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Against the Gradient by NeuronPlectrum Against the Gradient by NeuronPlectrum
Grif: Does anyone have the new Creed CD?
Church: I have it.
Grif: Give it to me, right now!
Church: Give it to you? Why would I do that?
Grif: You're not giving it to me. Give it to me faster!
Church: Wait, that's illegal.
Grif: No it isn't. I don't want it to be illegal, therefore it isn't. That's the way it works. -- Red Vs. Blue's "The Internet vs. Real Life"

Originally, this strip was going to be about how movies are released in a kind of trickle-down effect, starting in theaters, followed by second-run or dollar theaters, then going to video rentals, and finally on television, with the cost being more or less proportionate to the time elapsed. That turned out to be a bit tedious, though, and I think the "Albums vs. Singles" debate is still the prime example of the entitlement complex that permeates piracy.

I mean, it all started reasonably enough; why buy a full album if you only like one song (you know, the one that gets played over and over again on the radio)? The solution would normally have been the CD single, but they were often at best half the price of the album, and they weren't always of the song you probably wanted. Record labels didn't see the business potential of download services (not really, anyway), indirectly giving services like Limewire and Napster practically free reign over a new market that was, at that point, something of a dead zone in commerce, as credit card companies hate myriads of minute monetary movements.

If you'd rather hear all of this in Douglas Adams' voice, here: [link]

The point is, making it free was never really the issue for the average consumer. As Jim Sterling of The Jimquisition put it, "When iTunes came out, I closed my Limeware client, and I opened my wallet." People didn't want their music free (after all, normal, intelligent people understand the cost considerations of putting together an album even if they've never set foot in a studio or so much as plucked a guitar string), they just wanted more options to pay for it, and that's okay.

The issue I take with the whole "contingent economics" model of people paying however much they want for whatever they want is that there doesn't seem to be any way to separate the real fans from the freeloaders. In other words, when I buy a movie ticket, why should I be indirectly paying for ten random people behind me to see the same movie? When you pay for something, anything, you're paying for a degree of exclusivity.

Take NIN's album Ghosts I-IV, for example. If you pay nothing, you get a handful of songs off the album in low-res MP3 files. If you pay a little more (5 dollars, to be exact), you get high-res MP3s of the entire album. Pay 10, and you can get a 2-disc CD set. This multi-level payment structure goes all the way up to 300 dollars getting you a (sadly sold out) limited edition release including a set of art books and prints, the discs, download copies, and a data DVD and Blu-Ray for remixes.
In other words, you get what you pay for.

If you want a film example of this, the creators of the web series Dick Figures intend to make their upcoming animation project available exclusively to their Kickstarter contributors.
In other words, paying customers only.

Look, for as much issue as I take with the (loaded word incoming) socialist ideal of "contingent economics," I'm not a fan of big business by any means. I'd rather see several small companies that can specialize and cater to the specific needs of their fanbase (note I said "fan" not "customer") than one big megalithic entity trying to be all things to all people. That's free enterprise at its best, with people paying how much they want for what they want, and getting what they pay for.

One last little bit of food for thought: Capcom often gets support calls and e-mails from people who pirate their games.
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Submitted on
June 29, 2012
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