Or really, the question is this: What is the difference between a public library and internet piracy?
1. The internet reaches many more people, much faster.
2. With a library, you have to give the item back.
3. The government, at least in part, supports public libraries.
Now, the object here is not to rankle librarians or those who love libraries, but to raise what i think is a legitimate question.
Books might be a bad example, because not many people go around scanning every page of a book and posting it online. Yes, it does happen (Harry Potter for example), but it's not nearly as widespread (at least in the U.S.) as film and music piracy.
So let's take movies as an example. Many public libraries now let patrons check out DVDs. So let's say I check out Major Payne, a movie which name implies the level of enjoyment I got out of it when I did check it out a month or so ago.
Say I watch MP and like it. Will I buy it? Maybe, maybe not. Say I watch it and don't like it. Will I buy it then? Probably not.
If I don't buy MP, the film company loses $20 (I know, this one is probably in the $5 bin by now, but the amount isn't important anyway).
If I take the DVD and rip it to my computer and post it on the internet, maybe 1,000 people a day will download it, watch it, and conclude the same as I did that it is not worth buying. That would be $20,000 the film company won't get.
So the film company loses way more money through internet piracy than through the library, but from an ethical standpoint, isn't it the same thing? I still got to watch the movie without paying for it. If I downloaded MP from the internet, watched it, and then deleted it off my computer, would it be okay then? What if those 1,000 people did jut that? The film company would still lose $20,000, just much more quickly.
So is it the same? Are libraries as unethical as internet piracy? Or am I missing something?