Imagine that you show up at a business one bright and sunny morning. You claim to be able to build something that the company can use. The company spokesperson says, "Show me, and if I like it, I will buy it."
So, you spend a couple of days working. You not only put your time into the project, but you buy your own tools and your own materials. When the project is done, you are out some money that you invested in the project. However, you invested the money because you are confident in your work, and expect to get paid. You are sure that you are producing something the company would like.
You were right. The company looks at what you built and says, "This is amazing! This is a work of genius! Now, pack up your tools and go away."
"But what about my money?" you ask.
With a bemused chuckle, the company spokesperson says, "We decided not to pay you. We have your product. We will use it. However, you will get nothing from us but our warm appreciation.”
This is not a good person.
Yet, this company spokesperson has the same moral qualities as your standard book, music, video, or software pirate. The pirate also takes a look at what another person has produced, under an agreement that "if I like it, I will buy it." He likes it. He takes the product. However, he sends the worker home without a dime."
Ironically, those who take information in this way, if they were to show up at a company like one described above, and were to have their work taken from them without pay, would scream the longest and the loudest at the unethical and immoral behavior of the corporate executive. They would rant without end at the conspicuously evil corporation that takes the sweat and the blood of the laborer without fair pay -- without ANY pay.
Yet, in the spirit of 99.99% pure hypocrisy, they will utter these complaints while stealing the labor of their favorite writer, musician, producer, or programmer.
In fact, the actions of the pirate give rise to and support the like actions of the corporate executive. The actions of the pirate promote the attitude that taking the products of another's labor without pay is permissible. The actions of the pirate help to create and support the culture within which the corporate scavenger operates.
There are people who give things away for free. If that was the deal, then there is no shame in taking and copying and distributing those products. The artist may find more value in being heard or seen or read than in being paid. Or, the artist may recognize what his product is worth, and giving it away is the closest he can come to putting a fair market price on his efforts.
I produce these essays under these types of conditions. It would be foolish for me to offer these essays under the terms, "If you like it, then pay for it." Perhaps even “free” is too high a price for these essays, but I cannot afford to lower the price much more than this.
However, I am not talking about the person who offers this type of freeware or shareware. I am talking people who offer their product clearly under the condition, “If you like it, you buy it.”
Anybody who would take these products without offering payment should consider the corporate executive who takes the products of the laborer in my sample case. He should consider what he thinks of that type of person, because he IS that type of person.