Imagine that you've just moved to a new town and you fall ill. You start looking for the local doctor's surgery - and can't find one. Not one anywhere. So you ask a local where you can find one. And she tells you: 'Well, there used to be several. But then most of the locals who used them wouldn't pay their bills. So after a while, one of them left. Still, the people wouldn't pay. So the second one left too. Neither of them could make enough money to live here, and now no doctor will come because they know they can't make a living.'
You look around, surprised. 'But most people here seem reasonable well off. Why wouldn't they pay their bills?'
'Oh, some thought the doctors charged too much. They couldn't see why patients had to pay so much, when really they were paying for the years of training the doctors received before they came here. Some said it was because the doctors wouldn't make housecalls. Others didn't see why they should pay if the doctor wouldn't give them medicine, or if they didn't get better immediately. Some said it was their right to have free medical care. All sorts of different reasons. Anyway, we don't have a doctor now.'
Ridiculous? Read this.
Stealing has consequences.
On with the story: You return home, still thinking about this, and disturb a thief in your house. He's walking out the door carrying your brand new plasma TV. Naturally you are very indignant.
'But,' protests the thief, 'it's not as if I would buy one for myself if I didn't steal it. This is the only one I'll get! And I didn't steal anything else from you! Oh, and you've probably got insurance anyway...'
Ridiculous? Of course. Totally illogical reasoning. Well, I'm sick of pirate sites having the gall to tell me that THEY don't steal from me. It's the guys who make use of their site and put up the freebies. "They are the thieves, not me! Anyway, all you have to do is fill in this form which will only take a few minutes of your time and we'll take down the twenty free versions we are inadvertently hosting. Oh, and you will probably have to do it again tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that...because these turkeys are a bit persistent... But it's not me, you understand. I just put us this nice free site for them to use. Why on earth should I check to make sure no one is using it to steal? That's not MY problem!"
A great many writers shrug off the stealing. They say, 'Well, these people wouldn't buy my books anyway.' Perhaps they are right, although what criteria they use to make that assertion, I'm not sure. I think they are probably wrong.
And definitely, I can't see why it's ok to let them get away with it because "they wouldn't buy it anyway."
What troubles me most of all is that the morality of people has slipped so badly over the past twenty years, that people who would never consider, say, shoplifting, think that internet stealing is harmless and has no consequences.
Alas, it does.