTorrent client. But when you combine the two with a direct link, suddenly the contradictions in holding both positions simultaneously become apparrent. Piracy is victimless... but you're explicitly passing up an opportunity to purchase it legitimately instead. Suddenly it feels a whole lot more like wandering into a shop and uplifting something*.

In a nutshell, I think most of the critics of the plugin aren't actually anti-piracy, per-se - they just don't like the conjunction, and in many cases probably can't even explain _why_ it's bad. If the aim of these students was to create discussion, I think they've done an admirable job.

* Piracy isn't theft, I agree - it's copyright infringement. But the plugin certainly creates a pretty compelling parallel between the two, for once.


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